Until Annulment Do Us Part: Divorce and Annulment in the Regency Era

So the last chapter of Desire and Decorum, was really bothering me. In it it you, the main character, discovers that you were not illegitimate as your parents were married, but that they were annulled before you were born. Your father still wants to write you into the will but I’m questioning the whole legality of it all.

So I decided it was time to do some research and see if I could find some answers.

Before the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 divorces had to go through the Church and Parliament. The church would only give legal separation, while if you wanted a real divorce in order to remarry you would need to go through Parliament as well. Parliament divorces were very, very expensive and you had to take legal action in a three courts: ecclesiastical (church), common-law court, and finally Parliament.

No amount of money could give you a quiet divorce, as any divorce was a huge scandal as newspapers would play it up. And it would be a stain on both spouses’ characters, although men would get over it must faster (think of Maria Bertram-Rushworth in Mansfield Park).

So we know divorce was difficult, but what about an annulment? I had to keep digging.

I can’t stop myself.

The church occasionally did some annulments in certain cases. The annulments were only granted if the marriage wasn’t consummated (they didn’t sleep together), a man married his dead wife’s sister (it was seen as too close to a relative although marrying your first cousin was alright 🤷🏻‍♀️ ), or if it turned out one of the couple had committed bigamy.

So none of those reasons would apply here for the game as the character’s mother was pregnant (obviously they consummated), no previous marriage had taken place to invoke a “too close relationship”, and there was no bigamy. Of course the grandpa could have said that she was sleeping around, but that wouldn’t grant his son an annulment he would have had to be granted a divorce and the game was specific to annulment. It was clear, more digging must be done.

Annulment by not consummating the relationship was really hard to prove. More often then not either the husband or wife had to be examined and declared impotent. This rarely happened as it had to be proven by a medical examination, which as I’m sure as you can imagine, very few people would succumb to having.

Annulments could also be granted if there was an error in name on the marriage certificate, they were too young and married without parental consent (they would have to go to Gretna Greene to do that), or if they were deceived as to who they were marrying. All of which don’t apply here.

Hmm…

Insanity was another route for annulment but it was very tricky to prove (and still is today) as one would have to prove that the person was insane at the time of the marriage. For instance look at the case of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, as he didn’t suspect she was crazy in the beginning (her family hid it well) he can never get a divorce or annulment and instead has to live with a crazy woman who is constantly trying to kill him. Also most families would fight this route as being named insane would taint an entire family and family line as well.

If a woman’s marriage was annulled, she was reduced from the status of wife to concubine, and any children the couple had were declared illegitimate. So that tracks right in the game, as my character is still illegitimate. But could an illegitimate inherit? And I still haven’t figured out how the grandfather had them annulled.

Hmmm…

So I did some more digging and discovered that if a couple was annulled the woman would have a ruined reputation and:

“Also, any children of an annulled marriage become bastards (who cannot inherit or be declared legitimate at the whim of the peer) and likewise outcasts of society.”

Kristen Kostner, “A Primer on Regency Divorce and Annulments,” Kristen Kostner (blog), entry posted October 11, 2018, accessed July 22, 2021,

So it looks like that plot point in the last chapter is impossible. The MC/Catherine would never be able to inherit, even with my father writing me into the will. The only way I could would be if I was to prove that the annulment never legally took place and my stepmother’s marriage is invalid.

This does kind of kill the spirit of the game for me as it only took me a day to research this, which any of their staff could have easily done. But maybe there are more twists coming, I guess I’ll just have to keep playing to find out.

Hmm…?

Sources:

Field, Alina K. "10 Facts about Marriage and Divorce in Historical England." Simply Romance (blog). Entry posted September 16, 2014. Accessed July 22, 2021.

Grace, Maria. "Divorce, Regency style." English History Authors (blog). Entry posted January 11, 2017. Accessed July 22, 2021.

