I remember reading about my Uncle Charles (son of Joseph) going to Alexandria Park in Manchester, England after the death of his Uncle Charles and questioning his wife Martha within an inch of her life about the legitimacy of her marriage and her inheritance. I never really paid attention to it until the other day when I started looking into my 4x Great Uncle Dr. Charles Oscar Murphy. What I found; well let’s start at the beginning.
Charles Oscar Murphy was born around 1831 in Ireland to James Montgomery Murphy and Eleanor “Ellen” McOscar. He is the brother of my 3x Great Grandfather Dr. Joseph Murphy.
When Charles was young Joseph paid for him to attend medical school then set him up in private practice in England. Where he remained when Joseph came to the United States.
Around 1870 Martha Price came to work for him as his housekeeper.
In 1876 Dr. Murphy proposed marriage, he was advised to fully consider the matter by Father Birch but he told Father Birch that he had already done so. He stated the he had spoken with Martha and the two went down on their knees and in the most solemn manner invoked the presence of the Lord, at the time promising to be faithful to each other until death. Father Birch told him that it was a valid marriage in the eyes of the church.
For the next 23 years Charles and Martha lived as husband and wife. Keeping in mind however, that there was no license, no registrar, no church ceremony. Circumstances arouse (I am unsure of what circumstances) that found in necessary to clearly establish the marriage. Now according to articles I have found in 1882 a certificate was given to Charles from Canon Sheehan, who was the acting Vicar-General and Mgr. Hill, secretary to the Bishop of Slaford, in the following terms:
“I hereby certify that Dr. Charles Oscar Murphy, of 116 Oxford Street, Manchester, was married to Martha Price, of the same address, on the 25th day of September 1876; in faith of which I hereby append my hand and seal.”
In 1897 the matter of the validity of their marriage came up again. This time Charles was advised to lay the matter before the court, as the marriage, although may be perfectly valid according to the Church of Rome, was not a good marriage according to the law of England. A petition was presented to the Court, asking for a declaration under the Legitimacy Declaration Act that his marriage was legal and valid. Sir Francis Jeune tried the case.
Cardinal Vaughan testified before the court. He testified he knew nothing of the certificate until three weeks prior to the testimony. He also stated that the certificate was not a proper marriage certificate as the witnesses were not mentioned. He had no doubt that Canon Sheehan considered the parties were validly married according to conscience, and he might have given it for the protection of the woman. He had never heard of anything of the kind before, and it was certainly not in accordance with the practice of the Church.
Sir Jeune stated he had no difficulty in determining the case. The marriage was clearly invalid according to English law. He however had no doubt of the honest and sincerity of Mrs. Murphy and Dr. Murphy’s intentions. However, according to him sufficient care had not been taken. With regard to the certificate he would be sorry to think that such certificates were often used, and was prepared to accept this as a unique transaction, because such a certificate would certainly be taken as the certificate of a valid marriage.
In conclusion it was stated the essence of marriage is that the parties should make a contract in the present to become husband and wife. The man and the woman administer the Sacrament to one another. The presence of a priest or other witnesses is not necessary to the validity of the marriage. Such a marriage as that of Dr. Murphy, in which the couple simply knelt down in the drawing-room alone and pledged themselves as husband and wife, though ecclesiastically irregular and unlawful, was perfectly valid and binding.
In countries in which the decrees of the Council of Trent are in force, the law of the Church in this respect has been seriously modified, and in any of those countries Dr. Murphy’s marriage would have been invalid as well as irregular. That is was not valid according to English law we should have thought was sufficiently obvious. In Scottish law, however, such a marriage is perfectly legal, but a decree of declaration of the Supreme Court is necessary.
This is the story of my 4x great Uncle and his wife Martha.
The marriage never was legalized in the court, however it appears does appear from here on out it was recognized as legal. There is not much else known about Martha and Charles.
It is interesting to note that Martha is not listed as his wife in this Census.
England Probate Calendar