Tragedies and miracles: snippets on improbable problems

Battling on with the bastards  – today, a couple of gems from an early modern text which raised an eyebrow and a smile.

The book is William Sheppard, Epitome of All the Common & Statute Laws of This Nation, Now in Force (London, 1656) – quite an ambitious task our William set himself – all of the law – and we have to salute the creative thinking behind some of the entries. Like some modern exam-setters, the author seems to have liked thinking up slightly unusual scenarios, to test to their limit the propositions of law he laid down.

c . 33. includes some thought about a very unfortunate set of circumstances:

(p. 179) ‘If one marry a Woman, and die before night that he lie with his Wife, and 6be have a Childe after, it seems it shall be accounted his Childe, and Legitimate.’

Even more … niche … is the possibility of virgin birth in the discussion at p. 181 of what to do when somebody married ‘a virgin* with childe’ (apparently legitimate too).

It’s good to know these things.



* No, don’t tell me he is using ;virgin’ in some other non-technical sense. I am sticking with poking fun at early modern lawyers.

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash