On this day, 199 years ago, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin were married. Neither Shelley nor Mary believed in the institution of marriage, this ceremony only took place at the suggestion of Shelley’s solicitor who thought that such a step would help ensure that Shelley would win custody of his children. Shelley was embroiled in a nasty custody battle against his ex-father-in-law for his two children, Charles and Ianthe, by his recently deceased wife, Harriet. Unfortunately for Shelley, this marriage did nothing to help him gain custody. The Lord Chancellor Eldon denied Shelley custody saying that his radical politics made him an unfit parent (‘Queen Mab’ was specifically used as evidence).
Mary’s own disinterest in the formality of a wedding can be seen in her journal entry where she not only glibly alludes to the ceremony (“a marriage takes place”), she also gets the date wrong (she wrote the 29th, it was the 30th).