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Marriage Act

Marriage Act, 1753. Sometimes known as Lord Hardwicke's Act (26 Geo. II c. 33), this was a fundamental reform of English marriage law. Before 1753 a free exchange of vows between a couple could create a perfectly valid marriage. This led to much abuse, notably the practice whereby most Londoners married secretly, and often drunkenly, in private chapels near the Fleet prison. The Act stated that only weddings conducted in church, according to the rubric of the English Book of Common Prayer, and with banns called, were valid. Since only Jews and quakers were exempted from the scope of the Act, dissenting marriages were disallowed. Not until the Dissenters' Marriage Act of 1836 were they permitted to marry in their own chapels or by a civil contract.

Jeremy Boulton

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