Crime and Punishment Living gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Living in 1901
Crime in 1901BigamyPetty CrimeMurder*  

Bigamy

In Britain in 1901, divorce was still hard to obtain. The most notorious bigamy case of 1901 was that involving Earl Russell, who was convicted initially at the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court) and subsequently by the House of Lords in July. Russell had divorced his wife and married Mollie Cooke in the USA the previous year. British courts would not accept the validity of his divorce, however, and he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment in Holloway gaol. Despite petitions for his release, signed by Joseph Conrad among others, he served his time.


Divorce was more common in the USA than in Britain: some American marriage certificates even included columns for the bride and groom to indicate whether they had been married before.

Follow this link to another's experience of divorce.

Earl Russell's trial - link to a enlarged version


Another bigamist convicted in 1901 was Frank Dudley, alias Dudley Monstressor, who was aged 36 and described as a dramatist. He pleaded guilty at the Leicester Assizes in June 1901 and was sentenced to 18 months' hard labour.

Dudley had a previous criminal record. He had been convicted of fraud, theft and other offences in places as varied as Oldham, Leeds, Scarborough, Salford and Glasgow. In 1893 he had married a Miss Wright in Camden Town, north London, and subsequently joined the army. Moving to Leicester in 1897, he married a Miss Squires the following year, who later gave evidence that he had treated both her and her mother badly.

Dudley asked the judge for one more chance, claiming that he had been a martyr to circumstances all his life. The judge, however, remarked that the prisoner had been guilty of most disgraceful conduct.