Hi, Jo here.

On a Regency chat list we got talking about weddings at the same time as I was researching aspects for my MIP Too Dangerous for a Lady. (Out next April.) I thought I'd share some of what I learned here. None of it was entirely new to me, but there were aspects that were interesting.

The law about weddings changed in 1753/4 so this is about the situation after that and not in Scotland, which kept its old ways, leading to Gretna Green etc.

The law relating to weddings was designed to prevent abuses such as bigamy and the marriage of underage people without the consent of parent or guardian. Everything should be public and clear.

The simplest method was by banns. "The banns of matrimony shall be published in the church where they dwell three several Sundays or holidays, in the time of divine service." If the couple live in different parishes then the banns must be published in both, so everyone who knows them knows what they're up to.

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Oranges and Lemons, Say the Bells of St. Clements

Raphaelle Peale (American artist, 1774-1825) Orange And A BookOranges and Lemons,

Ring ye bells at St. Clements.
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey.
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch.
     Tradtional Counting Rhyme 

There are any number of interpretations as to what this all means, but I see it mostly a reminder that poetry does not necessarily have to make sense.

Joanna here, talking about Regency oranges.

Those of us with a keen interest in botany will have noticed that oranges — not to mention lemons — don't thrive in the British climate.  Well, maybe down in south Devon where hopeful souls sometimes plant palm trees.  But citrus isn't plucked off the tree on Hampstead Heath or in the Welsh mountains.

What is an orange doing in an old, old counting rhyme?
Not to mention lemons.
How come?

Because the Regency and Georgian folks imported their oranges (and lemons) enthusiastically or grew them enthusiastically in greenhouses.  

Musee carnavalet orangerie exterior Paris 1


I'll just wander off track for a minute to point out that greenhouse in the Regency didn't mean a building all made of glass with a roof of glass panes.  That's Victorian.  In the Regency a greenhouse was a tall room with high windows, like this to the right.

Sometimes, they called them orangeries.
I think not.

In the Regency we're talking about three different species of oranges, just because life is complicated.

Our first guest orange  . . . the bitter one.

The oraOrangeBloss_wbnge is another of those marvelous botanical productions of the Orient, like lychees and tea and peaches.  They've been cultivated in China for four thousand years, in several varieties. The bitter or sour orange, Citrus aurantium— what we'd call a Seville orange — made a complicated journey overland to Europe, piggybacking its way from the Middle East to Italy and Spain with the returning Crusaders.

Here's a picture of an early orange in Van Eyck's Amolfini Portrait of 1434.  This picture records a
Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait full sizemarriage and it's just bristling with nifty references faithfulness and fertility. 

Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait detailSee those those oranges in the Van Eyck painting, over next to the window?  Symbolic as heck.

Oranges were symbolic of marriage, maybe because the plant bears its flowers and its fully ripened fruit at the same time, thus being both the potential fertility of the innocent flower and the fecundity of the plump fruit. 
Queen Victoria wore orange blossoms in her hair at her wedding.  Maybe some of the folks reading this today wore them too.  You can look at that Van Eyck and know the symbol is more than 500 years old.

As a totally unrelated side comment, Isobel Carr points out that the little dog in that picture might just be the earliest depiction of a pet animal in a European painting. 
Its name is Max.
. . . Okay.  I'm kidding about the name.

They called the bitter orange a 'Seville orange' because that's where they were grown and shipped from in Tudor times and beyond. 
Our English, French and other European folks used skin, juice, root, leaf and branch in
medicine and for making cordials and syrups and orange-water for scent
and flavoring.

"Nor can I blame you, if a drop you take,
of orange-water, for perfuming-sake."
John Breval

Seville oranges nowadays are used about exclusively for making that wonderful marmalade you can still pick up in the grocery if you go searching a while for the authentic stuff.  It's the same marmalade they made in Regency times.  When you spread it on your toast, you can think about Elizabeth Bennet doing pretty much the same, except she's sitting across the breatkfast table from Mr. Darcy.

Looking next at . . . 
. . .  Ahem. 
Eyes off Mr. Darcy, if you please.  Thank you.

Turning to this second type of orange, I hear you saying, "What about the sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, my supermarket orange, the ones that the lack of is like a day without sunshine, the ones Nell Gywn sold at Drury Lane?"

