In the past three years or so I have encountered just a small handful of couples whose ages were slightly apart from one another. Finding a case where the bride was a lot older than her husband was even harder. But rather unusually, old female/young male marriages did take place in the past long before Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joan Collins or Demi Moore started marrying (and divorcing) younger men.
The key players in this story were Robert Allen and Judith Bond (née Cooke). Naughty Uncle Robert was my great-great-great-grandfather’s youngest brother. He was born in late Summer 1821 in Colwall (Herefordshire) and at some stage in his early adulthood he married someone whose name sadly I have been unable to trace. I’m not even sure if they had any children together, but by the late 1850’s Robert was in his late thirties and already a widower. He also owned a pub in Colwall, and who knows if having all that beer and liquor around made him feistier than most of my other contemporary relatives in the area.
Judith Cooke, on the other hand, was born in Longdon or Upton-on-Severn (sources vary) in Gloucestershire in 1797, into a family of five children. Her first marriage, to William Bond, took place in 1813 (when her future second husband hadn’t even been born yet). William Bond was a publican, as Robert Allen would later be; who knows if they knew each other? Living in the same village, and sharing the same trade, I would imagine they definitely met!
Judith and William had two sons who were roughly Robert’s age. Then, in 1844, Judith’s youngest son died in nhis mid-20’s, followed shortly thereafter by the passing of his father. Judith was left, at 50, a lonely widow with one son to look after her in old age. The final blow came in 1851 when her eldest son, John, died too.
Robert was roughly the same age as Judith’s late sons and probably knew them well. If the Bonds ran their own pub, it is very likely Robert would have had many dealings with them. The wedding took place on 13th May 1858 in Colwall. Was it true love, or a mutual longing for companionship and comfort in old age that pushed the 36 year-old publican to wed the 60 year-old widow? As neither of them were wealthy, I find it highly unlikely that they were moved into matrimony with monetary interest in mind.
Against what you may think initially, the couple did stay together till the end of their days. Robert carried on working in a pub in Colwall, The Royal Oak, while Judith probably tended their house and who knows if she too worked at the pub! But if Robert expected to become a widower early on in life, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The marriage lasted an astounding 35 years, until Judith’s death in 1893 at the age of 95. Robert lived for only seven more years, and died in early 1900, aged 78.
Thus ended probably the most bizarre yet long-lasting marriages of the time in my family tree. Love is most definitely blind.
A rather English marriage…