Suggestions on the 1753 Marriage Act

Here’s a witty addition to the then recently passed law which put an end to clandestine marriages, formalised what defined a marriage – previously a mere agreement between the couple was considered enough. It was in part to protect young heiresses being married for their money, but had often been used by men going abroad, sometimes after already been intimate with their spouses, to protect their reputations.

“Clauses proposed to be added to the late Act against Clandestine Marriages:

If a young man marries an old woman purely for the sake of maintenance, let it be called self-preservation.

When an old man maries a young wench in he full bloom, it shall be death without benefit of clergy

When a man had had a bad wife, and buried her, yet will marry a 2nd, it shall be deemed Felo de fe

When a man, having no children, marries a woman with 5 or 6, an vice versa, let this Delinquent stand 3 times in the pillory, lose both his ears, and suffer 1 year in prison.

If a man marries a women of ill fame, knowing her to be he shall have a pair of horns painted on his door; or if she be a known scold, a couple of Neat’s tongues in the room of them.”

I don’t really understand that last one, though horns were often used in rough music to mock a cuckold. Neat is a cow. Makes you wonder about the Vikings with their horned helmets.

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