Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

6 - Divorce in Court, 1857–1922


Those of Irish domicile or lacking a permanent home in England or Wales were barred from the divorce court, but parliamentary divorce’s noxious reputation encouraged some Irish petitioners to develop means to circumvent its expense and publicity. Various strategies such as renting a house and paying rates in England were deployed to access the divorce court. This chapter samples Irish petitioners who divorced in court both legally and surreptitiously. A covert court divorce could invalidate second marriages, bastardise issue and contest marriage settlements. The late-nineteenth-century court-based divorces of domiciled Irishmen Colonel Sinclair and Colonel Malone were the most widely publicised of these cases. The legitimacy of their divorces was questioned, and problems arose regarding marriage settlements. The court was therefore increasingly rigorous about testing domicile; a rule that all divorce court petitioners would have to swear English domicile and falsification would bar the proceedings was introduced. However, although domicile was more stringently tested, Irish cases were presented to the divorce court with an increased regularity in the early twentieth century.