Hatch, Donna. "Annulments, Separations, Divorce and Scandal." Historical Hussies (blog). Entry posted May 3, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2011

Kostner, Kristen. "A Primer on Regency Divorce and Annulments." Kristen Kostner (blog). Entry posted October 11, 2018. Accessed July 22, 2011

For more on the Regency era, go to Modesto Jane Con: Dressing the Regency Lady

Desire & Decorum: Chapter 12, In Sickness and In Health

So it has been almost a year since I last reviewed one of these chapters from the Choices videogame. Originally I was just playing the game but as I could do that faster than I could review, I ended up deciding to not play another chapter until I finished reviewing what I already had played. Of course things came up and I got distracted by other things on my list to write/review/etc-so now I am getting to Chapter 12 of Book 1, while I think Pixelberry has already created book three or four of this video game.

Anyway, quick backstory since it has been so long. This game is storybook based where you have a story that progresses, but at times you get to make a choice as to what to do, say, who to fall in love with, etc. Some choices require you to spend diamonds to play, which you can earn every time you play a chapter or purchase from their store. Some “books” have different side quests, like in this one you want to become an accomplished woman and certain choices allow you to gain items.

It’s really fun as you have the power to decide what path the story takes.

This game is set in the Regency time period, and of course is catered toward Jane Austen fans. In this game you are the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Edgewater, something you discovered on your mother’s deathbed. You met your father and he accepts you and wants to make you his legal heir, as your half-brother passed away.

You have an evil stepmother and conniving stepbrother, Mr. Marcastle, who has a dim fiancé, Miss Sutton. They are all plotting against you.

And a lot has happened since the beginning of the book: you have held a garden party (which you rocked), you are currently having a London season, you go to Mr. Sinclaire’s house (a suitor I am all about)-who has a sad Rebeccaesque backstory and he gifts you a book, you visited the Opera St. James where your mother used to preform, went to see an Opera and were stuck with the Duke who is a horrible jerk, took a walk in the rain with Mr. Sinclaire, learned to paint, helped your friend refuse a gross geezer, and have just learned that your father has fallen ill, found out the truth about Mr. Sinclaire’s wife and the Duke, and are trying to reach your father in time before his last breath.

Whew! That’s a lot. Now onto the next chapter!

So this chapter’s title In Sickness and In Health, and reading that just reaffirmed for me thah my father did going to die.

So I had an option earlier in the game to buy a horse and I did. Sometimes these purchases turn out to be a waste as then they never resurface in the game, but I’m glad I did as I am using her to race to my dad. It did turn out to be a useful purchase.

So Mr. Harper and I race to my father’s home as quickly as we can. There is an option for you to stop and rest with Mr. Harper and hear him tell a story-and if Mr. Harper is the romantic route you want to take, if you do so it will bring you closer together. But as for me, not only did I not want to wait I also was low on diamonds, and didn’t want to spend what little I had in case something came up in later on in the chapter. The previous chapter turned out to be really expensive.

So I make it to the house and who should stand in my way? My wicked stepmother.

She won’t let me see my dying father and claims that she will find a way to keep me from my inheritance, as she believes she should have it over me. From a historical side I do feel bad for her as women had very little rights but in this game she is a horrible witch so I don’t feel bad if she will loses everything.

Sucks to be you

While tbe Countess may think she has outwitted me, I outmaneuver her and go upstairs where I run into the Bishop Monroe, a new character who allows me to visit with my father. I go to my father and there I discover the big twist. I am not illegitimate, but my father and mother were married!

Never mind, it turns out I am illegitimate as my mother and father were forced into an annulment just before I was born.

Wait, what? That doesn’t sound right to me but let’s see how the game plays out and then I’ll do the research later.

Hmm…

So it turns out that my grandfather didn’t want my parents together and forced the annulment. My father shared that he wrote letters to my mother and I let him know that I saw them as it turned out she saved them and I had the opportunity to read them in the previous chapter (which I did).

