A short and surprisingly lively account of the bewildering rules concerning marriage in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland over the past millenium. Written to help genealogists, the details also are useful to writers trying to figure out whether English people who married at sea were legally wed, why people traveled to Scotland to marry (to avoid taxes as well as family, it turns out), and much more. Hand-fasting, rape-marriage, marriage-by-capture, elopement, common-law marriage, penny weddings, proxy marriage, cermonialized marriage, companionate marriage.
I was surprised to find the rules had changed so much, and often back and forth, even into the 18th and 19th centuries. And it wasn't until *1950* that adopted children in England and Wales had the same legal rights as natural-born children!
Chapman cites so many times when a couple whose marriage was fully legal under one set of laws (esp. around Reformation) could potentially be considered null or even illegal later, with serious harm to their now-illegitimate children. And heaven help you if you didn't follow the exact rules in force at the time you were wed. Chapter Three is even titled, "Truly Married? - Interpreting the Laws." One favorite line: "Moreover, an irregular or a regular marriage could be valid or invalid and could also be clandestine."
100 pages of thoughtful stuff, and many story ideas. Makes me curious about the rest of the "Chapman Records Cameos" series.