Friday, July 22, 2016

The Life and Loves of Madame Recamier


© Cheryl Bolen 

(This article first appeared in A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life.)
 
The Duke of Wellington and Napoleon opposed each other not only on the battlefield but also for the affections of a certain beautiful lady. That lady, Madame Recamier, spurned both of these powerful men. Napoleon was so outraged, he banished her from France and her famed Parisian salon where authors and intellectuals—most of whom despised Napoleon—gathered. 
 
In an era when, as Lord Egremont said, “Women considered it a stain upon their reputation if they hadn’t taken a lover,” Juliette Recamier (1777-1849) went four decades without knowing a lover—not even the wealthy, much-older banker she had married at age 15. 
 
Madame Recamier on the piece of furniture which would later carry her name.

Called a figid coquette, Madame Recamier directed her sensuous flirtations on virtually every man who came to her salon on rue du Mont-Blanc—and most of them became captivated by her beauty and voluptuous charm. Author and political philosopher Benjamin Constant said, “Madame Recamier takes it into her head to make me fall in love with her . . . My life is completely upset.” For the next fourteen months, he was tortured by his unrequited love for her.  

He was one of dozens over the years. 

Lady Bessborough,  who was among the English aristocrats who flocked to Paris in 1802 after the signing of the short-lived Treaty of Amiens, gives this interesting account of meeting the beautiful Madame Recamier.

I must tell you [Lady Bessborough wrote to her lover, Granville Leveson Gower] tho’, a nasty and an indelicate story, but how distress’d I was at Mad. Recamier’s. We went there and found her in bed—that beautiful bed you saw prints of—muslin and gold curtains, great looking glasses at the side, incense pots, &c., and muslin sheets trimm’d with lace, and beautiful white shoulders expos’d perfectly uncovered to view—in short, completely undress’d and in bed. The room was full of men. 

During her salons, Madame Recamier commonly reposed on a chaise longue—a piece of furniture which would later be named a recamier in her honor. A famed portrait by Jacques Louis David of her on her chaise longue hangs in the Louvre.  

The only child of Marie Julie Matton and Jean Bernard, the king’s counsellor, Juliette was born in Lyon, but the family later moved to Paris. During the Reign of Terror, she married Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, who was 27 years her senior. Mystery surrounds the marriage. There is some credence that Recamier married to pass on his fortune if he should fall to the Terror. It was said he was very close to Juliette’s mother. Some suggested Juliette remained a virgin because Recamier was her natural father, but this has been discounted.  

As she neared the age of thirty, Madame Recamier finally fell victim to Cupid’s arrow when she fell in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia, a nephew of Frederick the Great. They met in the Swiss home of her friend, the famed Madame de Stael, who encouraged the romance. Juliette Recamier wrote to her husband to ask for a divorce, but at the time he was besieged with financial woes (he eventually went bankrupt). His response appealed to her sensibilities while telling her she could not have picked a worse time. He also expressed regret that he had respected her virginal susceptibilities.  

Writing years later about her lover, Madame Recamier said, “We were convinced that we were going to be married, and our relationship was very intimate; even so, there was one thing he failed to obtain.” 
Prince Augustus' portrait with Madame
Recamier's portrait behind him.

Before the two lovers parted, they exchanged written promises. Prince Augustus wrote, “I swear by my honor and by love to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Juliette Recamier, to take all steps that duty allows to unite with her in the bonds of marriage, and to possess no woman as long as there is hope that I may join my destiny with hers. AUGUST, PRINCE OF PRUSSIA.” 

Madame Recamier wrote, “I swear by the salvation of my soul to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Prince August of Prussia; to do everything that honor permits to dissolve my marriage, to have no love nor flirtation with any other man, to see him again as soon as possible, and, whatever the future may bring, to entrust my destiny entirely to his honor and his love. J. R.” 

