Why did women with titles and properties in England want to get married before 19th Century?

Jan 2015
2,813
MD, USA
#83
...The impression I have is that upper class British married men often had mistresses affairs etc., and it was sort of acceptable for their wives to do likewise...
No, NOT "acceptable" at all! The few examples of women *known* to have taken lovers end in thing like them being walled up in a room. Sometimes the affairs were known, and dealt with harshly. Sometimes they were only suspected, and often suspicion was enough to turn society against her.

Of course it wasn't acceptable for them to remain unmarried and have illegitimate children.
BIngo. Remember, EVEN TODAY we still use the expression, "Make an honest woman out of her", meaning the man is marrying the woman he has been (assumed to have been) having a relationship with. We're not talking ancient history, here.

Matthew
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,771
#84
No, NOT "acceptable" at all! The few examples of women *known* to have taken lovers end in thing like them being walled up in a room. Sometimes the affairs were known, and dealt with harshly. Sometimes they were only suspected, and often suspicion was enough to turn society against her.



BIngo. Remember, EVEN TODAY we still use the expression, "Make an honest woman out of her", meaning the man is marrying the woman he has been (assumed to have been) having a relationship with. We're not talking ancient history, here.

Matthew
You could argue that homosexuality was very rare and unacceptable because many of the cases we know about were executions for sodomy. However, prosecutions for sodomy were rare, which might indicate that a very small percentage of those committing that crime were prosecuted.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
14,253
SoCal
#85
You DO come up with the most bizarre things to say, don't you? Do you even want to listen to all of us telling you how virtually no upper-class women with property (let alone titles!) would even dream of just living a "single life" and having boyfriends and illegitimate children? It's almost like someone today deciding that instead of spending those oppressive amounts of money on groceries, they'll just collect and eat dog poop.

But you'll carry on defending your outrageous fantasy, insisting that they COULD have or SHOULD have or WOULD have, flying in the face of EVERYTHING we know about those societies...

Matthew
You don't have to be so rude about this. She was simply asking a question.

Before 19th Century, married women in England had to transfer their properties and titles to their husbands and they could not regain control of such properties upon divorce. Therefore divorce usually left such women impoverished. In contrast, women who were single or widowed maintained control over their property and inheritance. So why did women with properties and titles want to get married? Wasn't it better to live a single life? They could have boyfriends and children if they wanted, but marriage seemed to be a risky choice under most circumstances.
For one, I'm presuming that there was heavy social pressure for young women--even upper-class ones--to get married.
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#86
For men to have mistresses was nothing special, and rarely something worth reporting on. It wasn't scandalous, it wasn't unusual and in many ways it gave credit to the man.

The direct opposite is true with women, and has been true for most of time. If we ever do hear of a single or married woman taking a lover then it is the exeception rather than the norm. Of course it is almost certain that some no doubt had illicit affairs or sexual encounters, but they were exactly that - secretive. Whereas a man could openly brag about his 'conquests' and largely be applauded, a women doing similar would be seen in an entirely different light.

Partly this was because women bear children, and it was important that heirs they bore were legitimate, partly it was because positions of authority and generators of public opinion were dominated by men, and probably have been in most cultures for the majority of known civilisation.
 
Jan 2019
198
Montreal, QC
#87
You don't have to be so rude about this. She was simply asking a question.
You were late to the punch, friend. She had made three different threads paraphrasing the same question each time. Matthew, Shtajerc, a few others, and I had been locking horns with her since she's been on across numerous threads, but to no avail. You understand why we'd get so agitated. But, she's gone now, so it's water under the bridge.
 
Likes: Futurist

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,771
#88
For men to have mistresses was nothing special, and rarely something worth reporting on. It wasn't scandalous, it wasn't unusual and in many ways it gave credit to the man.

The direct opposite is true with women, and has been true for most of time. If we ever do hear of a single or married woman taking a lover then it is the exeception rather than the norm. Of course it is almost certain that some no doubt had illicit affairs or sexual encounters, but they were exactly that - secretive. Whereas a man could openly brag about his 'conquests' and largely be applauded, a women doing similar would be seen in an entirely different light.

Partly this was because women bear children, and it was important that heirs they bore were legitimate, partly it was because positions of authority and generators of public opinion were dominated by men, and probably have been in most cultures for the majority of known civilisation.
Yes, of course. However, when it was considered that the wife of a titled nobleman wasn't supposed to have a lover until after her first son was born, that indicates that it was somewhat accepted and not much remarked upon for upper class married British women to have lovers.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,949
#89
So you mean single women were discriminated against?
Hugely. Unmarried single women were invariably minors. Her father, lacking that a brother, lacking that an appointed guardian, were legally responsible for them, controlled their inheritance and property, and made all decisions on their behalf, since they were minors, same status as children, or servants and other dependants.

Best shot at control, actually making an informed choice about which bloke to marry. Upon marriage her husband would be responsible for her.

Tactics? Well, marry for love with a feller who had a certain respect for "the weaker sex" and a high regard for herself personally. That could work.

Or find and doddering rich geezer with one foot in the grave, and hope he would kick the bucket soonish. Since while an single, unmarried woman was a minor, a widow was not. So that's the way to do it. Marriage was unavoidable to get there though.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,595
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#90
Well if you don't like the word "boyfriend" you can just ignore my last sentence. I don't know the male equivalent of the word "mistress" so I used "boyfriend". And what's wrong with children born out of the wedlock?
Are you asking if children born out of wedlock are inferior or worse in someway than children born wedlock? Or are you asking whether children born out of wedlock are born into an inferior social condition with many political, social, and economic disadvantages?

If you asked the first question, the answer is no, children born out of wedlock are not inferior as persons to children born in wedlock. I like to say there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.

If you asked the second question, the answer is yes, children born out of wedlock were born into an inferior condition with many political, social, and economic disadvantages that made them rather inferior in many ways as children from the viewpoints of their parents.

A serf or slave might not worry too much that his children would inherit his lowly status, since that serf or slave had lived long enough without committing suicide to have children. But a noblewomen would worry a lot about the idea that her children might have to live as serfs or slaves instead of nobles. The status of illegitimate children of nobles was not as inferior as that of serfs or slaves, but it was certainly inferior to that of their legitimate children.

Most aristocrats gained most of their income from the rent on the many farms they owned. In the later centuries of the time period covered most of the lands of the gentry were entailed, or owned according to very strict rules about what the owner could do with them. The owner at the moment was forbidden from selling the property and could not leave the property to anyone he wanted in his will. Instead the property would descended according to the rules of the entail. And I presume that most entails would require that all heirs be of legitimate birth.

In the middle ages the church insisted more and more than only persons of legitimate birth could inherit property. So parents of illegitimate children had to provide for them by finding them estates, jobs, and other sources of income during their own lifetiems because they had little ability to leave them much money in their wills.

in my post here:

Why couldn't bastards inherit titles?

I list various illegitimate children who inherited thrones, and attempts by kings to make their illegitimate children their heirs, and illegitimate children who became kings by other methods, and kings who had problems because they were accused of being illegitimate. The list is not complete, but shows how it became less and less common for illegitimate sons to become king during the middle ages and modern times.