Category Archives: General Rambles

‘If you’re going to write [legal] histories … you have to do the research’

Weird when what seemed to be disparate bits of life come together, isn’t it? Just happened to me when scrolling through Twitter. Context: off (Covid and travel chaos permitting) to the British Legal History Conference in Belfast next week, and the Irish Legal History Society is sending helpful suggestions as to touristy things which conference-goers might do. The latest was highlighting the fact that parts of the TV series ‘Game of Thrones‘ were filmed in Northern Ireland, and there is stuff to see. A comment was made about GoT not being legal history, and I was reminded of the fact that I did once do a bit of a LH analysis of it (based on the books, not the series, granted, but it counts …). Time to collect and stick them up again, I think.

So, here, here, here,  here, here, and here for your delectation, are my pontifications on the subject. Clearly I was living a fulfilling and happy life in 2014 …

Now wondering how to find a tie-in for my similar great works on Star Trek, The Vampire Diaries and Lord of the Rings … (would work if next BLHC were to be at the University of Mordor, I suppose …). And possibly a few more thoughts on Derry Girls leading up to the SLSA conference there next year?



[And the quote, if you are wondering, is, apparently from s.7 of the TV series, to Tarly, by Ebrose. Thank you internet. May have altered it for added topic-relevance).

Picture: adding general royal vibe – Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

Mr. Men and Little Mistresses?

While there is much attention on correct usage of gendered pronouns and cis- and trans- and so on, it is worth highlighting the fact that there are older word-disputes rumbling on, and some linguistic zombies which just seem to refuse to depart. Top of my list of terms which we could really jettison are the metaphorical use of ‘emasculate’ and the description of a woman as a ‘mistress’. The latter term has come up once again in relation to Carrie Symonds/Johnson, designating her role in relation to Boris Johnson in the period before their marriage, during his second marriage. The allegation about his attempt to secure a well-paid job for her in this period, if true, suggests dreadful behaviour, but it seems entirely unnecessary, and certainly inappropriate, to use ‘the m-word’ in this context.

Why do I have a problem with ‘mistresses’? Well, if it’s not obvious, it is a very sexist term. What do you call the male partner in this context? Probably ‘man’ or ‘lover’, I suppose, neither of which carries the same level of opprobrium. There is just no symmetry, and all sorts of unpleasant power-related implications. It suggests a past world in which there was an understanding that rich men would have a wife and ‘keep’ a mistress’, or indeed that an unmarried man might have a ‘mistress’; it focuses any condemnation on the woman involved, whatever may be the marital status matrix, and locus of infidelity, in the particular instance.

I have thought about the word, off and on, for years. No – relax – there is no great personal revelation about to appear. In the early part of my career as a legal academic, one of the predictable disputes in the annual meeting to go over the year’s exam papers was whether it was acceptable to use the term ‘mistress’ in problem questions about wills and inheritances. The usual view was that this should be avoided. There was a slight counter-argument, which was that, if we were setting up scenarios going back some time, and so importing some of the attitudes of a person whose views had been formed in an earlier age, it was not unrealistic to include a ‘storyline’ which involved a person with some considerable property (likely to be a man) ‘keeping a mistress’ at some point, ready to cause disputes with his wife and/or children when he died. Still, we generally thought it best to avoid the whole thing.

Nevertheless, students looking at cases would find quite a lot of mistresses, and I regret to say that, as with newspaper descriptions of Johnson’s relationships, ‘mistress’ is still encountered in judgments, in the 2020s. A five-minute search turned up what seem to be entirely avoidable usage of ‘mistress’ in Jackson v Song [2021] EWHC 1636 (Ch) and Ali v. Luton BC [2022] EWHC 132 (QB). I have no doubt that there are more. These recent comments are not quite up there with the suggestion of a man having ‘a secret bolt hole for his mistress’ found in HHJ David Cooke’s judgment in Downes v. Downes [2019] EWHC 491 (Ch) para. 60, but don’t seem at all necessary to the point being made, As I tell my land law students, legal practice and legal scholarship are all about words and their many shades of meaning: there are better and worse choices, and I am not convinced that there is ever any need to use ‘mistress’ in describing modern life and relationships.

