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 Marriageable age for girls?

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Hatshepsut
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PostSubject: Marriageable age for girls?   Wed 25 Oct 2017, 20:52

On another board, people are getting sniffy about girls in the US being married at 13 years of age.

I pointed out that in former agrarian societies, it was commonplace for early marriage because (a) people didn't live as long and (b) the farmer -and society - needed as many 'hands' as possible, and the earlier the better. Most societies - be it imperial China, ancient Rome, the Jews, medieval Europe etc - had betrothal at a tender age, then marriage (with all that entails) at puberty. Which to my mind is 12/13 when a girl reaches the age of menstruation.

I am being told that this is wrong, it's a myth, 16 has always been the marriageable age, where is my evidence etc. etc., which is all slightly annoying because I felt sure it was an accepted fact that earlier societies/communities looked upon early marriage as a necessity and not child abuse. Any ideas?
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Wed 25 Oct 2017, 21:55

Royal/noble marriages are maybe a bit different but if you look at the ages of brides and grooms of say the royal families of England and France (I'm using them simply because the ages are reliably recorded) you'll see many nobles, both the boys as well as the girls, were married at less than 16 years of age. However these marriages were obviously not immediately consumated and many were by proxy with the married couple only actually meeting perhaps a few years later. For example: Margaret Beaufort married John de la Pole in 1450 when both were aged just 7; or the Duchess of Berry who was betrothed at 8 years to the 10-year-old Duke of Orleans: they were just 12 and 14 when they finally married in 1476; and of course Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII was betrotherd to Catherine of Aragon when he was 3 and she 5, and they were fully married (and possibly consumated the marriage) when he was 14 and she 16. There are many other examples.
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Hatshepsut
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Wed 25 Oct 2017, 22:17

Well that was my point. I know full well the difference between betrothal (the promise) and the actual wedding and the consummation of a marriage. 

Royals and their births/deaths/marriages are recorded accurately, but the common people would have surely just looked for a healthy 'filly' capable of intercourse and childbirth? When people were illiterate and innumerate, birthdates and ages were not that important. That is my feeling anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Wed 25 Oct 2017, 22:25

I agree, throughout history amongst the poor and especially large families with too many mouths to feed, I would have thought marriage of girls in particular would have been seen as a way of providing them with financial security, as well as reducing their economic burden on the rest of the growing family, and of course useful in cementing inter-family ties. Furthermore given the shame of children born out of wedlock, I suspect it was also considered prudent to get your daughters safely married as soon as they were starting to have an interest in, and be of interest to, the boys in the village, and to definitely get them married off before they had any children.

PS : As well as looking at the ages of noble couples when they married, one could also look at the mother's age at the birth of their first child. I haven't done it but I would imagine many mothers were quite young, perhaps as young as 14 or 15, when they gave birth to their first child.
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Wed 25 Oct 2017, 23:05

Found this online .... the Decretum Gratiani aka the Concordantia discordantium canonum - a collection of Canon law texts compiled and written in the 12th century - set the lower limit on marriage at 12 for girls and 14 for boys. This didn't actually mean priests never married younger people but it did mean if a particular partnership came under dispute later, from either one of the married couple themselves or from their relatives, a church court (which were in charge of marriage law) would have grounds to annul the marriage. As a result throughout medieval western Europe, 12 and 14 were frequently observed as the lower boundaries on marriage age.

This, not surprisingly, matches older Roman practice where 14 was the usual age for a boy to "put on his manly gown"  and become legally an adult, and thus be able to marry, while girls were often married off a couple of years younger, thus from 12 years onwards.
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 10:35

Hatshepsut, I have posted this before but you may not have seen it. In 14th/15th c. England, the average age of non-dynastic marriage for women was 23 and 27 for men. I know it seems counter-intuitive but that arises largely from our misunderstanding of life styles at the time. Far from the family unit being a cosy group of different generations living under the one roof, many children of both sexes tended to move out in their early teens to live and work elsewhere, very often in towns, as apprentices or domestic or farm servants, there are records of groups of girls what amounted to flat sharing in York, and did not marry until quite late. This was a reflection of the practice amongst the wealthy and aristocratic of having their children brought up outside the immediate family home. It is also worth noting that the menarche was several years later at that time.
The elderly also routinely also lived as lodgers with non-related families, presumably something to do with losing their tied accommodation, so a 2 generation household was the norm.

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Hatshepsut
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 10:58

That's very interesting. You are the first person to point these facts out. 

Everything else I have read over the years, and I can't give references because my reading has been over decades, has leaned towards the accepted 'facts' that pastoral/agricultural peoples married (or at least had children) at a young age, and that this was actively encouraged by these societies for economic reasons and population growth.

Hattie
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 11:09

These two links confirm what Ferval says:

Love & Marriage in Tudor Times

Family & Marriage/ Shakespeare
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 11:11

It surprised me as well but a few years ago I went to a lecture series by Prof. Roberta Gilchrist based on her book Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course.

I'm about to start watching her Rhind Lectures series on youtube from this year. It looks like something that might well appeal to Temp at least.   Here's the first one:

Sacred Heritage: Archaeology, Identity and Medieval Beliefs
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 12:46

Dynastic marriages, however, were regularly contracted between children, although consummation of the marriage was usually - but not always (see below) - delayed.

