View Full Version : Marriage by Special Licence Archbishop of Canterbury, Huguenots and Slavery

16-03-13, 09:35
Whilst going through a Huguenot register in London I came across the following very unusual entry:

"Today the 9th October 1715, baptised by Mr Lombard, was a girl born in Africa, enslaved in Jamaica, raised with almost no knowledge of religion until the age of twenty five years or so. By the Providence of God she has fallen into the hands of Monsieur and Madamoiselle Redonnel, Protestants, French, and heretofore refugees in Jamaica, at present in London. They were so careful to instruct her in the Christian Religion that she wanted to profess and be delivered to the saints in baptism, and was presented here today for this by Mr Redonnel, who acted as her Godfather, and Madamoiselles Redonnel and Peschain, who acted as her godmothers and gave her the name of Susanne"

I wanted to find out about Susanne and the Redonnels, but there was no more on them in the Huguenot Society's records at all, bar a marriage at the same church, in Westminster three years later:

"28 Dec 1718 Mr Jean Giraldel dit Constantin and Susanne Redonnel were married by Mr Jonneau, minister, by License of the Archbishop of Canterbury dated 11 December"

Jean Giraldel dit Constantin was from a Bourgeoise family of Huguenot Clock makers who had come over to London as refugees from Dieppe, Normandy in the 1680's. Unfortunately neither Jean nor Susanne lived long after the marriage. They seem to have one child who I cannot find a baptism for before John died in 1720, leaving a will, and Susanne December of the following year 1721. Her will states that she was also suffering from the same sickness as her late husband, and describes England as 'the land of my refuge'. She leaves personal belongings to her 'aunt', Elizabeth Redonnel, and her 'sister' Jane Redonnel of Lunel, Languedoc. I have also found proved in London the Wills of both Elizabeth Redonnel, widow of William in 1724, and Jane Redonnel of Lunel, Languedoc in 1725. Their wills mention various relatives back in Lunel, but obviously not Susanne having already passed.

I cannot find any record of the Redonnels in any of the English parish registers, and online google searches have only led to information on Pierre Redonnel of Lunel, who was a 'Desert Pastor' for the Protestant church in Languedoc between the 1740s-60's.

I would love to know how the Redonnels ended up in Jamaica, and whether the marriage and will for Susanne Redonnel might be one and the same as the African/Jamaican lady baptised in the same church a few years earlier? Might the special license indicate this? The family had clearly been in the parish for three years so were not new arrivals there. Why would they need such a license? I have been looking online here http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/Marriage.html but this doesn't really illuminate it any further.

Any ideas?


16-03-13, 12:02
Can't help much but to say all the marriage licenses I have seen are for under age people ie not 21 where the permission of parent or guardian is needed and that has to be sworn before the marriage can take place.

The name is sufficiently unusual to allow the conclusion that it is the same woman but not proof.


Janet in Yorkshire
16-03-13, 13:56
I thought some reasons for marriage by licence instead of by banns included: to by-pass the 3 weeks delay/ to prevent banns having to be read in 2 parishes/to allow the marriage to take place in a parish not the usual residence of the bride and groom/give greater privacy (notice of intended marriage only displayed on church door for 24 hours prior to the marriage.) So, for the former reasons, it was often used for "hasty" marriages, "private marriages." I have at least 2 sets of elderly middle-class couples marrying by licence, and it was quite common in rural areas for farming families to marry by licence too.

16-03-13, 14:26

Thanks for both your input. I have experience of marriages by License, but I assumed this was somewhat different being a 'Marriage by Special License Archbishop of Canterbury'? Were these the same as general marriage licenses then?

If the bride was the African lady then she would not have been under age. Unfortunately neither her or her husbands will indicate their ages.

I know the husband was the son of Jean Girardel dit Constantin, who came to England from Dieppe in 1687. He married Marie Mesnil in Spitalfields 1692:

St Jean Huguenot Spitalfields: The Public Promise of Marriage was entered into by Jean Girardel dit Constentin, son of the late Solomon Girardel dit Constentin, bourgoise of the town of Dieppe, and the late Madeliene Moustier, and Marie Menil, daughter of Jacques Menil and Marie Minuel, the other party, 28 March 1692 signed Jacques Menil church elder

I know this from his 1720 will where his mother Marie Mesnil appeared to state the codicil was signed by her son, she had witnessed him write it and recognised his writing.