The Recamiers did not divorce, and Prince Augustus never married, though two of his long-time mistresses bore him eleven children. Ten years after he fell in love with Juliette Recamier, he had his portrait made standing in front of her portrait.  

Back in Paris, the Recamiers were forceed to sell their house on the rue du Mont Blanc, their silver, and Juliette’s jewelry. She suffered the losses with the same languid serenity that governed her life. By 1809, Recamier was once again in business but on a much smaller scale.  

Even though her circumstances were reduced, Madame Recamier’s salons were as popular as ever. Later she resided in apartments in a former convent, now demolished, at 16 rue de Sèvres in Paris. 

It is believe she finally lost her virginity at age 40. Her lover was the 50-year-old author Chateaubriand. 

Her husband died in 1830. She lived another nineteen years before cholera claimed her at age 71. She was buried in the Cimetiere de Montmarte.—by Cheryl Bolen, whose three Pride and Prejudice Sequels are now available.  

Resources 

Herold, J. Christopher. Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1958. 

Lady Granville, The Private Correspondence of Lord Granville Leveson Gower, 2 vols., London, John Murray, 1917.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Titles, heirs apparent & heirs presumptive

by Donna Hatch

Since the subject of titles in Regency England seems to be both confusing and detailed, it bears revisiting. For today's post, I will focus on heirs: both heirs apparent and heirs presumptive.

An heir apparent is the son of a titled lord or landholder. Let's say, for example, the father is the Earl of Charming. Charming probably has a secondary title or two (or more), because most peers did due to the whim of royalty over the years. If one of Charming's secondary titles were, say the Viscount Handsome, then Charming's eldest son would bear the courtesy title of Viscount Handsome. Handsome is Charming's apparent heir, so he bears the courtesy title and is known as his "heir apparent." I think of it as; "His heir is apparently his son."

Note: Despite what you may read in some novels, sons who are heirs apparent cannot be disinherited from their rightful titles just because the father thinks the son is undeserving. It takes an act of parliament to do such a thing and those were granted in extreme cases.

Now, what if the Earl of Charming has no son--only daughters (or no children)? At this point, he now must grant his title and estates to his heir presumptive. It may be his younger brother or even a distant cousin--whomever is the closest living male relative. The heir presumptive does not use the courtesy title of Viscount of Handsome, but he can presume that he will someday be the Earl of Charming because no other living male heir stands in his way. Yet. Anyone who can be supplanted in the line of succession by the birth of a boy is an heir presumptive, no matter how unlikely that birth seems. One can think of this as; "The heir presumptive presumes he will inherit the title and property."

If, of course, the good Earl of Charming eventually has a son, even in his latter years, the heir presumptive no longer can hope for such a grand inheritance, because it all goes to Charming's son, his heir apparent. Immediately upon his birth, the new baby boy bears the courtesy title, Viscount of Handsome. 

Now this works the same way even if there is no title involved. Let's say Mr. Dashing is a landowner, similar to the Bennett family in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. If Mr. Dashing had a son, his son would be his heir apparent. If he had 5 sons, the eldest would be his heir apparent. If, however, Dashing has no sons, only daughters (or no children) all of his entailed property now goes to the closest living heir--a younger brother or a nephew or a cousin, even if he is as obnoxious as the unforgettable Mr. Collins. In other words, the heir presumptive is granted the same way regardless if there is a title or courtesy title involved. 
If Dashing's estate is entailed, he cannot choose to whom he will leave the property. It's set in stone. It goes to the closest living male relative or heir. Dashing can will non-entailed property to anyone he wants, but nothing entailed, which most estates were.

In my Amesbury family series, The Rogue Hearts Series, the father of this unruly bunch is the Earl of Tarrington, and his eldest son, Cole, is his heir apparent who uses the courtesy title Viscount Amesbury and has since birth. When the Earl of Tarrington dies, Cole becomes the new Earl of Tarrington. Cole's heir presumptive would be his younger brother Jared, until Cole and his wife have a son, who then becomes the heir apparent and uses the courtesy title, Viscount Amesbury.

