Until Christelle Demichel publicised her marriage to her deceased
boyfriend, there had been about twenty posthumous marriages per year,
with nearly thirty applications refused annually.
Most people keep such ceremonies private, but Demichel sought
publicity in the hope that more French citizens would take advantage
of a law that they might otherwise not have known about.
The law on posthumous marriage was introduced after the Malpasset dam
disaster, as you say. President de Gaulle promised a young woman
called Irène Jodard that he would think of her, after hearing about
her fiance's drowning and her wish to carry on with her marriage
"Since then, hundreds of would-be widows and widowers have applied for
permission to follow Jodard's example. The procedure they have to
follow is first of all to send a request to the president, as Mme
Demichel did to Jacques Chirac. The president forwards the request to
his justice minister, who then sends it to the public prosecutor in
whose jurisdiction the applicant lives. The prosecutor then has to
determine whether the couple intended to marry before the death, and
whether the parents of the deceased approve the wedding. He then sends
his recommendation back up the line. It is then up to the president to
decide whether to issue a decree."
The law says that the French president can authorise a marriage when
one of the future spouses has died after the start of official
formalities which confirm that he/she would have consented. There must
be serious grounds for the marriage, which would then be "backdated"
to the day before the death.
The marriage brings no rights of inheritance, or financial benefit to
the surviving spouse.
See: Code Civil Article 171
A child born to the couple will be legitimate.
I hope that the following excerpts and links will round out the
picture for you, but please feel free to ask if I can be of any
Best wishes - Leli
"Under French law, Christelle Demichel became both bride and widow in
the ceremony, which was performed Tuesday at Nice City Hall on the
Demichel told LCI television she understood "it could seem shocking to
marry someone who is dead," but her feelings for him had not dimmed.
His body was not present for the ceremony.
Such marriages are legal if the living spouse can prove the couple had
intended to marry before the other died. The French president must
also authorize it."
"Posthumous nuptials can play a practical role if the woman left
behind is pregnant, though, because children born after their father's
death are considered heirs.
But the authorities are vigilant in preventing the law's exploitation.
In one case, a woman impregnated herself with her late boyfriend's
sperm only to have her request for a postmortem marriage denied.
Demichel said most of the posthumous weddings are kept quiet (her
attorney said there are about 20 approved each year) but she wanted to
go public with hers in the hope of helping other people who might not
know that marrying their lost love one is an option"
"It provides a means of giving legal expression to an emotional
reality," said [Demichel's lawyer].
A serious legal article says there are nearly fifty applications for
posthumous marriage per year. It goes into detail about the kind of
evidence which would prove that the couple had serious intentions of
marrying, including publication of the banns, a child, joint business
This search will lead to more news stories:
"married * deceased OR dead " france OR french
other searches include:
"christelle demichel" épousé
"code civil" aticle 171
Malpasset OR Fréjus loi mariage