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Living In SinCohabiting As Husband and Wife in Nineteenth-century England$
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Ginger S. Frost

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780719077364

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719077364.001.0001

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Cohabitation, illegitimacy, and the law in England, 1750–1914

Cohabitation, illegitimacy, and the law in England, 1750–1914

(p.9) 1 Cohabitation, illegitimacy, and the law in England, 1750–1914
Living In Sin

Ginger S. Frost

Manchester University Press

This chapter clarifies the law of marriage in England that changed several times over the course of the nineteenth century, but was based primarily on the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753. The Hardwicke Act, combined with the New Poor Law, made marriage both more difficult and more necessary for women. It is noted that the marriage laws were not well known or enforced among the common people, and this caused difficulties for women and children and headaches for local magistrates. Judges recognised that the parents intended their illegitimate children to inherit, but did not feel that they could overturn the law. The oddities of the law of illegitimacy meant that illegitimate siblings sometimes fought each other over the inheritance. The state made marriage more difficult in 1753, and left cohabiting women and their children with limited options.

Keywords:   cohabitation, England, Hardwicke Marriage Act, New Poor Law, illegitimate children, illegitimacy

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