Revenge of the jilted women

For much of history, women were property. Their greatest expectation was to marry well and pop out a couple of babies (preferably boys)

So when a man promised to marry a woman, it was serious business.

Wedding planning wasn’t just a hassle like it is today. It was the starting gun for a woman’s entire world changing. Working women quit their jobs in preparation for married life (losing any source of independent income), sacrifices were made as she stepped away from her family and into her new life as wife. Illegitimate children would even occasionally spring up (because most people in the past didn’t actually wait until marriage…)

So, if after all of that, a groom changed his mind and jilted his betrothed, she was left well and truly screwed!

Depending on how well off the jilted woman was to begin with (both in terms of society and finances) a woman could not only be left disgraced but in mountains of debt. Her future prospects lying in tatters.

So what could women do when their groom bolted and suddenly they were left with no future prospects and no cash (meaning they couldn’t just stop the clocks and spend the rest of their days living in lavish Victorian gothic eleganza, a la Miss Havisham?

Girl, you know the answer….You lawyer up!

Time to face justice asshat. 

Let me introduce you to, A Breach of Promise. It’s a handy legal loophole that allowed a person to recoup losses sustained through a failed engagement

A jilted lover could take their former spouse to court and sue for both emotional and finical damages.

Cases of a Breach of Promise started to become popular around 1650. But pretty quickly, the number of men suing former girlfriends dropped off. With society feeling that taking the ‘weaker sex’ to court was just plain ungentlemanly.

Sadly for their male counterparts, jilted women didn’t have any such qualms and by the Victorian era, the number of breach of promise cases had skyrocketed. 

breach of promise example
Example of a case of Breach of Promise from Somerset

Nine out of ten cases of breach of promise were won, with average payouts ranging from £100 to £1000 (Roughly £8000-£80,000 in today’s money)

Suddenly jilted women didn’t have to be a victim for the rest of their lives. They could reclaim not only their hard earned cash, but also their reputations.

Now illegitimate children could be properly raised, jobs could be regained and if they wanted, women could start again in a new relationship without a huge scarlett letter looming.

BUT before you crack out the prosseco, let me quickly rain on this parade – see men had grown wise to The Breach of Promise and were working on ways to get out of a costly trial.

Seriously though guys… could you just not? 

Now the most obvious way to avoid a scandalous breach of promise court case would be to settle out of court (along with, you know, generally avoiding jilting people)

But if you were a special kind of dickey Victorian gent, there were ways to make sure you were part of the 10% that had their breach of promise case thrown out of court:

1. Claim that your intended was prone to lude conduct – this could be anything from bad language to reading racy books.

Anne Blakely saw her breach of promise case thrown out, after it was shown she had not only read but also owned a copy of – then infamously scandalous – Fanny Hill (gasp)

2. she’s just too ugly to marry: Charlotte Emms walked away with a pitiful £20, after it was claimed her fiancés parents were too appalled with her ‘pock marked’ face to allow their son to marry her. Nice.

3. just straight up call her a liar: in 1875, Susannah o’Sullivan, sought breach of promise, claiming her then fiancé had plied her with wine and assaulted her.

But after her asshat ex stood in court and branded Susannah’s claims a lie, the case was promptly chucked out of court, with Susannah branded ‘laughable’ by the press.

burn it all.gif
Urgh, same. 

By the 1900s, rates of Breach of Promise cases were dropping rapidly.

The whole thing was now seen as farcical, the cases regular comedy fodder, especially in literature (probably most famous is Charles Dickens, Pickworth Papers)

Breach of Promise wasn’t doing great outside of the realms of fiction either. The media circus the cases caused meant that any plaintiff would see their entire life thrown under a microscope for public analysis. Unsurprisingly not many women were game for going through that ordeal, no matter their need.

PLUS, there was the very vital fact that what had once counted as the evidence, was now starting to look flimsy as!

With evidence that didn’t stand up under any scrutiny, the trials often amounted to little more than he said she said. And so there was suddenly a boom in women leaving these court cases branded fraudulent liars.

Were some playing the system to make a quick buck? For sure! But most were like Susannah o’Sullivan, desperate to turn around their shitty situation.

breach of promise case from Penny Illustrated .jpg
The Penny Illustrated dedication of a Breach of Promise case 

By the mid 1900s breach of promise had pretty much disappeared; though it still popped up for comedic effect (notably its used as a plot device in Hard Days Night, when Pauls grandad is accused of breach of promise by a much younger girl – ick)

Now UK law doesn’t recognise engagement as a legal contract. With Breach of Promise now nothing more than a relic, more than often used to showcase the ridiculous whimsy of the past…

This was interesting, where can I find out more? I’d suggest checking out Denise Bates book, Breach of Promise to Marry: A History of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores (absolute bargain on kindle, btw)

History Fight! Who had the best royal wedding dress in history?

