Ned Kelly married?
that Ned Kelly had a wife, or at least a fiancé, began to surface
during his lifetime, and have continued on and off to the present day.
Unfortunately no defining evidence has yet been produced to prove either
claim. The names of many women have been linked with Ned's over the years,
some more likely than others, yet there is no evidence that historians
can treat as fact. Despite this - is it nonetheless possible that Ned
may indeed have married? If not, was Ned ever in love with one or more
of the women his name was linked to? Alternatively, could it be possible
that Ned was homosexual?
*Is there reason to believe Ned was married? *Is there reason to believe
Ned was not married? *Is there reason to believe Ned was engaged?
* Was Ned ever in love? * What evidence exists to suggest that Ned was
involved in a romance?
WIVES AND GIRLFRIENDS
* Who are the most popular suggestions as Ned's
* Was Ned married in gaol the night before he was executed? * Was Ned
* How do we analyse the available 'evidence'?
* Historical context
* Summary and Conclusions * Sources and notes
Ned Kelly legally married?
- None. Despite trying in earnest, history researchers are yet to uncover
any documentation, such as a marriage certificate or official church registration,
to prove that Ned Kelly was ever legally married.
It is possible that Ned did formally marry. However, until supporting
documentary evidence surfaces, we must assume that he did not wed either
under church or common law. Without a church or state marriage record,
a relevant certificate, or sworn witnesses, it is only speculation to
assert otherwise. Note: It is theoretically
possible that Ned was married, and the relevant church documentation was
lost or destroyed. Theoretically there is also a very remote
possibility that he may have married but under a false name. (However
motive for such an unethical course of action is limited, and rather than
a devise to deceive a woman, it would presumably have been to protect
both his, and his hypothetical wife's, identity in order to aid in evading
detection during his years outside the law.) Theoretically it is
possible that Ned was in a de-facto marriage or relationship, but again,
we have absolutely no evidence to conclude that he was.
- From the lack of evidence, historians are left to surmise that Ned was
not legally married.
there reason to believe Ned was married?
Facts - None.
Theory - There
have been a number of widely spread rumours and claims dating back to
1879; however there has been no evidence to support any of them as factual.
- Much of the speculation
and suspicion around the possibility of Ned having married was apparently
created by Ned himself. During his speech to his hostages at Jerilderie
in February 1879 hearsay reports claimed that he had said, "When
outlawed I was only three weeks married
Note: Whether or not this quote was accurate,
or that Ned was misheard, or misquoted, or whether the comment was made
at all, is something historians simply do not know. This appears to
be the earliest and probably most obvious source of public speculation
that, perhaps, Ned did have a wife.
Minister E. Cook Pritchard spent from 1850 to 1880 doing missionary
work in Australia, and wrote an account of his experience in 'Under
the Southern Cross'. After his death his wife, who had accompanied
him during this time, apparently claimed to their daughter that the
clergyman had performed a marriage ceremony for Ned Kelly in N.S.W.
She evidently repeated this claim to her grandson as well, as Kelly
received an email (written 27/05/2000) by the
grandson of E. Cook Pritchard, Mike Stamford. Who wrote:
"My greatgrandfather was a missionary in Australia
1850-1880 ish. My grandmother who was with him told me (1940's) he
had married Ned Kelly, is this possible. His name was E. Cook Pritchard,
and he was a Methodist (so perhaps not). He wrote a book called "Under
the Southern Cross" and he certainly mentions meeting bushrangers
and being treated with respect because he wore a "dog-collar"
It would be great to find out. I can see no reason why she would tell
a "whopper" to impress a small boy, she was a parson's wife!"
Note: Unfortunately there is not sufficient
information (not even the alleged bride's name) to support this claim.
Given that the information is hearsay and has no documentation to
substantiate it, it cannot be treated as fact.
- A document exists
that was written after the destruction of the gang, which indicates
that some members of the police force believed it possible that Ned
may have been married. During September 1880 a search by police was
carried out for Sgt. Kennedy's still missing watch (which had been stolen
by Ned at Stringybark Creek). A report was written by Constable James
Dwyer, (dated 25/9/80) as follows:
The Wife of Ned Kelly.