If we go back to the Johnson/Symonds story, though, if I am not too impressed by the use of the m-word, there might also be problems with the usage by the Guardian amongst others of the description ‘his ‘now-wife‘. Deploying this in this context might seem to add a bit of a Whiggish twist to the whole thing – suggesting that hey were always going to be married, so let’s not concern ourselves with the little matter of infidelity and sneaking around at the (allegedly) critical time. Writing about recent history – complicated, isn’t it?



Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Review: Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley BBC R4

Lucy Worsley’s latest radio show/podcast gets into a bit of legal history, mostly crime, but also some other bits. Obviously, I felt duty-bound to listen to it all, and did not in any way just want to hear about a few scandalous Victorian murder cases.

So – what was the verdict? I thought it was a good thing. I do think LW is a good thing in general,[i] and her shows are generally well put-together. Of course they are aimed at an audience other than full-time academic historians, but it is hugely important to produce things for everyone with an interest in history, and I suspect that it makes sense to get some things across via a bit of a romping TV or radio show by somebody with a bit of charisma, rather than trying to turn every academic into a great communicator in that register, as the various ‘impact’ and ‘knowledge exchange’ imperatives tyrannising British academia insist is essential. Also top marks for using a host of women as experts. There is quite an imbalance to be redressed in media history, so these things are important.

The series is organised around eight sensational cases of homicide by women, or possible homicide, though it branches out in two other important directions. First, it makes past-present links, with its avowedly feminist slant, and by bringing in comparisons with modern law and criminal investigation. Secondly, it uses each case as a point of departure, for consideration of the lives of nineteenth century women, including the legal changes which were beginning to dismantle some of the more egregious disadvantages they might face in terms of property and rights of citizenship.


1:  Florence Bravo

I will confess straight away that, despite this being a bit of a sensation in its day, I had never heard of ‘the Balham mystery’ or Florence Bravo and the death by poisoning of her charmless-sounding lawyer husband, Charles, in 1876. Apart from the crime stuff – back to that in a moment – there is also (hurrah!) a little bit on property. It seems Florence had some money from a previous marriage, when she married Charmless Charles, but he could not get his paws on it, as she had used a trust (only me who would have liked more details on this? OK, fair enough …) … and a very brief not to the Married Women’s Property legislation (again … only me … OK …)

On the inquest, which sounds as if it got further into examination of Florence’s former sexploits with an old doctor than was strictly necessary, and which was reported in a fairly unrestricted way in the press, it was interesting to have the view of a modern barrister, Sasha Wass QC, pointing out some of the differences in terms of sexual history evidence and contempt rules (though also some depressing similarities across time …). I was also rather taken by the fact that there was a bit of a thing for sending the police interfering busybody letters suggesting lines of investigation they might take. Can’t imagine that they appreciated that!

(FYI, the inquest did not point to Florence as the killer, despite the impeccable logical link between shagging an older doctor and poisoning a husband’s wine … but she ended up living in hiding and died shortly afterwards, drinking herself to death on (unpoisoned) wine).

2: Madeleine Smith

I was familiar with this one: the Glasgow cocoa killer (allegedly poisoned her unsuitable ex in 1857, with arsenic, but the jury bring it in as ‘not proven’). The nice historical/legal historical point here was a bit of comparison between the story which was made to emerge from a selection of Smith’s letters, in the hands of the prosecution and that which came out after careful perusal of all 250 surviving letters. It is, perhaps, a little odd hearing somebody looking at documents on the radio, but that point was well made.


  1. Lizzie Borden

Off to Massachusetts for this famous axe/whacks murder case from 1892-3. Maybe a little less ‘core legal history’ here, and more ‘did she do it?’, but a couple of interesting points on the particular female interest in ‘true crime’ – the case in 1893 and now – and on gender and class.


