The subject of why Jamie did not tell Claire that he was married, technically at least, to Laoghaire is one which will no doubt be raised when Outlander Season 3 returns.
The simple answer I see is that he feared Claire would leave him. I believe he wanted to tell her, but wanted to do so in the right setting at the right time. The right setting being Lallybroch, a location distant from Craigh na Dun. Somewhere Jamie felt comfortable and he knew Claire would also feel comfortable, Lallybroch being as close to a real home as Claire had ever known (until Boston). I’m not sure what the right time would have been, since we never got the opportunity to hear it from Jamie, and his plans were totally disrupted by Jenny’s interference.
Yes, they were there at least five oblique references which, upon re-reading, make it very clear that something was being hidden from Claire. Though whether she was alert enough to realise there were hints seems unlikely given the dramatic chain of circumstances with which greeted upon her return. There were so many things to take in, and her senses were already overwhelmed following her journey back through the stones and with being physically close to Jamie. They both showed their deep emotional love and sexual attraction was not lessened by time and separation. As a result, all else seemed diminished and unimportant to Jamie, even the inconvenience of a “second wife”.
Here are the clues I have found, but certainly not on my first reading! After reading a second time I saw some of them, but I really needed to study the early part of Voyager in an effort to find them all. Even now there may be something I’ve missed! Please let me know if you’ve discovered more! All excerpts are from Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon.
Voyager, Chapter 25
“You won’t lose me,” I said. “Not ever again.” I smiled, smoothing back the thick ruff of ruddy hair behind his ear. “Not even if I find out you’ve been committing bigamy and public drunkenness.”
He jerked sharply at that, and I dropped my hand, startled.
“What is it?”
“Well—” he said, and stopped. He pursed his lips and glanced at me quickly. “It’s just—”
“Just what? Is there something else you haven’t told me?”
That was an open invitation to tell Claire, but Jamie just couldn’t do it!
Voyager, Chapter 26
“Yes, apology,” he insisted. “Tsei-mi saying wife. Lady being most honorable First Wife, not stinking whore.”
“Thanks a lot,” I said. “Tsei-mi? You mean Jamie? Jamie Fraser?”
The little man nodded, to the obvious detriment of his head. He clutched it with both hands and closed his eyes, which promptly disappeared into the creases of his cheeks.
“Tsei-mi,” he affirmed, eyes still closed. “Tsei-mi saying apology to most honored First Wife. Yi Tien Cho most humble servant.” He bowed deeply, still holding onto his head. “Yi Tien Cho,” he added, opening his eyes and tapping his chest to indicate that that was his name; in case I should be confusing him with any other humble servants in the vicinity.
“That’s quite all right,” I said. “Er, pleased to meet you.”
Evidently heartened by this, he slid bonelessly onto his face, prostrating himself before me.
“Yi Tien Cho lady’s servant,” he said. “First Wife please to walk on humble servant, if like.”
“Ha,” I said coldly. “I’ve heard about you. Walk on you, eh? Not bloody likely!”
This is pretty clear… so many references to “first wife”. Implies a second wife doesn’t it?
“Fergus!” I said. “Fergus, is that really you? Get up, for God’s sake—let me see you!”
He rose to his feet, but didn’t pause to let me inspect him. He gathered me into a rib-cracking hug, and I clutched him in return, pounding his back in the excitement of seeing him again. He had been ten or so when I last saw him, just before Culloden. Now he was a man, and the stubble of his beard rasped against my cheek.
“I thought I was seeing a ghost!” he exclaimed. “It is really you, then?”
“Yes, it’s me,” I assured him.
“You have seen milord?” he asked excitedly. “He knows you are here?”
“Oh!” He blinked and stepped back half a pace, as something occurred to him. “But—but what about—” He paused, clearly confused.
“What about what?”
Fergus almost had a chance to say something but Jamie stops him.
Voyager, Chapter 27
“It was lonely without you,” I whispered. “So lonely.”
“And me,” he said. He looked down, long lashes hiding his eyes, and hesitated for a moment.
