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Clandestinity

Celebration of marriage in secret without proper authority. Because of its prevalence in the later Middle Ages, both Protestants and Catholics were anxious for reform: Luther, e.g., regarded as invalid marriages contracted without parental knowledge and consent. Melanchthon, Brenz, Calvin, and Beza followed his views. Clandestinity posed a problem for Roman Catholic canonists with their concept of marriage as a sacrament. The Council of Trent decreed that though clandestine marriages were true and proper, in future all such marriages in places where the decree obtained would be reckoned as null. All marriages were to be before the parish priest. In Britain, publicity is secured by the publication of banns or issue of a license; clandestinity is commonly held not to invalidate marriage. In 1754 civil legislation was introduced to prevent clandestine marriages (Lord Hardwicke's Act). The Marriage Act (1823) required as a minimum of publicity two or more credible witnesses besides the minister.