Oct 312016
 

This post originally appeared on Alina K. Field‘s blog on September 16, 2014. Reposted with permission from the author.


10 Facts about Marriage and Divorce in Historical England

I’m writing about marriage and divorce in England, but I must start earlier than the Georgian/Regency period because the chaos of the earlier years led to major reforms during the Georgian era.

GroegerPetersen

1. There were three basic ways to marry in early England: by voluntary consent before two witnesses, through clandestine marriages performed by clergymen without a license or the reading of banns, and by canon law, in a church, after banns had been read or a license obtained.

2. In 1753, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act provided that only the third type of marriage was legal in England, though if a special license was obtained the marriage could be performed outside of a church.

3. Prior to 1753, bigamy was not uncommon. Birthright, by A. Roger Ekirch tells the true story of James Annesley who was kidnapped and sent off to America by a bigamous uncle to prevent James from inheriting.

"Jumping the Broom" was an expression for a marriage by consent

“Jumping the Broom” was an expression for a marriage by consent

4. The Marriage Act of 1753 did not apply in Scotland. Contract marriages “by consent” and clandestine marriages were still legal there.

The Old Marriage House at Coldstream

The Old Marriage House at Coldstream

5. Thus came the Gretna Green marriages. In Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, the heroine and her family are concerned that her sister Lydia is headed to Gretna Green with the villainous Mr. Wickham. Couples in a hurry to marry due to lack of parental consent, pregnancy, or in some cases kidnapping, traveled to a Scottish border town, Coldstream or the more famous Gretna Green to avoid the requirements of the Marriage Act of 1753. Upon crossing the border, they merely needed to find two Scottish citizens to witness their vows, or their “handfasting”.

500px-Wifesale

6. Legally ending an English marriage was far more difficult. Desertion, wife sales, which I’ve blogged about previously, and separation by private deed, did not render the partners able to legally remarry.

7. The ecclesiastical authorities could grant legal separations, or they could annul marriages that were not valid at the start, much in the way the Roman Catholic Church provides its members with annulments today, (though that process today has no impact on civil dissolution of marriages). Grounds for such ecclesiastical invalidation of a marriage could be: lack of consummation; or prohibited degrees of consanguinity between the bride and groom, for example, a man marrying his deceased wife’s sister; or bigamy.

8. Parliamentary divorce was extremely rare and very expensive. The process required legal action in a series of three courts: ecclesiastical, a common-law court, and a private bill in Parliament.

9. If a couple married in Scotland, they could more easily divorce in Scotland. If they had married in England, they could still divorce in Scotland but by the second decade of the nineteenth century the divorce would not be recognized in England.

483px-Henry_William_Paget_00

10. An exception to this is Henry Paget, the first Marquess of Anglesey. He began an affair with Wellington’s sister-in-law, and in 1810, both he and his lover managed to divorce their spouses in Scotland and marry each other, with no charges of bigamy or questions about the legitimacy of the children they had together. Paget is an interesting character who lost a leg at the Battle of Waterloo and lived on another thirty-nine years.

I’ve used handfasting in Rosalyn’s Ring, and a special license in Bella’s Band, and I have plans for the Scottish divorce to deal with a plot problem in my Work in Progress. I wont say any more—I have to see how this plays out for my characters first!

Do you have any interesting facts to add? I’d love to hear them.

Sources:
Broken Lives, Separation and Divorce in England 1660-1857 by Lawrence Stone
Wikipedia
All images, Wikimedia Commons


©2014 Alina K. Field

Find Alina K. Field online: website | facebook | twitter

Oct 272016
 

Today’s featured Beau Monde author is Julie Daines!

Photo of author Julie Daines.Julie Daines was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and was raised in Utah. She spent eighteen months living in London, where she studied and fell in love with English literature, sticky toffee pudding, and the mysterious guy who ran the kebab store around the corner. She returns to the UK to refill her soul every year or so.
Continue reading »

Oct 212016
 

Today’s featured Beau Monde author is Suzan Lauder!

Photo of author Suzan Lauder.A love for Jane Austen’s novels and Regency and Austenesque romance novels inspired Suzan Lauder to write her own variations, which led her to a passion for Regency era history and costuming, as well as social media book marketing. She cherishes the many friends she’s made as a result of these interests: readers, authors, historians, costumers, milliners, and more!
Continue reading »

Oct 022016
 

October 2016 Releases

Continue reading »

Cover image for BY CANDLELIGHT: TWO REGENCY HOLIDAY NOVELLAS by Andrea Pickens

Andrea Pickens

By Candlelight: Two Regency Holiday Novellas

Andrea DaRif/Andrea Pickens
eBook
Traditional Sweet

Two Regency Holiday novellas celebrating the true meaning of the season.

When winter nights are at their darkest, candlelight and the spirit of Christmas can spark light and love in even the most guarded hearts . . .

In “Lost And Found,” a snowstorm strands two travelers at a remote inn. Even though they clash at their first encounter, carriage trouble forces them to join forces in order to make it to London by Christmas. Neither Nicholas nor Anna is happy about the arrangement, but as the journey takes an unexpected turn, they soon discover they have more in common than they think . . .

In “A Gathering of Gifts,” an impetuous riding accident forces a country baron to play holiday host not only to his grieving widowed sister and young nephew but also to the headstrong heiress who lands her on his doorstep. He thinks she’s arrogant and spoiled while she finds him gruff and unfeeling. But as Noel and his family prepare the modest house for a simple Christmas, secrets slowly come unwrapped, revealing that happiness can come in the most unexpected packages.

So come light the candles and celebrate a Regency Christmas—where Love is the greatest gift of all.

andreapickensonline.com
Release Date 10/3/16