Marriage
in Women of the English Nobility and Gentry, 1066-1500
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This chapter contains a selection of translated and annotated texts on women and marriage. Marriage for noble and gentry children was arranged by their families, with the participation on occasion of their lords and of the king, and it was relatively rare for the children themselves to take matters into their own hands. Marriage has to be set in the framework of the rules and conventions of feudal lordship, and was inextricably linked to property and wealth; personal considerations were rarely mentioned, and even then were probably regarded as subordinate. The marriage contract itself specified the property arrangements, which became more complex as the Middle Ages progressed. The Church's rule forbidding marriage within four degrees of consanguinity meant that many of the nobility and gentry, who were highly interrelated, had to secure a papal dispensation before contracting marriage. The dispensation was essential in order to secure the legitimacy of the offspring.

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