Is royal marriage legal?/Königliche Hochzeit legal?

Guardian article.

Die Guardian berichtet über rechtliche Probleme mit der Charles-Camilla-Hochzeit. Nicht nur muss bei einer Zivilzeremonie die Öffentlichkeit eingelassen werden – auch wenn die Hochzeit nicht im Standesamt stattfindet – sondern es ist jetzt nicht mal klar, ob Mitglieder der königlichen Familie überhaupt standesamtlich getraut werden dürfen.

Zum Eherecht: in England (ich will hier nichts über Schottland behaupten) gibt es zwei Formen der Trauung – kirchlich und “civil”. Technisch bedeutet kirchlich nur anglikanisch, während Trauungen in anderen Kirchen oder Religionen als zivil, also standesamtlich gelten. Weniger technisch gesehen, heiratet man in einer Kirche oder einem Standesamt, nicht (wie in Deutschland) immer im Standesamt und manchmal zusätzlich noch in der Kirche.

Die Guardian zitiert Dr. Stephen Cretney, der Autor von einem der bekanntesten Studientexte zu Familienrecht und auch von einer Geschichte des Familienrechts im 20. Jahrhundert.

bq. Preparations for the wedding had already taken a farcical turn yesterday after Dr Cretney and other experts raised the question of whether the marriage was actually legal under existing law. Dr Cretney argues that members of the royal family have no power under marriage law to contract civil marriages.

bq. He called on the government to introduce a one-sentence bill authorising royals to marry in civil ceremonies to remove any doubts about the legality of the marriage.

bq. Doubts voiced by Dr Cretney centre on the 1949 Marriage Act, a consolidation of the law on marriage. The earlier Marriage Act of 1836, which allowed civil marriages in England and Wales for the first time, said nothing in it “shall extend to the marriage of any of the royal family.”

bq. The 1949 act worded the provision differently, saying that nothing in that act should affect “any law or custom relating to the marriage of members of the royal family”.

bq. Lord Falconer told the Mail on Sunday that this meant there was no need for royals to post banns or obtain a licence, but left them free to marry in a civil ceremony.

7 thoughts on “Is royal marriage legal?/Königliche Hochzeit legal?

  1. I find it difficult to understand what all the fuss is about, including the hostility in the happy-clappy wing of the Church of England. After all, wasn’t the CoE established in the first place to allow the monarch to divorce and remarry?

    Or is that just the Presbyterian in me coming out after all those years?

    We also had to check exactly what morganatic means, BTW, and found a good explanation in the 1947 Shorter OED.

  2. Robin: as far as I’m concerned, it’s interesting that after all this to and fro the royal family may be prohibited by law from entering into a civil marriage and they don’t know it. Apparently they decided at the time of Princess Margaret / Peter Townsend that she could not marry in a civil ceremony. Of course they can quickly pass a bill to change the law. As for the C of E attitude, far be it from me to have an opinion.
    You saw my entry on morganatic, did you? I had looked in the OED, but it didn’t say much that Quinion didn’t.

  3. Yes, I imagine the OED entry hasn’t changed that much over the years, maybe it’s even better now.

    I wonder if many modern marriage contracts count as morganatic, i.e. where either husband or wife is barred under the terms of the contract from
    inheriting the other’s estate, or from being entitled to a share in case of divorce, that sort of thing? Or does there really have to be some sort of caste system involved? Surely it can’t apply in Germany any more, where of course the aristocracy was dismantled long ago (in theory at least, of course).

    Maybe C+C will follow Anne and get married in Scotland after all – I’m sure he’s a member of the CoS.

  4. I don’t think it can apply in Germany now. Apart from anything else, the wife has to get something. I see morganatic marriages as something relating to royal families rather than those marriage contracts. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the mistress of a married man.
    You think Charles is a member of the Church of Scotland? I suppose there’s some logic in that. I have never thought of him as such.

    Robin, I’m getting a guilty conscience at encouraging you to spend time discussing something you regard as ridiculous.

  5. Margaret, I certainly don’t find it ridiculous, and it’s a welcome relief from arguing with German corporates about whether their pension provisions are “funded” or not (they’re not).

    BTW, I don’t suppose you know of any case where another member of the royal family has been married in a civil marriage? If that were so, wouldn’t there be a precedent?

  6. I don’t know about this. No doubt the papers will tell us shortly if there has been. I was surprised they even considered it with Princess Margaret – but I suppose she did have the choice and was just bludgeoned into not marrying him.
    As to whether there would be a precedent, I suppose it depends how clear the statute is. I haven’t looked at it. If it says on the face of the statute that it doesn’t apply to the royal family, I can’t imagine a court decision could change that law. The decision would just have been bad law. If the statute were unclear, and one of the higher courts interpreted it to allow royal family members to marry in a register office, that might be a precedent. But you aren’t referring to a court case, just to a marriage. No, that would be a void marriage, void ex tunc I think. The children would retrospectively be illegitimate. This could be fun. (Going to bed)

  7. Journalists seem to be making a hash of the story, referring to my family-law textbook-hero somwhat unkindly as Dr. Creteny. I won’t mention the offending newspaper.

    Also, the register-office discussion is coloured by the British people’s attitude towards job-seeker Camilla who has steadfastly refused to comment to the mass media on anything or in any country.

    If she is one day to become the Queen of us loyal British subjects at home or abroad and make public speeches, then let us at least hear what she sounds like.

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