THE name of Donald John Trump, wannabe once more president of the United States of America, is not a name that habitually crops up on this page because it’s really all about past goings-on in Worcestershire.

However, an amusing/disgusting (depending on your sense of humour) video about him is currently doing the rounds on YouTube which makes it seem as though The Donald has been studying our local history.

Spoiler: the film is AI generated and hence false but it concerns his efforts to boost his presidential campaign coffers by selling his wife Melania. A process that, despite much opposition, was not an uncommon event in early 19th-century Worcester.

Naturally the church was aghast and so, ostensibly, were newspaper editors of the day who railed against it but rather hypocritically published details of the 'sales', presumably in an effort to boost circulation among the curious who wondered if they’d missed a bargain.

Wife-selling had no basis in the law of the land but many poor folk believed that over the years the practice had gained its own legality, providing all the formalities were observed. If that raises eyebrows, it is worth remembering before 1857, when the Divorce Court was set up, legal dissolution of a marriage was impossible, except for those wealthy enough to obtain a special Act of Parliament.

In fact the formalities for wife selling were quite strict. To start with on the morning of the sale, the husband had to purchase a new halter which was put around his wife’s neck. Holding the end of the rope, he would then drive her through the nearest tollgate where he paid a toll for her at the usual rate for a cow, a horse or a pig. Sometimes the woman was driven through three tollgates to make the proceedings more binding.

With a crowd of admirers, acquaintances and possible purchasers following, it was necessary to keep to strict time, arriving at the market place as the church clock was striking the hour.

The husband acted as his own auctioneer, pointing out his wife’s good points and bad and the reason why he had decided to part with her. Descriptions often included: “ ‘Er’s sound in wind and limb”, “ ’Er can bake, an’ wash an’ brew” or “ ‘Er can swear like a trooper an’ fight like a game cock”.

Then he’d ask: “Who’ll bid for ’er?” Someone would offer a penny but the usual sale price was around five shillings. At that the wife was “knocked down” and everyone, ex-husband, ex-wife, new husband, friends and associates, repaired to the nearest pub. The halter was removed and the purchase price spent on spirits and beer, everyone drinking together to mark the end of the divorce. A document was drawn up by 'a learned clerk' and the transfer duly signed.

It had also been the practice in Worcestershire to require widows on remarrying to pay a fine to the Crown. Although this had largely died out by the mid-19th century, its repeated use gained it some degree of legitimacy.

In 1775 The Berrow’s Journal reported on a remarriage in St Swithun’s Church, Worcester, which showed how to get round another 'legality' of the day.

Its report read: “A widow, being married again, to exempt her future husband from payment of any debts she might have contracted, went into one of the pews and stripped herself of all her clothes except her shift. In which she went to the altar and was married, much to the astonishment of the parson, clerk, etc.”

Although, as Donald would say, it’s probably all fake news.