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Morganatic marriage

A morganatic marriage is a type of marriage which can be contracted in certain countries, usually between persons of unequal social rank (unebenbürtig in German), which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage.

Often, this is a marriage between a male from a royal or reigning house, often a historical German state, and a woman of lesser status (a non-royal or reigning house, or a woman with a low-status profession such as actress). Neither the bride nor any children of the marriage has any claim on the groom's titles, rights, or entailed property. The children are considered legitimate on other counts and the prohibition of bigamy applies.

Morganatic, from the Latin phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam, refers to the gift given by the groom to the bride on the morning after the wedding. The practice of morganatic marriage was most common in the German-speaking parts of Europe, where equality in marriage was considered an important principle among the reigning houses and high nobility. The German name was Ehe zur linken Hand (marriage by the left hand) and the husband gave his left hand during the wedding ceremony instead of the right.

Morganatic marriage was not possible as such in England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. The French equivalent was a (openly) secret marriage.

Examples of morganatic marriage:

As there were no provisions for morganatic marriage in British law, specific statutory means of depriving Wallis Simpson of the titles of her husband, formerly King Edward VIII had to be improvised. It has been suggested that similar arrangements could be cobbled together for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles should they wish to be married and objections to her bearing specific titles remain strong.