Only a few people knew about the marriage, but I’m thinking there must be some documentation that will help strengthen my claim.

My father tells me he wanted to tell me more but thought it would be too confusing and kept it to himself. He wants to share his story with me and you have the option to pay to play as him and find out the truth. I declined as I had no money and didn’t want to spend anymore on this game.

My father warns me that my claim will be weak without a strong man to back me. He wants me to get with the Duke but after the last chapter, NO WAY!

I do share that I am interested in someone, and let him know that someone is Mr. Sinclair.

I can’t resist, Mr. Sinclaire is just too much like a mix between Mr. Darcy and Maxim de Winter from Rebecca. He’s unlocked the Laurence Olivier achievement.

My father approves as he has always been close to the Sinclaires. He gives me my mother’s ring and a copy of his Will so that it can strengthen my claim.

My father asks me to share my childhood stories with him and I do to comfort him and relieve his guilt. I stay by his side until his last breath.

I know that this isn’t real, but it seriously touched my heart when I read that scene. Poor Earl of Edgewater.

That’s the sad end of this chapter, in the next one we will have to deal with my father’s funeral. I’m sure there will be plenty of intrigue and conflict.

Funeral scene from The Wolfman (2010)

For more Desire and Decorum, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 11, The Clock Runs Out Part III

For more on Choices, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 11, The Clock Runs Out Part II

Desire & Decorum: Chapter 2, The Ties That Bind

So it has been a while since we last went over Desire & Decorum, so I will do a quick brief.

On with the review!

Choices is a video game that combines film and book storytelling with you making choices as to what will happen next. One of their newest releases was an Austenlike game Desire & Decorum.

In the last chapter your character has lost her mom and found out that her father is the Earl of Edgewater. With you mother’s death you, and your beloved best friend turned lady’s maid, have traveled to meet him. Now the question is, will he accept his daughter?

What if he doesn’t want me?

So we meet the Earl and he surprises us that he completely accepts us! Yay!

Not only has he fully accepted you as his daughter but he has legally made you part of the family. You are now a Lady of Edgewater!

But of course every story has a villain, and yours is no different. You have an evil stepmother:

We will have to keep an eye out for her shenanigans. It turns out she has a son from another marriage and she is hoping that your father will adopt him and leave him all his wealth, land, and title.

Your stepbrother is engaged as well, so not only will we have to watch out for the Countess but two others that may be potential threats.

Now the book presents you with many options of love interests. Last time we met Mr. Ernest Sinclaire.

This week we meet in Austenland fashion the complete opposite in man, Mr. Harper, horse groomer.

I wonder which Austen hero he will be like? Romantic and wise like Colonel Brandon? Idealistic and does the right thing like Edward Ferrars? Broody and serious Darcy? Playful and stern like Mr. Knightly? Serious like Edmund Bertram? Playful like Mr. Tilney? Passionate like Captain Wentworth?

Hmmm….

Or will he be a rogue? Sacrifices love for money like Mr. Willoughby? Selfish and narcissistic like Mr. Wickham? An annoying brownnoser like Mr. Collins? A  cruel social climber like Mr. Elton? Only thinks of himself like Frank Churchill? Manipulative like John Thorpe or Captain Tilney? Plotting and cunning like Mr. Elliot?

Hmmm…

Who will you pick? What will happen next? I guess we will see next time:

Some games have a secondary mission, things you need to acquire to unlock special scenes or something special at the end of the complete story. In this I gained the embroidery frame. Yay! This one was free but the future ones I will most likely have to buy. 😦

For more on Desire & Decorum, go toDesire & Decorum: Chapter 1, The Journey Ahead

For more Austenland, go to Midnight in Austenland

For more on Choices, go to Are…You…Scared?: It Lives in the Woods (2017)

For more Jane Austen video games, go to Jane Austen Manors

Desire & Decorum: Chapter 1, The Journey Ahead

So do you all remember the film Big? Tom Hanks is a preteen that wishes to be “big” and becomes a 30-year old man?