  1. Grace Marks

Canada is the next location, for this ‘servant (allegedly) kills master’ story. Also quite well known, through Margaret Atwood’s novel treatment. Gory double killing. Considerable doubt about Grace’s role, and the main interest from my point of view was pondering on the way in which it was, and is, insisted upon that women defendants react in a particular emotional manner.


  1. Getting Away With It

This one looked back at and thought about  no.s 1-4, taking things in a slightly more ‘academic history’ direction, with greater input from Dr Rosalind Crone.  Had me at ‘It’s more complicated than that, isn’t it?’ (here, in relation to the Victorian ‘angel in the house ideal).


  1. Amelia Dyer

In this one, we get into the murky world of baby farming, and the investigation, prosecution and conviction of industrial-level baby farmer and killer, Amelia Dyer. She was a native of Bristol, I learned – strangely not somebody we hear a great deal about here. This one sees LW stepping back a little and letting the programme be led by the excellent combination of R. Crone and a former leading police detective, Jackie Malton, who had some great insights on the investigation process). The added social/legal history material here highlighted the changed position of unwed mothers, given full responsibility for their children under the New Poor Law 1834, and thus left to try and find some way of maintaining them, and working themselves – enter the baby farmers (unregulated and clearly not always kind, or, indeed, un-murderous). Also liked the little ending in which LW warns against too much self-satisfied contempt for the past, given the continuing mess of provision for child care for those in need. Well played.

  1. Mary Ann Cotton

This is another one which is familiar to me, for slightly weird reasons – my mother’s family tree includes a ‘Mary Anne Cotton’, from near enough to the scene of the alleged crimes, and the family have always been VERY insistent that there is absolutely no connection with this woman, pointing out the different spelling of Ann/Anne! A common enough name, I suppose, but anyway, she has always been on my radar for that reason, and the little song ‘Sing, sing, what shall I sing?/ Mary Ann Cotton tied up on a string …’ (not mentioned here). So the suggestion that this is not such a well-known case was a little bit surprising. Anyway, much discussion of poisoning, including the teapot alleged to have been used (news to me that tea was good for poisoning purposes because hot things are best and cold ones problematic for dissolving arsenic … the things you learn …) and discussion with barrister Alexandra Wilson about past-present comparisons concerning the trial. Important to note the differences caused by changes in rules about character evidence since the 1870s and this case. Might have gone into the fact that the jury was all male, with a property qualification, rather than being representative of society as a whole (which probably increases the potential impact of playing up gender roles).  My mother may be annoyed at the absence of an official acknowledgement that M.A.C. was ABSOLUTELY NOT related to us …

  1. Esther Lack

This one was unfamiliar to me. Esther Lack’s alleged crimes were the killings of three of her children. There was no ‘did she do it?’ here – the focus now, as then, was on her mental state, and the way in which mental disturbance was treated. Found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1865, Lack was sent off to what sounds like a rather pleasant asylum in Wiltshire (though died shortly afterwards). We hear from  Psychiatrist/psychotherapist, Dr Gwen Adshead on infanticide and mental disorders relating to maternity, and from Dr Rosalind Crone on asylums and the squalid conditions of Lack’s life in London. And she is invited to offer the academic-heart-warming line  ‘It’s way more complicated than that!’. Hurrah! Because life is and was more complicated than any neat summary or story-arc. Viewers and listeners can cope with something other than ‘I have all the answers and will impose my narrative upon the past’. So thumbs up there.


  1. Hannah Mary Tabbs

I had not heard of this one either. It’s a US case, so maybe that’s less surprising. Well worth including though, for the additional insights it brings, with regard to the impacts of race on the 19th C criminal justice system, and the links drawn between that and the present, with regard to racism and policing, and incarceration.


  1. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

This was a bit of a round-up and discussion of general themes, especially from the second half – those who presumably ‘dunnit’. In a move calculated to annoy a certain demographic, the emphasis is on the environment which produced the situations in which the killings took place – with particular attention being paid to economic issues and the lack of support for women and maternity. There was a good bit on the press and the development of sensational headlines. I would have liked to hear a bit more about the property/trusts aspect of, and arising from Bravo – conversation could have done with a bit of a steer on that. Perhaps a separate series on those issues would be an idea? Come on, you know it makes sense!



