When a mother has other intentions

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The Independent Online
Henri-Georges Mauranges is 34 years old and perhaps the most reluctant bachelor in France. He has a fiancee, he has the rings, he had booked the registry office and the reception. Then two days before the wedding, his mother said "Non", and when he retorted that he was a grown man well over the age of majority and intended to go ahead, his parents took him to court. Henri-Georges's honourable intentions now wait on the decision of an appeal court.

The Mauranges live in the furthest corner of the largely agricultural Correze region. Henri-Georges works for his mother's business. In the small community, everyone knows everyone else, and a good number of the locals side with his mother.

Mme Mauranges mere, an estate manager in nearby Perigueux, owns a small chateau, and M Mauranges pere is a notary in a nearby town. They brought the case against Henri-Georges under a law dating from 1804 which forbids marriages where one party is found to "lack the necessary discernment".

The strongest evidence for Henri-Georges's lack of discernment in his parents' eyes is his choice of fiancee, Liliane, a divorcee seven years his senior with three children and a grandchild.

Other reasons offered for Liliane's unsuitability include the fact that her father was active in the communist-leaning CGT trade union, and the possibility that if they have no children, the chateau could pass to his step-children and so out of the Mauranges family.

When the first wedding, set for 14 September, was prevented at such short notice, the couple held the reception and exchanged rings anyway. Only the registry office had to be cancelled. Interviewed recently on television, the couple appeared to be fully in possession of their faculties, and even able to laugh at the situation.

A lower court has already found in their favour. It lifted the court order banning the marriage and ordered Henri-Georges's parents to pay 8,000 francs in damages. Mme Mauranges gave notice of appeal, and the ban was reimposed pending the appeal court's decision. The case - which pits modern France against the priorities and prejudices of an earlier age - is expected to be heard shortly.