a legitimate wife or a lawfully wedded wife, legitimate children or children from a lawful wedding?

wolfbm1

Senior Member
Polish
Hello.

A famous actor has an extramarital affair with his housekeeper. He fathers a son. It is his love-child, an illegitimate child.
With his lawfully wedded wife the actor has two sons and two daughters. They are his legitimate children.

If 'a legitimate wife' is a synonym of "a lawfully wedded wife," what is the synonym of "legitimate children"? Is it "children from a lawful wedding"?

Thank you.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Legitimate wife' is not used, 'lawfully wedded' is very formal, and 'lawful wife' is also formal and would only be used to clarify that they're not just living together: she isn't his 'de facto' wife or 'common law' wife, as they're commonly known. His mistress isn't some other kind of wife: she isn't an unlawful or illegitimate wife. You can't use adjectives to contrast these two kinds of 'wife', because only one of them is any kind of wife.

    His legitimate children are his children by his wife. Plain 'wife' is sufficient, because his illegitimate children aren't by any kind of wife.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    All five expressions "legal wife", "lawful wife", "legitimate wife", "lawfully wedded wife" and "lawful wedded wife" are used in that order of frequency (see Google Ngram Viewer), though Britain shows a slight preference for "lawful wedded" over "lawfully..."

    Otherwise, I agree with EntanledBank's logic. One synonym of "legitimate children" is "children born in wedlock".

    (Note that in English law all children born to a woman in wedlock are deemed to be legitimate, unless her husband disowns them. But that doesn't affect the case described in #1.)
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you for the five expressions.
    The actor has two wives. One of them is a lawful wedded wife.
    The actor has four children born in wedlock and one child born out of wedlock./ The actor has two daughters and two sons born in wedlock and one son born out of wedlock.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    The actor has two wives. One of them is a lawful wedded wife.
    The actor has four children born in wedlock and one child born out of wedlock./ The actor has two daughters and two sons born in wedlock and one son born out of wedlock.
    In most western countries at least, the actor could only have two wives if he was a bigamist. He could have a (current) wife and an ex-wife or a deceased wife: in either case all the children from both marriages would be legitimate.

    These expressions "in wedlock" and "out of wedlock", by the way, are reminiscent of the 19th century, and they're very rarely used these days. We do refer to children sometimes as "illegitimate", when for example a famous actor's extra-marital affairs are revealed to have resulted in children, but it's mainly used in the context of disputes over inheritance and the like. If you define an illegitimate child as one born out of wedlock (i.e. one born to parents who weren't lawfully married at the time of the birth) then half the children in Britain are illegitimate.

    The point I'm trying to make here, in a roundabout sort of way, is that this whole scenario, to me, represents some very outmoded concepts in this day and age. :eek:
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Do you mean two wives?
    I agree with what has been said already about bigamy, however:
    you can distinguish wives.
    This is possible
    His ex-wife or former wife contrasts with current wife.
    Some actors have a few ex-wives.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I think I misunderstood entangledbank's explanation about the concept of 'wife.'
    In the scenario I have given the actor's lawful weded wife does not realise that he has had an affair until she learns that their houskeeper's child was fathered by him. For him it was only an affair, not a steady relationship. So the housekeeper was only a mistress for him.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    In the scenario I have given the actor's lawful weded wife does not realise that he has had an affair until she learns that their houskeeper's child was fathered by him. For him it was only an affair, not a steady relationship. So the housekeeper was only a mistress for him.
    Well, "mistress", to me, implies some sort of semi-steady relationship, usually with someone other than your wife.

    An "affair" could amount to not much more than a one-night stand.

    And either could result in an an illegitimate child.
     

    fiercediva

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's so much easier to use the real-life example, although it's a bit muddier. Arnold Schwartzenegger's first and only wife to date was Maria Shriver. They have four children. During their 25-year marriage, Schwartzenegger had an affair with the couple's then-married housekeeper and fathered a child with her. The housekeeper's ex-husband is the man named on the birth certificate as the legal father of the child. Schwartzenegger has said he did not realize that the housekeeper's son was his until the child was seven years old and resembled Schwartzenegger physically; he has assumed financial responsibility ever since, including buying a house for the housekeeper and her son to live in. I would not call the housekeeper a "mistress"; she had a physical relationship with the actor, but she was not a kept woman and had a husband.

    In old-fashioned parlance as DonnyB said, the four children with Shriver are legitimate and the housekeeper's son is an illegitimate "love" child. This really doesn't matter as much nowadays because in the U.S. a father is financially responsible for any minor children he's fathered, and if it is a question of heirs, many (but not all) states give illegitimate children some right of inheritance to unmarried parents. However, it seems as if Schwartzenegger did not undergo DNA testing to prove his paternity and just accepted responsibility, so as it stands now the housekeeper's son is still legally the ex-husband's son. The ex-husband is actually suing Schwartzenegger for "conspiracy to falsify" the child's birth certificate.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The actor's wife, with whom he had four children, is not his wife anymore, because she divorced him.
    I wonder if there are any relations between the legitimate children of the actor and their illegitimate half-brother.
     

    fiercediva

    Senior Member
    American English
    The actor's wife, with whom he had four children, is not his wife anymore, because she divorced him.
    I wonder if there are any relations between the legitimate children of the actor and their illegitimate half-brother.
    A little off topic, but as of last September, they were not yet legally divorced.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    The actor's wife, with whom he had four children, is not his wife anymore, because she divorced him.
    I wonder if there are any relations between the legitimate children of the actor and their illegitimate half-brother.
    In England, the divorce of our fictitious actor wouldn't in itself affect the status of the relationship between the various children.

    If either of the partners then remarried, things could start getting complicated, but let's not get into that one. :)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The children of the two women can still be called half-brothers or half-sisters. The idea of 'legitimate' really only relates to inheritance of property from parents.
     
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