Who doesn’t love a wedding? Trick question! Everyone does. There’s cake, booze and tons of stuff to secretly judge (we all do, its fine!)…sadly though there are also dull great aunts, too long speeches and the fact that wearing heels for more than 3 hours is basically torture.

And THAT my friends is why a Royal Wedding, is the best kind of wedding.

You can not so secretly judge away at every little detail, free from guilt and without any form of shoe based pain! THE DREAM.

So in that judgemental spirit, we’ll be pitting iconic royal wedding dresses against each other to discover which royal bride had the best (and worst) dress in history!

For this we will be ranking each on the below categories (out of 10) 

  • Dress functionality (because everyone needs to be pee)
  • Poofyness (v important)
  • Sass factor (also v important)
  • Ability to look back at pictures without thinking you looked an absolute twat

 I’ll also be taking away 5 points if the dress is so expensive that you need to sell your organs/first born to afford it.

At the end we’ll see which historic wedding dress wins!

Right then! Lets get started!!!! 

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settle in, it’s gonna get messy!

For much of history, wedding dresses were only a thing for the rich. They were a chance to show of wealth and status; because, well..marriage was an exchange of goods between families and the dress was just a chance to show off how awesome those goods were (sad but true!)

So where as poorer brides would wear their nicest dress, rich brides would deck themselves in jewels, embroidery, beading and sumptuous fabrics in all colours of the rainbow.

That’s right, colours! Vivid reds and blues, yellows, even golds. This dress would serve as a girls best dress for a while, so why waste it on a colour that gets dirty crazy easily and is hard to wear again?

Well, logic like that doesn’t matter if you’re…

Mary Queen of Scots

In 1558 Mary Queen of Scots married Francis, Dauphin of France, in a no expenses spared ceremony in Paris.

The coming together of two countries was an auspicious occasion that demanded the best in lavish excess and Mary more than held up her end of things with her dress.

Mary Queen of Scots, wedding picture.jpg
Hooray for child weddings!

The train of Mary’s dress was over 10 ft long and so stuffed with jewels that it required two ladies maids to hold it aloft at all times!

Mary carried the theme of all the jewels into her accessories, rocking a golden cornet and necklace, both absolutely stuffed with gems.

Yet despite all its rocks Mary’s dress caused quite the scandal; you see Mary…..


The scandalous bitch!

Now, in the 16th century white was a colour of mourning, not really the vibe you want for a wedding.

BUT white was Mary’s favourite colour! She thought it made her look amazing and emphasised her porcelain skin and auburn hair; so haters be damned, she was wearing god damn white if she wanted to.

Sadly it didn’t prove to be a great sartorial choice.

Two years after the wedding, Mary’s groom died, which caused the French court to claim that Mary’s white dress was to blame, as her poor fashion choices must have cursed their wedding and killed her hubby!


Functionality: 3/10 (you need 2 ladies to carry the dress at all times, it doesn’t say much for how likely you are to be able to pee…)

Poofyness: 6/10

Sass Factor: 10/10

Ability to look back without thinking you looked an absolute twat: 0/10 (sorry, but if people think your dress killed your husband, its not great is it now?)

And I’ll be taking away 5 points for cost, as even for a Royal all those gems are leaving you out of pocket!

Overall: 14/40

Princess Charlotte

Princess Charlotte of Wales was a hugely popular royal; heir to the throne and  a bit of a fashionista – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that her 1816 wedding to Prince Leopold (later King of Belgium) was a big fucking deal!

On the morning of the wedding people lined the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Charlotte. And when she finally emerged, she caused an immediate stir.

Princess Charlottes Wedding Dress
This is most likely only 1 part of Charlottes dress…but still, so pretty!

Charlottes dress was made of a woven silver thread with intricate embroidered flowers on the hem.

Under the dress was a tissue slip made of the same silver thread and on top was a sheer silk netting. Charlotte’s mantua was an estimated 7.4 feet and she was also dripping in diamonds.  It’s even said that Charlotte had diamonds in her hair.

I repeat. Diamonds. In. Her. Hair.

The whole thing cost an estimated £10,000. Or in a todays money, a cool 800k.

