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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

4 - Divorce in the Post-Reform Era of 1857–1922: ‘Like Diamonds, Gambling, and Picture-Fancying, a Luxury of the Rich’


Although the sexual double standard endured in the divorce court, parliamentary divorce remained lengthier, costlier and more socially and gender-biased. This chapter examines the profile of Irish parliamentary divorce petitioners and legal critics of the system. Successive attempts to reform Irish divorce provision failed. The personal trials that the lack of legislative uniformity in the UK caused was underscored by the Yelverton case which invoked Scottish, Irish and English law and partially inspired a royal commission to consider extending the jurisdiction of the divorce court in 1861. The commission recommended the unification of divorce provision throughout the UK, but this was never implemented. A further royal commission considered the laws of marriage from 1865 and recommended that divorce laws should be unified throughout the UK, but like the earlier calls for Irish divorce reform, this was never enacted: Ireland remained legislatively stranded. The O’Shea divorce in 1891, citing Irish nationalist leader Parnell as co-respondent, also drew the association between morality and divorce ever tighter and the full force of moral Catholicism was unleashed for the first time.