"if a girl was not married by twenty-two, she would be lost"

Until 1823, the minimum legal age for marriage in Britain was 21, for both sexes. However, the Marriage Act 1823 meant that a man could marry without parental consent at fourteen, and a girl as young as twelve. On average, Victorians married between the ages of 18 and 23, and marriage became more popular than ever before. This was partly helped by the Marriage Act 1836 which legalised civil marriages (until then, only a recognised religious establishment would legalise a marriage, so Roman Catholics, Jews and other denominations could not have a legal union). There was particular pressure on upper and middle class women to marry, and as women outnumbered men in Victorian Britain the race to find an eligible bachelor and start a family was on – once a girl was past her late twenties she was considered too old and would have to be resigned to being a ‘spinster’. Young girls of the upper classes were introduced to society around the age of seventeen, carefully chaperoned and eventually married to a groom who was often decided upon by their parents. More information about Victorian courtship and marriage can be found here.