So, in a nutshell, a lord's son is his heir apparent.

A lord's brother or nephew or cousin, whomever is closer to him in the bloodline, is his heir presumptive.

I hope this has cleared up any confusion and is useful to you in some way, even if all it does is explain why the annoying Mr. Collins assumed he would inherit Mr. Bennett's property and why Mrs. Bennett was in such a state of agitation that she and her daughters might be thrown out into the cold, cruel world immediately upon her husband's death (which actually kind of happened in Sense & Sensibility, if you'll recall). 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Pin Money

evening gown 1819
by Donna Hatch
www.donnahatch.com

Ladies in Regency England had no real money of their own. Before they married, their fathers were in possession of all their money. After they married, all of the money, possessions, and property went to their husbands immediately upon marriage unless it was tied up in some kind of trust which specified the husband couldn't have it. However, ladies had ways of spending money without having to ask, even if their father or husband technically held their purse strings.

When a lady married, she almost always had a marriage settlement or contract similar to today's prenuptial agreement.  In the agreement, it outlined her dress and clothing allowance, pin money, and jointure--what she received in money or housing if she outlived her husband. Early in my research into the Regency Era, I found it odd that pin money would be called out in the settlement. Why pin money? Was it actually used for pins, or was it a vague term?

Truthfully, pin money was meant to buy pins. At least, in the beginning. Oddly enough, pins were an indispensable part of a lady's wardrobe. Zippers had not yet been invented, and not every gown had buttons or hooks and eyes. Some gowns needed ties to fasten together. However, a great many ladies relied on pins to keep their clothing together. Yes, straight pins, not safety pins. I assume women either got stuck a lot or knew a trick to avoid such misery. A popular type of gown was an apron style, also known as drop-front or bib-front gowns. These were not only fashionable during the earl Regency, but also comfortable. They could also be easily adjusted if the lady's figure changed due to weight gain or loss, or pregnancy. They were also ideal for hand-me-downs.
drop front gown--Isobel carr
Here is a picture of a drop-front gown I found on Isobel Carr's website, and she was gracious enough to give me permission to use it. This a great example of this style of gown--typically a day gown in muslin or calico, although I found an evening gown in velvet with a drop front. As you can see, the gown in this picture needs to be either pinned, buttoned, or hooked with hooks and eyes, and then also tied under the bust in back.

Since pins in those days were not made from stainless steel but rather from brass, they rusted quickly. This made them a consumable product. Expensive, necessary, and consumable, they became a  major expense for a lady to undertake. However, pin money was not meant exclusively to buy pins. It actually became a type of allowance a lady had to spend on whatever she wanted. Her annual wardrobe expense was set, and she really had no money of her own, so she used her pin money for incidental expenditures. A lady could use pin money to buy supplies for anything she wanted--her craft supplies, sheet music, entrance into parks or museums or subscription balls, perfume, or treats at Gunther's Tea shop, to name a few.

In some Regency romance novels, the heroine uses her pin money to pay for postage to send secret letters or even to buy stage coach fare (and food) to run away from home. The possibilities are endless if she has a generous pin money or is wise enough to save her pin money for important things.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Crossing the English Channel before 1820


© Cheryl Bolen 

For most of the Regency era, sailboats were the only way to cross the English Channel. These depended upon the kindness of the winds. An exceedingly swift crossing could breeze along in three hours. Reports of 18-hour crossings are not uncommon. It was said the journey from Dover to Calais was much speedier than the one from Calais to Dover because of the winds. 

Factor in that crossings could be delayed for days because of unfavorable winds. Fanny Burney’s father once waited in Dover for nine days before the winds were obliging for his sailing to Calais. Sailing must commence during low tide, also.           

Polish scholar Krystyn Lack-Szyrma, whose London Observed (from 1820-1824) was published in English in 2009, recorded comprehensive details about his stay in Calais and crossing the channel. His voyage, for which he paid one guinea, took six hours—most of which rendered him very seasick. 


