WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

To appropriate a popular meme, ‘one does not simply Google arguing Regency couples’ and find any art for one’s blog post. When in doubt, fall back on that other internet savlo, ‘What Would Jane Do?’

She’d write about it so that I could have illustrious quotes for this week’s post. That’s what she did. Truly, few couples bicker as well as the Bennets.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”


“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know they visit no new comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

“Ah! you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty I will visit them all.”

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 1

Distracted Division

Husband and wife fighting.

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid, she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner ….

“When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?”

“To-morrow fortnight.”

“Aye, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself.”

“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to her.”

“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?”

“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture, somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance; and therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.”

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”

“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried he. “Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.”

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.

“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.

“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved our girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 2

“Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every body said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger –”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. Oh! that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh! my dear,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown –”

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3

“This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” said Mrs. Bennet, more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:

My dearest Lizzy,

I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones — therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me — and excepting a sore throat and head-ache, there is not much the matter with me.

Yours, &c.

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long is she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the carriage.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 7

“Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.”

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

“I have not the pleasure of understanding you,” said he, when she had finished her speech. “Of what are you talking?”

“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”

“And what am I to do on the occasion? — It seems an hopeless business.”

“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him.”

“Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.”

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared. “I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. “Very well — and this offer of marriage you have refused?”

“I have, Sir.”

“Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. — Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

“What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, by talking in this way? You promised me to insist upon her marrying him.”

“My dear,” replied her husband, “I have two small favours to request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be.”

Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns. She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane, with all possible mildness, declined interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with real earnestness, and sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks. Though her manner varied, however, her determination never did.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 20

If you’ve never met the magnificent ‘Bickering’ Bennets, please do.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Priest-Linked

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Priest-Linked

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

Taking the plunge. Getting hitched. Jumping the broom. Walking the aisle. Going to the chapel. Buying the cow.

There are probably too many euphemisms for simply “getting married.” And all of the above are anachronistic if they show up in a Regency romance. So what exactly did the Regency wedding entail?

I’m glad you asked.

Signing the Register by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1920, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.



Marriage in Regency England was governed by the rules of the Hardwicke Act for the Prevention of Clandestine Marriages, which was written in 1753 and went into full effect on 25 March 1754 (no more Fleet or secret marriages). Couples were now required to have the banns called for three consecutive Sundays in their home parish; if the lady and gentleman were of different residences, banns must be called in both. The priest would read out some version of the following:

“I publish the banns of marriage between (Name of party) of the Parish of ______ and (Name of other party) of this Parish. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is for the (first, second, third) time of asking.”

After the reading of the final banns, the couple had to marry between the hours of eight and noon by an ordained priest and in the presence of two witnesses.

The Wedding from The English Dance of Death by Thomas Rowlandson, published by Rudolph Ackermann 1814-1816, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What were the exceptions to the banns?

If the couple needed to marry sooner rather than later, a Common License (also known as Ordinary, Standard, or Bishop’s License) could be obtained from the local bishop. The bishop charged a small fee, but also required a bond of £100 to stand forfeit if the couple provided false information for the license. The couple had to marry in the parish where the license was obtained.

A Special License could be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury; researcher Nancy Mayer records that by 1811 they cost the gentleman £5. The Special License had to be obtained by the gentleman wishing to marry, and every line was filled in while in the presence of the Archbishop (so no fill-in-the-blank Licenses to use whenever, wherever, or with whomever). The couple still had to marry by the benefit of clergy between the hours of eight and noon, but the ceremony did not have to take place in a church. It was a sign of wealth to use the Special License and hold the ceremony in the privacy of one’s home. Remember dear Mrs. Bennett’s declaration to Elizabeth:

“My dearest child,” she cried, “I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! ‘Tis as good as a Lord! And a special licence. You must and shall be married by a special licence.” Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 59

To provide evidence that a marriage had occurred, the couple and their witnesses signed the parish register at the end of the ceremony. This was done in the vestry of the church, whether the marriage had been performed there or at a separate location by Special License. This practice of recording signatures is likely where the colloquialism “marriage lines” originated. These registry lines were then copied onto a separate sheet of paper and handed to the best man, who then passed it on to the new bride (and never the groom). It was considered her property.

Both parties had to have reached the age of majority – one and twenty – to marry without permission of their parent or guardian. Any minor who married without permission was never considered married – it was as if the ceremony had never occurred – no matter the passage of years or number of children (who were all considered illegitimate) since the vows were spoken.

Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820, Public Domain.

