Poldark : Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

I am curious and this is hypothetical as I'm guessing this won't happen! (Not read the books or seen the 1970s version). If Ross abandons Demelza to get back with Elizabeth what would have happened?

Divorce would have been almost unheard of - so would Demelza just be expected to get on with it or could he get the marriage annulled in some way?

How would Elizabeth and Ross be held in society esp with his legal wife down the road?



Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

No...not really possible. Divorce was rare, expensive and difficult to obtain.
A very rich man could apply to the parliament for divorce if his wife was unfaithful and he could prove it. Ross had no such cause and had no money.
Women could ask for a divorce only if the husband could be proven guilty of cruelty, that was basically impossible since by law a husband could beat his wife provided that the stick he was using was not too thick!!

You can Google the subject and you'll find some info.



"Please, if you are trying to convert me, this isn't a good time"

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

What Ross has done will have considerable fallout. He can't really think he won't have to answer for his actions. It's game on and he can only blame himself if he loses his wife and child or there is a replay of his actions. Ross has bought trouble to his door.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Interesting tidbit, apparently this is where the old phrase, "rule of thumb," comes from. You could legally beat your wife as long as the switch used was the same thickness or smaller than your own thumb. Of course, some men probably had gigantic man hands with huge thumbs. How wrong is that!

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Wow! Thanks for sharing that info.
Daily I feel thankful to be living in the twenty-first century.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Hah! Thanks, you validated where I thought the phrase came about "the rule of thumb". I thought it came from the approximate ruler measurement of the thumb joint. I have used my thumb for a rough estimation of length many times, literally the rule(r) of thumb.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

May I correct your time frame a bit? Poldark takes place from the end of
the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century.

siridr kiardi bur dosi mudiR alriks tutiR urms fur salu hulmkirs fadur sukrudar buata sis

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

This used to confuse the heck out of me when I was a kid.

21st century = 2000s
20th century = 1900s
19th century = 1800s
18th century = 1700s.

There's one, to my memory, mention of a man who divorced his wife and it took 2 years and an act of parliament to get it done.
This held true for some at least into the late 20th century (and could still be true) when Charles & Diana divorced. They were officially separated for 2 years before they were permitted to divorce.
(I believe it was Osborn Whitworth who questioned Dwight Enys about it but my memory might not be correct)



Dr Jason Bull: Don't give up on people, they're all we've got.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


There's one, to my memory, mention of a man who divorced his wife and it took 2 years and an act of parliament to get it done.

Yes, even Mr Rochester could not get a divorce from an obviously insane wife.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Freddie,

The action is taking place after Ross returned from fighting in America's Revolutionary War, having left Cornwall to avoid jail for his foolish behavior. Given everything that has happened to date, this time period is five or six years into him being back, so it is probably in the late 1780's.





A Checkered Life speaks of myriad diverse adventures being the rewards of endless curiosity.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

so it is probably in the late 1780's.

It's later than that; several characters have mentioned the events in France. 🇫🇷

The 3rd and 4th novels in the Poldark series are set in 1790-1793. See the timeline in the FAQ
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3636060/faq?ref_=tt_ql_op_2




Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Yes, the VBT occurs in May 1793 according to the novels.

The television timeline cannot be fully reconciled with that of the books. Dates are fudged, and the passage of years is compressed or expanded as needed. It's best not to think about it, and just go with the very precise dates available from the novels.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

It's the early 90s. George Warleggan mentioned the execution of king Louis of France in the previous episode. The king died on the 27th Jan 1793.
So the timeline of this "vbt" you talk about should be correct.


"Please, if you are trying to convert me, this isn't a good time"

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Oops! I kept thinking it was the 1600s for some reason!

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

LOL, the James II/William and Mary reigns would have Ross fighting in a very different war.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Thank you for the specifics! I don't have the books and was remembering the conversation in Poldark about how things were becoming difficult.

My best gage for the Revolution time line comes from having studied years ago while reading Jane Austen's novels. Her books never spoke directly of the French Revolution, only of the family side of missing brothers, husbands, or sweethearts. Two of her many brothers go into the Royal Navy, one going the entire way up the chain to become the top Senior Admiral for the entire Royal Navy Fleet. Her sister-in-law was the former widow of an aristocrat who unfortunately met Lady Guillotine face to face.