He gives us readers two centuries later a glimpse of the interior of these packet boats with his thorough words pictures. He tells us the spacious cabins were illuminated by a window which faces the deck. Each side of the cabin is fitted with rows of compartments, stacked two high. The bunks are furnished with clean, white bed linens, which Lack-Szyrma says is the only color linen the English will have. The bunks are curtained with either green or red. Men’s cabins are segregated from women’s. 

Here is Lack-Szyrma’s account of seasickness.

The ship was rolling on the waves more and more, causing the unbearable suffering called seasickness and those who are used to sailing are spared. Even to describe the symptoms of the sickness in not pleasant. Sufferers have stomach cramps and are prone to vomiting. They suffer from vertigo and see coloured spots before their eyes, especially green ones. The most unpleasant feeling is when a huge breaker, having raised the ship high, brings it crashing down. Your whole body feels numb. The weakness is so tormenting, that it almost makes you lose interest in life. In case of a violent storm, it must make people insensitive to danger, thus mitigating the horror of a shipwreck. 

He goes on to report that even after reaching land and standing on firm ground, the seasickness does not promptly go away. (Oh, dear, I got that wrong in more than one of my books.)  

The first steamboat appeared on the English channel in 1818 but these weren’t widely used until nearly a decade later. Lack-Szyrma tells us that by 1827 England had almost 200 steamships, but in America, where they were built, the number was much greater. Not all these 200 were used for crossing the channel. Steamboats were a common means of transport to and from Edinburgh from points south, especially London.

Lack-Szyrma gives an account of a steamboat owner in Calais inviting a few members of the municipal council for a short sail in his steamer. “They agreed to his request, but when it was time to go on board, they got frightened and each of them looked for an excuse not to take part in this trip. Such an important invention aroused people’s anxiety in those days!”
 
If you’re interested in knowing things like how much it cost to sail from Dover to Calais or the price of gentlemen’s lodging in London, I highly recommend reading Lack-Szyrma’s journal. Of all the ones I’ve read from the era, this one is THE best. He spent several years studying British government, penal system, courts, history and almost every aspect of the country and explains them in clearly understood layman’s terms. Titled London Observed: A Polish Philosopher atLarge, 1820-24, it’s annotated and edited by Mona Kesslie McLeod, a retired lecturer at Edinburgh University.—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release is Miss Darcy’s New Companion, a Pride & Prejudice Variation, Book 1 in the Jane Austen Sequels. More information at her website.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Divorce Regency Style


©By Cheryl Bolen

Divorces, while not unheard of in the Regency, were extremely rare. Only the wealthiest could afford the expensive process of filing a bill of divorce, which must be approved by the House of Lords before moving to the House of Commons. It sometimes took years for Parliament to grant a divorce.

As women had few legal rights, the divorce petition had to originate with the husband, and in almost all cases was initiated because of the wife's adultery.

Because few men wished to own they had been cuckolded, only the most furious of husbands would set themselves up for such notoriety.

For the divorce hearings—where witnesses gave testimony to prove adulterous liaisons—generated tremendous notoriety. Printings of the transcripts made bestsellers.

Few woman wished to expose themselves to such scandal. A divorced woman was barred from court and from almost all aristocratic functions. She could not obtain custody of her children, either. And if she went on to remarry (some divorce decrees forbid the wife to marry her seducer) she would be prohibited from presenting legitimate daughters from the second marriage. This happened to Lady Holland when her first husband (with her full support) divorced her so she could marry Lord Holland. (She also had to sign away her fortune to the first husband, Sir Godfrey Webster.)

Some men braved the notoriety the absorbed the expense of divorce in order to ensure they would not have to give their name to a child fathered by the wife’s lover. By English law, any child born during the marriage was the legitimate issue of the marriage and could claim titles, land, or other inheritances.

