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You might be surprised to hear that the concept of marriage in this period of the Middle Ages was a whole lot less strict and structured than marriage is now. In the world of the upper class, marriage meant the successful continuance of the estate or the alliance of one family or estate with another. This was so prevalent, in fact, that there were all sorts of rules and laws about what one family or the other would do if the bride or groom died after the contract was made but before they reached an age when they could consummate the marriage. Furthermore, the rules about what one side or the other had to give back if either the bride or groom died depended on whether they had ever kissed, if they had embraced, or if they had had sex before the final marriage ceremony. Having sex strictly after the marriage ceremony was a done deal is a fairly modern invention.
It was an important political bargaining chip, used to make or break peace with neighboring people of power. And being officially, legally married didn’t mean you automatically had to have sex.
Those weren’t her exact words, of course, but the gist of what she said was that our odd quirks and habits become more prominent as time passes, and our rough spots get rougher without enough close human friction to sand-smooth them down.
Obviously laws and customs changed drastically throughout that time and the regions it covers.
Since my novels take place in England in the years around 1191-1195 that’s what I’m focusing on. But to start with, marriage as a concept is the focal point of family life. In the centuries leading up to the 1190s many noble marriages were contracted when the bride and groom were still children.
During the years when I thought I’d marry in my 20s, I assumed I’d figure out a lot of life’s big questions in relationship to a husband and probably children.
Instead, I’ve spent the (gulp) two decades since high school facing those questions with God, my church, and good friends.
, second in the Noble Hearts trilogy, I’m going to take a look at the historical facts for some of the key topics raised by the series.