He tries to find a Zoltar machine to change him back, but meanwhile works for a toy company to make money. Because of his childlike understanding, he moves straight to the top of the company.

Now his idea for a new toy is a computer game/book that you read but get to make choices as to what will happen next. Well Choices is that.

What?

So a while back they had a preview for an Austenlike game Desire & Decorum

You know me and anything Austenlike or Austen related:

So as soon as it was avliable I decided to play:

You have the choice of being male or female and name. You can also customize your avatar and purchase extras if you want.

So the story is set in 1816 in the country village of Grovershire, England. You have enjoyed your life there but your mother is very ill, and on her deathbed reveals a secret. You have never known your father, but your mother reveals that he is the Earl of Edgewater, a very wealthy and powerful man. The two were in love, but his family drove them apart-and she went to Grovershire. How do you feel? You make the choice.

With the death of your mother you head to Edgewater and to meet your father and his family. Now this is an interesting concept to go with, being born out of wedlock in 1816-not the best way to be treated.

It was very hard when you were considered an “illegetimate” child. You had no legal right to any inheritance unless “an explicit, specific, uncontested written bequest, and inheriting a title from a parent was rare indeed, though not, as we’ve seen, quite impossible.

Ouch

So you are taken to Edgewater and meet your paternal grandmother the Dowager Countess who is quite spunky. Is she an ally? Or will she try and remove you like your mother was removed?

Hmm…

You also meet Mr. Ernest Sinclaire, master of the nearby Ledford Park. He’s handsome, rich, and also the rude man that almost ran you down on his horse a couple days ago. Yes, you have met him before.

I wonder which Austen hero he will be like? Romantic and wise like Colonel Brandon? Idealistic and does the right thing like Edward Ferrars? Broody and serious Darcy? Playful and stern like Mr. Knightley? Serious like Edmund Bertram? Playful like Mr. Tilney? Passionate like Captain Wentworth?

Hmm…

Or will he be a rogue? Sacrifices love for money like Mr. Willoughby? Selfish and narcissistic like Mr. Wickham? An annoying brown-noser like Mr. Collins? A  cruel social climber like Mr. Elton? Only thinks of himself like Frank Churchill? Manipulative like John Thorpe or Captain Tilney? Plotting and cunning like Mr. Elliot?

Hmm…

But more importantly, what about your father. Will he accept you or reject you?

For more Jane Austen games, go to Jane Austen Manors

For more based on Jane Austen, go to Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating

For more Jane Austen stuff, go to Read Jane Austen, Wear Jane Austen

TO the Person Who Hated My Review of Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version

Last year I wrote a review of Emma (1996)

No, not that one. This one:

Some people agreed with what I said about it, and some people didn’t. That’s fine, we are all open to sharing our opinion-that being said this is my blog, I will always share my opinion.

Usually I don’t make a big deal over people’s criticisms of my reviews:

But then I received a message from someone on facebook who hated my review of Emma (1996). Not only did they disagree with me, they called me every horrible name you could think of, cursed at me, and went on spamming my inbox.

Usually I just forget it when people say stuff like that. No big deal. I mean:

But it was the venomous way this person spoke to me, and kept writing to me that made me upset.

I am not happy

And made me decide to answer their criticisms:

Jerk

In a polite way, of course:

 

TO: The Person Who Hated My Review of Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version

Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, unlike you I am not crass, rude, use expletives, or call people names when trying to make my point:

I write without any intention of humbling myself: you must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.

This could get ugly.

Many offences of various nature you laid to my charge. I will now go through them and defend my thoughts.

A) The Set

No madam I am not an idiot:

I know that “lightbulbs” do not exist in Regency times. I know they had to use candles as their only way of lighting a room. I have studied history and have studied the Regency time period.