A much cheaper—and more common—option for a couple trapped in a miserable marriage was an ecclesiastical separation. The drawback to separation was the inability to remarry.—Cheryl Bolen’s latest novel, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, continues the Brazen Brides series of Regency romances.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Marriage in Medieval Scotland

By Guest Blogger Regan Walker

The medieval era spanned the period from the 5th through the 15th centuries and marriage in many places, including Scotland, changed over the course of the centuries.

My newest medieval novel, Rebel Warrior, is set in Scotland in the late 11th century. When Malcolm, King of Scotland, met the beautiful Saxon Princess Margaret of Wessex, sometime around 1068-1070, he had already been married to Ingebiorg, the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson (“Thorfinn the Mighty”), Jarl of the Orkneys.

It is generally assumed that Ingebiorg, who bore Malcolm three sons, died sometime before 1070. History does not tell us what happened to Ingebiorg. Some accounts hint at the possibility of poisoning. However, Malcolm would not have needed to dispose of her that way if he was of a mind to be free. In the 11th century, wives in Scotland were “put away” on the slightest pretense. The dissolution of marriage being a lax affair at the time, it could be that Malcolm merely put away his first wife to marry Margaret. We may never know.


In any event, King Malcolm was smitten and he and Margaret were married before the chapel at Dunfermline, the Culdee Bishop of St. Andrews presiding. Margaret was a devout believer who was raised in Hungary and England and followed a routine of prayer and confession such that she would have wanted the church to bless her marriage though it was not essential to make the marriage valid. (The hero and heroine in Rebel Warrior are married on the steps of the same chapel, which is generally where a couple would wed if a church was involved.)

There would have been a ring. The exchange of the rings was a main feature in Scottish wedding ceremonies from ancient times.

By the late medieval era, they could have married by merely affirming their intent to wed. Witnesses were not needed either. Such an affirmation would suffice per the Roman Catholic Church, which by then had a hold on Scotland. The Culdees (the Scottish clerics) after the 12th century were folded into the Roman church.

In the medieval era, handfasting represented the betrothal of the intended couple, not the actual marriage itself. Handfasting as a “trial marriage” is first referred to in the 19th century and, though romance writers love it, some scholars doubt it was used for marriages.

Women could marry from the age of 12 (for boys it was from 14) and, while many girls from the upper ranks of society married in their teens, by the end of the medieval period most in the Lowlands married in their twenties. This allowed them to acquire the resources needed to form a household.

Of course, if you were noble born, your father might have betrothed you to your future husband when you were quite young. Women of the aristocracy were desired for their dowries. Their land and wealth was a means of securing greater wealth and political power for the combined families. However, in all levels of society, an economic agreement between the two families would be reached before the marriage.

Unlike in England, where kinship was derived through both males and females, in Scotland, women retained their original surname at their marriage. The extensive marriage bars for kinship meant that most noble marriages required a papal dispensation, which could later be used as grounds for annulment if the marriage proved politically or personally inconvenient, although in this period in Scotland’s history, there was no divorce. You were married until one of you died or, in the earlier centuries, you were just “put away”.

The only way out was to prove you were never legally married, that is to have the marriage annulled. The grounds would be that one or both of them were either too young, they were too closely related to each other, the man was impotent at the time of their marriage, one party was insane at the time of marriage, or already married (or betrothed) to someone else at the time of their marriage. Even if you married too young, if you continued to live together as man and wife when you came of age (12 for women, 14 for men), then you were considered legally married (continuing to live together was considered to be an affirmation of intent to marry, much like our Common Law marriage). It was not until the Reformation (which officially occurred in Scotland in 1560) that divorce and remarriage became a possibility. So one had to make a good decision.


Rebel Warrior

“Master storytelling transports you to medieval Scotland!”
         Paula Quinn, NY Times Bestselling Author

When your destiny lies far from where you began …

Scotland 1072

The Norman Conqueror robbed Steinar of Talisand of his noble father and his lands, forcing him to flee to Scotland while still recovering from a devastating wound. At the royal court, Steinar becomes scribe to the unlettered King of Scots while secretly regaining his skill with a sword.

