Stepmothers in Frankish legal life
in Law, laity and solidarities
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This chapter explores the question of why crimes within families and in society at large are, and have been, laid at the door of stepmothers, whereas the slur of wickedness has never clung to stepfathers to anything like the same extent. Widowers had socially acceptable options if they wanted to maintain their households and provide care for their children, and they were able to evade the problem of giving their children a stepmother. Stepmothers are mentioned in the legal evidence in the context of two distinct areas: incest and remarriage. Ecclesiastical marriage legislation, including the establishment of the prohibited degrees, and the prohibition of incest, in conciliar decrees, capitularies and penitentials, has been very thoroughly studied for the Frankish Empire. Widow remarriage, taken for granted in the late Roman legal codes, was frowned on in public opinion, both in pagan Roman society and in the views of the Church Fathers.

Law, laity and solidarities

Essays in honour of Susan Reynolds


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