Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Abigail Reynolds: The Scandal of Eloping in Regency England

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Abigail Reynolds and the latest book in her Pride and Prejudice Variations, What Would Mr. Darcy Do?. Since Lydia's supposed elopement with Wickham is the starting point of this Variation, Abigail tells us about the scandal involved in eloping during the Regency.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of What Would Mr. Darcy Do? which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Abigail will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of the selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

I always ask the author to select the winner, but I haven't heard back from Abigail, so I'm making an executive decision. The winner is Peggy Gabriel! Peggy, if I don't hear from you by May 15, 2011, I will award your prize to an alternate.

Welcome back, Abigail!

All the regency romances notwithstanding, marriage in Regency England was in most cases a business arrangement, often entered into by the parents of the prospective bride and groom as a way to increase the family fortune and/or prestige. Husbands and wives often lived separate lives, with infidelity occurring on both sides. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were unhappy with their marriages; it was precisely what they’d always expected marriage to be like. Love and passion didn’t have a lot to do with it, but that didn’t mean love and passion didn’t exist.

Elopements were the result of love or passion without the family stamp of approval. Most young gentlemen didn’t have the remarkable luck to fall in love with a woman who would be acceptable to his parents as a bride or to his own sense of family duty. Gentlemen and ladies who were of age (over 21) could legally marry whoever they pleased whether their parents approved or not, but the family would shun the wedding and snub the bride. It would likely lead to significant family strife if not disinheriting. A minister who performed such a wedding could find his living endangered.

Elopement was a way out. A couple, even ones who weren’t of age, could go to Scotland, where they could be legally married. It didn’t even require a clergyman, only two witnesses. On the Old North Road, the first town over the border was Gretna Green, so that was the usual destination for eloping lovers. The blacksmith performed most of the weddings there, with his anvil serving as an altar. To this day, Gretna Green’s main business is weddings.

When the newly married couple returned home, they presented their family with a fait accompli. Often the families would try to make the best of a bad situation and pretend they approved in order to avoid the scandal associated with elopement. But there was no way to get around the fact that a couple who eloped had not only been disobedient to their parents and disloyal to their duty to their family, but they had also spent the better part of a week unchaperoned on their way to Scotland. A wedding ring couldn’t wash out the stain. A lady who eloped was considered something of a fallen woman.

The scandal also engulfed the family. It was a sign of ‘bad blood’; it made anyone else in the family a much poorer marriage prospect, and the family might well find themselves shunned. In A Pemberley Medley, my new book of short stories, there’s a variation where Elizabeth suffers that shunning to such a degree that she is left to adopt reckless plans. Families wanted to hush up elopements, and that’s why Elizabeth thought that Darcy would want nothing more to do with her after discovering her sister’s elopement. If he had in fact been concerned with maintaining a high social status, that likely would have been true. Fortunately for all of us, Darcy’s love proved stronger than his pride!

One interesting point that’s rarely discussed is Georgiana Darcy’s near-elopement with George Wickham. Had Darcy been unable to hush that up, Georgiana’s reputation would have been in shambles. But you’ll hear far more from me about that topic in the future since the new book I’m starting follows that path!

Thanks for inviting me!

This sexy installment in the Pride and Prejudice Variations series explores one of the roads not taken in Jane Austen’s original. Before Darcy leaves the Lambton Inn after learning the scandalous news about Lydia and Wickham, he and Elizabeth declare their true feelings. Determined to give Darcy up rather than drag his name through the mud, Elizabeth will have to choose between what is right, and what she wants more than anything...

About the Author
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing the Pride and Prejudice Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit or


Sharon Sullivan-Craver said...

I love the Regency Romance genre. I have read all of Barbara Cartland's book and those of Victoria Holt and those under her different pen names. I read Debbie Macomber now. Thank you for allowing me to read your blog.

Linda Banche said...

I don't think we realize today how connected society was then. Everybody knew everyone else's business and since people couldn't move around, they had to be concerned with their neighbors' opinions. And then there's the old double standard. Women were more vulnerable to scandal because they didn't have as many options as men. A man with money could always find a suitable woman to marry, but a woman, even with money, would be subordinate to her husband and he could make her life miserable.

LK Hunsaker said...

Interesting. I just read Johanna Lindsey's "Man of my Dreams" where a couple goes to Gretna Green to marry. The stigma of it isn't brought to light in the book.

I have to wonder if things aren't returning that way a bit, with people marrying for political reasons and to share health benefits and such. Plus with the internet, everyone again knows everyone's business. Marriage does seem more a legal contract these days than a bond of the soul. Sad.

susan said...

Enjoy reading this article and it made me set back and reflect on things now and then. I truly would love to read this book. Being raised under strict rules ..I myself can understand some of what went on but thank goodness I did not have my husband picked for me. ha ha My husband was under a powerful magnify glass when we were dating as that was the proper thing to do then. ha ha susan Leech

Jennifer Ann Coffeen said...

Such a wonderful topic to explore in a romance novel. Is the hero and heroine's love strong enough to withstand society's disdain for their marriage? It must have been very difficult to return home and find your family and friends looking down on you.

catslady said...

Always a fascinating topic - now and then. I was raised by fairly old fashioned parents with my grandparents all being born in Sicily. My father was an only child and his word was to be listened to. So my older sister eloped - sounds familiar lol. Although it didn't ruin our family, it was something to be ashamed of. I wanted a career but my father figured I would just run off and get pregnant - that's what women were meant to be! My grandmother who lived with us use to chaperone any boy that came over to the house. I could go on but you can see some of the similarites. Maybe that's one of the reasons I enjoy regencies so much and P&P variations - the similarities and the differences. It's always fascinating and your books sounds wonderful and exciting!

Stephanie Burkhart said...

It is absolutely amazing how they treated marriage back then. I can see the romance of eloping. Thanks for sharing. Very informative!

Did you do most of your research online?


Connie said...

This has to be the most interesting time in history and has always been my favorite. If I could go back in time, it would be to this exact period. Can you imagine how exciting it would be just sit in the background and watch how life plays out? Love it!!! Congratulations on a fabulous book. I can't wait to read it!

Connie Fischer

peggy gabriel said...

I love these type books.. thank you for having a blog to help check out all these books.. i have read some of the authors... i would love to win

hotcha12 said...