[i] (did an actual doctorate, note, and worked her way up as a historian, rather than taking the ‘following Daddy’s footsteps and making programmes with Daddy’ route of some self-styled ‘history guys’ one might mention … OK, got that off my chest)

Image: a tombstone. Seemed sort of appropriate. Photo by Mr Xerty on Unsplash

Derry Girls: a shoe-horned appreciation

For those of us in the UK, this week saw the end of wildly-loved sitcom, Derry Girls, after a perfectly-judged run of three series: out on a high it went, with praise from all quarters.

So – saying it was great is hardly news (though it absolutely was, and I aspire to be somewhere on the Michelle-Sr Michael spectrum, though fear that the Clare-Jenny Joyce continuum would be more like my teenage self …). And I don’t have particular personal connections to vaunt – have in fact never been to Derry (though, if ‘being a Derry Girl is a fucking state of mind’, as Ms Mallon so memorably put it, then maybe we all have a little …) so why muse about it on a supposedly legal history-themed blog?

For anyone working on recent legal history, of course, the relevance is obvious. Working backwards from the last episode, there are all sorts of insights into  legal rules and law-enforcement or law-breaking situations – from the Good Friday Agreement, British-Irish citizenship, release of paramilitary prisoners, British military activities, the RUC,  Orange marches, canon law procedure for recognition of miracles (the crying BVM statue one…) and no doubt much more.

There is also the ‘past meets present’ point made by many, that we (and by ‘we’, I mean in particular the current, appalling, UK government) run the risk of allowing things to descend into bitterness and violence once more, unless we have a mind to the troubled past of Northern Ireland, and the huge change represented by the GFA, and Derry Girls did a massively effective job of fixing that in current consciousness.

But it’s probably the more general lessons/reminders about history which hit home the most for me in my capacity of scholar of legal history. Like the fact that the bits professional historians (legal and other) focus on – the big changes, the high politics and economic generalisations, for example – are not necessarily the main concerns of most of the people at any given time. I mean, it may even be the case that, while the Statute of Uses was being prepared, or while assumpsit was storming the great citadel of debt, teenagers of the past were more bothered about their equivalents of Take That, Fatboy Slim and finding ‘massive rides’. At times, we may all need to ‘catch on to ourselves’ and realise that, unless we are prepared to put a bit of life, good stories, and even humour into our history,  we risk sounding rather more like Uncle Colm than any of the others. For my part, I shall be endeavouring to infuse this summer’s conference paper with something of the spirit of Aunt Sarah –

possibly not at the peak of academic rigour, but, I hope, some memorable lines. Should get back to it, I suppose.




Main Image: everyone has heard of Derry Girls, right?


Covered in translation

Quick snippet: given my background as a native of Abergavenny (‘Mountains, Markets and More’… top tourist advertising, eh?) I am always keen to understand how bits of ‘the common law of England’ have applied in the Land of My Fathers, and so, whilst working on coverture, I have been interested in the question of how the relevant terms: ‘coverture’, ‘feme covert’, etc., would have been translated into Welsh.

This turns out to be slightly complex.  The origin of ‘coverture’ etc. is clearly French, and English language sources continued to use feme covert into the twentieth century (there are even some pieces of legislation which use the term still ‘on the statute book’ – e.g. Prescription Act 1832 s.7 – so, in a sense, it is still part of English common law, offensive though that is). Add to that the fact that ‘coverture’ is not a concept which was known to ‘native’ Welsh law,[i]  so that there is not a ready-made traditional word to use, and we end up with the apparently messy translation issue I have encountered.

The modern specialist Welsh-English legal dictionary,[ii]  has, for ‘coverture’, bod yn wraig briod, i.e. ‘to be/being a married woman’. And I suppose for most modern purposes, that would do, though it does not quite capture the abstract nature of coverture, nor its oppressive implications. What other possibilities might there be? I have done a little digging in old newspapers, and in older dictionaries. This seemed a sensible move because, although ‘coverture’ was not a Welsh law thing, following the 13th C conquest,[iii]  and 16th C union, it was part of the law applied in Wales as in England. That would mean that Welsh speakers could be expected to discuss it. How would they do so?


