Posted by SuzanneR on September 14, 1998 at 13:02:13:
In response to What are fleet marriages? do you have information aboutn them? nf, written by Constanza on September 14, 1998 at 09:13:39
According to The Regency Companion, "these clandestine marriages (especially of minors) were performed in rooms and taverns near the Fleet, a notorious debtor's prison in Farringdon Street. Defrocked and disreputable ministers, imprisoned for debt in the Fleet, earned the ready by performing surreptitious marriages. And until Lord Hardwicke's Act went into effect as law in 1754, such marriages were perfectly legal."
Another book I have England in the Age of Hogarth provides an interesting anecdote about a wronged woman who was able to dissolve a Fleet marriage. After marrying the son of the Duke of Hamilton in 1731, Miss Mary Edwards realized he cared for nothing but her enormous fortune. So she used her resources to hire lawyers and was free again by 1734, having had the marriage declared null. Unfortunately, however, she thereby made her son a bastard!
The book goes on to say that few women were willing or able to pay such a high price for their freedom:
"Many them were probably brought to agree with Walter Wyatt, one of the Fleet parsons, who wrote remorsefully in his pocket book: 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The marrying in the Fleet is the beginning of eternal woe...May God forgive me what is past and give me grace to forsake such a wicked place, where truth and virtue can't take place unless you are resolved to starve.'"
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