A survivor’s guide to Georgian marriage

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, wrote Jane Austen in her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice. Roy and Lesley Adkins share their tips for a successful Georgian marriage – from the veil to the grave

A 19th-century engraving. A young woman plays a harp, singing a duet with a man holding the music book, Duets de L’Amour. (Photo by Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Marriage in Georgian England was rarely the stuff of great romances like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was a male-dominated world, and when they married, women passed from the control of their father to that of their husband.

Remaining single was seen as a misfortune and was not a viable option for women of any class. Long referred to by the disparaging term ‘old maids’, unmarried women could face a life of penury – even those from affluent families. Jane Austen famously never married and after her father’s death suffered from relative poverty and lack of freedom, always dependent on the goodwill of her brothers.

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