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Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925: when matrimony wasn’t always holy

From dowries of prized bullocks to nuptials performed by freelance ‘couple beggars’, the institution was seldom as simple as traditionalists might imagine, writes Kim Bielenberg

History

Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925

Maria Luddy and Mary O'Dowd

Cambridge University Press, 460 pages, paperback, €30.90; e-book £20

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Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925 by Maria Luddy and Mary O'Dowd

Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925 by Maria Luddy and Mary O'Dowd

Until ‘death do us part’:   a postcard depicting a 19th century Irish  village wedding

Until ‘death do us part’: a postcard depicting a 19th century Irish village wedding

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Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925 by Maria Luddy and Mary O'Dowd

In the words of Shakespeare, the course of true love never did run smooth - and the same is true of Irish marriage.

Traditionalists may look back fondly to an age when marriages supposedly followed a simpler course. Couples met up by whatever means. They may or may not have fallen in love, but they tended to avoid sex until they married - and the ceremony happened in a church, presided over by a priest.

They stayed together until "death do us part" as a God-fearing monogamous couple, and there was really no other way out of it if the relationship did not work out.