BACHELORS beware. This is a Leap Year when single ladies have the right to propose marriage without waiting for a chap to pop the question.
At least, that used to be the tradition. I don’t suppose it carries the same weight, these days. Or the same threat. For threat it used to be. One ancient law decreed that if a chap turned down a lady’s proposal of marriage he had to offer compensation ranging from a kiss to £1 to a silk gown.
And if a lady had just been turned down, I doubt if she would readily accept a kiss and a pound was a lot of money in the 13th century.
So the tradition grew that ladies could only propose on leap day when, one supposes, all eligible men of a nervous disposition took to the hills or barricaded themselves in the nearest ale house for the duration.
Today there is much more equality between the sexes, couples drop into long term relationships and marriage is, in some cases, no longer the ultimate aim. Even so, the female in any partnership could be the one left holding the baby and marriage is a joint commitment that says that will not happen.
Besides, a marriage is a declaration of long term love and intent, and what young lady doesn't want a wedding where she can be the centre of attention?
So despite the scepticism of the age in which we live, there could well be ladies out there who may still consider popping the question on this year’s leap day, which is Wednesday, February 29, to a partner who has so far been reluctant to plight his troth.
They might also decide to evoke that old law and claim a kiss, £1 or a silk gown if they are turned down. Ladies choice. And as £1 in the 13th century is equivalent to £12,800 in average earnings today, vulnerable chaps might consider planning ahead.
A tent in the middle of the Dales might be a preferable option, even in February.