Postscript: Assessing Public Fame and Mapping the Matrimonial Maze

  • Loreen L. Giese


In addition to the evidence that deponents offered regarding whether two people were married discussed in chapter 4, deponents from several matrimonial enforcement suits pointed to public fame, literally public rumor, as a final piece of evidence. Michael M. Sheehan’s comments on the role of publica vox et fauna in a fourteenth-century Ely register apply to the role of public fame in the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century London Consistory Court depositions: “Couples used this common opinion about them as an argument for the existence and the validity of the contract they sought to defend” (“Formation” 249). To cite a typical example from these London records, William Lanam testified that “the publique speche and fame in Cliff was and is that Henry Jackson and Jane Brown wear and are Contracted togither Lawfully” (DL/C/215/11v). As this quotation indicates, this category of evidence points to a more widespread knowledge of a union beyond the participating parties or witnesses and further suggests that individual consent was the basis of marriage. In addition, the use of this term in these records can be seen to be suggestive of our own behaviors and practices of examining early modern English marriage.


Common Opinion Social Standing Literary Text Early Modern Period Final Piece 
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© Loreen L. Giese 2006

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  • Loreen L. Giese

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