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Wife selling...

...in England was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage by mutual agreement.

After parading his wife with a halter around her neck, arm, or waist, a husband would publicly auction her to the highest bidder.

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by The old ways were bestreply 1102/24/2021

Why i am not surprised? Sounds so British

by The old ways were bestreply 102/23/2021

This is the plot of Hardy's "Mayor of Casterbridge," which was adapted by the BBC in the 1970s in a miniseries starring Alan Bates. I watched it when I was a kid. Bates was fantastic as a successful man whose life is destroyed when it comes out that he sold his wife (while very drunk) as a young man.

by The old ways were bestreply 202/23/2021

It's also in the Sharpe series, when Mrs. Sharpe starts slutting around, trying to trade up from Sharpe. Bad move, Jane.

by The old ways were bestreply 302/23/2021

"Mutual agreement". Sure, Jan.

by The old ways were bestreply 402/23/2021

Divorce then was expensive and difficult to obtain in GB, and since a wife was the unique and exclusive property of her husband....

by The old ways were bestreply 502/23/2021

I hated ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’.

by The old ways were bestreply 602/23/2021

I think this was done only by the "lower orders". It was traditional rather than legal, and would't be done to any woman whose family could afford a lawyer, or enough influence to make the husband suffer for it.

It turned up in a well-researched historical novel, a sailor buys a wife "All nice and legal like, halter put in me hand", and after a bit the wife runs off and goes back to the husband who sold her. It turns out that they made a living off of selling her when they needed money.

by The old ways were bestreply 702/23/2021

I threw in the saddle and two bales of hay. Still no takers!

by The old ways were bestreply 802/23/2021

How much for my wife. Very used and expensive, but still willing to put out. Loves tennis and gardening. I just need to trade her in for a newer model.

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by The old ways were bestreply 902/24/2021

That's how we got Hazel

by The old ways were bestreply 1002/24/2021

Until the Matrimonial Causes act of 1857, getting divorced in the UK was only for the wealthy. It was an incredibly difficult and expensive process that also required a certain amount of clout to make happen, as a literal act of Parliament needed to be passed. After that, you could divorce through the courts, but only men could divorce solely for infidelity. A wife wanting to divorce her husband had to prove infidelity AND cruelty or desertion. The law stayed that way until 1923, when women could sue for divorce solely because of adultery.

Wife selling was a lower-class solution to a common problem. Often, the man 'buying' the wife was already the wife's lover, and the husband 'selling' her was essentially announcing to everyone that he approved the split and was giving care of his wife to the man she wanted to be with. The old-fashioned equivalent of no-fault divorce. (which the UK still doesn't have, BTW).

by The old ways were bestreply 1102/24/2021
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