Top positive review
Easy to read guide for the perplexed
on 1 April 2018
Very useful and easy to read. She corrects a number of extremely common but wrong ideas about marriage in the past (such as the idea that living together without marriage was common, or that marriages which did not comply in all respects with the 1753 Act were void, or that it was forbidden for Christians and Jews to marry each other). The book is divided into sections covering who could get married and who they could marry, what ages they were likely to be, when and if they needed parental consent, where they could marry (generally in a church but if you were one of the few people who could get a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury you could marry anywhere) and explains clearly and succinctly how the law changed at various times. There are special short sections on religious minorities and how the legal status of their marriages changed. If you find your ancestor seems to have married twice to the same person and the dates are close together one may be a legally invalid religious ceremony and the other a Church of England ceremony to make the marriage legal.
One interesting factor which I am still unclear about is that, surprisingly, only in 1929 was 16 set as the absolute minimum age for marriage, and any marriage contracted by someone under that age made automatically void. Previously the age was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, and in fact if a person was under those ages the marriage would not necessarily be invalid - it was voidable, but if the couple continued to live together after the girl was 12 and the boy 14 the marriage was valid. A case from as recently as 1894 of an 11 year old marrying a 22 year old is cited. Yet the age of sexual consent was raised to 16 in 1885. Were they supposed to wait until they were 16 to consummate their marriage? We do not know.