Some interesting tidbits about the Hardwicke Act

The Hardwicke Act was law only in England and Wales. Scotland, Ireland, and English colonies. In Scotland, a couple could simply state they were married and live together publicly; anyone over the age of fourteen could do so. No wonder many an English lad and lassie crossed the border to marry, be it by blacksmith, innkeeper, or actual clergyman. Catholic rites were the order of the day in Ireland, although an Anglican had to be married in the Church of England as well.

Quakers and Jews were exempt from the Hardwicke Act, but poor Roman Catholics in England and Wales were stuck. They could obtain a Special License, but the law still required them to be married first in the Church of England before taking Catholic rites. While this was a section of the law many Catholics ignored, the insult to this injury kept their marriage from being valid “until and unless they married according to the law by a clergyman of the Church of England.”

Next week I’ll talk about what it took to dissolve a marriage. Here’s a hint: way more than you’d think, based on popular Regency romances.

For now, let’s enjoy a clip of The Impressive Clergyman in action.


Keep Calm and Read! Stacy Reid ~ The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell

For your reading pleasure this weekend – the latest release from author Stacy Reid – a steal at 99¢ through Monday, August 18.  It’s on my kindle.  Go grab a copy for your e-reader, too! ~RR

The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell

A Scandalous House of Calydon novel by Stacy Reid

With a longing for adventure, the last thing Phillipa Peppiwell wants is to marry. After a painful betrayal by a man she trusted, she is wary when she unwittingly catches the attention of roguishly handsome – and sinfully tempting – Lord Anthony Thornton. Forbidden desires she secretly yearns for threaten to crumble her icy facade and reveal a past scandal best kept buried.

Dissatisfied with his empty life, Lord Anthony seeks a deep and lasting connection… and finds himself intrigued by the Ice Maiden of the haute monde. Undaunted by Phillipa’s aloof nature and her distaste for the idea of matrimony, he sets out to thaw the bewitching beauty by enticing her with adventures of the most sensual type. But he, too, hides a scandalous secret… and if it’s discovered it could rip them apart.

The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell
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About The Author

Stacy is an avid reader of novels with a deep passion for writing. She especially loves romance and adores writing about people falling in love. Stacy lives a lot in the worlds she creates and actively speaks to her characters (out loud). She has a warrior way, never give up on her dreams. When Stacy is not writing, she spends a copious amount of time drooling over Rick Grimes from Walking Dead, watching Japanese anime and playing video games with her love, Dusean Nelson.

Find her here:

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Sign up for her Newsletter to be among the first to hear about her new releases, and read excerpts you wont find anywhere else. She also does giveaways for subscribers, a winner is chosen every month!

Historical Assumptions

From Don N. Hagist at All Things Liberty, we find proof that less-than-proper conduct can be found in any era, and is not simply an invention of our modern society.  The “good ol’ days” weren’t always so good, and dirty laundry usually gets its public airing.

Ten marriages, both loyalist and patriot, bear witness to good people behaving very badly.


Top 10 Marriages Gone Bad

Wedding scene from Ramsay’s The gentle shepherd, Act V, Printed for G. Reid and Co., 1798 From The Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University

Every now and then I meet someone who thinks that people “back then” were all highly religious and led straight-laced, pious lives. Those people haven’t read newspapers of the era. Legal notices appeared frequently in which husbands and wives absolved themselves of responsibility for the debts and dissipations of spouses who’d abandoned them. Sometimes competing accounts appeared in which spouses attacked each other in the public media. While in most cases we have nothing more than a single legal notice, there are some for which additional information has come to light. There were even marriages that became so tumultuous or ended so tragically that they received national attention. And of course the newspapers reveal only a sample of the unions that yielded anger, tumult and tragedy.

Here are a ten examples of Revolutionary War era marriages gone bad, selected for no other reason than that they’re interesting and reasonably easy to learn more about. They’re a stark reminder that social issues such as marital discord transcend both war and time.

Thomas Melody and Hannah Andrews

When sent to Connecticut as a prisoner of war after the Battle of Princeton, Thomas Melody did not do as most British soldiers and await exchange or escape to rejoin his regiment. Instead, he married an American woman, Hannah Andrews. Sounds like a wonderful wartime love story – and maybe it was while the war lasted. By 1791, however, things had fallen apart, and Thomas placed a notice that Hannah had “forsaken my bed and board.” Some months later Hannah took the unusual step of publishing a lengthy notice defending her character and claiming that Thomas’s transgressions “would make a larger volume than I am able to get published, or any one have patience to read, and they would bring disgrace on me and all the human race;” he then published a response to these “aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen.” The war of words continued; although we’ve found no resolution to the dispute, we can be sure it provided great entertainment to readers of the newspaper. Read more about this troubled couple.

