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Illegitimacy… The Family Secret | Anachronauts Digest
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Illegitimacy… The Family Secret

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How would you feel if someone took your newborn baby away from you? In Evolution – Tale of the Alchemist, we follow Saccadius Cartwright’s fictional life from birth…

Being born out of wedlock in the Victorian age was seen as a shameful thing. This stigma meant many children were taken into social care and adopted, irrespective of the circumstances that led to the pregnancy.

A rich man’s mistress might not have the respect of everyone, but with the right resources – money from a lover – she could live quite well and be accepted in a certain segment of society. On the other hand, a single woman with a child had little opportunity to earn her own way, and if there was no one to help she could soon be lost to poverty or prostitution, which could lead to more illegitimate children.

And then there was the issue of title or inheritance, which is something we take seriously here in the UK. An illegitimate child was not entitled to the family name or to inheritance – even sons of royalty were often granted titles, but they were not entitled to inherit the title from their father – essentially Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.

During the Industrial Revolution, women migrated to cities for work and many lost family support. Some weren’t particularly streetwise – which led to a rise in illegitimacies. Some were desperate enough to abandon newborn babies, leaving them to die, others were dumped in the doorways of the local church or a foundling home.

When local villages couldn’t afford to subsidise living at home for the poor, the ‘workhouse’ came into being. All types of poor, including women with children, were put in such institutions. Many turned to prostitution to support themselves and their children.

“In earlier times, a girl had little opportunity to run away to hide her shame and start a new life. A single, pregnant girl would be hustled out of town quickly so the child wasn’t born in the parish and thus a local responsibility.”

“When cities became larger and more anonymous and the middle class had more money, another option became available. A woman might go away for an extended visit to a relative in a distant location. She might return a few months later as a ‘widow’, having supposedly met and married a husband who met an untimely end, leaving her with a small child. Or, she might take an extended trip and give up the child for adoption before returning home.” – www.geneaology.com

Evolution – Tale of the Alchemist, will be on sale at San Diego Comic Con, and other conventions including the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, later this year. The whole Clockwork Watch series is available through our online shop.

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