Would you marry a dead person? It’s kind of a strange question to ask, I know, but it appears as though it’s a legally accepted practice in France.
When it comes to marriage it’s a common tradition for those exchanging marriage vows to pledge to stay married until “death do they part.” Once a partner in the marriage passes they become known as a widow or widower. If they were never married, even if they intended to marry, in most countries they are still regarded as being single and never married. But the law in France sees it differently. Since the 1950’s a person who’s partner has died has been permitted to marry the deceased person.
Why are you allowed to marry a dead person in France?
The best way to answer this particular question is to start with a little history. During WWI some women were permitted to marry soldiers who had recently died by way of proxy. This was a seldom used practice and very few women ever used this in practice. Fast forward to the 1950’s.
During that decade a disaster occurred in France where a dam had burst and 400 people had lost their lives (known as the Fréjus dam tragedy). One of the people who had died was a man who was engaged to be married. The woman who was left behind petitioned the French president, Charles De Gaulle, to allow her to proceed with her marriage plans. After several months, and massive support from the media, she was given permission to marry her dead partner.
Since that marriage hundreds of men and women have filed for posthumous marriages, even though it’s a complicated process. To gain approval to marry a dead person you must apply to the president, who forwards your application onto the Justice Minister. The Justice Minister passes it onto the prosecutor for the surviving members district. If there is sufficient proof that the couple had planned on getting married, and the family of the deceased approves, the application is returned to the president with the formal approval granted. About one in four applications are dismissed.
The main reasons it’s legal to marry a dead person in France are to legitimize any children a woman might have, and for emotional reasons.
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