'The marriage day was fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came but not the bridegroom...'
While Dickens' embittered spinster Miss Havisham stopped all her clocks on her wedding day and 'never since looked upon the light of day', the reality was much brighter for thousands of jilted women. The real Miss Havisham's didn't mope in faded wedding finery – they hired lawyers and struck the first 'no-win, no fee' deals to sue for breach of promise.
From the 1790s right up to the 1960s, jilted women (and sometimes rejected suitors) employed a range of tactics to bring false lovers to book. Denise Bates uncovers over 1,000 forgotten cases of women who found very different endings to their fictional counterparts:
Mary Ann Smith forged evidence of a courtship to entrap an Earl. Catherine Kempsall shot the man who denied their engagement, Gladys Knowles was awarded a record £10,000 in damages by a jury in 1890, Daisy Mons discreetly negotiated a £50,000 settlement from a Lord
Based on original research, this social history of breach of promise shows that when men behaved badly hell had no fury like a woman scorned!
As featured on Woman's Hour, Daily Express, Irish Mail on Sunday, Sheffield Star, Discover Your History, Eastern Daily Press, Portsmouth News, Norwich Evening News and Hull Daily Mail
Examining real cases of breach of promise, the author gives us a fascinating slice of social history, and an insight into a bygone moral code.Cheshire Life
This is a fascinating piece of social history, which will be of great interest to many family historians. 'Breach of Promise to Marry' gets the 'Your Family Tree Magazine's' Seal of Approval!Your Family Tree
An engrossing look at a forgotten law that affected our ancestors. What emerges is also a social history of marriage and marriage laws, so important for understanding the period in which your ancestors lived.Family Tree Magazine
This book's stories of either the man or woman being wronged are fascinating...there's an incredibly detailed amount of information on the law that can't fail to interest history buffs and legal eagles alike.Northern Echo
Bates tells the stories of some interesting cases from 1790s until the 1960s.Bookseller
Breach of promise was a law in force between 1780 and 1970 under which a jilted man or woman could seek damages after a broken engagement, yet today it's largely forgotten. Denise Bates' book 'Breach of Promise to Marry' sheds light on this little known law and explores the different ways in which it was used to claim for compensation after a seduction led to pregnancy; to exact revenge and financially ruin an ex-suitor; to illegally extort money in order to set up home with another lover; or simply to seek recompense for 'hurt feelings'.
Meticulously researched, this book is packed with detailed case studies and information from contemporary sources such as newspapers. What's clear is that the road to matrimony was fraught with difficulty and it was a foolish man who proposed marriage and then broke off the engagement. 'Breach of Promise to Marry' is a fascinating read for anyone interested in social history.
by Michelle Higgs, 21st April 2014
to post your own review and get a £1 voucher for every review you submit!
Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors
Our Price: £14.99
Offer Price: £12.00
About Denise Bates
Denise Bates read Modern History at St Anne’s College, Oxford, specialising in the period 1815 – 1914. A Chartered Accountant by profession, her interests now relate to the voluntary and community sector, research and writing. Denise has written articles on a variety of topics for national magazines and gives talks related to her topics of historical research.
More titles by Denise Bates