Marriage Among the Lower Class in the Medieval Period

Marriage is a personal union between two individuals that is protected by law, and when time comes for two people to get married, a lot of factors come into play. The basic one is love, but there are other factors that play a role here… Such as money, power, dignity, and a lot more.

The lower Class

The lower class which included most of the population in one kingdom could also be split into different categories. Most people were considered “free” men until the advancement of feudalism brought down a huge percentage, turning them into “vassals”. These people were constantly exploited and taxed, and only a small percent of the population was now considered free.

The women that lived in the villages were married on a reasonable age in that period, many girls would fell in love and marry the person that made them feel that way, others as always would conquer an opportunity and take advantage so they could have a better life. Note that not getting married wasn’t an option because they needed security and a future. Most couldn’t provide for themselves so if their husband died they might have to remarry. Being married was vital. If a woman was not married in the Middle Ages she would have no resources to live a secure life.  Religion also played a part here.

For the guys it was the same… In the past many of them could live a more adventurous life, but they were now bound to their land by law. They couldn’t escape their home, and that is where they should live and prosper. