Marriage Act 1823 Whilst Lord Hardwicke’s Act effectively put a stop to clandestine marriages in England, it caused an almost greater social evil. For the new law was so stringent and the consequence of failing to observe it the avoidance of the marriage so harsh, that many couples deliberately evaded it by getting married in Scotland. This was particularly the case when one Of the parties was a minor and parental consent was withheld; so that the 70 years following the passing of the Act saw an increasing number of ‘Gretna Green’ marriages. It was in an attempt to prevent this that Parliament in 1823 repealed Lord Hardwicke’s Act and replaced it by a new Marriage Act.
So far as the positive directions of the earlier Act were concerned, viz the necessity of the solemnization of the marriage in the church of the parish in which one of the parties resided after the publication Of banns or the grant of a licence. they were re-enacted with only a few minor alterations of detail; where the new Act differed largely was in the effect of non-compliance with these directions. A marriage was now to be void only if both parties knowingly and wilfully intermarried in any other place than the church wherein the banns might be published, or without the due publication of banns or the obtaining of a licence. or if they knowingly and vvi(/illly consented to the solemnization of the marriage by a person not in holy orders. In all other cases the marriage was to be valid notwithstanding any breach in the prescribed formalities. But if the marriage of a minor, whose parent or guardian had not given his consent, had been procured by fraud, the Attorney-General, on the relation of the parent or guardian, might sue for the forfeiture of any property acquired as a result of the marriage by the party who had perpetrated the fraud.
This Act remained the principal Act governing the formalities of marriage in England for over 125 years. Naturally, it was greatly amended during that time. Thus, jurisdiction to make an Order dispensing with parental consent was extended to County courts and magistrates’ courts;lY and in 1930 it became possible for the parties to be married in a church which was the regular place of worship of one of them even though it was the parish church of neither. I • But two Acts introduced principles which were so radically different from those of the Acts Of 1753 and 1 823 that they must be mentioned separately.