Child Marriage in Early Modern England

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle in specialist publication


Historically, marriage has never been the ‘traditional’ union of a man and a women based on love and mutual respect for each other. More often than not, marriages were arranged with the good of the family in mind and not the happiness of the betrothed couple. This was especially so in the cases of marriage between children. The examination of depositions (witness statements) from petitions for annulment of a marriage made by children below the canonical age of consent in the Dioceses of Chester and York between 1450 and 1603 (I refer to this period as the sixteenth century as convenient shorthand for the longer period), reveal just why these marriages took place as well as the age at marriage of the parties. Unlike the forced child marriage we associate with less economically-developed economies today, wherein young girls are married off to much older men by their families for economic gain, the children in sixteenth-century child marriages in the north of England were not expected to conform to the expectations of adult marriage in anything other than marital status.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationVIDA: Blog of the Australian Women's History Network
PublisherAustralian Women's History Network
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2018


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