Joshua Spooner and Bathsheba Ruggles

The daughter of prominent Massachusetts loyalist Timothy Ruggles, Bathsheba was a flamboyant character in her own right. Whether she married Joshua Spooner because of her own appreciation of his family’s wealth or because her father wished for her security is not known, but by 1778, after a decade of marriage, she’d grown quite bored of her husband. Although their Brookfield, Mass., home was far from the fighting, many American soldiers and British prisoners passed through the town. Bathsheba’s beauty and extroversion gave her great influence over men, and she saw in the itinerant soldiers a path out of her uninteresting marriage. She entered into a scheme with an American private soldier and two British prisoners of war to remove her husband from her life. Although the plot itself was successful, its secretiveness was not; the story ended with not one but five people dead. The entire tragic tale is detailed in Deborah Navis, Murdered by his Wife (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).

Margaret Moncrieffe and Lt. John Coghlan

After losing her mother as an infant, Margaret Moncrieffe was sent away to school in Dublin instead of living with her father, Captain John Moncrieffe of the 59th Regiment of Foot. His remarriage gave her connections in America to both sides of the brewing conflict, and when she returned the colonies in 1774 she found both friends and detractors everywhere. She lived in the home of British commander Thomas Gage and then with American General Israel Putnam. She fell in love with an American colonel, but was forced to join her father who then forced her to marry a British officer, Lt. John Coghlan of the 23rd Regiment of Foot. She was miserable. So miserable, in fact, that in 1793, after sixteen years of marriage, she wrote and published Memoirs of Mrs. Coghlan (London: privately printed, 1794). She summarized the union that caused emotional, financial and legal dissipation: “My union with Mr. Coghlan I never considered in any other light, than an honorable prostitution, as I really hated the man whom they had compelled me to marry” (her italics). Her memoir was reprinted in New York in 1864 and again in 1971; it’s sad but well worth reading and includes many anecdotes of prominent figures on both sides of the war.

Henrietta Overing and Major Andrew Bruce

Unlike Margaret Moncrieffe, Henrietta Overing loved the British officer she married in 1778, a major in the 54th Regiment of Foot, part of the garrison in Rhode Island where she lived with her loyalist family. Twice her age, he stressed to her the importance of keeping the marriage secret until his elderly father in Scotland died, so as not to lose a substantial inheritance. She complied, and remained at home caring for her own sickly father when the British left Rhode Island and Andrew Bruce took a staff position in New York. Then he stopped writing to her. After her father died, she went to New York but he refused to see her. Her brother, although a junior officer in the same regiment, was unable to intervene favorably. Andrew Bruce addressed a final letter to Henrietta that coldly began, “My Dear Madam.” In 1783, with the British about to evacuate New York, she made a plea to the British commander in chief but to no avail. She returned to Rhode Island humiliated, with a meaningless marriage and an administrative nightmare because her loyalist family’s property was now in American hands. She did, however, remarry a few years later and eventually had her portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart; Andrew Bruce, on the other hand, died in obscurity soon after the war, while his elderly father outlived him. The full story will appear in the Spring 2014 issue of Newport History.

Isaiah Thomas and Mary Dill

Newspapers played a key role in fomenting rebellion in America, and Isaiah Thomas was one of the Boston printers who manned the presses. As a partner in the Massachusetts Spy, it’s not entirely clear whether he embraced the radical politics that he published or simply saw it as a good business niche; his 1770 marriage to Bermuda-born Mary Dill was as tumultuous as the politics of the era. He apparently didn’t know until after their marriage that she’d had relations with other men before him, and she never was happy in her union to him in spite of having three children together. Just two months before hostilities broke out, she went on a trip to Newburyport, Mass., with another man – Benjamin Thompson, a militia colonel from New Hampshire who became a British cavalry officer during the war, then became a prominent scientist and inventor in Europe. Perhaps Mary found him more interesting than her printer husband. Isaiah Thomas divorced Mary in 1777, and went on to have two other ill-fated marriages. There’s more about him and Mary Dill.