“I willna say that I have lived a monk,” he said quietly. “When I had to—when I felt that I must or go mad—”
I laid my fingers against his lips, to stop him.
“Neither did I,” I said. “Frank—”
His own hand pressed gently against my mouth. Both dumb, we looked at each other, and I could feel the smile growing behind my hand, and my own under his, to match it. I took my hand away.
“It doesna signify,” he said. He took his hand off my mouth.
“No,” I said. “It doesn’t matter.” I traced the line of his lips with my finger.”
A confession of sorts… but very general.
Voyager, Chapter 29
“Aye, ye will,” he said. “You’ll come wi’ me to Arbroath, but you and your auntie will stay at the inn on the road above the abbey until we’ve finished. I’ve got to take the laddie home to Lallybroch, Claire,” he explained, turning to me. “And mend things as best I can with his parents.” The elder Ian had left Halliday’s that morning before Jamie and Young Ian arrived, leaving no message, but presumably bound for home. “Ye willna mind the journey? I wouldna ask it, and you just over your travel from Inverness”—his eyes met mine with a small, conspiratorial smile—“but I must take him back as soon as may be.”
“I don’t mind at all,” I assured him. “It will be good to see Jenny and the rest of your family again.”
“But Uncle—” Young Ian blurted. “What about—”
“Be still!” Jamie snapped. “That will be all from you, laddie. Not another word, aye?”
Young Ian looked wounded, but took another oatcake and inserted it into his mouth in a marked manner, signifying his intention to remain completely silent.”
Young Ian almost said something, but was quickly shut down by Jamie.
Voyager, Chapter 30
“Ian, you’re to take charge of your auntie, now. The two of ye get back of the gorse bushes there. Keep well away from the wagon. If anything should happen—”
The beginnings of Young Ian’s protest were cut off, apparently by a tightening of Jamie’s hand, for the boy jerked back with a small grunt, rubbing his shoulder.
“If anything should happen,” Jamie continued, with emphasis, “you’re to take your auntie and go straight home to Lallybroch. Dinna linger.”
“But—” I said.
“Uncle!” Young Ian said.
“Do it,” said Jamie, in tones of steel, and turned aside, the discussion concluded.
Young Ian was grim on the trip up the cliff trail, but did as he was told, dutifully escorting me some distance past the gorse bushes and finding a small promontory where we might see out some way over the water.”
It’s only an exclamation of the word “Uncle!”, but I think the underlying reference is there, particularly when you take Jamie’s “tones of steel” into account.
There are other references to Jamie having sex with unspecified other women, for example…
“I didna think I should ever laugh again in a woman’s bed, Sassenach,” he said. “Or even come to a woman, save as a brute, blind with need.” A note of bitterness came into his voice.” But this is not my topic today…
Did Jamie do the right thing? It’s apparent he feared losing Claire again, and as he could not face that so soon after her return he put off telling her until they were at Lallybroch. Unfortunately matters spiralled so spectacularly out of his control that he lost the opportunity to explain his side of the story to Claire. Perhaps he didn’t immediately do the right thing, but I can understand his reticence. Despite Claire’s exclamation that she would stay with him “You won’t lose me,” I said. “Not ever again.” I smiled, smoothing back the thick ruff of ruddy hair behind his ear. “Not even if I find out you’ve been committing bigamy and public drunkenness.” I imagine finding out Laoghaire was his wife and thinking he had two children with her was a tipping point, especially since we know (but book Jamie didn’t) of Laoghaire’s direct involvement with having Claire arrested as a witch.
Of course we now have to address the point of how TV Jamie could marry the person instrumental in having Claire put in peril at the witch trial. TV Jamie knows about Laoghaire’s involvement. We can’t get away from that fact. This has been the subject of many discussions! How could Jamie betray Claire, even though she has returned to the future? Jamie is an honourable man, our King of Men, and he would not knowingly betray Claire so the producers, having caused the problem in Outlander Season 1, need to create a Very Good Reason for Jamie to marry Laoghaire. The best I can come up with is that he married Laoghaire to protect her children, an honourable reason…