In April, I’m posting 26 blogs, one for every letter of the alphabet. I write historical romance set in Regency England, and I’m offering a brief lexicon of words to help you understand the story world of my Regency characters. Follow the links for more in depth information.
U is for United Kingdom:
Scotland united with England in 1707 to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Acts of Union 1800 brought in Ireland and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
If you’ve read the book or watched the show, Outlander, and if you know anything about Irish history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, you know that this union was not a universally accepted and peaceful affair, and the trouble carried over into Regency times.
There were legal differences among the three united countries also. In spite of the union, Scotland never adopted the Hardwicke Act, mentioned in an earlier post, so the marriage laws of Scotland were different, allowing romance authors to have characters elope to Gretna Green.
Another Scottish wrinkle on the marriage laws involves our next subject:
And U is for Uxbridge, The Earl of:
One of the more interesting characters of the Regency period is Henry William Paget, the Earl of Uxbridge from 1812 to July 1815. He was a politician and very effective cavalry commander in both the Peninsular Wars and in the European campaign after Bonaparte’s escape from Elba.
At the Battle of Waterloo, he was hit by cannon fire, and had this famous exchange with his commander, Wellington:
“By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” — to which Wellington replied, “By God, sir, so you have!”
Uxbridge’s leg was amputated, and because of his heroism, he was created the Marquess of Anglesey on July 4, 1815.
Paget, however, was not a favorite of Wellington’s, for very personal reasons.
Paget and his first wife, Lady Caroline, had eight children together. In 1809 he caused a scandal when he eloped with Lady Charlotte, the wife of Wellington’s younger brother, Lord Henry Wellesley. An Englishman could divorce his wife for reasons of adultery, so Henry Wellesley was able to obtain a divorce from Lady Charlotte. Paget had to arrange his divorce in Scotland.
Scottish law allowed for divorce for reasons of adultery after six weeks residency in Scotland, if the adultery took place in Scotland. Paget established a residence in Scotland with his lover, Lady Charlotte, who concealed her identity with a veil because Scottish law prohibited an adulteress from marrying her lover once he was legally free. Lady Caroline petitioned for and obtained the Scottish divorce by accusing Paget of adultery with an unknown or unnamed woman, freeing the parties to marry.
Paget married Lady Charlotte and they went on to have ten children together. Not exactly the aggrieved wife, Lady Caroline quickly married the Duke of Argyll.
Because of the shocking scandal, laws were modified. After 1811 English courts only recognized Scottish divorces if the couple had originally married in Scotland.
Fellow RWA member, Nancy Mayer, has a lengthy post on Regency marriage issues, including Scottish divorce.
Questions? Comments? Visit tomorrow for the letter V!
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