On May 30, 2017, an unusual ceremony was performed for a fallen French police officer. Xavier Jugelé was killed in an April terrorist attack by ISIS on Paris’s Champs-Élysées, leaving behind his longtime partner Etienne Cardiles. Jugelé was among the very first responders to the attack on the famed boulevard, where he was one of three police officers shot and the only one killed.
Cardiles had planned to happily spend the rest of his life with Jugelé. Unfortunately, those plans had been cut short by the cruel hands of ISIS. This is the kind of tragedy that truly leaves loved ones in despair. When the love of your life is stolen from you in a horrific terror attack, the dreams of your future are ripped away, and that can be devastated.
But Cardiles wasn’t going to let death get in the way of their love. On May 30, Cardiles posthumously married Jugelé in a private ceremony attended by former French president Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
‘Til death do we part? Not anymore.
According to BBC, this is the first posthumous same-sex marriage in France, and possibly the whole world. Posthumous marriage, or necrogamy, is a legal practice in France and has been since World War I. But much of the world is unfamiliar with this odd practice.
These posthumous marriages were accepted when men, already engaged, died in war or a tragedy. What existed initially for the fiances of soldiers lost in battle became open to civilians after a dam broke and killed 400 people in Frejus in 1959.
Within months of that tragedy, the French government drafted a law that permitted posthumous marriage. The official law reads:
“The President of the Republic may, for serious reasons, authorize the solemnization of marriage if one of the spouses died after completion of official formalities marking it unequivocal consent. In this case, the effects of marriage dated back to the day preceding the death of the husband. However, this marriage does not entail any right of intestate succession for the benefit of the surviving spouse and no matrimonial property is deemed to have existed between the spouses.”
This basically says: If it’s clear to that you’re in a loving relationship and behaved like a married couple, the government will honor the title of marriage. However, it doesn’t mean that you get any of their property after death. That still goes directly to the family.
The ceremony is performed with the man or woman standing next to a picture of the deceased fiancé. Rather than uttering the famous phrase, “I do,” the bereaved groom or bride says, “I did.” The phrase “until death do us part” is not used.
There have only been one known instance of posthumous marriage in the United States. The first was in 1987 when a Miami circuit court judge ordered a clerk to sign a marriage license on behalf of Isaac Woginiak after he died from a heart attack. This marriage was later invalidated.
There have been other instances of posthumous marriage in Germany, South Africa, South Korea, and Japan. There’s even an openness to the practice within Mormonism. In China, they have something similar known as ghost marriage.
The marriage of Cardiles and Jugele is the most recent example of this somber practice, but it likely won’t be the last. In a heartbreaking eulogy, Cardiles spoke of the love of his life, “You lived a life of joy and immense smiles where love and tolerance were unchallenged masters. You left this life like a star.”