I was thinking of the late 1780s because the Bastille fell on July 14, 1789. That summer was when things became very hot with the creation of the National Assembly, the Fall of the Bastille, the first nobles and their families emigrating to England, and the very important Declaration of the Rights of Man.

The books move fast and the shows move even faster, so I didn't realize we had crossed into the 1790s already.




A Checkered Life speaks of myriad diverse adventures being the rewards of endless curiosity.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

And wearing much longer--and curlier -- hair extensions, lol.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Ross and Elizabeth meet while out walking.

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a1/23/7c/a1237c821563804747157d525dc7cc00.jpg

They both run off screaming.*



*I do actually love those costumes though.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Ideally, Ross would need enough money to support three separate respectable residences, which would be a problem because they had only two at that time. I don't think Ross would accept having the mother of his son live in squalor with the Paynters or Carnes. The Blamey house could be at best a short-term host for her. But in theory, Demelza could move to a place like Bath "for her health." (This option is actually briefly mentioned in Oldark.) Ross would remain at Nampara. Jeremy could stay with Demelza at first, then shuttle back and forth when older, and then eventually resettle at Nampara as the prospective heir. The Widow Poldark, who curiously fails to remarry, would reside at Trenwith. Captain Poldark and the Widow Poldark, being kin, naturally would visit each other frequently. This approach would keep up appearances and hold the scandal to a tolerable level.

The cheaper but high-scandal approach would have Ross simply move into Trenwith, with Demelza staying at Nampara, if she could stand being so close. It's unlikely that either Trenwith or Nampara would be sold, because doing so would deprive either Geoffrey Charles or Jeremy of his inheritance.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Or, Prudy could become so fed up with Ross acting in such a disgraceful, disgusting manner to Demelza, whom she has come to respect, admire, and possibly love, that she might accidentally shoot Ross while she has taken his rifle to hunt for pheasant. While not Prudy's normal duty, they need additional food for the table. That is her story and the one she plans to use.

Since he has become useless via his recklessness and irresponsibility in betraying the commitment he made to Demelza with their marriage, others in the area might begin to think he isn't worthy of his ancient name.

Wrong, of course. He's the man, so the only secure, well-regarded woman would have been an unmarried heiress of legal age. I was speaking like an America, such as I am . . . .

One can love Ross and despair of his unchecked, rash behavior.





A Checkered Life speaks of myriad diverse adventures being the rewards of endless curiosity.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

More likely Miss Goody Two Shoes would seek to repair relations with the family and show up at Trenwith for Christmas dinner bringing two sides and a few new songs.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

This is what I was wondering! I'm guessing people "left their wives" a lot back then but kept it hushed up like this.

However, Ross not wanting his wife and child living in squalor is not correctly true as he gave the last of his money to Elizabeth and even said Demelza would cope. So if Ross was to die (and I'm hoping it will be next week when Ross is pushed off a cliff) what money would she have?

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

When Ross gave Elizabeth that money, he assumed he would be living with Demelza at Nampara. They could survive as they had before Wheal Leisure was opened: by farming and fishing. They'd be impecunious, but respectable. The hypothetical situation in which Ross leaves Demelza for Liz obviously creates new financial burdens.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

This sort of leads into a question posted by someone in one of my Poldark groups on Facebook. I'll post it here in it's entirety.


I've watched this many times...and something has struck me about this "mine business" he wants to discuss. I'm wondering if Ross were not in such dire straits money wise and could afford to leave Demelza but still take care of her and Jeremey financially PLUS be able to afford to run away with Elizabeth......would he? Would he have come back and packed up and hauled butt to Trenwith if he knew he could take care of ALL of them? Just a little something I was thinking about. When this happens , WG has Ross in a bad financial bind which might account for some of his actions. Or NON actions.


So, if money were not an issue, what might Ross have done? I've not read past the second book (so as to not get ahead of the show) so I'm not sure what evidence there is to support one thing over another.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Ross could not have "run away with" Elizabeth because he'd have to be near his mine. See my post further up in this thread about his options for residences.

