Marie Antoinette Online Forum

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Author:  victoire [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:41 am ]
Post subject:  divorce?

It is my understanding that divorce was not legal/allowed in France until 1793, but that before then you could be "separated" from your spouse. What exactly did this mean? Was this a legal arrangement for spouses who did not want to /could not live together anymore? I am assuming the church still considered you married to your spouse... :?:

Author:  jimcheval [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

If you read French, there are period legal experts like Jousse and Denisart you can find on Gallica. Otherwise, here are two notes from Google Print: ... t&resnum=6 ... t&resnum=5

Basically, it was "separation of goods/wealth" (separation de biens) and had to be decided by law. Yes, it meant you could live separately and yes it meant you were still married (with all the rampant adultery in what was nominally a Catholic country, this may have had little practical effect, at least in regard to sex).

If the subject really, really interest you, there's a whole bibliography here:

Apparently, after Napoleon, divorce was again abolished, and so nineteenth century France wasn't so different in this regard. Dickens, whose own marriage disintegrated in later life, writes very bitterly in "Hard Times" about English restrictions on divorce.

Author:  victoire [ Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

Was there any stigma attached to being separated from your spouse, or would most people be pretty blase about it (as with infidelity)?

Thanks for the references!

Author:  jimcheval [ Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

If there was any stigma, I doubt it was of the same sort as infidelity would have been for those who still cared. For one thing, I think things had to get pretty bad before it was even granted legally. By that time, the rumor mill had probably already picked the couple clean. I'm sure it depended on the circumstances too. If the husband was a notorious drunk or violent, people might pity the wife, but if she was held sexually responsible in some way, perhaps it was regarded as embarrassing from that point of view.

It was not very common and I think people tried to avoid it for a number of reasons, not the least being that most were Catholic by some definition and no matter how decadent their unofficial life, preferred to preserve the outward forms (think of Spencer Tracy carrying on a long affair with Hepburn, but not wanting to leave his wife because... he was a good Catholic.)

Author:  victoire [ Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

Thanks again, Jim! :)

Author:  Drake Rlugia [ Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

Divorce is France was first granted in 1792; while in the ancien regime marriage was undissolvable and the best one could hope for was separation, the 1792 law made divorce quick and easy... I imagine it would probably be something like the divorce laws enacted by the Bolsheviks which made divorce easy and simple in Russia during the 1920s. The 1792 law allowed mutual divorce where no party would be named guilty, but also allowed one of the partner to sue the other for incompatibility of temperament. In divorce for a specific cause, grounds included immorality, cruelty, insanity, condemn ation for certain crimes, desertion for at least two years, or emigration. It was extremely liberal, even for modern standards; it made divorce available even to the poor, equally available throughout France, and without any sexual double-standards.

Under Napoleon divorce was still allowed but it was restricted after 1803. The Civil Code made it more restrictive: grounds for divorce were reduced to adultery, ill-treatment, and condemnation to certain degrading forms of punishment. Divorce by mutual consent now required the permission of family members, and the grounds of incompatibility were eliminated completely. It also reintroduced a double-standard; a man could divorce his wife for adultery, but a woman could only divorce her husband if he brought his mistress to live in their home. Under the Restoration, divorce was abolished in 1816, and legal seperation became the only thing couples could seek. Even the July Monarchy didn't restore divorce, several bills were introduced in the 1830s and 1840s, but were shot down each time in the Chamber of Peers. Even after 1848 and the establishment of the Second Republic, divorce was not reestablished in France until 1884, but it was a more conservative version of the Napoleonic Law.

Author:  victoire [ Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

Thank you for the additional information, Drake!

Author:  DavidParrish [ Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: divorce?

I'm here to share a sample with you. Click on to view the full version of an essay on divorce.

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