William and Mrs. Whitlow, 44th Regiment of Foot

Besides being a private soldier, William Whitlow was a member of his regiment’s band of music. He had spent his entire life in the regiment, and by 1779 had a wife and child; it was said that “there was not a happier Couple in the Regiment.” But only when he was in his right mind; as a child in Ireland he had fallen from a wall and hit his head, which was the supposed reason he was sometimes “out of his senses.” At such times he had been known to beat his wife (whose first name, unfortunately, is not known) because of imagined transgressions; sometimes his officers locked him up to protect her and their child until he regained his senses. In September 1779 when on board a transport ship, he had thrown himself overboard for no apparent reason. Still on board ship some days later, while accusing his wife of imagined misbehavior, he picked up a bayonet and pushed it into her chest. Other soldiers restrained him, but the damage was done; the wound festered and she died a few days later. At his trial for murder, although not disputing that he’d inflicted the wound, Whitlow testified that he had no recollection of the act and called many witnesses who described his bouts of insanity. He was acquitted of the charge because it was not considered a willful murder, and he served many more years in the regiment. One witness testified that during the days Whitlow’s wife languished “she frequently said she forgave him, and…that she believed the Cause of his Wounding her was owing to his having too much love for her.”

The Demarests of New Bridge

The cliché is that civil wars pit brother against brother, but sometimes it’s husband against wife and the whole family gets involved. David and Jane Demarest lived in New Bridge, New Jersey, on ground that was a front line and changed hands several times during the course of the war. When the British army seized New York in 1776, David Demarest went to join a loyalist regiment, the New Jersey Volunteers. His son Gilliam joined the Bergen County Militia on the other side of the conflict. Jane Demarest stayed home, espousing the American cause in spite of her husband’s proclivities. During the war father and son each spent time as prisoners of war on the other’s side; in fact, the son was captured by the father’s corps, and thrown into a harsh New York prison. Meanwhile, American authorities confiscated the family property and cast Jane out because the title was in the name of her husband who was serving on the British side. At war’s end, David Demarest went with other loyalists to Canada, while his wife and son remained in America. The full story can be read in Todd W. Braisted, Bergen County Voices from the American Revolution (Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012).

Cornelius and Mary Driscoll

Some marriages were torn apart by war but not by discord. Cornelius Driscoll joined the British army in 1767 and a decade later was a grenadier in the 10th Regiment of Foot. In a tangle with American troops under General Lafayette at Chestnut Hill near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was killed and his wife Mary was taken prisoner. She was confined with other British prisoners of war (it was typical for wives of prisoners to accompany them in confinement); although pregnant with twins, she escaped but was recaptured and put in jail. She gave birth to twins in captivity, but this did not prevent her from escaping yet again, with her children, and making her way with two other women to New York where she petitioned for support as an army widow. What she didn’t know was that her husband had not in fact been killed; he continued to serve, but was drafted into another regiment and sent to the West Indies before she arrived in New York. He continued in the army until 1791 when he received a pension, but it isn’t known whether the couple was ever reunited or even knew of each other’s survival. Read more about them.

The James Yates Murders

Everyone has read a news story where friends and neighbors of a perpetrator say that they saw no warning signs, no indication that anything was amiss. Such was the case with James Yates, a farmer from Pitts Town in Albany County, New York. Known as a person with “nothing remarkable in his character,” he awoke one morning in late 1781 and, supposedly following the voice of a spirit, used a club to beat his wife and four children to death, and also his dog and two cows. He then ran naked to his parents’ house a half-mile away and told them what he’d done. He was locked up in an Albany prison but we’ve found no evidence that he was ever tried for the crimes. The story made newspapers from Pennsylvania to Boston, and was talked about and written about for decades. Read more about it on Wikipedia, under “James Yates Murders.”

Demise of the Beadle Family

While James Yates seems to have acted spontaneously, William Beadle of Wethersfield, Connecticut, planned and contemplated for years. He was a highly successful merchant but he did not adapt well to wartime conditions. Believing himself a true supporter of the colonies, he adamantly refused to raise prices when the value of Continental currency declined during the war. This was noble but foolhardy; by 1780 he was going broke. He spent much of this and the following two years preoccupied with the impact on his family of this desperate financial situation, concluding that it was his duty to prevent them from suffering. He wrote of his contemplations to friends, including a set of letters to be delivered after his death. One night in December 1782 he sent the maid to fetch a doctor, claiming his wife was ill. He then carefully killed his wife with an axe, slit the throats of each of his four children, then held a pistol in each of his hands and took his own life. The horrid affair was recorded and discussed in broadsides and newspaper accounts all over the northeast for the next six months; the full story can be read in James R. Smart, A Life of William Beadle (Princeton, NJ: Senior thesis, Princeton University, 1989).

Reblogged from All Things Liberty ~ Top Ten Marriages Gone Bad ~ Don N. Hagist.  For more from this author, please visit his blog British Soldiers, American Revolution.