The answer seems to be ‘in English or French, or, if in Welsh, in a variety of different ways’  The big old 1852 (general) dictionary of Daniel Silvan Evans has seven different terms for feme covert. Some, like the modern law dictionary’s version, are essentially ‘married woman’ (gwraig briod, gwraig briodol… ) but there are a couple which are, perhaps, to be trying to link back to aspects of Cyfraith Hywel, and others which have a slightly different feel, adding an extra layer to ‘coverture’. Some link to the old idea of cowyll may be seen in ‘gwraig gowyllog’ and ‘gwraig dan gowyll’.[iv] Others emphasise the concept of nawdd – protection or patronage. Thus, we have the wordy ‘gwraig dan nawdd ac awrdurdod gwr’ and snappier ‘gwraig wrnawdd’.[v] It would certainly be interesting to consider the differences of nuance between the ‘English’ (well, French, but you know what I mean) version (no active party indicated, rather abstract, somewhat neutral in terms of hierarchical positioning) and the masculinity-emphasising, hierarchically positioning Welsh versions (dan is very much ‘under’, by the way).


For ‘coverture’, the dictionary goes for ‘gorchudd’, which might be understood more like ‘veiled’, or a series of more generally applicable words to do with lids etc. ‘Cowyll’ gets a mention. It also has ‘bod dan orchudd, nawdd, neu awdurdod gwr’ and ‘cyfiwr neu ansawdd gwraig briod, gwrnawdd, gwrnoddiad’.  Both the protective, patronage-indicating nawdd and the emphasis on the masculinity of the protector are seen in the usage dan nawdd ei gwr which is the translation in an 1882  Welsh language newspaper of ‘under coverture’.


So – preliminary investigations suggest that this is a bit involved. The politics of translation, especially as between the languages of a conqueror and the conquered, are pretty complex, and this, I suppose, is an area which will have seemed obsolete before the renaissance of legal Welsh, and technical translation, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. There may not be one answer, therefore. But an interesting question, on’d ife?




[i] That sounds positive, doesn’t it, but in fact it’s not because life was great for medieval Welsh women under Cyfraith Hywel – it’s because women just generally could not hold real property, so there was no need to create that sort of abstract idea to handle their status. Weirdly, it is probably the less discriminatory nature of English common law land rules – women disadvantaged but not disqualified – which contributed to lawyers coming up with ‘coverture’. So an oppressive idea arose from a situation of marginal advantage … Women’s history is twisty!

[ii] Robyn Lewis, The New Legal Dictionary (English-Welsh) Gomer Press, Llandysul, Ceredigion, 2003, p.266. Thanks to Gwilym Owen for putting me on to this!

[iii] (still time to pull it back … Owain will come again etc. etc.)

[iv] Cowyll was a payment to a new wife, after consummation of the marriage, a recognition of her (now ‘lost’) virginity. (It’s gowyll here due to a soft mutation following dan, in case you are wondering …)

[v] Extra bonus find on this trawl – the existence of something called a ‘cover-slut’ – some sort of apron to hide one’s dirty clothes (in Welsh, bryntgudd). Definitely one to introduce into everyday conversation wherever possble…

Image: ragged dragon flag … I am sure it says something profound about nations, language etc. etc., but will leave you to draw your own conclusions … Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

Looming deadline …

Currently working on this, for a conference at the beginning of May. Fingers very much crossed that nothing comes up (Covid, incompetence about some paperwork or other …) to stop me going, because the conference looks great, and it is so long since I have been away from the UK. Writing the paper is proving a bit challenging though – in my efforts to avoid duplicating things others will be discussing, or have discussed, I have somehow ended up going very high concept, not to say …. a bit more pretentious than usual … with rather a lot of textile and bedlinen imagery … hmm – a triumph or a disaster???

