Divorce in the Victorian Era


Frederick Walker gives us a beautiful photograph representation of the relationship that Jane Eyre and Rochester experience in Charlotte Bronte’s novel. They were madly in love and were able to conquer the trouble that was caused by Rochester’s marriage to Bertha. This whole situation got me wondering how divorces worked in the Victorian Era as I wondered why Rochester did not legally divorce Bertha but still keep her safe. Divorce in the Victorian Era was a very different process than it is now and not many people were able to participate. For the longest time in Great Britain, a marriage was final and legally, you were unable to dissolve the union. When divorces were allowed in the Victorian Era, only men were allowed and eligible to request for the dissolution of their marriage. Not only men, but only wealthy men were able to request a divorce. Men in the middle and lower classes were not considered eligible as they did not have wealth or land to pass on anyways. Only the powerful were considered as they worried it could affect their social status and future generations. It was usually in relation to infidelity as it was important for men to have a legitimate son as a child in order to pass on their title, money and land. If a woman was unfaithful, it could throw off that hierarchy -which men in power were not willing to risk. It did not matter if the husband was unfaithful; divorce was not allowed to be requested by a woman as it was not deemed important enough. There definitely is a large amount of the patriarchy seen when it comes to divorce in the Victorian Era.


Layton, Catherine, and George P Landow. The Origins of Victorian Divorce Law, 2018, www.victorianweb.org/gender/layton2.html.

Associated Place(s)


  • Frederick Walker
  • A.R.A.

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