A Staffordshire New Marriage Act Figure,
Attributed to the Patriotic Group,
The figure group stands on a square base with a single red line encircling it. The group with a central bocage and yellow plaque inscribed with the New Marriage Act and a couple to one side raised on a green ledge and on the other a bewigged parson holding the bible in his right hand with a young boy beside him, hands held in prayer. A lantern sits at his feet.
The plaque on the figure reads THE NEW MARRIAGE ACT. JOHN FRILL AND ANN BOKE AGED 21 THAT IS RIGHT SAYS THE PARSON AMEN SAYS THE CLERK, although glaze obscured.
Dimensions: 7 1/2 inches tall x 3 1/2 inch square base.
See: Staffordshire Figures, 1780-1840: Volume 4, Myrna Schkolne, Page 15, for similar figures.
The figure above is referred to as The New Marriage Act and it was made to celebrate the passage of legislation that reinforced marriage. For centuries, cumbersome English marriage law made couples jump through a series of hoops to get wed. These persnickety requirements made marriage difficult, and they also made it quite easy to make a mistake. If any of the numerous rules was not adhered to, the marriage was not legal. This meant that either party then had a ready-made excuse to nullify the marriageand annulment might happen many years (and many children) later. Even if both parties were quite happy to have their marriage end, annulment had disastrous consequences for their children who unexpectedly found themselves declared illegitimate! By 1823, it was time for parliament to act.
The case that brought Englands problematic marriage law to parliaments attention concerned the young Earl of Belfast. On the threshold of the earls marriage, his uncle stepped forward, disputing the earls legitimacy and declaring himself heir presumptive to what the earl had thought was his inheritance. The basis for this challenge was that the earls parents, the Marquis and Marchioness of Donegal, had married without the parental consent that the law mandated. The earls noble marriage was postponed while the marquis and marchioness tried every legal maneuver to establish the validity of their marriage and their childrens legitimacy. When all failed, parliament legislated the New Marriage Act as a remedy. Society expected marriage to last for life, so the Marriage Act of 1823 made it no longer possible to annul a marriage because of a petty violation of the marriage law.
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