Was it ever illegal for 2 people of different religions (e.g. Catholic & Anglican) to marry in the UK? I'm refering only to "civil marriage". I'm sure, even now, that the Catholic church may not view a marriage of an Anglican and a Catholic as "valid", but for the purposes of civl law, they could be legally married. Was there ever a time, in the UK, when it was not a legal marriage if the 2 people were of different Christian faiths?

If so, when did that change? When was that sort of marriage made legal?

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    Actually the catholic church has now a special rite to marry a catholic to a non-catholic.
    – o0'.
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 13:05
  • @Lohoris Oh I'm sure they have special cases, I know Ireland such marriages were/are called "mixed marriages", but I use that as an example of difference between civil & religious definition of marriage Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:25
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    Apparently for monarchs it is. But sounds like that is in the process of changing. Small blurb at end of article mentions it. cnn.com/2011/10/28/world/europe/uk-monarchy/?hpt=wo_c2 Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:27
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    Just FYI you might want to select answers that answered your previous questions, it'll help encourage folks to answer this and future ones Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:56
  • @xecaps12: It is indeed, since about the time of the Act of Union (1707?). About time it changed too... if the monarchy continues on, that is.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 17:01

3 Answers 3


Yes, indeed! During the Penal Law period of the 18th Century, there were laws in Northern Ireland designed to "protect Protestants against the pollution of Popery" (Akenson, 111)

You might find this history of marriage in the west interesting. Marriage started as a pact between families, and was a purely secular matter following the Roman patriarchal tradition, which usually did not consider the wishes of the bride. The rise of the Christian church in the medieval Europe brought with it the idea that marriage should be between willing partners. In the 16th Century, Martin Luther pushed marriage out of the church again. The Restoration brought it back into the church... because of this ping-ponging and existing religious diversity, I think it would have been unusual to have interfaith laws elsewhere in the UK.

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    The civil laws prohibited a Catholic priest conducting a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant across the whole of Ireland. But an Anglican priest could conduct such a marriage. So such marriages were legal. The problem was whether the Catholic church would then regard such marriages as valid.
    – Henry
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 20:43

From 1290 to roughly 1655 it was probably illegal to marry someone who was Jewish. But that's only because it was illegal to be Jewish. That is a special case answer to the question, mostly because I was looking for an example that didn't involve Roman Catholics.


Well, there is the Act of Settlement, which takes anyone who is Catholic, or married to one, out of the line of succession. It doesn't prohibit it outright though.

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