GS 14/4/2022.

Update, 22/4/2022 – I have dropped the weaver, in favour of something smuttier, (see below) but don’t think that that means it’s less pretentious – no, there is now an additional layer of embracing images … may well be about to disappear up own backside … Ah well, go big or go home, I suppose …

Law and love in the local papers

Here’s one for those with a high tolerance for Victorian humour – a ‘gem’ I turned up while on the hunt for coverture references (there is a brief one, but so much … more). I have had it in my file for a while, under the heading ‘Putrid lawyer love note’, which may give the game away slightly …

It is to be found in that essential publication, the Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian for 30th December 1843, and you can see it via Welsh Newspapers, courtesy of the National Library of Wales, here.

The letters pages of these papers demonstrate just how much time some people had on their hands – here, the correspondent is one ‘Lycurgus’ (how they did like their classical references … are we not impressed?) makes up a ‘funny’ story about having picked up a piece of paper dropped by a buzy attorney at unidentified assizes, which – how amusing – turns out to be a love letter, pressing the lawyer’s case with the woman he wants to marry. Even more amusingly, the attorney has stuffed it full of legal language, e.g. ‘Cupid … has taken my heart into custody and will not accept of bail’. There are tipstaffs, green wax, affidavits, nonsuits, rejoinders, demurrers, enfeoffments (though the printer struggled with that one), Ca. sa., , essoins, and all manner of other legal terms and things. And the killer argument in favour of acceptance? ‘‘How vastly preferable the title of a feme covert to that of a feme sole’. I can only say Hmmm!

Once the queasiness dies down, it is quite an interesting little piece of whimsy, suggesting wide recognition of the sorts of technical terms lawyers might use – procedure and pleading terms are to the fore. And although it is mocking lawyers, it is doing so quite gently – so, an interesing snippet on the reputation of the profession, I suppose.

(The letter goes on to greater depths, with an abysmal poem about a husband and wife arguing … I do so hope that there was no Mrs Lycurgus …).



Image – suggesting love and suchlike. Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Coverture, consciousness and chocs

I am looking forward to going to a conference on coverture, in a few weeks, and trying to find a few new angles on the topic. I am interested in the medieval aspects, obviously (Bracton’s sister, not Coke’s or Blackstone’s, right?). But also rather intrigued by the other end of things – the dwindling and shadows left behind in the twentieth century in particular, though there are still a few neglected survivals in ‘the statute book’ which could and should be extirpated.

A smile was raised when I came upon a late (1945) manifestation of unity-of-persons coverture theory, via a Modern Law Review article, and then some newspaper reports. It came up in a criminal case, but we are not talking about the higher end of criminality … the heinous offence was that of a man travelling using the return part of his wife’s ticket.

Arthur Donald Floyd was hauled up before Tonbridge magistrates in 1945, accused of an offence under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 s. 5(3)(a) and by-law no. 6 of the Southern Railway Co, in having used the return portion of a ticket which his wife, Doris, had bought, and which was, explicitly, non-transferable.


Floyd was found not guilty.


So far, so banal (and so, so trivial …). The interesting part is that some  newspaper reports stated that the reason for the not guilty verdict was based on the unity species of coverture, i.e. it did not matter that the ticket was non-transferable, since it had not been transferred: husband and wife were one person in law. Now, it seems that this unity view was aired in the case, but it was not the reason for the decision. While the Times report of 5th December  1945 puts the observation that a man and his wife were one person at law in the mouth of the Chairman of the Bench, Mr H.Vivian Phillipps, it seems that this unity point was made by or for Mr Floyd, not by the magistrates. Mr Phillipps wrote to the Times, and his letter was printed on 8th December. It insisted  that the not guilty finding was based not on a deduction from coverture/unity, but on the view that Donald Floyd had not in fact intended to defraud the Southern Railway Company.[i][ii] The unity idea seems to have come not from the magistrates but from Floyd himself. who, in the account of the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, said he thought – indeed, was sure – the rule about not using somebody else’s ticket did not apply because spouses ‘became as one in the eyes of the law’  when married.[iii]


It seems rather an interesting example of the absorption into general consciousness of the possibility of using a unity conception of marriage as a way out of a legal difficulty (and, note, by a man rather than a woman …).

