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In 1963 the law still denied divorce except to those who could provide evidence sufficient to convince a court of a partner's adultery or other matrimonial offence. In that year, a determined attempt was made to change the law to allow divorce where a couple had lived apart for at least seven years.
One answer no doubt lies in what could be called 'the spirit of the age'. 1963 was, after all, the year in which (according to Philip Larkin) 'sexual intercourse began'. It was also the year of the so-called Profumo affair in which a Minister of the Crown admitted lying to Parliament about his relationship with a woman; and unprecedented press publicity was given to the surrounding events and rumours. (For example, another Minister was said to indulge in 'weird sexual practices' involving his appearing naked--save for a mask--at parties.) Lord Denning's exhaustive investigation into these matters (concluding that although there had indeed been orgies where guests indulged in 'sexual activities of a vile and revolting nature' and that it was true dinner had been served by a naked masked man yet there was not a 'shred of evidence' that the man in question was a Minister) did little to calm the fevered atmosphere. In the circumstances, it became increasingly difficult to believe that civilisation would be endangered by allowing the thousands of (often elderly and usually eminently respectable) couples living together in what came to be called 'stable illicit unions' to crush the 'empty legal shell' of an earlier marriage so that they could become in law what they had long been in fact (Castles and Flood, 1991).
The massive increase in divorce associated with ...
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