Described as ‘the weightiest business’ in 1976, marriage has long been recognised by historians as an important stage of life for both men and women.1 Age was a crucial factor in the expectation that men of the landed elite would marry. It was through marriage and family formation that gentry families safeguarded their future and, perhaps, improved their financial and social prospects. Economic independence was the key to establishing a new household. After receiving a suitable education at school, preferably enhanced at university and through foreign travel, securing financial security through business or inheritance provided the foundation upon which courtship and marriage could be built.
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