Wow, thanks for sharing a wonderful resource! (NFM)
Posted by ElaineL on January 13, 1998 at 12:27:03:
In response to childbearing, confinements, and churching (LONG!), written by Laura W on January 10, 1998 at 20:18:27
] I was reading some of the archives and found a question Caroline asked about confinements and "churching." There is a wonderfully detailed description of "how things were done" in Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832, by Stella Tillyard (New York: Noonday Press, 1994). This book is a biography of the four daughters of the 2nd Duke of Richmond.
] Lady Emily, the second daughter, married the Earl of Kildare in 1747 when she was barely 15— and he had been courting her determinedly for 18 months; it was her parents who objected to the match, because although he was very rich, and the highest-ranking peer of Ireland (and the King had created him Viscount Leinster in the English peerage so that he could have a seat in the House of Lords), he was still Irish, and determined to live in Ireland. In 1766 he was created 1st Duke of Leinster, and the town house he built, Leinster House in Dublin, later became the seat of Irish government. He also built a huge estate west of Dublin called Carton, which was unfinished when he married Emily.
] Emily had nineteen children by this marriage, and after the Duke died she scandalized the world by marrying her children's tutor, William Ogilvie, by whom she had three more children. So between the years 1748 and 1778, she bore no less than 22 children (in the last years she had many miscarriages); she bore her first child at the age of 16 and her last when she was almost 47. Obviously Emily's relationships with her husbands were very sexual, and she bore children with comparative ease.
] In addition to the time following childbirth, "confinement" also refers to the time when a woman menstruated, when she was not supposed to have sexual relations and often took to her bed anyway.
] Although the following description is not quite Regency, and it is strictly about the highest aristocracy, I think it is still very relevant to "our" time period. In addition, I think the narrative is interesting and I have never seen a better one on the subject of childbearing. I will therefore quote a few pages from the book:
] "For all of them [the sisters], menstruation was associated with physical and mental distress. "At certain times, my poor nerves are very bad, and it would be hard to say how they are affected. I am so full of odd whims, I will try the lime flower tea," Louisa [Emily's younger sister, Mrs. Conolly] wrote. Periods were habitually referred to as the "French lady's visit," and having one's period was "being the French lady," being, that is, in a familiar but different state. As Emily's daughter Charlotte wrote in 1779: ‘I have within these few days been rather worse by being the French lady, at which time there is no telling how very ill I am.'
] "Periods were at best a slight discomfort, at worst a serious inconvenience. Menstrual rags made ordinary life difficult. Some women, like Charlotte Fitzgerald [Emily's daughter, above], took to their beds. Others, like Caroline [Emily's eldest sister, who married Henry Fox and later became 1st Baroness Holland], stayed at home and raged at their body's bad timing. In 1759, when Louisa was first in London after her wedding, Caroline wrote to Emily: ‘I must tell you Louisa and Conolly come here Monday, stay till Saturday, then go to Goodwood [the Duke of Richmond's country house], where they stay two days. I shall not be able to go with them, I much fear, which is a great disappointment to me. But 'twill be a time I can't. I shall be glad to be old, to be rid of that plague. Yours C. Fox.' By the late 1760s Caroline's discomfort increased and she began to think that the menopause was upon her. While old age might have seemed attractive a few years before, getting to it promised to be difficult, as she hinted in 1766: ‘I seem to have been out of order a week, ten days and a fortnight's end, never get beyond three weeks scarcely. I own I dread disorders of that kind, particularly as I am now past forty-three, something of that kind may be beginning.'
] "Only Emily [among her sisters] looked forward to her period. Any discomfort it brought was offset by the emphatic message that for the moment at least she was free from pregnancy. Despite her love for her children, Emily often longed for a respite from childbearing, so she was happy to be able to report to Kildare in 1762 (barely three months after the birth of her daughter Sophia) that her fears of pregnancy were unfounded: ‘The complaint I mentioned in my last letter goes on very well and puts me quite out of all doubt, which is a vast comfort; but I am exceeding low with it, more so than I ever was in my life.' Others waited anxiously with Emily for her period to arrive. ‘I shall be fidgety about you till I hear of the next French lady's visit,' wrote Louisa in the 1770s.
] "All too often, though, Emily's predictions were right, and she began another pregnancy. As
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