The peculiar marriage of Dr. Charles Oscar Murphy and Martha Price

27 Jun

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.

1871 Census

1871 Census


1881 Census It is interesting to note that Martha is not listed as his wife in this Census.

1881 Census
It is interesting to note that Martha is not listed as his wife in this Census.


1891 Census

1891 Census


1901 Census

1901 Census


Englad Probate Calendar

England Probate Calendar



Posted by on June 27, 2016 in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Murphy Family


Tags: , ,

5 responses to “The peculiar marriage of Dr. Charles Oscar Murphy and Martha Price

  1. cvanstudio5

    June 27, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I have no idea why this just came on my page in Facebook. But I find it pretty fascinating reading. But what I’m understanding here, Jessica, is that the first Dr. Joseph Murphy (my 3x grandfather and your 4x grandfather) had a brother, Dr. Charles Montgomery Murphy. He succumbed to the female wiles of the housekeeper, Martha Price, (or she succumbed to his wily ways) after working in his house for six years. I take it we don’t really know who the instigator of this union was unless you have more info which I’d love to hear about. All we know is that they both agreed this illicit arrangement worked wonderfully for the both of them…… For 23 years.

    Needless to say, whoever was responsible for this illicit union, the priests of the day were “A-OK” with it. They gave their blessings since this appears to be a couple of the community that the priests feel are doing what they can to live in that society.

    But the couple just couldn’t bring themselves to marry??!! For whatever reason….. Maybe she was already married (and abandoned by a crappy husband). Makes sense, but who knows… No divorces in that world without the man demanding it. But the Church gave this couples’ commitment credence in the eyes of the church.

    Then along comes our Uncle Charles Albert (my 2x uncle and your 3x uncle) who, after the death of Charles Montgomery (my 3x uncle and your 4x uncle), has to go and make sure this “gold digger” housekeeper, who has lived openly with Dr. Charles Montgomery for over 23 years as a couple in the eyes of the Church, isn’t trying to get anything she doesn’t deserve!!!!

    Sounds like today, when the new priest comes forward and now stands with the government and throws out the whole idea that this was a union of two people!

    Did she lose everything?? From the records I take it you feel she was still living in the same house and ok. So sad!!

    Could be a book…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jessica

      June 28, 2016 at 6:12 am

      It is an interesting story that is for sure! Martha did inherit everything.

      According to Aunt Maydell “When in distress, Aunt Martha wrote to the American relations about the digging up of a vivid past, they arose in her defense. Charlie was bombarded with letters. In fact his brothers called him a blackmailer and ordered his immediate return to the continent. As they were his bankers, he complied and harbored no malice. He never could understand why Aunt Martha took it so seriously. For Aunt Agnes’s (the sister of Dr. Joseph and Dr. Charles) soothing letters to Alexandria Park, she received at Aunt Martha’s death, the sum of $10,000. Charlie insisted he was their real benefactor, for the old lady wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Susan M. Buckner

        July 26, 2016 at 11:40 am

        I was so glad to read your, “Martha did inherit everything,” Jessica. I wOnDeReD about that fact after reading your post; fas as I’m concerned it would have been majorly “stinky” if she had nOt… (At the very least the marriage should have been cosidered common-law.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. cvanstudio5

    June 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    You are an amazing woman Jessica! Jackie and I, as cousins, are just sad we haven’t met you yet though we feel we know you. But know our doors are always open if you come this way. I speak for myself, but I’m sure if Jackie reads this she would say the same. You always have a place to “lay your head” when you and your family decide to make the trip home. You come from a long line here my Cousin.

    Not sure if it’s cousin once removed, but I’m sure you can tell me. You are schooling and uniting
    all of us!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jessica

      June 29, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Thank you so much! I am hoping in the next couple of years we can plan a vacation up that way. It will be wonderful to see you all!

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: