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Colonial Cases

Christiana v. Barratto [1826]

breach of promise of marriage

Supreme Court at Calcutta

Source: The Morning Chronicle  (London, England), 23 May 1826, issue 17688

BREACH OF MARRIAGE PROMISE.

In the Supreme Court at Calcutta, an action was brought against Luis Jos. Barretto , by Miss Maria Jane Christiana, to recover damages for a breach of promise of marriage.

The estates of the defendant and of the plaintiff's father adjoin each other, and the first acquaintance of Mr. Barratto with the family of Mr. Christiana, arose from his sending Mr. C.'s children fruit. In February, 1825, the defendant met Mr. Christiana, and intimated his wish to call upon him; on which he was invited to dinner the next dey , and he continued to visit from that time till March, when Miss Christiana went to reside with her aunt at Barrackpore , and did not return until July. In that month he again visited at Mr. Christiana's, and expressed to Mr. C. his desire to marry his daughter, if he could obtain his consent. He also sent Mr. C. his buggy horse the following morning to fetch his daughter from Barrackpore , and said that a good settlement should be made upon her. The defendant proposed to settle a lac [1] of rupees upon the plaintiff. Instructions were given to draw up the settlement for that amount, but the defendant afterwards altered it, by saying he would settle the interest of a lac of rupees upon the plaintiff, and 50,000 should, in the event of her death, revert to Mr. Christiana's estate. Notwithstanding Mr. Barratto had given instructions for preparing this settlement, he began to relax in his attentions to Miss Christiana, and she thereupon addressed to him the following note:-

"My Dear Louis - How originates this coolness? On my part I am not aware of any thing that can give rise to it. Your word and honour is pledged to me. It cannot be on account of the settlement, for my father wrote, through Mr. Brightman , to you agreeing to the marriage settlement in all its parts - what more then, can you wish for?

"I have made many sacrifices for you, and consequently your conduct cannot be justified; it destroys my happiness. Silence on your part is cruel; it is a source of great uneasiness; but when you call to mind all your promises, recollect what must be felt by

(Signed) "MARIA CHRISTIANA"

Mr. Barratto's conduct was also described as being most cruel, in removing those servants whom he had employed to attend her, and also the carriage which he had directed her to use. At one of the dinner parties, Mrs. Barratto proposed that her son and Miss Christiana should change rings, which in India is considered half a marriage. Mr. Barratto then gave Miss C. a ring; and he, in return, received a brooch, to which he had taken a fancy. In the course of a few days, however, Mrs. Barratto applied for this ring to be restored, alleging, it was a present from a relation, and threatening legal proceedings if it was detained. The defendant also took the plaintiff to the European shops, and purchased her a few little articles by way of presents; but when the bills came in they were sent to Miss Christiana for payment. The repeated promises of Mr. Barratto , and the fact of plaintiff having refused two good offers being proved, Counsel were heard on behalf of the defendant, who contended, that Mr. Barratto was fully justified in refusing to marry Miss Christiana, as the whole of the family's proceedings resolved itself into a mercenary spirit of gain, and a desire to enrich themselves by the union.

After a short consultation, the Chief Justice pronounced judgment - Damages, Five Thousand Rupees.

Note

[1]  A lac is the sum of 100,000, usually in reference to rupees.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School