I have to report that in consequence of what I have heard through a
lady at present in Melbourne, and whose name I am under a promise not
to reveal, has informed me, that the wife of Ned Kelly is a domestic
servent with Mr. I. H. Shestedt, proprietor of the Continental Hotel,
opposite the Royal Hotel, Deniliquin, and is called "Madela".
She is about 25 or 30 years of age, five feet, six or seven in. high,
long, dark hair, dark complexion, hazel eyes, masculine features, and
dresses very respectably.
My informant states that in the confidential chatting at night in the
bedroom with Madela, that she several times mentioned of having received
a splendid watch from Ned Kelly, and had it and some more articles of
splendid jewellery, in her box but that she had not the box with her
at Shestedt's Hotel.
This woman, calling herself "Madela", told my informant that
she was previously married to a man named Lorreine, and that in ten
months afterwards, he was brought home dead to her. They were at the
time keeping a hotel in the district of Greta. Det Ward or Senior Constables
Flood or Strahan will know if this has been true. She told her also
that she was only three months Married to Ned Kelly when he turned out
bushranging. She used to rave and talk in her sleep of Ned Kelly and
my informant mentioning it in the morning, she would with frightened
would wild look in her eye and anxious expression on her countenance,
aske 'Oh, what was I saying" and my informant telling her, she
would then tell many incidents of the Kelly gang and pray that they
would never be caught. After the destruction of the gang at Glenrowan.
she was like a woman frantic when in her bedroom at night, and would
get out of bed, going on her knees would pray to God and the Virgin
to save Ned Kelly from being hanged. A few days before my informant
left the hotel, she saw a letter from Kitty Kelly addressed to this
woman calling herself "Madela" and commenced the letter with
"My dear sister-in-law" telling her of her extreme trouble,
and arranging to meet her here in Melbourne on the 5th October, and
that if her brother was condemned to be hanged, they would try to give
him Poison in an nutchip when giving him a farewell kiss, and so not
have the disgrace on them that he was hanged. The police at Deniliquin
must know something of this woman, if such a one exists, and if so,
she should be watched, for she certainly has the late poor Kennedy's
Note: It is important to highlight that
Kate "Kitty" Kelly had a limited education and no known examples
of her handwriting exist, so is therefore unlikely to have written the
alleged letter. Further to this, Detective Ward filed a follow-up report
(28/9/80) stating that he carefully read over
the constable's report. He stated that he knew of no such person in
the north Eastern district as Lorraine, but went on to say that the
public house in Greta was run by a widow. A note was also made on the
back, by Supt. C. Nicholson, forwarding it to Mr Sadlier 'for
any information he may be able to give or action he may think proper
to take in the matter'. It was also marked for further enquiry
on 2nd of October. The letter proves nothing, however, it does indicate
that the police treated the 'Madela' report seriously enough to consider
the possibility of a wife's existence.
The Herald Newspaper, evening edition, 3rd of December 1880, an article
appeared titled 'Ned Kelly's Wife'. Following are some relevant
extracts from the article:
"On several occasions during the career of the
bushranger, Edward Kelly, it was stated that he had been married not
long before the commission of the police murders. After his arrest however,
and at Beechworth, when he was before the police court there, and in
Melbourne at the time of his trial, it was authoritatively stated that
he was not married, but was engaged to a young woman who was pointed
out and possessed considerable personal attractions. Since Kelly's execution,
however, the statements that he was married have been revived with greater
force than ever. It is said that in September, 1878, he was wedded at
Greta to a young woman who formally resided at Daylesford, and was well
At last the statements assumed a tangible form, and
we are now in a position to state that there is, and has been for some
time, in one of the medical institutions in Melbourne, a young woman
who claims to be the widow of the bushranger, who a few weeks ago expiated
his crime upon the scaffold. From the statement of Mrs E. Kelly, it
seems that, in September last, she was bitten by a snake
she was taken at once to Daylesford Hospital, where Dr.M'Gregor
treated her for the bite
Finding that she could not obtain relief in the country she came
to Melbourne, and entered on of the medical institutions, where she
remained for about two months
she is now a fair way to recover
She is of a modest and retiring disposition, and does not care to be
occupied in any way with the friends of the outlaws who have become
of late so notorious. She speaks very feelingly of her late husband,
and states that she did not know anything against his character when
she married him, and holds the opinion of which his friends and sympathisers
advance, that he was a much abused person, and of course blames the
police for the trouble. At the request of one reporter who interviewed
her relative to her previous existence and her knowledge of the movements
of the gang, she wrote a lengthy letter, but it chiefly is a revelation
of the statements made by the Kelly sympathisers over and over again.
