Marriage Act 1753

For other marriage-related legislation, see Marriage Act

In England and Wales, the Marriage Act 1753, also called '''Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act''' (citation 26 Geo. II. c. 33), required formal ceremony of marriage, thus abolishing common-law marriage. The act required that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then consent to the marriage had to be given by the parents. Even with consent, parties were not allowed to be married unless the male was at least 14 years old and the female was at least 12. Previously, people could be married at as early as seven years of age, but until the participants reached the age of consent of 14 and 12 years, such marriages could be voided easily. The act was precipitated by a dispute about inheritance in a Scottish marriage.

When the act was passed, it required, under pain of nullity, that banns should be published according to the rubric, or a license obtained, and that, in either case, the marriage should be solemnized in church (except for Jews and Quakers); and that in the case of minors, marriage by license must be by the consent of parent or guardian. The act came into effect in 1754, and exempted Scotland and the Channel Islands. The law set forth much stricter rules regarding marriage, including that marriages must be performed in a church and must be officially recorded. Children of marriages that did not meet these requirements could not inherit property. Such children were considered 'base'. This act had the effect of putting a stop to clandestine marriages, e.g. the Fleet Marriages associated with Fleet Prison. Henceforth couples had to fare to Gretna Green, in Scotland and thus outside the jurisdiction of English law.

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