Chapter

Women, marriage and statute law in Ireland

Deborah Wilson

in Women, Marriage and Property in Wealthy Landed Families in Ireland, 1750-1850

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780719077982
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703328 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719077982.003.0002
Women, marriage and statute law in Ireland

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Clandestine marriages presented a problem for the Irish elite, and, in a bid to protect their property interests, this led the Irish parliament to introduce statutory measures to intervene in the previously private act of marriage. This chapter explores this unprecedented intervention in the marriage contract, which declared some marriages legally invalid, within the context of the development of statute law on marriage in the seventeenth century in Ireland. The problems of coverture, from the perspective of the Irish political elite, were the impact it had on the protection of protestant property interests. This is illustrated by the problem of the abduction of heiresses in Ireland. In the history of abduction, women feature as victims of their gender and legal status. The reputations, and sometimes the lives, of propertied women were endangered by the opportunism of socially and economically marginalised lower gentry, who regarded abduction, although illegal and often violent, as ‘strategies through which property could be gained’.

Keywords: clandestine marriages; statute law; Irish elite; marriage contract; Irish parliament

Chapter.  8858 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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