Reports of forced marriage were patchy (there is much more on elopement and abduction). Most incidents of this kind did not reach the ears of reporters. However, I have turned up these few in the British Newspaper Archive. Forcing a marriage was perpetrated by anyone in a position of power, from parents to magistrates to the partner him or herself. There are numerous instances in the newspaper archives of poor women being pushed into marriage with the fathers of their illegitimate children to prevent her and her offspring from becoming a burden on the parish. The man would often be threatened with prison for the offence of ‘bastardy’. Very often, the marriages were disasters.
Glasgow, Dec. 17. Last Week a Party of Men from the Highlands, on Horseback, and mostly armed, carried off in a violent Manner, a young Widow in the Parish of Balsron, said to have a Fortune of £1500 Sterling, and forcibly married her to one of their Number.
Newcastle Courant, 15 December 1750
Thursday Morning a beautiful young Lady, about nineteen Years of Age, near Old Bond-street, was found hanging in her Room, with a Letter in her Pocket, in which she declared a forced Marriage was the Occasion of her putting a Period to her Existence.
Derby Mercury, 13 October 1775
The Bill [to amend the Law of Offences against the person] also contained clauses amending punishment for abduction, with a view to defilement or forced marriage.
Hereford Journal, 14 May 1828
ABDUCTION OF A WIDOW. On Wednesday three men, named Hayes, Dwyer, and Crowe, were indicted for the abduction of Mary Ryan, for the purpose of having her defiled by Hayes, and forcibly married to him. The prosecutrix is described to be a handsome young widow, renting a farm of 90 acres of land, and otherwise fortunately endowed. As the crime of abduction is peculiar to this country her evidence may be interesting in England:—
Mary Ryan examined.— Is a widow, and has a good farm near Ullah. On the 27th of April she was on her farm, getting potatoes picked. The prisoner Hayes came to her and forced her into a cart by the assistance of a man she did not know. The prisoner Dwyer was the driver, drove off till she was near Doon, when she forced herself off. Hayes and the other man put her into the cart again. When they went on to Knockoura they took her out of the cart, and brought her into a field. She asked what he wanted? He said he wanted to marry her, in order to get her property. She said she would not marry him or anybody. She was kept for ten minutes in the field; there was no violence used towards her, for there was not time, the police having come up immediately; when Hayes saw the police, he lay down in an old quarry, and pulled down witness by the skirt of her gown lest the police should see them; she never had an intimacy with Hayes except merely to speak to him. The police saved her. It was about seven o’clock in the evening.
To a Juror. — Met people on the way; made a noise, but the cart was driven furiously; had bruises on her arms and sides from her struggling.
Cross-examined. — There are six or eight houses near the field from which she was carried away; her herdsman’s house was near it; a man of the name of Ryan lives near it, and has a registered gun. She has 90 acres of land, and cannot say in what part of the land the herdsman was at the time. She could get a much better match than Hayes if she wanted to get married. Hayes and Dwyer were convicted— Crome acquitted.
London Standard, 9 March 1846