On 5 June 1789, at Westminster-Hall, a case was brought by a son against his father in Standen versus Standen. If the son did not prevail, his father’s marriage to his mother would be discredited and the son would be “ruined and undone.” The case began when the son, Charles, produced the registry and showed that the entry of marriage had been made and signed by the clergyman.
Charles’s parents had married in 1754 at the Savoy church and the marriage had also been registered as a “complete marriage de facto.” However, this fact did not stop the father from arguing that after the marriage “had been solemnized, agreeable to the forms of the church of England, that it was to be beat down, after the space of twenty years, because the banns were not published three times; but only twice.”
To prove that the banns were only published twice, testimony rested upon one individual. And who was that individual? The father. Furthermore, by testifying to the fact that they had not been published appropriately, the father was attempting to bastardize his own son and impeach his marriage in order that “he might prevent an indictment being preferred against him for felony.” It seems that the father had since married another woman and wanted to avoid charges of bigamy.
Charles’s attorney, a man named Erskine, stated that he would prove the son’s position and disprove the father’s claims. Erskine also noted that he would show that the father cohabited with another woman. Moreover, the attorney alleged:
“[T]he plaintiff was acknowledged to be his legitimate child, and … that the banns of the marriage had been published in church by [the father’s] own direction.”
Presiding over the case was Lord Kenyon who noted:
“[I]f he was called to decide whether the publication of banns for three Sundays was necessary or not, he should be bound to say that it was necessary, according to the opinion he entertained of the meaning of the Marriage.”
So, Lord Kenyon pointed out that the real question became “whether there was a publication of banns agreeable to [the] act.” Lord Kenyon also noted that as the marriage was conducted 35 years ago and that the minister must have known that he would incur severe penalties if he did not publish the banns properly according to the Marriage Act. Moreover, Lord Kenyon noted that the father came into court “stating his own infamy, and wish[ing] the Jury to believe that all the Minister had put in this register was absolutely false.”
After having heard the evidence, Lord Kenyon told the jury they must judge the veracity of the father’s testimony.
“[I]f notwithstanding the presumption that arose, from cohabitation, &c. they believed it, however hard they must find a verdict for the defendant. But the Jury would weigh and consider with extreme caution the evidence of such a witness.”
Lord Kenyon then concluded his remarks stating:
“[I] would not decide the smallest right that belonged to mankind on the testimony of such a witness, much more so the rights of this man, of which if he were to be robbed, he would be deprived of all connections, of all descendable blood, and colateral relations.”
Therefore, he advised them “with great earnestness” to reject the father’s testimony. The jury must have agreed because they immediately found in favor of the son.
- —, in Saunders’s News-Letter, and Daily Advertiser, 12 June 1789
- “Law Case,” in Sheffield Register, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, & Nottinghamshire Universal Advertiser, 13 June 1789