However cannot find a baptism for him to confirm his age, just the following children:

An infant son of John Constantine of Spitalfields, weaver buried St Dunstan's Stepney 23 Dcember1692

Threadneedle Street Huguenot London 1695 Marie Esther Constantin daughter of Jean Constantin and Marie, his wife. Godarents Jaques Menil and Esther Dumarto. Baptised Dec. 29.

"Mary daughter of John Constantine of Spitalfields, buried St Dunstan's Stepney 16 Feb 1696/7"

Threadneedle Street 1697 Jacques Constantin, son of Jean Constain Godparents Jacques Menil, Marie Menil. The name of the mother Marie Constantin. Baptised March 5.

"James, son of John Constantine of Spitalfields, weaver buried St Dunstan's Stepney 15 May 1697"

"David, son of John Constantine of Spitalfields, weaver buried St Dunstan's Stepney 27 Aug 1699"

John's will describes him as a watchmaker of Christchurch Spitalfields, he left a bequest and diamond ring to 'my loving sister Mary Constantin', and the rest of his estate to his 'dear and loving wife Susanne Constantin'. The codicil was added 8 of Feburary 1720 when he revoked a bequest he had left to the French Church of Threadneedle Street and instead desired his wife to distribute it to the poor she thinks worthy. His mother had by then moved to Westminister, and his widow seems to have joined them there after his death. His father's will of 1733, the family are still in Westminster, and likewise describes him as a watchmaker and leaves all to his daughter Mary and wife Mary.

16-03-13, 14:34
Taken from Wikipedia as follows:

England & Wales.

A requirement for banns of marriage (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Banns_of_marriage) was introduced to England (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/England) and Wales (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Wales) by the Church in 1215. This required a public announcement of a forthcoming marriage, in the couple's parish church (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Parish_church), for three Sundays prior to the wedding and gave an opportunity for any objections to the marriage to be voiced (for example, that one of the parties was already married), but a failure to call banns did not affect the validity of the marriage.

Marriage licenses were introduced in the 14th century, to allow the usual notice period under banns to be waived, on payment of a fee and accompanied by a sworn declaration, that there was no canonical impediment (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Canonical_impediment) to the marriage. Licenses were usually granted by an archbishop (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Archbishop), bishop (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Bishop) or archdeacon (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Archdeacon). There could be a number of reasons for a couple to obtain a license: they might wish to marry quickly (and avoid the three weeks' delay by the calling of banns); they might wish to marry in a parish away from their home parish; or, because a license required payment, they might choose to obtain one as a status symbol.

There were two kinds of marriage licenses that could be issued: the usual was known as a common license and named one or two parishes where the wedding could take place, within the jurisdiction of the person who issued the license. The other was the special license, which could only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury (http://www.familytreeforum.com/wiki/Archbishop_of_Canterbury) or his officials and allowed the marriage to take place in any church.


16-03-13, 14:39
Just to add

Suzanne's will itself was translated from the French and describes her as "Susanne Girardel, otherewise Constantine, widow of John Girardel de Constantine watchmaker, residing in St Margaret's Westminster"

She leaves bequests to:

Such poor who are ashamed to beg, five guineas.
My sister in law Mary Girardel de Constantin one of my gowns which she shall choose.
Mrs Elizabeth Soulard, my friend, a gold ring that she shall choose from among two I have.
Elizabeth Redonnel, my aunt, my fine pearl necklace and my gold earings.
John Danze, my cousin, the silver snuff box of my late husband in acknowledgment of his good service and the friendship I have had of him.
Mr Lamotte, two banks notes of 20 pounds value.
My son John Girardel de Constantin the goods which were given me by my late uncle Mr William Redonell by his will, and all other goods I posses, and if he dies before twenty one years, to my younger sister Jane Redonnell, currently residing in Lunel, Languedoc.

She also instructed Elizabeth Redonell her aunt and Francis Soulage, an officer, her cousin, to attempt to serve as a mother and father for her son.
and appointed as executor John Girardel de Constantin her father in law

The will was written up as she lay sick in bed on the night of August 30 1721 the day before she died. It was dicatated to John Danze, with Elizabeth Soulard in the room, and both appeared personally and swore on oath she was in a fit state at the time on 21 October, and that by the time they had returned with witnesses she had died. The will was formally proved in December. Elizabeth Soulard described herself as a widow, who knew the deceased for about two years past and was initmitely acquainted with her about 3 months before. Danze gave oath he knew and was well acquainted with the deceased for several years, though doesn't state he was her cousin as the will does.

