Skip to content

Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy’s Marriage License

April 17, 2012

Today we would like to show you an item from the Museum’s collection that is not normally on show, but which is appropriate for the Museum’s theme this year which is At Home with the Austens. 

This is the marriage license of Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy.

Anna Austen was the daughter of James Austen and his first wife, Anne Matthews. James was Jane Austen’s eldest brother. On the 8th November 1814, Anna married Benjamin Lefroy, who was the youngest son of Jane Austen’s great friend, Mrs Lefroy and the Reverend Isaac-Peter-George Lefroy of the nearby village of Ashe. The marriage took place at St. Nicholas’ Parish Church, Steventon.

After the introduction of Lord Hardwick’s Marriage Act of 1753 (more correctly known as “An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage) for a marriage to be legal and valid it had to be performed in a church and after the publication of banns or the obtaining of a license. Licenses took two forms: Special Licenses, obtainable only for a limited class of people and in special circumstances from the Archbishop of Canterbury and which removed the obligation of having to be married in a church, and Common Licenses, which were obtained from bishops, or  their surrogates, who were authorized to issue them on the Bishop’s behalf.  Anna and Ben’s license was issued on the 7th November 1814. They were married the next day, though a Common License was valid for three months.

Caroline Austen, Anna’s younger half-sister remembered the wedding in her Reminiscences, and it is an interesting account of the quiet wedding celebrations that were common at the time, with echoes of the weddings of “Poor” Miss Taylor  and Mr. Weston, and Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley in Emma:

On 8th November my sister was married to Benjamin Lefroy Esq. He had not then taken Orders although of the full age that was necessary. Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by and was universally condemned as showing the great bad taste of al former generations…My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness; yet not so as to be in any way censured or remarked upon- and this was the order of the day.

 The Bridegroom came from Ashe Rectory where he had hitherto lived with his brother, and Mr. and Mrs. Lefroy came with him, and another brother, Mr. Edward Lefroy. Anne Lefroy, the eldest little girl was one of the bridesmaids and I was the other…We in the house had a slight early breakfast upstairs; and between 9 and 10 the bride, my mother, Mrs. Lefro,y Anne and myself were taken to church in our carriage. All the gentlemen walked…Mr. Lefroy read the service, my father gave his daughter away…I and Anne Lefro,y nine and six years old, wore white frocks and had white ribband (sic) on our straw bonnets which I suppose were new for the occasion.

(Extract from Reminiscences of Jane Austen’s Niece Caroline Austen, Pages 38-9 which is still published by the Jane Austen Society. This fascinating book is available to purchase in the Museum’s online shop. Go here to see )

One of the benefits of maintaining this blog is that we are able to share with everyone items that are not normally seen at the House, and we do hope you have enjoyed having a glimpse of this very special item.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. cathyallen permalink
    April 17, 2012 2:39 pm

    I’m VERY glad to read your last sentence. I’d certainly never have guessed that Jane Austen’s House Museum possessed such an interesting document. Of course, your exposition of the story is what makes it so very interesting. Thank you, Julie!

    P.S. I do SO enjoy having the facility to enlarge the pictures. I can actually READ the marriage license, and it is fascinating!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 18, 2012 11:36 am

      It is quite fascinating to be able to read these documents “up close and personal” , as it were. And this one is very interesting, with all the Austen/Lefroy associations. It’s a great way to be able to share items which will not normally be seen at the Museum.

  2. Susan Kaye permalink
    April 17, 2012 3:14 pm

    Reblogged this on Jane Started It! and commented:
    This is in stark contrast to today’s opulence and Bridezilla’s!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 18, 2012 11:38 am

      Isn’t it! Thank you for re-blogging it, Susan. Caroline’s full description of that wedding is fascinating, and I can really recommend it to you.

      • Susan Kaye permalink
        April 18, 2012 2:34 pm

        I liked the comment that it was a quiet ceremony not like those of the old fashion. I have always envisioned that the Musgroves of Persuasion might have a rather high-spirited sort of wedding. None of that here!

      • jfwakefield permalink*
        April 18, 2012 5:29 pm

        Yes! I have always thought that the Murgroves marriage might have looked something like this: . What do you think?

      • Susan Kaye permalink
        April 18, 2012 9:03 pm

        I’ve always thought the Musgroves were a Party Hearty sort of family. And not in a bad way mind you, but they would be that family on the block that had the greatest shake-the-rafters birthday parties, July 4th/block party summer cook outs, and their Christmas display caused traffic to back up for blocks. So, was Sir Walter still feeling the after shocks of the wedding of Mary and Charles? Maybe.

      • jfwakefield permalink*
        April 19, 2012 8:54 am

        I think Sir Walter might have kept that wedding under his control. It might have been “forced” to have been quietly elegant because he was so strapped for ready cash!

      • Susan Kaye permalink
        April 19, 2012 3:19 pm

        Maybe so, but you know at the first chance, those Musgroves busted loose …!!!

  3. April 17, 2012 11:59 pm

    What a wonderful piece of history. I’m so glad that it was preserved for us to enjoy.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 18, 2012 11:40 am

      Thanks for commenting, Gayle. I agree, it’s a real gem of a document, and I’ve always enjoyed reading Caroline’s description of Anna nd Ben’s wedding.

  4. Adam Quinan permalink
    April 18, 2012 12:12 am

    My brother had to obtain a license for his wedding back in 1981 because the church his fiancee and her family attended and she wanted to get married in, was not either of their parish churches. The rules have changed and you can now get married in a church you have connections with even if it is not the parish you live in. His license was very slow getting to him, so he was worried whether he could get married without it or whether he would have to postpone the wedding. Luckily, it arrived in time and all went well.
    I am glad to see you blogging again.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 18, 2012 11:42 am

      Amazingly I had a similar experience when I married. My Special License only arrived the dy before my wedding was due to take place. Not good for pre-nuptial nerves!

      I am very glad to be back, and thank you for your kind wishes.

  5. April 18, 2012 5:19 pm

    Hi Julie! Thanks for such interesting post! I will write a post mentioning it, ok?

    Adriana Zardini

  6. kfield2 permalink
    April 19, 2012 12:00 am

    I loved reading this! I love the idea of being able to see things that aren’t available to see while visiting JA’s House Museum. I brought home a lot of books from there when there last time. Next time I’ll look forward to bringing home new finds that I may have seen here first!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 19, 2012 8:53 am

      I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing the License, Karen. It’s another benefit of maintaining a museum blog. I’m glad to hear the shop will be on your “to do” list for your next visit !

  7. April 21, 2012 3:26 pm

    I just found this blog. This is wonderful! I love seeing this marriage license, it is lovely to see what still survives of the Austens. Thank you so much for doing this blog, and as I am in Canada, this is the closest I will get to the museum for some time!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      April 21, 2012 4:52 pm

      We are so glad you have found us. It is such a great way to share the life of the museum with all from far and near, isn’t it?. We are really pleased you enjoyed the post about the marriage license.


  1. Austen’s letters 76, 103 & 104, to Anna Austen — brought back | Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two
  2. Anna Lefroy: “the sloppy lane through Steventon & Dean” | Two Teens in the Time of Austen

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: