Hello all. It’s Regan here bringing you a fascinating post from my guest today, historical romance author Susana Ellis. The subject is the issue of social status in English society, particularly in the period in which her stories are set, the Regency (1811 - 1820), something every man and woman had to contend with.
Susana has always had stories in her head waiting to come out, especially when she learned to read and her imagination began to soar.
A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA and Maumee Valley Romance Inc.
Be sure and leave a comment as Susana is giving away a print copy of the new boxed Christmas set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, that contains her novella, The Ultimate Escape.
The issue of social status in The Ultimate Escape by Susana Ellis
A historical theme that especially interests me is the influence of social status in English society, particularly in marriage.
Essentially, the upper class included royalty (the sovereign and immediate family), nobility (dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons), commoners (baronets, knights, landed gentry), and gentlemen (clergy, military officers, affluent businessmen).
The lower class included servants, laborers, tenant farmers, military recruits (not officers), shop owners, and virtually anyone who worked for a living, as well as the poor and the criminal crowd.
While wealth clearly is a major distinction between the two classes, birth and connections are equally important. The more lofty connections made through marriage, the more opportunities for current and future family members. Ideally, one would wish one’s children to marry as high as possible within their own social sphere. Even so, a duke’s daughter may have to set her sights a bit lower, depending on the availability of eligible dukes. But she would likely be expected to marry someone of the nobility rather than a mere commoner or gentleman… if she expected to socialize in the same circles as her family, that is.
Of course, it goes without saying that virtually no responsible upper class parent would be at ease with his children marrying into the lower class. An earl’s daughter wed to a farmer or a mere soldier? It’s hard to imagine a happy-ever-after between two people from such different worlds. A woman brought up in the lap of luxury with servants all over the house would likely have a difficult time adjusting to love in a cottage where she’s the cook, housekeeper, laundress and scullery maid. Not to mention that her husband’s relatives and friends will not have the sort of genteel manners to which she’s accustomed and may even look down on her for allowing herself to fall so low. Add that to the probability that her own family will have cast her off entirely by that time, and you have a near-certain disaster.
A son, however, might fare better in an unequal marriage, especially if he’s wealthy and titled or heir to such. A wealthy marquess might marry a waif and make her a marchioness (as happened frequently in Barbara Cartland’s books). Society—and his relatives—will disapprove, but as long as he and his marchioness are not concerned about the consequences, they can live together in relative happiness. Whig leader Charles James Fox married his mistress, a well-known courtesan. It must have been vexatious that she was never accepted in society while he went out and about as usual. The sexual double standard between men and women was the rule of the day, and for a woman of the demi-monde such as Bess Armitage, it was the best result she could have attained.
An impoverished gentleman, however, might have no choice but to marry into wealth. A young earl inherits an estate in poor condition and a pile of debts, not to mention all of the dependent family members who rely on him. While he might have a fleeting desire to abandon it all and flee to America, the consequences for doing so would be disastrous to those he cares about, there not being much a “safety net” for impoverished gentry in those days. Young ladies who are titled would likely have parents or guardians to defend them from fortune hunters; however, a wealthy mill owner might eagerly offer his own daughter as well as a handsome dowry in exchange for the opportunity to meld his descendents with the nobility.
Of course, people are people, and not all upper-class parents were social snobs, just as all lower class people were not all crude and mannerless. That’s what makes plots that involve issues with social status so interesting. What could happen if a spoiled duke’s daughter falls in love with a clergyman? How can something like that work out? (Coming in a future Susana Ellis story.)
Does social status still exist in modern society? How has it changed over the years? How do you think today’s young people would have handled a similar situation?
About The Ultimate Escape by Susana Ellis:
On the eve of her wedding, Julia realizes she cannot marry her fiancé after all, no matter that it’s been her dream for eight long years. Too distraught to face him, she follows in her mother’s footsteps and flees to the future for a brief reprieve.
Oliver knows he has bungled things badly, but he is determined to win the woman he loves, even if he must travel through time to do it.
And so the pair of them set off in the Pendletons’ crested carriage to Gracechurch Street to meet a conjuring gypsy lady who helped people travel through time. Oliver looked at his watch. Just past ten o’clock, when he’d expected to be at St. George’s exchanging vows with his bride.
He cleared his throat. “Are you certain she wouldn’t have simply gone to stay with one of her sisters? Or a friend?” Or eloped with a footman to Gretna Green? He wouldn’t have expected such a thing of Julia, but then, even that seemed more likely than traveling to the future.
Lady Pendleton leaned in and patted his hand. “Dear Oliver, I know this must seem preposterous to you, as it must to any reasonable person. Indeed, if I didn’t believe you to be deeply in love with my daughter, I would never have involved you in this at all. I would go after her myself and let the pieces afterward fall where they may.”
She grinned at him. “I believe I’ve mentioned that Julia is very much like her mother, so you’d best become accustomed to—shall we say—an unconventional sort of wife.” She gave him a playful look. “I daresay you’ll never be bored in the bedroom—Lord Pendleton never had cause to be, I assure you.”
Oliver jerked his head back. Now that was an image he’d never thought to have. He felt the warmth in his face.
Lady Pendleton laughed.
About the boxed set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, A Bluestocking Belles Collection:
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after. (All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.)
The other stories in the collection:
All She Wants for Christmas, by Amy Rose Bennett
A frosty bluestocking and a hot-blooded rake. A stolen kiss and a Yuletide wedding. Sparks fly, but will hearts melt this Christmas?
The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis
Abandoned on his wedding day, Oliver must choose between losing his bride forever or crossing over two hundred years to find her and win her back.
Under the Mistletoe, by Sherry Ewing
Margaret Templeton will settle for Captain Morledge’s hand in marriage, until she sees the man she once loved. Who will win her heart at the Christmas party of her would-be betrothed?
’Tis Her Season, by Mariana Gabrielle
Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hies off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?
Gingerbread Bride, by Jude Knight
Traveling with her father's fleet has not prepared Mary Pritchard for London. When she strikes out on her own, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.
A Dangerous Nativity, by Caroline Warfield
With Christmas coming, can the Earl of Chadbourn repair his widowed sister’s damaged estate, and far more damaged family? Dare he hope for love in the bargain?
Joy to the World, by Nicole Zoltack
Eliza Berkeley discovers she is marrying the wrong man—on her wedding day. When the real duke turns up instead, will her chance at marital bliss be spoiled?