Effie Gray - why she makes me proud to be a family lawyer

Posted by Christine Plews on
At the weekend I watched the film about Effie Gray which I found very moving and sad.

It is an interesting film from an Oxford perspective because she was married to John Ruskin who had connections with Oxford and whom the Ruskin School of Art was named after.

However, the main interest for me was as a family lawyer. The film vividly portrays what it is like to live in a loveless marriage and how, in Victorian society, there was little you could do, and no one to turn to, if you wanted help in building another life for yourself and starting again.

Effie was 'lucky' in that her marriage was not consummated and so she was able to have her marriage treated as if it had not taken place and it was null and void. However, if that had not been the case then it would have been almost impossible for her to have left the marriage without being shunned and excluded from society or any means of supporting herself. Even so, and despite the situation not being of Effie's choosing, Queen Victoria would not meet her until many years after the annulment had taken place. John Ruskin was also trapped and a victim of the social pressures of the time.

How different it is today and what great strides have been made to enable people to enjoy self determination. We often look at the past with rose tinted glasses but, as with medicine in the last 150 years, the law has made a great improvement to people's lives.

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Photograph of Christine Plews

Christine leads the Family Practice Group and specialises in divorce and financial issues on separation, including cohabitee disputes.

Christine Plews
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