The first time Steinar glimpses the flame-haired maiden, Catrìona of the Vale of Leven, he is drawn to her spirited beauty. She does not fit among the ladies who serve the devout queen. Not pious, not obedient and not given to stitchery, the firebrand flies a falcon! Though Catrìona captures Steinar’s attention, he is only a scribe and she is promised to another.

Catrìona has come to Malcolm’s court wounded in spirit from the vicious attack on her home by Northmen who slayed her parents and her people. But that is not all she will suffer. The man she thought to wed will soon betray her.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Marriage in Regency England--the Special License

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold 1816
Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold                                  1816
by Donna Hatch
www.donnahatch.com

English marriage, and the methods in which one could place one's neck in the "parson's noose," underwent a number of changes just prior to the Regency, and they changed again during the Victorian Era. Though a Special License appears frequently in romance novels, during the Regency Era, it was issued rarely, and only under extenuating circumstances.

During the Regency, the most common way to get married (especially among the humbler classes) was to have the banns posted also called "putting up the banns." This required posting on the wall of the church and read by the clergy from the pulpit of both the bride and the groom's parish for three consecutive Sundays in order to give the public a chance to object to the marriage. After that, couple could get married within 90 days, and the wedding must take place between 8 in the morning and noon in the husband or wife's parish of Church of England, even if the couple were Catholic. Quakers and Jews were exempt, apparently.
A couple wishing to marry could also do so by ordinary license. This did not require putting up the banns, but it cost  money--not much, but it wasn't free, and it had many of the same restrictions of marriage by banns.

Marriage by special license was different. The advantages of having a special license were that a couple could marry any time and place that they wished. When applying for a special license, certain criteria must be met. First of all, few outside of titled lords and their spouses and children were eligible, and one seeking such privilege must go appeal to His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

According to noted researcher and novelist, Susanna Ives:
"BY the Statute of 23 Hen. VIII., the Archbishop of Canterbury has power to grant Special Licences; but in a certain sense these are limited. His Grace restricts his authority to Peers and Peeresses in their own right, to their sons and daughters, to Dowager Peeresses, to Privy Councillors, to Judges of the Courts at Westminster, to Baronets and Knights, and to Members of Parliament ; and by an order of a former Prelate, to no other person is a special licence to be given, unless they allege very strong and weighty reasons for such indulgence, arising from particular circumstances of the case, and they must prove the truth of the same to the satisfaction of the Archbishop."

"In the case where the parties applying do not rank within the restricted indulgences, a personal interview should be sought, or a letter of introduction to his Grace should be obtained, containing the reasons for wishing the favour granted. Should his Grace grant his fiat, in either case the gentleman attends his proctor to make the usual affidavit, that there is no impediment to the marriage—the same as in an ordinary licence." 
Charles Manners-Sutton (1755–1828), Archbishop of Canterbury.
Charles Manners-Sutton (1755–1828), Archbishop of Canterbury.
When applying for a special license, both the bride and groom must be named so the Archbishop of Canterbury could verify their eligibility to wed.  Since those who could use a special license were all members of the upper class, and since the archbishop sat in the House of Lords, His Grace probably knew most of them. Regardless, he would not have issued a license without verifying their eligibility to wed.
Also, a special license cost quite a bit more than a regular  marriage license. However, a special license allowed a couple to marry in any location and at any time. It also made the posting the banns unnecessary, so if there were some reason a couple wanted to marry in haste, or didn't want to subject themselves to public protestation, this allowed a way to do it.

Remember, though, that obtaining special license was dependent on the Archbishop of Canterbury's decree and goodwill. His Grace didn't grant Special Licenses frequently nor lightly.

More information about the different methods available to the Regency couple wishing to marry can be found here.

Sources:
http://www.regencyresearcher.com/pages/marriage.html