She asserts that Edward Kelly was not present at the time of the Fitzpatrick
affair, and attempts to justify the murder by saying that the officers
got out with the deliberate intention of shooting Kelly and earning
the reward offered by the Government for his arrest. In referent to
her marriage and her husband Mrs Kelly says:- "I resided in Greta
in the year 1878 and was married to Edward Kelly in the same year after
an acquaintance of five months. I had not heard anything previously
against his character, and therefore consider I was quite justified
in marrying him. I always found him truthful, honest and straightforward,
and a more kind and affectionate man it would be difficult to find.
He was true as steel
If Kelly had not been harassed and taunted
by the police he would have been a credit to his name
this statement will be open to a deal of criticism. Yet it is that if
his wife, whose happiness has been blighted in its bed. Who will not
at least sympathise with me in this calamity? But I am reassured that
his affections did not diminish in the slightest degree towards me up
to the last hour of his life. I can safely say my love for him has never
lessened." The strangest part of the affair is that while the woman
talks and writes in the above strain, and is quite rational, we can
find no record in the Registrar-General's office of the marriage, nor
can we find the Catholic clergyman by whom she says she was married
at Greta. The woman states that she left her marriage certificate at
home before she came to Melbourne, and that she also left behind some
letters from Kelly, addressed to her as his wife. The question is, is
this woman really the wife of Ned Kelly. Several gentlemen who have
spoken to her believe that she is, but our impression is that she labours
under an hallucination in the matter."
Note: Whether or not the reporter is correct
in his impression that the unnamed woman was labouring under an "hallucination"
about being married to Ned Kelly, it seems possible that she might have
known Ned, or at least someone who knew him. There is a chance that
she might be the same woman referred to in the police letter 'Madela',
as there couldn't have been too many women openly claiming to be Ned's
wife. However there is no established connection between the two, and
a discrepancy in their towns of residence. The woman is quoted directly.
However, as her name is never given there is no way of verifying the
newspaper article via another source. It is significant that the
reporter states the paper had searched for a registration of the marriage,
but that none was found. This reduces the chance that a record once
existed but has since been lost. Additionally the woman, who was
obviously desperate to be believed, apparently never returned to produce
the documents that she professed to have that would have proved her
claim. This fact seriously diminishes her credibility. While the reporter
describes a number of the claims as having been authoritatively stated
- this merely describes the manner in which the claims were presented
to him and does not mean his source/s were credible. (For example, the
reporter writes that it had been "authoritatively stated"
that Ned was not married but was engaged. Yet this is merely rumour.
The credibility of this unknown source cannot be determined and so must
be treated as highly suspect.) Indeed all of the statements in the article
cannot be substantiated beyond rumour, the content of which cannot be
treated as true or factual.
- All of the above individual stories that Ned had a wife have no alternate
source for verification and are therefore unable to be substantiated or
treated factually. Moreover each claim is based entirely on hearsay.
there reason to believe Ned was not married?
- No proof exists
that he did marry.
- No proof exists
that he was ever engaged.
- Ned's brother
Jim Kelly's unequivocal opinion on the subject is that Ned 'had no
girl'. Jim publicly disavowed in writing the idea that Ned had a
girlfriend, let alone a wife, and this statement is important and credible.
Later editions of the 1929 book, 'The Inner History of the Kelly Gang
and their Pursuers' by J.J. Kenneally, contain a letter written by Jim
in December 1930. He reviewed Kenneally's book in a positive light,
then added comments about a recently published novel by another author.
