Maria Anne Fitzherbert was a longtime companion of George IV of the United Kingdom before he became king. In 1785, they secretly contracted a marriage that was invalid under English civil law because his father, King George III, had not consented to it. She was a Roman Catholic so, had the marriage been approved and valid, George would have lost his place in the line of succession, because the law at the time forbade Catholics or spouses of Catholics from becoming monarch. Before marrying the prince, Fitzherbert had been twice widowed. Her nephew-in-law from her first marriage, Cardinal Weld, persuaded Pope Pius VII to declare the marriage sacramentally valid.