View Full Version : Sold his wife for 1 guinea!!
04-04-2008, 1:20 AM
I came across an interesting news article reported in the Cambridgeshire Press about someone who is very possibly my ancestor. On 23rd May 1840, in the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech, a Charles Kisby attempted to auction his wife. The local police seargent intervened to stop the proceedings but Mrs K was later sold to a Thomas Foster for 1 guinea. This seems a handsome price indeed, it is a shame that such a valuable wife is not given a name in the report!!
The only Charles Kisby that I know of, extant in the area at the time, is my Greatx4 Uncle who was born in 1812 in nearby Whittlesey. he married a Maria Bass in 1831, had two children and then disappears without trace. It is a fair possibility that my Uncle is the Wisbech wife-seller! |blush|
Anyone else some across any wife sales. Whilst they do not seem to have been illegal (and used as an alternative to divorce) they certainly seem to have been viewed rather dimly by society.
04-04-2008, 2:13 AM
The National Archives has this information in their leaflet on divorce.
1. A Brief History of Divorce
Until the English Reformation in the sixteenth century, divorces were granted by the Pope. Death was otherwise the only agent for the permanent dissolution of a valid marriage. Marriages found on investigation to be invalid could be set aside (as was the case with Henry VIII).
By the end of the sixteenth century, England was the only European Protestant country to have no divorce law as such. There was no legal change in the law of divorce before 1857. Fundamental changes in practice and attitudes came only in the twentieth century.
In practice, however, various ways were found to separate partners in unsatisfactory marriages, through custom, the church courts, the common law courts and parliament. There were five main methods:
Desertion and Elopement
Declaration of Nullity, Annulment or Divorce a mensa at thoro by Church Courts
Full Divorce by Act of Parliament
4. Wife Sale
This was a form of public separation, which took place on market day, usually with pre-arranged bidding. Since many of these marriages were based on informal contract, this was a wholly different type of 'marriage' and 'divorce'. It fulfilled the function of providing a symbolic transfer of person, property and responsibility. There could even be a deed of sale, though survival of these is extremely rare. Reports of wife sales may occasionally be found in Quarter Sessions records held locally, and in local newspapers.
04-04-2008, 11:46 AM
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy tackles this subject.
From dim memories of my O Level studies; Hardy noted that it had been common in Dorset at one time but by the time the book was set the practice had all but died out.
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