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Q: Divorce among British Aristocracy between 1840 - 1850 ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Divorce among British Aristocracy between 1840 - 1850
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: imawriter-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 29 May 2006 20:35 PDT
Expires: 28 Jun 2006 20:35 PDT
Question ID: 733509
Here is my question for a story I am writing.  Lady Jane (daughter of
an Earl) marries the Duke of ABC around the year 1839 in England. 
After five years of a very abusive marriage, can she divorce him?  Or
was this totally out of the question for that time period?  I realize
if she did divorce him, that she would be left penniless and totally
stripped of her social status.  But I need to know if, in fact, she
could divorce him.  If not, is she just trapped in this terrible
marriage?  Would there be any other way out of this marriage?
Subject: Re: Divorce among British Aristocracy between 1840 - 1850
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 30 May 2006 08:53 PDT
Dear imawriter-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.

A woman could indeed divorce her husband in England in the middle
1800?s but this was almost never heard of, and this was especially
true in the time preceding the 1830's. The process was neither a
simple one nor a pleasant one and was, perhaps, even more complicated
depending on the religious affiliation of the parties involved:

Before 1670, only ecclesiastical courts could dissolve a marriage if
it found that the marriage was invalid due to an inability to consent
(e.g., insanity) or lack of capacity to marry (e.g., precontract,
consanguinity, the two parties were related by a previous marriage). A
marriage could also be terminated if one of the parties was impotent
or frigid at the time the marriage was contracted. Beginning around
1670, English law allowed any spouse to divorce based on adultery and
a few other issues. But by virtue of the Court of Session Act 1830
either party could petition for a ?divorce a mensa et thoro? (a
divorce from board and hearth).


This was a form of legal separation that was essentially a limited
divorce that did not dissolve the marriage entirely; rather it
released the parties from matrimonial obligation to one another and
also forbade future marriage or co-habitation until the living spouse
died. This type of divorce could also be granted for reasons of
adultery, cruelty and heresy and even in these instances the situation
would have had to be extreme as we can see by the unusually rare
number of instances in which divorces were granted in a roughly 200
year period (and obviously only a fraction of these were initiated by

?England struggled with the matter of divorce. From 1669 to 1850, only
229 divorces were granted in that country. Marriage and divorce were
controlled by the Anglican Church, which, like the Catholic Church,
strictly forbade divorce. The Anglican Church allowed separations, but
neither spouse was allowed to remarry while the other was still

Prior to this, until 1830, the law was the jurisdiction of the
Commissary Court of Edinburgh. Jurisdiction over divorce actions
passed to the Court of Session in 1830, but the grounds for divorce
remained as before, until the concept of the matrimonial offence
developed some time later.

Absent cruelty a woman could not divorce her husband in the same way
as a man, as was evident in the scandalous case of Lady Jane Digby and
her husband Lord Ellenborough who were divorced in 1830 by an Act of
Parliament when she decided to leave her husband.


Somewhat later, in 1857, the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes,
based in London, was established, taking the divorce duties away from
the church courts. Men were permitted to obtain divorce for adultery,
but women were required to prove cruelty or desertion, in addition to
their husband's adultery. It wasn?t until 1923 that women were allowed
to use the same grounds for divorce as men.


I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher







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