From the Marriage Act of 1753 to 1868
Marriage law as it operated in England from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries was a mess. The church asserted that mere verbal consent, freely given and duly witnessed, constituted a binding marriage. But common law denied the effect of the transmission of property of these private contracts. Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753 shut down the Fleet marriage market but it was unable to stop lower-class concubinage supported by local custom, flight over the border to Gretna Green, and the widespread practice of having the banns published not in the parish church of residence but in the safe anonymity of big urban churches. The root cause of the trouble was that there was no consensus within society at large about how a legally binding marriage should be implemented.
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