I will pause an instant to offer Samuel Pepys' take on orange juice:
"and here, which I never did before, I drank a glass, of a pint, I believe, at one draught, of the juice of oranges, of whose peel they make comfits; and here they drink the juice as wine, with sugar, and it is very fine drink; but, it being new, I was doubtful whether it might not do me hurt. "

Anyhow, these newcomer sweet oranges showed up in the 1500s.  They were called sweet oranges because, well, they were sweet, and China oranges to distinguish them from the Seville oranges which were not so sweet.  'China' because, unlike their bitter cousins, they didn't migrate slowly overland.  They arrived in style by ship, brought by Portuguese and Italian merchants directly from China. 

This is when the orange became a hand-eating f3 Francis Wheatley (English artist, 1747-1801) Cries of London 1792-1795 Sweet China Oranges, Sweet Chinaruit, sold in baskets on the street.  Nell Gywn, before she became mistress of King Charles II and presumably went out of the retail fruit business, was one of the scantily clad young women who sold sweet oranges in the Drury Lane Theatre (sixpence apiece,) for the refreshment of the patrons and as a handy means of expressing dissatisfaction with the performance.

In case you were wondering — as who has not — whether the orange fruit was named after the color,

("Oh look! There's a whole bunch of oranges up in the tree, and some reds over on this tree and look at all those blues down here on the bushes.")

or the color was named after the fruit.  I can set your mind at rest.
The color is named after the fruit.
The word orange meandered into English from the Sanskrit word for the fruit —nāranja — through Arabic, Old Provencal, Old French and Middle English.

Before the Fourteenth Century, folks had to refer to the color as geoluhread.  As in, "Wow. Love your geoluhread i-pod!"  Geoluhread would roughly translate as yellow-red and I am sure we are all grateful to Sanskrit for its intervention into what would have been a dismal shade with a long name.

How common were oranges in Georgian and Regency England?  How expensive? 
In the mid-1700s oranges sold on the street four a penny when hot cross buns were 'one a penny, two a penny'.  That doesn't seem outrageously expensive, does it — two oranges for the price of a bun? 

Zurbaran 1633 still life

lemons and oranges in 1633

Karl Phillip Moritz, about that time, wrote, "All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the
season, sees oranges to sell, and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny."

By 1828, one could speak of "The China, or sweet oranges, with which this country is now so amply supplied, and at such moderate prices that all classes of society enjoy them as perfectly as if they had been indigenous to the climate."  John S. Skinne


Francisco_de_zurbaran about 1630

a really annoyed cup, above

And our third orange? 

It was almost the blood orange.  I mean, there the blood orange was, in Italy, as a
mutation among sweet oranges in the 1600s.  Really no reason it couldn't have been a trade item.
I'd love to add it to the Regency table.

But it looks like they weren't imported.  Mention is made of blood orange trees brought into England as greenhouse curiosities in the 1820s. I suppose some intrepid traveller might have brought back a box of fruit for friends any time. 

Must have been a shock when that first blood orange was cut open at the table for everyone to see.

But the third of the Regency orange trio turns out to be the mandarin orange, the tangerine, our friend Citrus reticulata, which is technically a kind of orange rather than a separate fruit altogether, if we listen to those tricky botanists who dabble in such matters.  Trees were brought to England direct from China — the word mandarin is a dead giveaway — in about 1805. It settled into the greenhouses of England.  Not a fruit for the street crowd.  An exotic treat.  As late as 1817, a botanist could say it was a pity none of the countries exporting citrus to England had established the tangerine as a crop. 

After 1805, your Regency heroine might be offered a mandarin, sensuously peeled, by someone who owns a very fancy greenhouse.  A spiffy little factoid.

Seville orange leMoynCOME buy my fine oranges, sauce for your veal,

And charming when squeez'd in a pot of brown ale;
Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup,
They'll make a sweet bishop when gentlefolks sup.


The world would be a poorer place without oranges — and I happen to notice I've got a half-eaten clementine beside me as I write this post.

What's your favorite oranges recipe?  I used lemons to make a fancy syllabub not so very long ago, but I bet it'd be equally good with oranges.  And I love me some orange cake.  Also Benedictine-just-abour-anything.

One lucky commenter gets to pick a copy of any of my books.

Marriage stories

 001Hi, Jo here, talking about marriage stories. Most romances are courtship stories, sometimes with marriage at the very end, but I love a marriage story, especially a marriage of convenience or a forced marriage. I'm not so keen on marriage in trouble stories, though I did one in The Shattered Rose.