The reference to the sister Jane, and French aunts and cousins, makes me wonder whether this is the African lady or whether she was baptised for a Susanne already in the family. Do not want to jump to conclusions here.

16-03-13, 14:44
Thanks Janet, that makes it a little bit clearer as to the difference between common licenses and special licenses.

16-03-13, 16:09
This is a cool little tool, so even if it doesn't answer your question (which it might...) I'll give the link:

16-03-13, 17:17
Thanks photo family.

Think I have found my answer for this. Though I had the will of her sister Jane Redonnel, and her aunt Elizabeth Redonnel, I did not have the will of her uncle William I have just found it from September 1718 mistranscribed as 'Redomel'. He describes Susanne as 'my cousin, the niece of my wife', and leaves her 33 pounds sterling, 250 pounds stocks, 1 silver tankard, 6 silver spoons, 6 silver forks, 6 chairs, one table, one fire grate, one looking glass, the bed 'in which I lye' and one piece of cloth! However more significantly he also bequeaths 10 pound yearly rent to be paid 'in her lifetime, from my 600 pounds stock holding, for my negro servant maid Susanne'. So it does seem as if Susanne Redonnel was the 'Madamoiselle' who stood as her godmother at the 1715 baptism, and she was named, or renamed at any rate, for her.

What would her legal status have been? Would she have still been considered a slave in London? I had perhaps naively, assumed not, especially in light of the baptism.

Olde Crone Holden
17-03-13, 00:19
Described as servant, not slave, so that's the answer I think. Servants are free to go, slaves are not.


17-03-13, 11:56

Thanks for your reply. I have been looking here


In the section 'Judicial decisions' it does seem until the latter half of the 18th century the actual position of these African slaves/servants in London was dubious at best. Obviously they had been purchased as slaves in the colonies, and if they ran away in London were often still considered slaves and the property of the familys they worked for.

I would love to know what happened to Susanna. Her 'godmother' Susannah Redonnel was tasked by her uncle William Redonnel to pay the 10 pounds yearly to cover her rent, though in Susannah's own will just three years later there is no mention of this and the task isn't passed on to anyone else in the family.

Olde Crone Holden
17-03-13, 23:27

Yes, I was possibly basing my reply on my own experience, which is of ONE Will, lol. My slave owning relative made a distinction in his will between his servants (some of whom were previously his slaves) and his actual slaves. This was about 1781, from memory, mind.


18-03-13, 07:44
my ancestor was very careful with the difference in his will of 1780. he gave money to his servants, and set his slaves free, some of them even got money to make a new start. i do wonder though, how many would have been retained by the widow though. so i would say your susanne was a free woman.

18-03-13, 17:37
Hello OC and Kyle

Thanks for your input I tend to agree, she probably was considered free, though the situation seems a lot less clear cut in the 1720's then by the 1780's. I guess finding Susanne's fate is probably a non starter. I've seen plenty of burials for Africans in the East End registers and of course they rarely if ever give more than a forename, if that. I imagine the same would be true for her if she was buried in Westminster. It is ominous all trace of her disappears by the time of Susanne Redonnel's 1721 will.

I would still love to know how the Redonnels ended up in Jamaica in the first place. It would hardly be the first port of call for desperate French refugees. In the Huguenot Society records there is a reference to 42 Huguenots being given a grant by the Admiralty to settle there in 1683 but little else mention of any community located there. This in any case seems too early for the Redonnels. Susanne and her younger sister Jane were born in Lunel, France around the late 1690's/early 1700's. They had an elder brother Antoine Redonnel, an iron merchant who like Jane initially remained in France, but later fled too forfeiting his business and property in 1719 possibly due to his involvement at that time in the 'Multipliant' Protestant sect in Montpellier. He left his wife Francoise Vermil there, and his young children including a young Pierre Redonnel, who may be be one and the same as the latter 'desert pastor' of some importance to the French Protestant church in the 1740's-60's. Why Elizabeth, and her aunt and uncle, fled several years before Antoine, and to Jamacia of all places, I do not know. Can find no trace of them anywhere before the 1715 London record.