Wheal Grace started generating income from the tin strike very quickly. In fact, the money was pouring in long before Ross and Demelza were reconciled (Dec. 1793). Ross probably would have known what to expect from the mine even before Elizabeth's rescheduled wedding date. So yes, if he had wanted to radically restructure his life at that time, he probably could have counted on a reasonable income to divvy up in support of his new, multihousehold family. In any event, it was not poverty that ultimately prevented Ross from breaking with Demelza. It was his absurdly persistent uncertainty about which woman he wanted. Although IMO, the fact that he made no further attempt to stop Elizabeth's marriage to George after the VBT showed that he was content to just let her go, even before he consciously realized that.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Did Ross ever come to a conclusion about which women he really wanted? If he did, when did that happen? I've never read the books, but from peaking at various spoilers and discussions I was under the impression that he made up his mind right after the VBT? Is that not true?

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Many more spoilers ahead, naturally.

"Made up his mind" can mean different things. As I explained above, I think that because Ross felt no continuing compulsion to prevent Elizabeth from marrying, that meant that deep inside, he didn't want her. However, his becoming consciously aware of having made a choice is another matter. Unfortunately, the novel is very vague about his decision process. All we know is that Ross was unsure of his feelings for a long time; in fact, at one point Graham suggests that it took Ross six months to make up his mind! And it is true that the explicit reconciliation with Demelza did not take place until 6.5 months after the VBT. In any event, all the author says is that at some point Ross's feelings "crystallized," which presumably means that he finally understood that he loved Demelza, not Elizabeth.

IMO, this excruciatingly slow process is one of the reasons that the VBT is one of the worst literary or cinematic acts of infidelity ever. We aren't told that it took Ross more than six months to earn back Demelza's love and trust after apologizing to her for his betrayal. Rather, it took him more than six months after the VBT even to apologize to her and tell her that he really loved her, not the "other woman"!

I'm still expecting Horsfield to shorten that timeline somewhat, although I can no longer say I'm confident that will be the case.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Thank you so much for your reply. It sounds like the short term fall out is going to be heart breaking :(

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

And no I wouldn't trust DB to smooth things over for less painful reconciliation either.....

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


Ross felt no continuing compulsion to prevent Elizabeth from marrying

Why did he feel a compulsion to ride over to Trenwith at night then? It appears that it was just a compulsion to have her before George did. Yuck!

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


Why did he feel a compulsion to ride over to Trenwith at night then? It appears that it was just a compulsion to have her before George did. Yuck!

Yes, it's always been my view that asserting dominance was a major part of Ross's unconscious motivation. Not everyone agrees.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

A bit like a tomcat spraying on the curtains to mark its territory, so to speak 😉

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


We aren't told that it took Ross more than six months to earn back Demelza's love and trust after apologizing to her for his betrayal. Rather, it took him more than six months after the VBT even to apologize to her and tell her that he really loved her, not the "other woman"!


Ugh. I love Aidan but right now I just want to shove Ross right off one of those lovely Cornish cliffs. Maybe he'd figure out how to say "I'm sorry" on the way down.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Just to clarify that I'm in New York City and only just saw Episode 5 of the second season.

I'm not pleased at certain things being rushed in this series, the first of which were the Regency fashions and coiffures on Francis, George, and Dwight from S1E1. Those didn't happen until after the start of the French Revolution.

However, as to the issue of the Ross/Demelza/Elizabeth triangle and the VBT, I think that Ross was angry at what he saw as a profoundly serious betrayal on Elizabeth's part. This is confused with his own feelings of her original betrayal which was to marry Francis after he came back from the American War. A more rational frame of mind would have been needed for him to remember that Elizabeth was not the woman he needed and in the long term they would have been miserable together.

In the original series she ultimately recognized that she could not have lived on the edge with Ross but still continued to flirt with him. The flirtatious behavior is also in this series. She is a total bitch for that, which is not to say that she deserved what happened on the eve of her marriage to George. She made her choice to marry Francis and that should have been that.

Finally, the aftermath scene showed major regret on both their faces in the original. It looked as though Ross realized not only that he had done something very wrong but that there was nothing in it that he could have hoped for originally. Also in the original series Francis said to Demelza that she had nothing to fear from Elizabeth because "the only person Elizabeth had ever loved or will ever love is herself." Not entirely true since she does love her son, but definitely true in the matter of her own financial self-interest.



