While doing some research for Flash Pulp’s current Blackhall tale, I came across some interesting, if disturbing, history that I wanted to pass on.
Some quick background beforehand, however: Fort Henry, a military fort in Kingston, Ontario, was actually constructed in 1832, right around the time of our story, in an effort to protect the waterway supply route in case of American invasion. (It would also go on to be used as an internment camp for political prisoners during World War I.)
That said, I encountered some sinister information on Fort Henry’s School Room page (emphasis mine).
In 1867, the British Army provided free education for the children of soldiers and for those soldiers wishing an education. It was not until 1870 that a public school system was offered outside of the army.
At the age of 14, the children had the choice of remaining with the army, or looking for work in town. Many chose the army, because if they stayed in town, they would be left behind when the regiment moved on. Boys could join the army as soldiers; girls, at the age of 14, had two years in which to find a husband before they were forced to leave the fort. Soldiers were not permitted to marry before they had achieved 14 years of good service in the Army, thus girls usually married men more than twice their age.
Yikes – although I do find it interesting that, like many social institutions, public schooling began as a for-government-employees-only initiative that later expanded to include the full public. (I’m looking at you, American healthcare.)
Still, nowadays a fourteen-year-old girl marrying a thirty-something would likely lead to an arrest, back then it was simply military protocol.
I’m again reminded of a Monty Python quote from The Meaning Of Life:
Here is better than home, eh, sir? I mean, at home if you kill someone they arrest you, here they’ll give you a gun and show you what to do, sir. I mean, I killed fifteen of those buggers. Now, at home they’d hang me, here they’ll give me a $%#@ing medal, sir.”