Monday, June 5, 2017

Marriage in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702-1714

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Tangled  Love
By Rosemary Morris

I have written three historical romances, with strong themes set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart and am writing a series of articles about life in the early 18th century.

Marriage in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702-1714
Part Two

Marriage Act of Queen Anne 1712

Defrocked clergymen, dishonest clergymen and even laymen posing as clergymen conducted hole-in-the-corner marriages at the Fleet Prison, Queens Bench, in taverns and elsewhere.
To discourage clandestine marriages the Marriage Act of Queen Anne received Royal Assent on the 22nd May, 1712 and was renewed in on the 24th, June. The Act stated that the penalty for conducting an illegal marriage service would be one hundred pounds. Half of the penalty would be given to the informer and, ‘if any gaoler or keeper of any prison should be privy to, or knowingly permit any marriage to be solemnized in his said prison, before publication of the banns, or licence obtained as aforesaid, he shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds to be recovered and distributed as aforesaid.” On top of this there was a five-shilling fee for every marriage licence, or marriage certificate.
This law made it easy to marry. A couple could go for a walk in the country and pop into a church and get married. Sion Chapel in Hampstead placed an advertisement in The Postboy from April the 18th to the 20th. “As there are many weddings at Sion Chapel, Hampstead, five Shillings only is required for all the Church fees for any Couple that are married there, provided they bring with them a licence or Certificate, according to the Act of Parliament.”

The Curious Marriage of a Bride in her Smock

Entry in a parish register. “John Bridmore and Anne Sellwood was married in her Smock, without any clothes or head gear on.’
This was not unusual. The purpose was to absolve the husband from paying any debts his wife might have owed before her marriage. This belief seems to have been caused by misinterpretation of the law as it was laid down that ‘the husband is liable for the wife’s debts because he acquires an absolute interest in the personal estate of the wife,’ etc. From this an ignorant person might conclude that if his wife had no estate whatsoever he could not be liable for her debts.

Physical Chastisement

Some so-called gentlemen sometimes beat their wives. In The Spectatior, even the gallant Sir Richard Steele wrote that he could not deny there were ‘perverse Jades that fall to Men’s Lots, with whom it requires more than common Proficiency in Philosophy to be able to live. When these are joined to men of warm Spirits, without Temper or Learning, they are frequently corrected with Stripes; but one of our famous Lawyers is of the opinion, that this ought to be used sparingly.’
Today, we can only look back and pity abused wives and hen-pecked husbands who could not apply for a legal separation or get divorced.

Novels by Rosemary Morris available as e-publications and paper backs.

Early 18th century novels: Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies and The Captain and The Countess

Regency novels: False Pretences and Sunday’s Child, Monday’s Child and Tuesday’s Child. Heroines born on different days of the week.

Mediaeval Novel, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, The Lovages of Cassio, Book One, set in the turbulent reign of Edward II