The History Of Marriage In The United Kingdom

The history of marriage in the United Kingdom


Before the Law on Marriages was adopted in 1753, which became the first legislative act in England and Wales that had anything to do with the institution of marriage, England was dominated by common-law marriage, which implied actual cohabitation and did not lead to any rights and responsibilities. After the adoption of the Marriage Act of 1753, only marriages committed by the Church of England, as well as Quaker and Jewish marriages, began to be recognized in England. This meant in fact that the followers of the Roman Catholic Church, members of various other religious communities, and atheists could not formally marry in England and Wales.

Representatives of various religious faiths and atheists had to change their religion in order to marry since persons whose marriage was not recognized as legal could not have the same rights and obligations as official spouses, which caused many serious problems, primarily with their legal status children who were considered illegitimate. Thus, the primary task of such legal regulation was to attract as many inhabitants of England as possible, mostly Catholics, into the fold of the Church of England. 

However, in 1836 the Law on Marriages in England was adopted, which legalized civil marriage, making marriage in England and Wales accessible to all those who previously weren’t able to marry. Thus, since 1837, registrar officials have been granted the right to register marriages with the registry offices. The current Marriage Law was adopted in 1949. This law provided for more detailed regulation in the field of marriage without changing the previously adopted methods of marriage. Not only the institution of marriage has changed but also dating in general, the laws are constantly adapted to realities of human life. There were  not all girls online dating  sites back in the day, no internet, no speed dating. 

So, marriage as a religious institution still exists in the UK today and is equal in its legal status to civil law marriage. According to the law, priests of the Anglican Church are obliged to marry if one of the future spouses lives in the territory of the local church parish, regardless of whether they are parishioners or not. In some cases, a special permit may be issued for the marriage of persons who do not live in the territory of the local church parish. 

Concerning marriage as a contract between spouses, such a marriage was never legislatively fixed in England; however, several specialists in the development of marriage standards in common law pointed out that marriage can be considered a civil contract. According to the most common opinion, marriage cannot be considered as a contract since, at the conclusion of marriage, it cannot be said that the parties agree on the conditions of marriage. The rules governing legal relations between spouses are prescribed by law and are mandatory. 

Marriage between a man and a woman has significant and unique consequences for their legal status. Historically, the legal consequences of marriage were considered as follows: When married, the husband and wife become a single person from the point of view of the law: that is, the woman’s being or legal existence is suspended for the duration of the marriage or at least mixed and combined with the existence of her husband: under whose wing, protection, and at whose expense she carries out her every action. On this principle of unity of the husband and wife’s lives, all the rights, duties, and restrictions on the rights that arose after the conclusion of the marriage depend. 

Thus, the doctrine of common law on the unity of husband and wife united spouses into one legal personality, and, as was essentially seen in judicial practice, this was a husband. This legal fiction generated a number of unusual consequences. In particular, the spouses, before the  legal reform of 1962, could not demand compensation for damage resulting from a tort committed by one of the spouses from each other in court. Besides, marriage led to significant restrictions on wives’ rights, in particular with regard to family property and domestic violence. 

At the end of the 19th and during the 20th centuries, the legal restrictions of wives and the power of the husband were largely abolished. Marriage, at least in theory, transformed from patriarchy under the law into an alliance of equal people. During the development of family law, the concept that spouses have obligations to support each other became popular. Obligations to support each other and live together; however, it is clear that such obligations cannot be enforced. 


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