Possibly even better was discovering a usage of coverture hitherto unknown to me at least – in relation to cakes and chocolates! At times indicating ‘icing’, at times ‘coating’, it comes up in a number of (amusingly non-slick) advertisements, and the odd account of the food rationing rules of the 1940s. In the 1920s, Clifton’s chocolates (‘the chocolate with an unconditional guarantee’) had ‘the finest coverture’ (as well as ‘intriguing’ flavours – not sure I want my chocs ‘intriguing’, really)[iv] In the 1930s, Warren Chocolates had ‘good’ coverture as well as ‘original’ centres (sardine? mustard? Again, I am not sure I really want originality as opposed to loveliness in a choc, though, to be fair, we do get the sharp claim that they are ‘very enjoyable’ – got to love 1930s advertising … ).[v]

In the 1940s, as we get into rationing, there is much concern about the future of cakes – especially wedding cakes. In July 1940, there was reassurance by the Ministry of Food that chocolate coverture would not be prohibited (unlike some other cake adornment options).[vi]


Obviously, I am now


  • trying to see a way to use chocolates with original and/or intriguing centres in a pretentious way to illustrate coverture in law and practice
  • wondering whether Donald and Doris Floyd became more hardened criminals, slipping down the enticing slope from railway ticket offences to … whisper it … the wrong sort of cake icing ….





[i] Williams, G. L. (1947). The legal unity of husband and wife. Modern Law Review, 10(1), 16-31; Times, 5th and 8th December, 1945, 9th May, 1846.

[ii] Poor old Mr Phillips: trying to make sure things were correct … in fact the lack of intention was later found to be irrelevant, since the offence under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 s. 5(3)(a) and no. 6 of the by-laws of the Southern Railway Co, was constructed in such a way that a lack of intention did not mean a lack of guilt.

[iii] Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 7th December, 1945, ‘Man Can Use Wife’s Railway Ticket’.

[iv] Scotsman, 12th  April, 1924

[v] Waterford Standard, 17th April, 1937

[vi] Scotsman, 15th July, 1940; Daily News (London), 26th  September, 1941 – this one is headed ‘Iced Cake Law’ – how has this not become a sub-discipline in Law Schools???

Image: Photo by Jessica Loaiza on Unsplash

Who is feeling peckish?


Snaps and snippets

There is no pretence at narrative here, just two interesting old books I was looking at today, when moving some things out of my office …

Thing number one: I had forgotten that I had a signed copy of one of Holdsworth’s works – but here are some pictures, for those interested in legal history celebs:

Thing number two: I am intrigued by the fact that my edition of Stephen’s Digest of the Laws of Evidence (3rd edn, 1877) has a single case report, Kemm v. Garbutt and others, pasted in the front by an enthusiastic owner (I assume it was not a random individual going around doing this to the books of others …). I have not yet tracked down what this case was, but it is a succession case which seems to be rather earlier than the date of the volume. Particularly charming/tantalising is the handwritten comment of the paster – ‘How well it answers’ …




Dragon looking a bit rough

This is a bit of fluff, but felt moved to do a quick post on this fabulous heraldic picture from the first edition of Fitzherbert’s Graunde Abridgement (it’s c. 1516) without the stress of Twitter (sometimes feels a bit ‘here I am, looking for acceptance … but what if nobody loves me?’, doesn’t it? Oh, just me then …), so here we are. Just look at that dragon – I do like a dragon, and am always fascinated to see the different ‘takes’ artists had on them. This one is looking very rough and scaly indeed. Clearly does not have a daily scale-care routine. I am trying to think what sort of a reptile it looks like – perhaps something like a tuatara? Though of course that would not have been something an artist in England in this period would have seen.

Also, if nobody has made an adult colouring book of these things, they really should. I would buy it.