Beyond History Blog

„So Hedge therefore, Who Join Forever” – The marriage then and now

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 02. February 2016 - Family, General, Old Customs, Traditions

Today on February 2nd 2016, King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary. Prior to their wedding there was made a big fuss about it since Máxima neither was aristocratic nor had she a proper ancestry.

While doing genealogy research and reading about marriages of our ancestors nowadays, we ascertain that love was not the main reason for contracting a marriage. During the filming for "Das Geheimnis meiner Familie" [„The secret of my family“] with German actress Christine Neubauer the Historian Dr. Martin Ortmeier explained that only 2 % of the marriages contracted before 1900 were contracted because of love (click here to see the film - in German only).

Whereas royal dynasties often married into another royal family for political reasons, rather financial reasons were decisive for the commonality. The man needed a wife who kept house for him and who gave birth to their children. The woman needed a husband who kept her. How immensely important these financial considerations were for choosing a spouse can be illustrated by the example of the remarriage of a widowed spouse. Especially in case there were children or a business of the first marriage, the sister of the deceased wife were married in the second marriage because both the household and the children needed to be provided. Conversely the widow had need of a provider and nurturer in her household feeding her and her children.

Another example often observed was the death of the foreman of a craft business. It was quite usual that the widow married one of the journeymen for carrying on the husband’s business. That’s why some men in their mid-twenties got married to the widow of his master even if she was over 50 years old. Only after her death he married again – this time he married a young woman with whom he raised a family.

Here you have another example for that the “good old times” weren’t always that good.

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