The first conflict in For Richer, For Poorer occurs when heroine Miss Parthena Munro ‘borrows’ a coin purse from Mr Jerome Fender.
I used the term ‘coin purse’ rather than wallet because, unlike the pre-plastic card society where paper money had been the norm it was not so commonly used in Regency England.
Banknotes outside of London were not guaranteed by the Bank of England until 1826 when its first branch outside the City was opened in Gloucester. Privately owned regional banks in England and Ireland had unique notes that were signed by their own chief cashiers and therefore their continued validity depended on the success of the issuing bank. This meant that banknotes were not as secure as they are today, should a run on such an establishment occur, it could wipe out a person’s assets.
Coins had immediate and standardised values and so, although weighty, were accepted everywhere.
The golden guinea had a value of 1 sovereign and 1 shilling making it the highest denomination.
Next was the sovereign (1 pound) worth 20 shillings.
Then a half sovereign worth 10 shillings
A Crown equalled 5 shillings
1 shilling equalled 12d (old pennies)
1/2 shilling was known as a six pence piece.
A groat was 4d
A farthing was 1/4d
However, not everyone in Regency England was expected to pay their bills immediately. The aristocracy, upper and middle classes lived on credit to a large extent. This seems a strange inequality to us today, but it was the lower classes who were expected to pay coin for their goods and services on demand.
This created a highly unfair society. It also led to a number of Debtors’ prisons such as York prison, Marshalsea and The Fleet. Charles Dickens’ father was in the former under the Insolvent Debtor’s Act of 1813, when he failed to pay his debts to a trader. It was a hard system to break free from even though there was the chance of day-release to go and work, but debts continued to mount.
This period marks the beginning of change in what had previously been the norm because of the inability of debtors to pay their cumulative debts to their creditors, which could then bring these companies down as they also had creditors too. Therefore, the system had to change and settlement by cash was being favoured, yet the debtors still kept these prisons throughout Dickensian times.
What Parthena did could have cost her liberty, her life or seen her transported to the . It was just as well that it was Jerome she borrowed the coin from!
Book 2 http://getbook.at/ForRicher