Victorian dating customs
Once a wife had given birth to the heir and the spare for her husband, she was free to take a lover, perhaps falling in love for the first time.
Although taking a lover was accepted, discretion was required.
For those “upstairs,” marriage was more about keeping blood within the aristocracy pure; for the newly wealthy industrialist, a good match gave social climbing parvenus standing within Society.
In America, wealthy industrialists had amassed great fortunes, and with no Law of Primogeniture, fathers endowed their daughters with fortunes of their own.
After a couple of excursions out (with a chaperone) and calling on the girl at home, the chap was free to declare his feelings to the girl, although he had probably run the idea by her father or guardian first.
Woe betide the woman left on the shelf, no matter the class.
Winston Churchill’s mother was one of these American “buccaneers.” An upper class girl would have to wait for a formal marriage proposal until she came out (families could, however, have plans in the works before then). After that, she could receive proposals of marriage, but again, love wasn’t on top of the list of husbandly requirements.
Because it took awhile for men to save up enough to be able to afford a wife and family, middle class and upper working class men tended to marry later in life. For those downstairs, relationships were strictly forbidden.
No followers, was the rule of the day, which meant none of the servants could have a sweetheart. Should servants fall in love, they would have to leave, and most likely without a character reference (depending upon the kindness of the employer).
Before courtship began, a man had to be very sure he wanted to marry the girl.
There was no dating for fun back in the Edwardian era.
Love and courtship, however, remained steeped in tradition.