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Thread: Wives and Mistresses in Eighteenth-century Scotland

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    Wives and Mistresses in Eighteenth-century Scotland

    Perhaps of interest to some.

    Wives and Mistresses in
    Eighteenth-century Scotland
    LEAH LENEMAN

    University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

    ABSTRACT Throughout the eighteenth century and beyond, under Scottish law mutual consent was the only thing required to constitute an irregular but legally binding marriage. If either party denied that a marriage existed it was open to the other to raise a declarator of marriage action before Edinburgh Commissary Court and provide evidence – for example, letters, or verbal acknowledgements – which would enable the court to decree that a legal marriage existed. Witnesses’ perceptions of disputed relationships emerge from the records. Less than a third of the women whose cases were contested succeeded in proving a marriage, and accounts of cases in which women were decreed to be wives and those in which they were decreed to be mistresses reveal what a fine line there was between the two.


    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/...12029900200224
    Paper Trail: 43.8% English, 29.7% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, 6.25% German, 6.25% Italian & 1.5% French. Or: 86% British Isles, 6.25% German, 6.25% Italian & 1.5% French.
    LDNA: 88.1% British Isles (59.7% English, 27% Scottish & 1.3% Irish), 5.9% Europe South (Aegian 3.4%, Tuscany 1.3%, Sardinia 1.1%), 4.4% Europe NW (Scandinavia) & 1.6% Europe East, (Mordovia).
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    I have just about every one of the Carolingian and Capetian consorts in my family tree according to Geni: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ingian_dynasty

    They reuse images of one person to the next on Geni, probably figure no one will notice. No telling what they really looked like; so far the prettiest one I've got in my tree is Anastasia Monomachos: https://www.geni.com/people/Anastasi...00003858589577

    anastasia.jpg

    Personal opinion, of course, but that sure is one pretty ancestor.
    "Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear..."

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    If someone ended up in more than one marriage because of this, were charges of bigamy brought?

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    Quote Originally Posted by C J Wyatt III View Post
    If someone ended up in more than one marriage because of this, were charges of bigamy brought?
    Another example from my Geni do-it-yourself tree, https://www.geni.com/people/Dermot-I...00002043192150

    Dermot II's children were birthed by "Unknown mistress/es of Dermot mac Murchada" plus being partnered with Derbforgaill, though they have no listed children there. That's "mistresses" plural, so, not only does Geni not name a mother for Dermot's children, they have multiple un-named mothers to choose from, which is pretty much a physical impossibility as far as womb-sharing goes.

    My guess is no chance of infidelity or bigamy charges in those days or the king would just boil the accuser in oil or something. Or here we see the beginnings of Latter Day Saints, though that thought would bring out the hot cauldrons, too.

    And another consort from my tree, speaking of Scotland. Matilda of Scotland, queen consort (accent on the "consort" part): https://www.geni.com/people/Matilda-...00000771167458

    Or I'm misunderstanding the archaic meaning of "consort" in English aristocracy. Here wives are listed as "consorts" even though being married:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...royal_consorts

    Maybe just the French were different.
    "Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by curiousII View Post
    Or I'm misunderstanding the archaic meaning of "consort" in English aristocracy. Here wives are listed as "consorts" even though being married:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...royal_consorts
    Albert was acknowledged as Victoria's Consort. That became an official title.
    And in previous times the term "mistress" meant a married woman and was a respected title.
    One needs to be cautious. Many terms change meaning over time.
    Or can mean different things at the one time due to different usage.
    For example, the word mistress may perhaps sometimes have effectively been used with air quotes around it.
    We can't see those, but people at the time who knew the people and the situation would understand what was meant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMcB View Post
    Perhaps of interest to some.

    Wives and Mistresses in Eighteenth-century Scotland
    LEAH LENEMAN
    Another work relevant in part is "The sinners of Cramond", by Alison Hanham, [publisher]John Donald, Edinburgh, 2005.
    This looks at records for a parish just west of Edinburgh and the account of those brought before the church elders for examination and censure.
    Many of their offenses were those of fornication, or occasionally, adultery.

    There could be a tension between the forms of marriage recognised in law by the courts, such as hand-fasting - agreeing to marry in front of witnesses - and the church, which recognised only marriages made before a minister.
    Thus marital status and that of offspring could depend on the view of those looking on.
    And the view of the church was combined with their responsibility for welfare of the poor.
    They wanted a father to provide financially for his child(ren) and the women that bore* them.
    Church elders were often those who contributed most financially to the running of the parish - and to welfare.
    The records of Cramond were written by those who did not believe in other forms of marriage, so they are almost never mentioned in that book above.

    *And be ready for irregular verbs. They may have disappeared in recent decades, but they were certainly around in the past.
    Last edited by Saetro; 09-24-2019 at 07:01 AM.

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