I need a short hand here, and MOC — marriage of convenience — doesn't work, because some are very inconvenient for one or both parties! So I'll use VBL — vows before love. That's the crux of it, isn't it? These two people will be in love (after all, it's a romance) but when they say their vows they aren't, and possibly are enemies.

The Shattered Rose is medieval, and medieval is a great time period for the arranged or forced marriage because it was more common back then. All four of my medieval romances are VBL, because even in The Shattered Rose Galeran and Jehanne made an arranged marriage when young. They'd come to love one another, but then trouble shatters that.

That's the original cover, which was absolutely gorgeous — and which didn't sell well at all.

I think nearly every romance reader loves a VBL story. Am I wrong? If you don't like them, why not?

If you do, join me in listing the delights.

1. Rational conflict.

The perfect situation for a romance novel is one that forces the hero and heroine together even as something else drives them apart. In the real world, if we fear/distrust/dislike a person we avoid them as much as we can. This, however, does not a good romance make. With VBL they are locked together. In a historical VBL they have little chance of breaking the marriage, and the woman least chance of either.

Question? If we like VBL, do we like heroines in vulnerable situations? Is this healthy?

AmoldI like VBL a lot, and yes I do like heroines in vulnerable situations sometimes. The first book I wrote, An Arranged Marriage ('nuff said!) puts Eleanor in a very vulnerable situation, but also shows her strengths. To me, it's no different to a thriller that begins with a man trapped and vulnerable — held hostage, wounded and captured, wrongly jailed et al. It's a launch pad for his heroism. What's more, assuming our hero isn't the sort to beat her or lock her in an asylum, he's stuck in a box with her, too, with few defences, and without some of the barriers he has against the wider world. She will learn his secrets.

That's the original cover, which I like a lot.

2. Rational sex.

We all know the tricky part of the modern historical romance is that sexy books are popular, but sexy acts without marriage weren't rational for ladies in the past. Even in the more recent past. It happened, of course it did, but before the pill it was risky behaviour, and the consequences shaped many women's lives, sometimes badly.

With VBL, there can be sex before love, too, but that doesn't mean it has to be bad sex. However it goes, it's allowed, and the woman won't be ruined by it — though it might, of course, ruin some plan of hers. An interesting story possibility!

In Christmas Angel, we have a rationally arranged marriage between two sensible people, but they still manage to get all tangled about the sex!

3. Sex between strangers.

VBL doesn't mandate that they be strangers. The couple might have known each other all their lives. The story might have a betrothal period during which they get to know one another, even if that doesn't remove the conflict. That was the situation in An Unwilling Bride, my second Company of Rogues book. Beth and Lucien are both forced into the marriage, very much against their wills. They have their betrothal period, but manage to make things even worse!

But sometimes they are strangers at the altar. Alas, perhaps, I find it hard to push them into sex if the vulnerable heroine is reluctant. It can be erotic, but it can be unpleasant, and more importantly it can put the hero in a very bad light. Yet it's reasonable that a marriage must be consummated eventually, which can lead to an interesting dance!

So, what do you think of my 3 delights of the VBL? Do you agree?

Do you have others to suggest?

What are some of your favorite VBL stories?



Cherubwedd Hi, this is Jo, going with the flow today. Everyone's talking about weddings, so I thought I'd do a brief skip through the history of weddings as they might be portrayed in romance novels set in England.

BTW, I do find this Victorian image very odd, not to say creepy!

Research into marriage and marriage law seems to me to be the cornerstone of historical romance, so I've done quite a bit, but I'm always looking for correction, clarification, or additional data. Please do contribute.

The Middle Ages Medievalmarriage

 For much of the middle ages a marriage took place on the church steps, but not inside it.

There were two reasons for this.

One — this was a time with few paper records, and none that could be sure to survive, so all important events were secured by witnesses. The more important the event, the more witnesses. Wedding vows were taken before witnesses, and the more the merrier. Do it in a central place. In villages and towns, a church would be one of the bigger buildings and also central.

A wedding ceremony was not, however, seen as a religious one. It was a civil contracts, and in the case of noble marriages, a complicated legal agreement. As religious thinking turned against both women and sex (leading to the cult of the Virgin Mary) marriage itself was seen as unspiritual, so some clerics would have nothing to do with it at all. Most, however, would bless a union, but definitely not in the church.

Hence, the church steps.

