The fictional evidence is supported by the historical record. In 1670, the first divorce was granted in England, by private Act of Parliament, to a Lord Roos, on the grounds of his wife’causes for divorce essay adultery. Jane Addison was the first woman granted a divorce, in 1801 and again by private Act of Parliament, on the grounds of her husband’s incestuous adultery with her sister.
1,000 was a conservative estimate, if no opposition was encountered. The Matrimonial Causes Act did away with the three-step process, creating a Court of Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, which could also rule on child custody cases, and establishing the grounds for divorce: a husband must prove that his wife had committed adultery, while a wife must prove that her husband had committed aggravated adultery. He is, in one sense, correct, since the grounds for divorce were not changed, nor was the sexual double standard abolished. What follows is a highly condensed version of that story.
In 1850, the Prime Minister, Lord Russell, appointed a Royal Commission to evaluate the state of marriage and divorce law. The Divorce Bill of 1854 was introduced into the House of Lords by Lord Chancellor Cranworth on June 13. The bill proposed to remove divorce a mensa et thoro from the ecclesiastical courts and divorce a vinculo matrimonii from Parliament, turning the former over to Chancery and the latter over to a new divorce court. Cranworth withdrew the Divorce Bill less than a month later only to reintroduce it in 1856 with the same basic purposes as the initial bill. But between July of 1854, when he withdrew the bill, and May of 1856, when he reintroduced it, several things had occurred which radically altered the character of the debates that ensued over the 1856 bill.
So exactly what legal event took place on 28 August 28 1857 when the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act received the royal assent? Chipping Away at Coverture: The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net.
One Flesh,’ One Person, and the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act. Dickens and the Rise of Divorce: The Failed-Marriage Plot and the Novel Tradition. Wives and Property: Reform of the Married Women’s Property Law in Nineteenth-Century England. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1983. In Contempt: Nineteenth-Century Women, Law, and Literature.
Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy. Divorce in England: A Centenary Study. A Letter to the Queen on Lord Chancellor Cranworth’s Marriage and Divorce Bill. Courtship and Marriage in Victorian England.
Putting Asunder: A History of Divorce in Western Society. Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property. Lady Worsley’s Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce.