I actually know very little about how my grandparents and great-grandparents met and married, except for one story. This is part of the story of Victorine Hayward, as I remember it told to me by family friend Brenda Prendergast.
Victorine met my great grandfather, Leslie Gordon Hayward, at the age of about twenty, in a café somewhere in London. The year was about 1932/33. He was with a friend, whom Victorine took a bit of a shine to.
The three of them got chatting, and Victorine told them her story. She had run away from home (we have no idea where this ‘home’ was) at the age of about 16 when she discovered that her George Jones, the man she had been brought up by, was not in fact her father.
Victorine’s mother Mabel had left her husband William Philip Hayward, an alcoholic actor, when her daughter was young. She subsequently met and set up home with George, who had treated Victorine as his own daughter. It was only on the death of her real father that Victorine found out, by overhearing a conversation between George and Mabel, and upset by the revelation left home. (Mabel and George later married.)
In London, while living with one of her aunts, Victorine had met a man named Fox. They married on Victorine’s eighteenth birthday in February 1931. They had a son, born on Christmas day that year. When the marriage broke down, she left him, taking her baby son with her, and lived for a short time in some sort of bed-and-breakfast or lodging house. But she had little money and conditions were poor. She had no choice but to return her son to the care of his father, where he would be properly looked after. Following this, her husband had deprived her of access to her child, and when Victorine met Leslie she was in despair at ever getting him back.
Leslie’s friend was incredulous and dismissed the story, but Leslie, it turns out, believed her and was sympathetic. The pair fell in love and Victorine was soon pregnant. Her husband divorced her on the grounds of adultery. Once the divorce was finalised, Leslie and Victorine married and Victorine gave birth to a son shortly afterwards, followed by my grandmother a few years later, just after the couple had relocated to Yorkshire. Victorine never saw her other son again.