The Renaissance Battle of the Sexes Online!
drawing of a Renaissance marriage
Once a girl hit the age of 12, parents would start to look for suitable husbands for them. It was unusual for girls to be married after the age of fifteen or sixteen. However, their male counterparts were often in their later ages, many times near 30!
Husband and wife were most often chosen exclusively from among members of their social rank they belonged to. However, it was sometimes treated more like a "get rich quick" scheme. Marriages were pre-arranged by fathers, and these choices bloomed from political and financial status of the other party. Renaissance marriages had the effect of raising or lowering one’s social and economic status. In the upper class, wedding children of powerful families helped to cement alliances between different families.
The bride’s dowry was the most important point to settle in any marriage. Dowries were packages of money and/or goods given to the groom for marrying a girl. Families would offer large dowries and climb the social ladder by marrying their daughters to noble husbands. Some fathers refused or were unable to pay a large dowry, and the daughter would need to work for years to build a dowry so she could afford to become a wife. Girls who had no dowry often had to become nuns, since they would have no position in society if unwed by age twenty-one.
Everywhere, adultery was a punishable crime, as both Church and state thought themselves called upon to safeguard the bond of marriage. Women who committed adultery were punished more severely than men were, although men did not fully escape the penalties for adultery. Only noblemen would be overlooked for penalties when it came to adultery. In practice, magistrates put the adulterers in the pillory or banished them temporarily from the town. However, a few examples mention the drowning of women who had been guilty of this crime. Divorce was unknown at this time. Only in the highest circles, in princely and royal houses, was it sometimes possible to gain the Church’s permission for a divorce, which made it allowable to marry again, usually in the interest of a dynasty.
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Note: This page has been created as a result of research done by students at Plymouth-Salem High School as part of a Humanities class. All data presented, unless otherwise noted, derives from these research materials. Any inaccuracy of information is accidental. Thank you for visiting our site!