The younger of the two Princes in the Tower was actually a little widower. His marriage was a cynical land grab if ever there was one. No time at the moment to attempt  any semblance of erudition, so here's the Wiki version of events:


On 15 January 1478, in St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, when he was about 4 years old, he married the 5-year-old Anne de Mowbray, 8th Countess of Norfolk, who had inherited the vast Mowbray estates in 1476. Because York's father's-in-law dukedom had become extinct when Anne could not inherit it, he was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Warenne on 7 February 1477.When Anne de Mowbray died in November 1481 her estates should have passed to William, Viscount Berkeley and to John, Lord Howard. In January 1483 Parliament passed an act that gave the Mowbray estates to Richard, Duke of York and Norfolk, for his lifetime, and at his death to his heirs, if he had any. The rights of the two co-heirs at law were extinguished; Viscount Berkeley had financial difficulties and King Edward IV paid off those debts. Berkeley then renounced his claims to the Mowbray estate before parliament in 1483. Nothing was done for Lord Howard.


Another important player in the dramas of the late 15th century, Margaret Beaufort, was also a child bride - twice - and nearly died as a result. Again here's Wiki:


Margaret was married to Suffolk's son, John de la Pole. The wedding may have been held between 28 January and 7 February 1444, when she was perhaps a year old but certainly no more than three. However, there is more evidence to suggest they were married in January 1450, after Suffolk had been arrested and was looking to secure his son's future. Papal dispensation was granted on 18 August 1450, necessary because the spouses were too closely related, and this concurs with the later date of marriage.

Margaret never recognised this marriage. Three years later, the marriage was dissolved and King Henry VI granted Margaret's wardship to his own half-brothers, Jasper and Edmund Tudor. In her will, made in 1472, Margaret refers to Edmund Tudor as her first husband. Under canon law, Margaret was not bound by the marriage contract as she was entered into the marriage before reaching the age of twelve.

Second marriage

Even before the annulment of her first marriage, Henry VI chose Margaret as a bride for his half-brother, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. Edmund was the eldest son of the king's mother, Catherine of Valois, by Owen Tudor.

Margaret was 12 when she married the 24-year-old Edmund Tudor on 1 November 1455. The Wars of the Roses had just broken out; Edmund, a Lancastrian, was taken prisoner by Yorkist forces less than a year later. He died of the plague in captivity at Carmarthen the following November, leaving a 13-year-old widow who was seven months pregnant with their child.

Taken into the care of her brother-in-law Jasper, at Pembroke Castle, the Countess gave birth on 28 January 1457 to her only child, Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII of England. The birth was particularly difficult; at one point, both the Countess and her child were close to death, due to her young age and small size. She never gave birth again.



That final sentence is so ominous: it seems that giving birth at such a young age caused terrible damage to Margaret Beaufort's undeveloped body. I read somewhere - no time to look it up now - that it is possible her pelvis was broken in order that the child - the future Henry VII - could be born. I have no idea if this is true or not, but the thought horrifies. No mother, whatever her age, would have survived a caesarean section, but the deliberate fracturing of the pelvis as a desperate remedy perhaps did occur. Or is this a completely mad idea? Being a child bride clearly was not a good idea for a girl - unless consummation was delayed.

In haste.
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Thu 26 Oct 2017, 13:03

Going back further in time:

Marriage in Ancient Rome

and for Hattie,

Marriage in Ancient Egypt
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PostSubject: Re: Marriageable age for girls?   Sun 29 Oct 2017, 21:47

@ferval wrote:
Hatshepsut, I have posted this before but you may not have seen it. In 14th/15th c. England, the average age of non-dynastic marriage for women was 23 and 27 for men. I know it seems counter-intuitive but that arises largely from our misunderstanding of life styles at the time. Far from the family unit being a cosy group of different generations living under the one roof, many children of both sexes tended to move out in their early teens to live and work elsewhere, very often in towns, as apprentices or domestic or farm servants, there are records of groups of girls what amounted to flat sharing in York, and did not marry until quite late. This was a reflection of the practice amongst the wealthy and aristocratic  of having their children brought up  outside the immediate family home. It is also worth noting that the menarche was several years later at that time.
The elderly also routinely also lived as lodgers with non-related families, presumably something to do with losing their tied accommodation, so a 2 generation household was the norm.


Ferval,

I wanted to post it some days ago, but with the European dechristianizing thread on Historum I lost some time.
Indeed I found the same. I will look if I still have the sources...
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/02/teen-girls-stop-commonly-getting-married/
And yes around 25 years for the women...

According to this one from 24 to 26 for women in the 17th and 18th century in Britain.
https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/22845/did-people-use-to-marry-much-younger-during-the-last-millennium


According to this one about the 18th century again around the 25 for women in rural Netherlands.
https://www.rug.nl/staff/r.f.j.paping/ageatfirstmarriage.pdf


As an aside, I think that I started also a thread overhere, when I started it at Passion Histoire...
About the decline in population growth at the end of the 19th century in France. I found out that the first population transition happened in France due to reasons that I explained in the thread. The transition in Britain and Germany was later but followed the same pattern.
What I said in the thread is confirmed in an essay that I found while seeking for this thread:
https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25119719.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A36e98b66a7a7b39ca85c2471b9a2f246


Kind regards, Paul.
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