Queen Victoria, 18th century marriage and the rise of the middle class

A fascinating sociological study of what happened when Queen Victoria became a widow and her mourning period interrupted the London Season — the period in which eligible bachelors tried to find eligible young ladies to marry. That interruption led to more intermarriage between peers and commoners, and that in turn helped change the economic landscape in Great Britain forever.

Peers courted in the London Season, a matching technology introducing aristocratic bachelors to debutantes. When Queen Victoria went into mourning for her husband, the Season was interrupted (1861–1863), raising search costs and reducing market segregation. I exploit exogenous variation in women’s probability to marry during the interruption from their age in 1861. The interruption increased peer-commoner intermarriage by 40 percent and reduced sorting along landed wealth by 30 percent. Eventually, this reduced peers’ political power and affected public policy in late nineteenth-century England.

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