I’m sorry now…how much?


Functionality: 5/10 (The fact that she didn’t need help to move is a plus, but that 7 foot mantua must have made going through doors a bloody nightmare!)

Poofyness: 7/10

Sass Factor: 8/10

Ability to look back without thinking you looked an absolute twat: 7/10

I’ll be taking away 5 points for cost, as a wedding dress shouldn’t cost the same as a Donald Trump golfing holiday.   

Overall rating: 22/40


Queen Victoria

Victoria wanted a lot from her dress. You see, big priority for her was making sure that her dress reflected British industries, which would grow British trade (admittedly a bit of a big ask for a dress!)

More than that though, Victoria wanted her dress to make it clear her new husband was not becoming her subject. See, Victoria was really traditional and in marrying Albert she wanted to become his wife, not his Queen.

So Vic dumped the red ceremonial robes and instead plumped for something demure, simple and British made. Queen Victoria Wedding DressKeen to promote the hand made British lace industry (which was taking a bit of a battering thanks to the industrial revolution!) Vic decided to cover her dress in delicate lace.

And to make the lace really stand out, Vic went rogue.

She wore an all white dress.

Victoria was actually the first British royal to ever wear an all white dress. And it wasn’t to symbolise purity (she wore Orange Blossom to symbolise that!) the white, was just to pimp out British lace.

BUT the trend stuck. Soon brides all over the country were copying the Queen and wearing a white dress for their weddings.


Functionality: 10/10     

Poofyness: 4/10

Sass Factor: 5/10  

Ability to look back without thinking you looked an absolute twat: 10/10 (when you start a 100+ year old wedding trend, you kinda nailed kt…)  

As Victoria’s dress was used to promote British industry, I’ll be taking away no points!

Overall rating: 29/40


Wallis Simpson

When Wallis Simpson was picking out her wedding dress for her 1937 marriage to The Duke of Windsor (formally King Edward Vlll) she was walking a very precarious tightrope of public opinion.

Everyone was still pretty pissed off that the King had abdicated to be with her, plus Wallis was a two time divorcee, which people weren’t fans of.

Both gossip magazines and the public thought it would be deeply inappropriate for her to wear white, as she’d been married before! Colour wasn’t the only issue facing Wallis.

She wouldn’t be getting a huge royal wedding (In the same way Edward now wouldn’t be getting his huge royal coronation…) so if she stepped out in full princess poof…well…it wouldn’t go well.

Basics this. But with more pitchforks 

Luckily Wallis wasn’t the fro fro princess type. After all this was the lady who famously said:

 ‘you can never be too rich or too thin’

*not great advice, btw  
Wallis Simpson Wedding Dress

Wallis opted for a simple understated dress in a bespoke pale blue (dubbed ‘Wallis Blue’ as it matched her eyes)

She followed royal protocol, covering her cleavage and arms, but bar that it was nipped in, slinky and all in all, a big two fingers up to the monarchy.

Instead of a veil Wallis wore a hat with a tulle ‘halo’.

Sources from the time suggested the ‘halo’ was to help people warm to her and see her in a less demonised way; wearing a literal halo seems a bit on the nose, but it’s your wedding day, you do you boo.


Functionality: 10/10

Poofyness: 0/10

Sass Factor: 7/10  

Ability to look back without thinking you looked an absolute twat: 7/10   

 Overall rating: 24/40


Diana, Princess of Wales

Truly the Kardashians of wedding dresses. You can’t get away from it. It’s everywhere. It’s even got it’s own Wikipedia page!!!!

diana wedding dress gif.gif

Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, Diana’s dress was huge. Both in scale of the global media attention it received (and continues to get!) and in the form of the actual dress.

The train came in at 25 feet. It had thousands of pearls and and sequins sewn throughout its many many layers. Estimates for the dress cost vary, but the latest one (from the designer) is just under £4,500 (at the current exchange rate) which seems a bit of a steal!

diana wedding dresspic

Within hours of Diana appearing in the dress, brides were calling up for copies and soon a decade long love of meringue dresses was born. 


Functionality: 3/10  *cough* 25ft train

Poofyness: 10/10

Sass Factor: 5/10

Ability to look back without thinking you looked an absolute twat: 3/10 (I’m sorry!)    

Overall rating: 21/40


So the results are in!

I can reveal that official (ish) best wedding dress in history is: 

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress from her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert!

Yay! Look how happy with her win!!

 What do you think? Is this the right pick?

Which dress would you wear? Let me know!

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