Marriage, bacon, and the law, customarily in England

History of the Dunmow Flitch of Bacon Custom, a book by William Andrews, published in 1877, tells of the British custom involving married couples publicly swearing an oath about themselves, in pursuit of free bacon.

The Dunmow Flitch: bringing home the bacon,” written more recently, by a mildly-anonymous someone else, also tells some history of the custom. That telling is in a 2012 edition of the Essex Voices Past blog:

“This Saturday, 14 July 2012, heralds the much awaited ancient custom of The Dunmow Flitch whereby couples from all over Britain (and, in recent years, the world) come to Dunmow to persuade a formal court that they have not wished themselves unwed for a year and day. If they win the court case, and persuade the judge and jury of their love for each other, then they win a ‘flitch of bacon’ (a large side of cured pig). This court is very formal with a judge, jury and barristers: one barrister defends the Pig, and the other is for the couple. Any couple who wins the Flitch is said to be ‘bringing home the bacon’ and is carried aloft on the ancient Dunmow Flitch chair by ‘yeomans’ in a parade through the streets of the town . Once the parade arrives in the market place, the winners of the Flitch have to kneel on pointed stones and say The Oath.”

The Flitch Oath

You shall swear by the Custom of our Confession
That you never made any Nuptial Transgression
Since you were married Man and Wife
By Household Brawls or Contentious Strife
Or otherwise in Bed or at Board
Offended each other in deed or in word
Or since the Parish Clerk said Amen
Wished yourselves unmarried again
Or in a Twelvemonth and a day.
Repented not in thought any way
But continued true and in Desire
As when you joined Hands in holy Quire

The Sentence
If to these Conditions without all fear
Of your own accord you will freely swear
A Gammon of Bacon you shall receive
And bear it hence with love and good Leave
For this is our Custom at Dunmow well known
Though the sport be ours, the Bacon’s your own.

[This last line is normally said to great rousing cheers from the watching audience.]

These days, one can, when in the town of Little Dunmow, dine at the Flitch of Bacon restaurant. One can even—even out of the town of Little Dunmow, as well as in it—follow the twitter feed of that eating establishment.

(Thanks to John Overholt for bringing this to our attention.)

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