Poldark Saga - Winston Graham discussion

Bella Poldark (Poldark, #12)
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Bella Poldark - #12 > Child custody

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message 1: by Tanya, Moderator/Hostess (last edited Nov 23, 2015 07:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tanya | 640 comments Mod
Conversation between George Warleggan and his daughter-in-law Selina (Valentine's estranged wife) after Valentine has taken their son Georgie

Book 5.Chapter 5

"...'You will understand, Selina, if this comes to a court case, the defence will argue that a father has the prior right to his son. If it could be proved that his father's habit of life was disorderly, that he consorted with harlots, that the house was not fit for a child to brought up in, then custody might just be granted to the wife. But an ecclesiastical court will take a very lenient view of a man who is being deprived of help and companionship because his wife has left him and will not return. There might well be a counter-petition brought by Valentine for the restitution of his conjugal rights.'"

WOW! Curious about this change in custody practices (when I was a kid, the mom almost always got custody, but today custody is usually shared, unless there are circumstances that prohibt/prevent this), I found this short summary of the history:
Custody Decision Making in Historical Context

Marilyn | 28 comments I wonder if George's statement about male primacy in custody would apply if the family involved did not have the connections he possesses. But what he describes is not so different from US custody practices: the primary consideration is what is best for the child. Excluding the "lenient view of a man who is being deprived of help and companionship because his wife has left him", which I don't think would apply in a US court.

QNPoohBear | 21 comments I think Winston Graham muddied the waters of fact a bit here. My understanding of the law at the time was that if a woman left her husband, she could take ONLY the clothes on her back. All children legally belonged to their mother's husband which is why George is legally Valentine's father. A married woman had no legal rights to anything. Valentine kidnapping Georgie is not a crime since the child belongs to him legally. However, Lady Bryon was able to retain custody of her infant daughter when she separated from Lord Byron. He was deemed "mad". I think possibly George could make a case that Valentine wasn't a fit father and toss some money around but I don't know if that would work, sadly. If there was a girl child, they might grant custody to the mother but a boy child belonged to the father and father's family. Remember Morwenna (view spoiler)

message 4: by Myrt (new)

Myrt (anwenn) | 21 comments A husband held custody of all children born during a marriage (even when paternity was in question). Some husbands weren't interested in keeping custody or providing much support while others used custody to control or punish their wives.

In Valentine's case, I don't think it would have been hard to prove him an unfit father between his hard partying, constant indebtedness and Sir George's connections. But I don't think Valentine had enough time for it to get that far.

message 5: by Trev (new) - added it

Trev | 114 comments It is worth noting that until ‘The Infant Custody Act’ of 1839 the wife had no rights to ask for custody of her children in the courts. The husband could remove his children at any time and, as one MP campaigning for change said at the time, could give them to his mistress if he so desired.
The change came about largely due to the campaigning of Caroline Norton who separated from her husband after he accused her of having an affair with the British Prime Minister. At first he refused to let her see her children at all and then gave her limited access.

There is a biography of Caroline Norton written in 1909 which has been digitally copied and can be found at the Internet Archive - https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_FJ... - George Meredith, the Victorian novelist and poet, wrote a novel entitled ‘Diana of the Crossways’ which was loosely based on Caroline Norton’s life.

For those who watched the final season of Poldark last year ....... (view spoiler)

QNPoohBear | 21 comments I questioned that scene too. Thanks for the biography. It sounds fascinating.

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