A wife's life was all trouble and strife...
Harlots, Housewives and Heroines: A 17th Century History For Girls BBC4
IN THE 17th century, reported Dr Lucy Worsley, marriage was tough for women.
"There was no escape if they didn't like their husbands. Divorce was unheard of."
For men, though, there was one notable way out, no better illustrated than the time in 1682 when Mr Whitehouse of Tipton sold his wife to a Mr Bracegirdle.
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It's things like that which make you wonder just what you might get for your other half on eBay (or a car boot sale if you're not computer-minded). To be fair, these things didn't happen often.
"Wife sales," said Worsley, pictured above, "were illegal and fairly uncommon."
Although right up to 1987 you could win one on Bullseye.
Women would, however, "walk up and down with sandwich boards saying 'This Woman Is On The Market'."
Blimey, they don't even do that in Liverpool.
"From a young age," she continued, "women were treated rather like livestock. Daniel Defoe described marriage as being like the Smithfield bargain – women were bought and sold like the cows at the Smithfield meat market."
It sounds rough but it's not a bad idea if you're after one with nice trotters and a decent rump.
In wedlock, matters didn't really improve much.
"You must obey your husband," a woman was told, "and cease from commanding him. Avoid all things that might offend him. Apply yourself to his will."
In modern terms it means, 'Make sure he's got the remote control'.
However, as the Civil War decimated the male population, women suddenly found themselves sexually empowered.
"Nine times a night doesn't exhaust a woman," wrote one, "but a man can't keep up." (this was pre-Rod Stewart).
Men did fight back, though, coming up with the 'scold's bridle', a metal face clamp to stop them nagging.
And even the feminists of the day were keen that matters shouldn't descend too far.
In The Gentlewoman's Companion, for instance, women's champion Hannah Woolley wrote that "the wife ought to be subject to the husband in all things – keep the house in good order and have his dinner ready when he comes home.
" Make it nice," she added, "or he'll go to the tavern, which many are compelled to do because of the daily dissatisfactions they find at home."
Remarkably, The Gentlewoman's Companion was actually written by a man posing as Woolley.
"There were no laws against it," said Worsley. "It was a way to keep a woman in check."
Wonder if anyone's thought about doing that now. I'll quite happily pose as Kirstie Allsopp – so long as I can wear her dresses.