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29 August 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Aristocratic women were often beaten by their husbands
- Dr. Katharine Simms

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In terms of property, women had different advantages under the two different systems of English common law and Irish customary law; because, under English law, widows were ensured of a dowry after the death of their husband, which they controlled very largely themselves; whereas under Irish law, it was married women who still had living husbands who had more control over business deals that involved the property they owned in common with their husbands - something that English married propertied women would not have enjoyed. Women in the Anglo-Irish area - one often hears of quite aristocratic women being severely beaten by their husbands; under Irish law, a wife’s family still retained a financial interest in compensation for damage done to her, for physical violence suffered by a woman - and that would apply even to a woman who was beaten by her lawful married husband. And indeed there is a legend about Queen Gormlaith, in the 10th century, whose husband kicked her to the ground in front of her waiting maids and immediately she appealed to her own kinsmen, and her cousin (Niall Glúndub) invaded Leinster and defeated her husband in battle, and ultimately carried her away and married her himself. And she was considered to have very strong grounds for complaint, that she had been not even so much injured as dishonoured in front of her serving people and this was grounds for divorce and the punishment of her husband.

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