What I SAID, and what you failed to read-perhaps your vision is ailing you? Maybe you should visit your optometrist and see if you need an adjustment? – was that I didn’t like the use of candles solely in the film. Yes it is realistic, yes it is accurate, and yes it provides a nice chiaroscuro effect to the cinematography. However, using that as the only source to light your room made it difficult for the viewer to see all that was occurring in the scene. As someone who works hard for their money, I like to use what I spend it on. And if I am purchasing a film I want to be able to see the film.

And I want my money’s worth.

B) The Costumes

You called me quite a few names for not realizing that that the costumes were accurate. I never said they weren’t. Unfortunately, you failed to understand what I stated, perhaps the vocabulary I utilized was too flowery? I will speak plainer here. Out of all the Austen heroines, Emma is the richest. Some may argue that the Dashwoods or Elliots may be, but they lose a lot of their money due to different circumstances. However, Emma starts the book off wealthy, and remains so throughout the book.

In this adaptation, the dresses Emma wears are all boring and drab. I expect her to have something finer and more representative of her station and position in the community. Plus she is only 16 miles from London, she may not visit there but could order more elite fashion. I prefer her gowns in this adaptation:

And this one:

C) Harriet Smith

Now this part of your rantings, I really do not understand. I compliment the film on an actor’s portrayal, in fact the best portrayal of this character I have ever seen, and you yell and curse at me for doing so?

I know, right?

Perhaps you have never paid a compliment so you cannot understand when one is given?

Hmm…

You also yelled at me for misunderstanding the character of Harriet, but the charges you laid against me make me wonder if you have ever read the book, because you don’t seem to understand the character of Harriet.

So the first thing you wrote was that it was idiotic that I called Harriet illegitimate:

First of all I never said that Harriet was illegitimate, what I said-which you failed to read (maybe you need to slow down when reading so you don’t miss so many words?)– was that most people at that time period would assume she was illegitimate the way her father sent her to live in a boarding school and refuses to name himself-wanting to be anonymous instead.

And by the way, Joan Austen-Leigh, the great-grand niece of Jane Austen, stated in her book A Visit to Highbury that Harriet was illegitimate. As she is family and able to look at more personal works that you, I think I trust her information more than I trust yours.

And then you were furious at me for ever stating that everyone hated Harriet, well, once again, I have to say you misread me. Do you wear glasses? Maybe you need a stronger prescription, as what I said was because of not knowing her birth the other girls would not be intent on forming close relationships with her, just in case it turns out that she is illegitimate or from a poor family. Think about Great Expectations, how Pip freaks out when he discovers that his benefactor is the ex-convict Magwitch. He is afraid to tell anyone as he knows how they will turn on him.

D) Jane Fairfax

You went on and on about how I called Olivia Williams a bad actress and how I hated her portrayal, and all I can say is once again you have misunderstood what I said about a character and an actor.

What I had said was that she wasn’t really in the film. True, Jane does not spend a lot of time physically in Highbury, but her presence is always there as the Bateses talk about her constantly. In here we had barely anything about her-from people talking about her to her actually playing a part in the film.

E) Emma Woodhouse

I know you love Kate Beckinsale, and love her films. You went on and on about how well she has done in other pictures and I agree, Beckinsale is a talented actress and has done some great films-however I believe this isn’t one of them. I didn’t think her portrayal was all that great and felt it to be wooden and lacking the emotions if the book.

This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event-it is done, and it was done for the best. — On this subject I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer.

-MORELAND

Now to the rest of you, once again this is just my opinion. I am using my right to express myself and my thoughts. I know that not everyone will agree with me, and I am okay with that. If you like what I write:

Yay

If you don’t like it:

That’s okay!

If you want to follow me:

Yay!

If you don’t:

That’s okay

The choice is yours.

For more Emma, go to Read Jane Austen, Wear Jane Austen

For more Emma adaptations, go to Baby Jane Austen

For more Jane Austen film reviews, go to You Are a Horrible Cook, But I Will Eat What You Prepare Anyway: Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)