Things moved along gradually. In time, the couple would say their vows on the steps in view of all, then go into the church for a more complicated blessing, perhaps even a mass.

As my next writing period is Georgian, we'll skip right along.

Georgian Times.

Georgianlovers2 When England became Protestant, Catholic ceremonies became difficult, so I'm talking here about the mainstream Protestant ones.

The important date here is 1753-4, when the Hardwicke Act brought some order to the chaos of marriage to that date. Perhaps I'll do a whole blog on it sometimes, but here's the brief synopsis.

Before the Hardwick Act, the rules for marriage in England were the same as they were after the Act in Scotland. Think Gretna Green. All that was required was an avowal of being married before witnesses. No religious ceremony was necessary. (You can see how that fits with ancient tradition.) After the Act, there had to be banns or a licence, and the wedding had to take place in a church in the morning. There were other rules and too many wrinkles to go into, but that was the big change that made Gretna Green suddenly important.

Why Gretna Green? Gretdays

I thought the Days Inn is a good reminder that Gretna resonates even to modern times!

Simply because it's the first place across the border by the closest route from the south. Anywhere in Scotland would do, plus some other places. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight, I believe. Perhaps the Isle of Man. Places that weren't entirely ruled by Parliament in Westminster.

From the above link site. "One of the most celebrated elopements to Gretna was that of the Earl of Westmorland and Miss Child, the daughter of the great London banker. The earl had asked for the hand of Sarah, and had been refused, the banker remarking, "Your blood is good enough, but my money is better," so the two young people made it up to elope and get married at Gretna Green. The earl made arrangements beforehand at the different stages where they had to change horses, but the banker, finding that his daughter had gone, pursued them in hot haste. All went well with the runaway couple until they arrived at Shap, in Westmorland, where they became aware they were being pursued. Here the earl hired all the available horses, so as to delay the irate banker's progress. The banker's "money was good," however, and the runaways were overtaken between Penrith and Carlisle. Hero the earl's "blood was good," for, taking deliberate aim at the little star of white on the forehead of the banker's leading horse, he fired successfully, and so delayed the pursuit that the fugitives arrived at Gretna first; and when the bride's father drove up, purple with rage and almost choking from sheer exasperation, he found them safely locked in what was called the bridal chamber! The affair created a great sensation in London, where the parties were well known, heavy bets being made as to which party would win the race. At the close of the market it stood at two to one on the earl and the girl."

Civil Marriage.

In 1836 it became possible to marry in places other than a church, and to be married by the local registrar. Hence, in England such a marriage takes place at the Registry Office. Note that in the UK, Justices of the Peace, or Magistrates, do not have, and never have had, the power to marry anyone.

The ceremony from the Book of Common Prayer is here.

The early church's distaste for matrimony was because it's all about sex, and it's still reflected in these words. "and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained."

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.

Definitely a frown and a sigh there! Perahps it's not surprising that in Regency times those who could afford a licence preferred it to banns. They seemed to have thought it unpleasant to have their intention to wed and do all that procreation stuff read out in church each Sunday in front of the "lower orders."  

Wedding Dresses 

As we know, the white and veil is a modern development, and through most of history brides have dresses in what finery they could for the moment, generally in line with the fashion of the time. In Georgian times most brides would wear a special dress that could be worn later. Most weddings were quiet affairs in the local church, and it was tradition that the bride appear on the next Sunday in her wedding dress. After that, most would keep it for special occasions.

Trrfront Here's a snippet of a country wedding from The Rogue's Return. They've previously married in Canada, but it was a bit irregular, so they decide to do it again to be sure. Not to mention a little peculiarity of the name.

Villagers lined the winding street to wish Mr. Simon and his lady well.

Near the church, they stopped at the Bride's Well. Jancy gave Simon a look, but he dipped some water for her with a silver dipper and she drank as a virtuous bride was supposed to. When she didn't drop dead, everyone applauded, and they could enter the church.

This time they had a license and every detail was precise. Simon slid a new golden ring onto her finger, and then a diamond hoop above it, to guard it, as the tradition went. Jancy had the other one on a chain around her neck, however, for it would always have special meaning for her.

They left the church to ringing bells, to be showered with grain and good wishes, and walked back to Brideswell tossing coins and trinkets.

What fictional wedding is most memorable for you? I'll give a copy of The Rogue's Return to a randomly chosen answer that quotes a few words or sentences from the scene.