The Clandestine Marriage

  • Matthew J. Kinservik
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Of Elizabeth Chudleigh’s two weddings, the first was by far the more romantic. It took place under cover of darkness, late on a summer night in a remote family chapel in the Hampshire countryside. She was twenty-three, the groom was twenty, still a minor in the eyes of the law. Later in life, she claimed that it was all “such a scrambling shabby business” and “so much incomplete” that she doubted whether the ceremony constituted a legal wedding at all.1 But that was the cynical voice of age speaking about an event that had proved to be a disastrously bad decision. The wedding was rushed and secret, but to the young couple those elements only added to the excitement of a clandestine marriage, a secret love match that defied social conventions and the desires of their parents, but one that was perfectly legal—and binding.


Eighteenth Century Young Couple Young Lady Marriage Ceremony Early Eighteenth Century 
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Chapter 2

  1. 1.
    Quoted in Lewis Melville [pseud.], Trial of the Duchess of Kingston (Edinburgh and London: William Hodge and Company, Ltd., 1927), 251.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Claire Gervat, Elizabeth: The Scandalous Life of the Duchess of Kingston (London: Century, 2003), 24.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Quoted in Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), 55.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    E. Cother, A Serious Proposal for Promoting Lawful and Honourable Marriage, 2nd ed. (London: 1751).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Bernard Mandeville, Pretty Doings in a Protestant Nation (London, 1734), 7.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    For a fuller explanation of spousal law and other forms of marriage, see Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 189–218.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    All quotations are from Thomas Onslow, The L-d’s Protest against the Marriage Contract (London, 1733), 5.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Frances Burney, The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, vol. 1, 1768–1773, ed. Lars E. Troide (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988), 18.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    For fuller discussions of marriage law in eighteenth-century England, see Lawrence Stone, Road to Divorce: England 1530–1987 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Ingram, Church Courts; andGoogle Scholar
  10. R. B. Outhwaite, Clandestine Marriage in England, 1500–1850 (London: The Hambledon Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Sir Tanfield Leman, Baronet, Matrimony Analysed (London: 1755), 9.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    Jean-Bernard Le Blanc, Letters on the English and French Nations (London, 1747), 60–61.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    Henry Gaily, Some Considerations upon Clandestine Marriages (London, 1750), 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Matthew J. Kinservik 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Kinservik

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