A Visual, and brief, History of Wedding and Engagement Rings (an excerpt too!)

Way back in 2009 while writing my third novel, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, I came up with the idea of having Darcy and Elizabeth reaffirm their vows at the Pemberley Chapel where generations of Darcys had been wed. Now, to be honest, this was simply romantic me wanting to go all sentimental (more than usual). Ha Ha! I didn’t research too deeply into whether renewing of vows was a common undertaking, or utterly unheard of for that matter, nor did I uncover specific church rules against the idea. To be fair, I probably would have written the chapter titled “With This Ring I Thee Wed” in any case, calling it creative license. LOL!

What I DO recall is diving into the historical possibility of a wedding band for Mr. Darcy. Yes, more of the sappy sentimentality The Darcy Saga is known for, like it or not. I learned a great deal about wedding traditions during the Regency, knowledge I fully put to good use when writing The Darcy Saga Prequel Duo several years later. For this reaffirming ceremony, while faithfully adhering to the ritual as detailed in the Book of Common Prayer, the typical standard was deviated from when Elizabeth surprised her spouse with a ring. The excerpt is below for your reading enjoyment, and the chapter can be read in whole along with the entire novel via the purchasing links at the end of this blog.

Before getting to the excerpt, I wanted to share a Power Point slideshow I created in 2014 giving a brief history of engagement and wedding rings. I dug deep into the topic at that time, finding a plethora of fascinating bits of information and loads of images. There are a surprising number of extant examples of marriage-related rings, some of them quite ancient. So many, in fact, that presenting them all in a single blog post would have been too much, hence the nine-page slideshow.

Click the image below to open the Power Point. It will not automatically download to your device, so no worries there. Best viewed on a computer, of course.

*CLICK TO VIEW POWER POINT SLIDESHOW

Excerpt from My Dearest Mr. Darcy, Chapter 13
“With This Ring I Thee Wed”

The vow reaffirming ceremony has proceeded according to stipulations in the Book of Common Prayer, the good Reverend Bertram careful to only inject a bit of humor when appropriate and to clarify the unique nature of this ceremony as they are already bound in Holy Matrimony. Darcy has repeated his vows and slipped a new, slim band of braided gold adorned with small sapphires and diamonds onto Elizabeth’s lift hand ring finger, nestling beside her engagement ring and wedding band. Now it is Elizabeth’s turn.

Darcy grasped her hands with a gentle caress, spontaneously lifting them to his lips for a soft kiss. Their eyes met, Darcy winking and smiling brightly.

Lizzy returned his smile, lifting her chin and speaking strongly, “I, Elizabeth, take thee Fitzwilliam to my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, ‘til death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth. Fitzwilliam, the life I did not realize was empty became full on the day you married me. You have graced me with your love, your soul, and your entire being. I am complete in you, a woman because of you, and a mother as a gift from you. Eternally I shall love you, and forevermore I pledge to strive in all ways to foster your happiness.”

Emotion threatened to engulf him at her words, vigorous breaths necessary as she completed her earnest vows. The modicum of calm he attained was assaulted seconds later when, with a secretive smile, she dipped into a hidden pocket of her gown, withdrawing a wide band of brushed gold. Turning his left hand upward, she slowly glided the warmed metal over his ring finger while reciting:

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, with this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and all that I possess I share with thee: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” She lifted the ring-clad finger to her lips, bestowing a tender kiss. “I love you, William,” she whispered for his ears only.

“Elizabeth!” Darcy’s mouth had dropped open in utter shock, shattered emotions strewn beyond the ability to reassemble. Thankfully Reverend Bertram sensed his stupefaction and looming collapse, smoothly assuming control by leading the assembly in a prayer. Darcy and Lizzy harkened to his words peripherally, captured by the other’s concentrated stare.

Lizzy was beaming, quite smug at having astonished her husband so completely. Darcy thrilled at the sensation of the solid reminder of her promise heavy on his flesh. Men rarely wore wedding bands; it being a cultural custom not widely adhered to in England. Yet the feel of the metal on his finger was wonderful, and he wholly comprehended with stunning clarity why the visible, tangible evidence of matrimony was so vitally important to women. His heart soared and he knew without a doubt that he would proudly display her token of their unending love and fidelity for all of his life.

I hope the excerpt was enjoyable, and the history lesson as well.

Comments are always welcome and greatly appreciated.

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Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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