August 26th, 2009

Victorian era London season and widow questions

Setting: 1875/1876 country home in England

I have a few related questions; I've done some Google searches and gotten some mixed results, and I of course looked through the archives here first.

First: From what I understand, it's difficult to pinpoint precisely when the London season began, but is there a specific time when girls coming out would be presented to the Queen? One would assume at the very beginning of the season, but I'm having difficulty pinning that down. How many girls would be presented at once?

Second: I want my character to be presented by her aunt- I know that it was preferred that the mother present, and the only exception to this rule I can find is if the mother is deceased. Would it be appropriate for the aunt to present her if the mother was very ill? Also, what kinds of diseases would keep the mother bed-ridden for a season or more? I was thinking about TB but I don't know how long she'd live with that, and I'd rather not kill her off if I don't have to.

Third: The main character's older sister is about 22. I've determined that she's both recently married, unexpectedly widowed and visibly pregnant. If I recall correctly, a woman officially mourned for two years, but what would her life be like in the first few months after the death, and the birth of her child? Would the child's role in society be affected at all by the untimely death of the father? The family is basically at the bottom of the ton totem pole, so to speak- they're society, but only barely. Also, any suggestions for the husband's manner of death would be appreciated too, since I'm drawing a total blank.

Fourth (last one, I promise!): How long in advance would a family be preparing for their daughter's coming out and first season? I know the last few weeks before would be a rush of practice and anxiety, but how early are they having dresses made, practicing the bow and backwards walk from the Queen, etcetera?

Thank you so much for your help! I know I've asked a lot of questions, but I'd like to get as much right as I can manage.