The following is an excerpt from the letter:
'The girl who helped Ned Kelly'. This book is another
example of mercenary journalism. My brother Ned was so devoted
to his mother that he had no 'girl'. Of course, the author of
the book above referred to protect himself by calling his concoction
'a novel'. A more recent concoction is being published in a daily paper
for the purpose of increasing or maintaining its circulation
- The Kelly family were very close and given that
Jim would have been in personal contact with Ned, both prior to his capture
at Glenrowan, and before his execution, it is extremely likely that he
would have known if his brother had a wife or girlfriend at the time of
his death. The statement does allow for Ned having casual dalliances,
but with no woman being singled out by Ned; i.e. no serious or formal
relationship (such as a courtship). The only issue then that needs to
be considered is whether Jim would have chosen to make a misleading statement
on the matter. Given that the context of his correspondence was to set
the record straight on a number of issues for which his account has been
verified, it is highly unlikely that he would have chosen to lie about
this issue. There seems no plausible reason for Jim to lie to Mr. Kenneally
whom he saw as an ally, particularly considering the fact that the statement
was made 50 years after Ned's lifetime. Notable is the obvious certainty
and conviction with which Jim made the statement. It is very
difficult to discount this written, clear, and adamant claim by Ned's
own brother who knew him intimately.
Jim refers to Ned's strong 'devotion' to their mother Ellen. (Ned's concern
for his mother was clearly evident by his reaction to her imprisonment
and his attempts to have her freed.) Just
as in many cultures today, in Victorian times this type of devotion in
an adult child to a parent was certainly not viewed as strange or unacceptable,
nor was it entirely uncommon. (The terms 'bachelor' and 'spinster' were
once used as simple descriptive words, not value judgments like they are
often used today.) It should not be forgotten that Ellen was a poor widowed
mother with a large number of dependant children. Had Ned survived and
lived a law-abiding life, there is a clear implication that he would have
considered it his duty to take care of and provide for her and his younger
siblings. He would also have taken Ellen's welfare into consideration
when contemplating a possible marriage of his own. A good example of
such devotion and the Kelly family's values exists in Jim's behavior toward
Ellen. Almost immediately after Ned's death Jim was imprisoned for
theft. However, after his release he began work and consistently lead
a quiet and honest life, taking care of his mother until her death. Jim
never married and was, just as he later wrote of Ned, "devoted to
his mother". Jim's understanding and explanation, therefore, as to
why Ned 'had no girl' has credibility.
also been seen as somewhat telling that in the first pro-Kelly book
written (Kenneally 1929), with background information directly from
a number of the players in the Kelly story who were then still alive,
a wife or fiancé is notably absent. If Ned had had a serious
romance with a woman, she presumably would have been important enough
to be mentioned in this very partisan account, as Ned's widow or fiancé
would also have been a victim, and thus made Ned's execution more evocative
- On balance, there is considerable reason to believe that Ned was not
married, and very little to suggest he might have been.
there reason to believe Ned was engaged?
Facts - None.
Theory - There
have been a number of theories put forward suggesting that Ned might have
been engaged at some time or other. The identity of the alleged fiancé
associated with these theories has been inconsistent and inconclusive,
and none of the theories have yet been proven to be factual.
Rumour - It
was alleged in newspapers that at the time of his trial Ned was engaged.
Yet no source was recorded and no corroborative evidence was produced
to show this was anything more than rumour.
Public speculation about a 'celebrity' outlaw's personal life would have
been inevitable. Ned had already been seen as a romantic figure by some
parts of the community for many months prior to his capture. The press
were eager for any piece of personal information on Ned to present to
the enthralled public, so the idea that he might be in love or engaged
would obviously have been included in a press article on the outlaw, whether
it was true or not. Considering that no source for the rumour that Ned
was engaged was recorded at the time, a newspaper report cannot be treated
as reliable. Even assuming the rumour was genuine there is no plausible
explanation for why it was not common knowledge particularly amongst the
Kelly family, (e.g. Jim Kelly). Certainly no correspondence suggesting
an engagement, either from Ned, his alleged fiancé, or any of their
family members or friends, has ever been found. So, while the idea that
Ned was engaged is appealing, considering the lack of evidence it remains
- There is no evidence to verify that Ned was ever engaged.
For more info see pages 1 | 2 | 3
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