The Fabio Principle: Puffy shirts look best on men who look even better without them.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Thanks, Joseph. That makes sense. I also recall coming to this forum immediately after watching the very first episode because I wanted to know if anything ever developed between Ross and his new kitchen maid (whom I thought was already luminescent in her scenes with Garrick at the end after she's cleaned up a bit and is getting a look at her new "home"). Even at that early stage I thought Elizabeth was dull and didn't feel there was any spark between the actress and Aidan. Anyway, I came here and someone had posted something by WG himself where he called Demelza Ross' soul mate, or true love - or some such romantic wording to thata effect. That particular thread is long gone now, of course, but I feel that WG's intention was always for Demelza to end up being the true love of Ross' life no matter what his financial situation might be. Too bad it takes dunderheaded Ross so long to figure this out for himself.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

My issue with the show is that at the end of last season he declares his love for Demelza which apparently didn't happen that early in the books or the 1970s version. Had this not happened the VBT would not have been as bad IMO.

I get that the BBC wanted to amp up the love aspect because that's what a lot of viewers of these shows like (myself included - Mr Dracy would never have done this lol).

I think it was wrong to make him declare his love then go off like a cold fish this season as it does not make sense. Then again maybe he was delirious from exhaustion and sadness from the death of his daughter and would not have said it otherwise? Looking back now it's also telling that Demelza imagines Elizabeth taking him away - maybe foreshadowing what she knew would happened?

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


When Ross gave Elizabeth that money, he assumed he would be living with Demelza at Nampara.

But wasn't he supposed to go to jail for not paying off the 1400 pounds to George? He didn't know about Caroline's bail out money until the day after Christmas, when he was supposed to be arrested which would have left his wife and child to fend for themselves.

-Seeking perfection in life is dangerous because it makes the less perfect less than enough-VPBlamey

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

This is where the series failed the books. The true sequence of events was that Ross got his bail out prior to selling his shares, in fact that is where he gets the idea to give Elizabeth the money anonymously because he had an anonymous benefactor.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Right! I remember now. The series version makes Ross' actions even more reprehensible, therefore. Pascoe was more concerned about Ross' wife and child than he was. And that line about Demelza being a miner's daughter so she can cope was low.

-Seeking perfection in life is dangerous because it makes the less perfect less than enough-VPBlamey

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

In ep 8 he does explain that they had the money coming in from Mr Trencrom at the time.

In any case, it was a heartless thing to do.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


When Ross gave Elizabeth that money, he assumed he would be living with Demelza at Nampara.


Is it different in the movie than in the books? It seems like I remember in the books Ross getting his loan assistance FIRST then agreeing to secretly help Elizabeth. In the show it seems reversed but I might be remembering wrong.

Also I was super P.O.'ed that Ross said (in the show) that Demelza could take care of herself while Elizabeth a couldn't. W T H.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

Demelza can deal with poverty because she is resourceful. She can cook, she can fish, and she is capable of thrift in ways that Elizabeth isn't. She wasn't raised to be a fragile hothouse flower, like Elizabeth was.

That's what makes Demelza right for Ross and Elizabeth wrong for him. Her helplessness would have driven him BSC in the long term.


The Fabio Principle: Puffy shirts look best on men who look even better without them.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

It might be okay for Ross to THINK that about Demelza in theory - but to leave her with NOTHING except his son to raise? He gives the last $600 to Elizabeth? AND HE JUSTIFIES IT TO HIS BANKER?!

Francis was willing to take in Demelza when they thought Ross might hang but would he have given his last dollar to keep Demelza comfortable while Elizabeth was put out on the street? No way. Ross should have offered the same thing.

It all worked out in the long run - Ross gets a friendlier lienholder and ends up getting a bunch of money by being the primary stakeholder in the mine but he doesn't know that when he's doing it.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


Demelza can deal with poverty because she is resourceful. She can cook, she can fish, and she is capable of thrift in ways that Elizabeth isn't. She wasn't raised to be a fragile hothouse flower, like Elizabeth was.

That's what makes Demelza right for Ross and Elizabeth wrong for him. Her helplessness would have driven him BSC in the long term.


Brings me to this point: Demelza was the right wife for Ross but that doesn't translate to Ross being the right husband for Demelza. His preference to look after his cousin's wife and son over his own wife and son makes him pretty horrible at this stage of his life.


Dr Jason Bull: Don't give up on people, they're all we've got.

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century


So if Ross was to die (and I'm hoping it will be next week when Ross is pushed off a cliff)


Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

They'd just have mistresses if they were "gentlemen"

Re: Divorce and abandonment in the 17th century

In the books Demelza offers to leave a few times but Ross declines. I don't know what her plan would be but she wasn't planning to take Jeremy with her.
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