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9 - Bigamy

from Part III - Happy Ever After?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 June 2020

Maria Luddy
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
Mary O'Dowd
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
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Summary

The ecclesiastical authorities in the Catholic and Presbyterian churches imposed penalties on members of their congregations who violated their respective institution’s regulations on bigamy and remarriage. Bigamy was, from 1634, a criminal offence which was prosecuted in the civil rather than the ecclesiastical courts. An individual who wished to invalidate a marriage in civil law on the grounds of bigamy was obliged to seek a solution in the civil courts. The destruction of court records means that we have little information on rates of bigamy in Ireland before the nineteenth century. Bigamy cases generally involved desertion and abandonment, states with practical and emotional consequences that must have been difficult for those who were deserted and for second spouses who must, in some cases at least, have also felt betrayed. The men and women who committed bigamy were on the whole servants, porters, labourers, soldiers and sailors. The majority were not improving their economic state, but perhaps tried instead to find some happiness in their lives. Bigamy pretended a marriage and thus respectability existed, and may have been preferable to open cohabitation. Bigamy reveals that over the period there was an amount of marital non-conformity, men and women interpreted the law on marriage flexibly to suit their own ends.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Bigamy
  • Maria Luddy, University of Warwick, Mary O'Dowd, Queen's University Belfast
  • Book: Marriage in Ireland, 1660–1925
  • Online publication: 04 June 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108645164.010
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  • Bigamy
  • Maria Luddy, University of Warwick, Mary O'Dowd, Queen's University Belfast
  • Book: Marriage in Ireland, 1660–1925
  • Online publication: 04 June 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108645164.010
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Bigamy
  • Maria Luddy, University of Warwick, Mary O'Dowd, Queen's University Belfast
  • Book: Marriage in Ireland, 1660–1925
  • Online publication: 04 June 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108645164.010
Available formats
×