Marriage Laws in Regency England
Today, many of us take a host of legal rights for granted. We just assume that married women can own property, administer bank accounts, sign binding contracts. If they want to take someone to court to fight an injustice, they can. If they want to file for divorce, difficult at that may be emotionally, there’s no legal impediment. It’s a no brainer.
The situation was quite different in Regency England. Married women then had next to no legal rights. As soon as she married, a woman's existence was incorporated into that of her husband, giving her the status of a feme covert (English spelling of a medieval Anglo-Norman phrase meaning "covered woman"). She became, essentially, a non-person in the eyes of the law. As the legal authority Blackstone put it, “the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended.” Her husband gained control of all her property and income, including any future earnings she might make. She couldn’t get an education without her husband’s permission, and he could even prevent her from seeing their children. It was hardly a compensation that she couldn’t be sued (except in conjunction with her husband) and that any debts she ran up were his obligations. (As recently as 1972, two U.S. states allowed a wife to plead “obeying her husband's orders” as a defense in criminal court.)
ONCE AGAIN A BRIDE BY JANE ASHFORD – IN STORES FEBRUARY 2013
Widowhood has freed Charlotte Wylde from a demoralizing and miserable marriage. But when her husband’s intriguing nephew and heir arrives to take over the estate, Charlotte discovers she’s unsafe in her own home… Alec Wylde was shocked by his uncle’s untimely death, and even more shocked to encounter his uncle’s beautiful young widow. Now clouds of suspicion are gathering, and charges of murder hover over Charlotte’s head.
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