Interestingly, there is a second variant of this group. Again, the words WHO SHALL WARE THE BRECHES and CONQUER OR DIE are above the fireplace, but there are notable differences, as you can see in the example below from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s holdings. First, the captions are reversed. Second, there is a bundle on the floor at the couple’s feet. This bundle represents a well-wrapped infant, clearly flung aside as the parents tussle. Third, the group stands on a flat base rather than a claw-footed base. Fourth, the top of the spill vase is pointed rather than rounded. If you look carefully, many of the fine details match: the impressed design on the edge of her apron is the same in both groups, as are the impressions around the fireplace. I believe there are four examples of this group in existence: one is in a North American collection, and three are in museums (Victoria and Albert, Fitzwilliam, Brighton and Hove.)
Are you still wondering WHAT one did to end an unhappy marriage in the absence of divorce law? The common man and woman found some ingenious solutions to notify the public that they considered their union over. Wife-sale was a quaint custom that was a quick, if not legal, solution. A man would put a halter around his wife’s neck, lead her to market like a piece of cattle, and auction her to the highest bidder. Frequently, the bidder was VERY well known to the wife. Although this did not legally end a marriage, in the eyes of the local community it was clearly understood that things were over. But failing all else, death generally provided the only legal solution to a miserable marriage.