* Permission for minor to marry?

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Mark1834
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Permission for minor to marry?

Post by Mark1834 » 17 Feb 2021 16:05

Who could give permission for a minor to marry in nineteenth century England if both parents were dead?

Question is prompted by a curious case in my tree. The bride was 18 years old, and the groom 29. The marriage was in Nov 1871, but I can't locate either party in the 1871 Census. The family were originally based in Enfield, Middlesex, but the wedding was in Stepney, in London's East End and about 10-11 miles from Enfield. My assumption is that the bride had moved into the city earlier, probably for domestic service work.

The father's name given in the marriage register does not match any known living male relatives. Two of her four siblings were dead already, an older sister lived in Liverpool, and an older brother has disappeared without trace, so she probably had little immediate family. The father's occupation (Merchant's Clerk) was exactly the same as given for the groom's father, but that may just be coincidence. I don't recognise the name of either witness.

The first child from the marriage was registered in Q3 the following year, so she may or may not have been in early pregnancy.

Did an obliging adult pretend to be her father to give permission? Or perhaps the register is simply incorrect, and names became confused. We'll probably never know for sure.
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AdrianBruce
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by AdrianBruce » 17 Feb 2021 16:21

Sounds like a question for Rebecca Probert....

Her Marriage Law for Genealogists, 1st edition, p121, appears to suggest that minors could obtain a licence by swearing to have parental consent. It's not quite that simple by the way, but this does suggest a way out: "Honest guv, I've got consent from my father - err, what did I say his name was? Ooops".

Also, I do wonder if there was a good deal more conspiring with sympathetic clergy than we might imagine.
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Mark1834
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by Mark1834 » 17 Feb 2021 17:42

I like the idea of sympathetic clergy, helping out the "poor little orphan girl". Banns were read (allegedly), so it wasn't a licence. Perhaps it really is a "victimless crime" if all parties entered into the marriage willingly and freely...
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LornaCraig
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by LornaCraig » 17 Feb 2021 19:36

I think they would only have needed explicit parental permission if they were married by licence. Otherwise the publication of the banns and the absence of any objection would make the marriage legal.

Another way of looking at it is that if the girl genuinely had no living relatives, there was nobody to refuse to give consent. It would take an unreasonable clergyman to insist that she couldn't marry until she was 21 just because she had no relatives.

But of course unless he had personal knowledge of the family he could ony take her word for it that she had no living relatives...
Lorna

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mjashby
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by mjashby » 17 Feb 2021 19:39

In England, having banns read three times in the 'home parish' without receiving a registered objection from the parent(s)/guardian(s) of an 'under age' individual was most probably interpreted as implying parental/guardianship permission. The 'clergy' would, of course, also be attempting to 'balance' the requirements of newer government legislation with long held religious beliefs in common and canon law, which upheld that a person who had attained the legal age of puberty, 14 for males and 12 for females until 1929, could contract a valid marriage.

Personally, I have seen only a few examples of the "with the consent of..." entry having been completed in printed Marriage Registers, even when it must have been obvious that at least one of the parties was under the prescribed age. And only once have i seen any evidence of a 'voided' marriage, i.e. a Marriage entry struck out in the original Church Register and re-recorded at a later date when both parties would have been 21+, at a different Church (both 'marriages' were pre-1837).

Mervyn
Edit: Lorna replied along similar lines while I was typing :)

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AnneEast
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by AnneEast » 17 Feb 2021 22:07

I have seem pre 1837 marriages with the phrase "with the consent of friends" and presumed it to mean adult family friends due to the lack of a living parent.
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by AdrianBruce » 18 Feb 2021 10:45

Lorna - I think that you must be right with the idea that banns constitute permission. I was thinking as I read Rebecca Probert on permissions that she was only talking about licenses but failed to wonder why she hadn't mentioned banns.
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Mark1834
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by Mark1834 » 18 Feb 2021 10:47

Thanks folks, all very sensible comments about how minor marriages were handled in practice. I have many other examples, and agree that parental permission was rarely stated explicitly in the registers. It still doesn't explain why the wrong father's details were entered, but maybe I'm over-interpreting what could have been a simple clerical error.

The story appears to have had a happy ending, as the marriage lasted over 40 years, and you can plot the husband's rise from ordinary clerk to articled clerk, and finally as a solicitor, and moving to more "upmarket" areas. Despite that, and at least one son also being a solicitor, neither husband or wife left a will, and their estates were dealt with by letters of administration.
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Re: Permission for minor to marry?

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 18 Feb 2021 10:51

Probert says that for marriage by banns, lack of active dissent was all that was required -- so if the parents didn't know about the marriage, tough. And if one of the participants was illegitimate, nobody could legally forbid the banns for them.

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