The Las Vegas of Mayfair

Let me point out straightaway, this has nothing to do with gambling. Yes, Las Vegas is one of the most famous gambling cities in the world and although Mayfair might have one or two casinos, it is not what connects them in this instance. Las Vegas is also known for the ease at which couples can get married. Turn up, sign a few papers and you can even, apparently, get an Elvis look-a-like to marry you. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been told. Perhaps take it with a pinch of salt.


    However, back in the eighteenth century, there was a church minister who would marry any couple who turned up at the door of his church and asked to get hitched. The clergyman in question was Alexander Keith. And he was not popular with both the church authorities or the government. There were procedures to adhere to, they would say. But the Reverend Keith would ignore them. And he had the law on his side. It didn’t matter how much they remonstrated; he went on marrying couples knowing that the law was on his side.

    So why were the great and the good so worried about this? Well, young people can’t really be trusted. Many of them were marrying for love! This gave the families a big headache. They probably had already decided on who their offspring should marry. There were bigger issues than just love to them. There was money, titles and power in society. So, if an heir to a fortune marries just anybody, then all their planning goes down the pan, so to speak.

    Efforts were made to change the law but their lordships in parliament had a problem. If they succeeded in changing the law, then all those marriages would be deemed not to have taken place and any grandchildren from the union would be illegitimate. And there were many, many such couples from all lines of society. In fact, in 1742, the Reverend Keith married more than seven hundred couple in that single year.

    Eventually, the law was changed under the Marriage Act of 1754. So, you’d better forget going to Mayfair and instead, save up for a flight to Las Vegas.

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