The Georgian culture of romance

A Georgian etching of a ball taking place

At Berrington we're ‘Falling in love with the Georgians’ as we care for the mansion, garden and parkland. We've also been busy uncovering romantic and melancholic tales along the way. We give you an insight into the reality of Georgian gentry’s ideals of romance and love. This includes the ideas of what should form marriage, their customs and also the fears surrounding courtship and love. You can then learn more about how they connect to Berrington by reading through the other articles in this section.

A typical topic to bring up about Georgian romance is about marriage. It was generally believed that marriage and suitability should always come first. To some extent this is true, for the families and parents were involved in the match. This was because they were affected by the outcome. A lot could be gained for the gentry classes in terms of financial security, political alliances and future heirs. With all of this in mind it can be easy to suggest that love and romance was much more of a benefit to a marriage, rather than a necessity.

Every woman aimed to look their finest
A Georgian sketch of a group of women getting ready to go to a dance
Every woman aimed to look their finest

That said, it is also important to consider the social customs behind marriage for, it could also be argued that in Georgian terms there was an element of romance behind the lead up to marriage. We can see this in the different forms of ‘courtship’ that took place.

For example, balls were an occasion at which young women would be presented for the ‘season’, and enabled young gentlemen to look for a suitable match. Balls were a great opportunity for romance to begin and a large emphasis of excitement surrounded these key social events. Popular literature of the day, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, highlights the excitement of these occasions.

If a young couple wanted to meet outside of these formal occasions, they could, but only if they were chaperoned. It was after this type of courting that a proposal could be made. When you read and look into the excitement and ideas of romance that surrounded these types of engagements and pursuits, you can begin to see that for the Georgians this was a form of romance.

They had completely different ideas of romance
A Georgian etching of two people courting
They had completely different ideas of romance

With all of these ideals in mind, there was also a lot of fear surrounding romance and love. When you do this you can see that romance and love did occur in the Georgian era. Firstly there was fear of people falling in love with an unsuitable match. Examples of what would happen to such people can be seen in a sister property, Dunham Massey in Cheshire. Here George Harry, 7th Earl of Stamford and Warrington married Catharine Cox, a stunningly beautiful circus equestrienne in 1855 and they were ridiculed for it.

Secondly, there was a fear of elopement. There was a fear of younger people secretly courting and leaving for destinations such as Gretna Green. This was a topic that was discussed and shunned throughout society. There was even a game created about it to make it into a form of satire; “New game of elopement or A trip to Gretna Green”, which is discussed by historian, Naomi Clifford. These fears were so strong that they were included in the ‘Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage’, in 1753. This made it against the law to marry under the age of 21 without your parents’ consent. This evidence suggests that people did fall in love, and have affection for one another so passionately, that it overruled the politics behind the purpose of marriage. With this came a social fear that this would happen, and so in this sense, although love was something that was largely desired alongside marriage, it was also feared.

This picture portrays some of the classic tales of a Georgian elopement
A Georgian etching of a woman climbing out of her window to her lover
This picture portrays some of the classic tales of a Georgian elopement

This has been a brief introduction into some of the Georgian gentry’s ideals and ideas surrounding love and romance. If you read the articles below you can learn more about the unique stories about Berrington and here about how those that lived here were able to find their own source of love.