Mary Hamilton (bigamist)

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Mary Hamilton was the subject of a notorious 18th century case of bigamy and female cross-dressing, in which Hamilton, under the name of Charles,[1] duped other women into marriage. According to the Newgate calendar on no less than 14 separate occasions did she marry to another woman.[2]

In 1752,[3] Hamilton was brought to the summer Quarter Sessions in Taunton, Somerset, and sentenced that "he or she prisoner at the bar is an uncommon, notorious cheat, and we, the Court, do sentence her, or him, whichever he or she may be, to be imprisoned six months, and during that time to be whipped in the towns of Taunton, Glastonbury, Wells and Shipton Mallet ..."[2] Additional aliases used by Hamilton were Mr. G. Hamilton, Minister Bently, and Doctor O'Keefe.[3] In at least 3 instances she lived for some time unnoticed by her married spouse.[3]

Popular culture[edit]

A fictionalised version of the story, "The Female Husband", was published in 1746 as an anonymous pamphlet by Henry Fielding.[4]

The story was also the subject of a BBC Radio 4 play of the same name, starring comedian Sandi Toksvig.

An 1813 book by Henry Fielding about Mary Hamilton was the subject of an appraisal in a 2010 episode of PBS' Antiques Roadshow entitled "Naughty or Nice." Although the authenticity is disputed by the appraiser, the book's front insert contains a color drawing attributed in the book to George Cruikshank which depicts Hamilton being publicly whipped for her crimes.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Baker, Sheridan, 'Henry Fielding's the Female Husband: Fact and Fiction', Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 74, No. 3 (Jun., 1959), pp. 213-224
  2. ^ a b Newgate Calendar, Volume 3, page 137 A Woman who was imprisoned and whipped for marrying Fourteen Women, 1746
  3. ^ a b c The Surprising Adventures of a FEMALE HUSBAND containing the whimsical Amours, curious Incidents, and Diabolical Tricks, Henry Fielding,(1813), p.1
  4. ^ The Female Husband: or, the Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, alias Mr. George Hamilton, who was Convicted of having Married a young Woman of Wells and Lived with her as her Husband. Taken from her own Mouth since her Confinement.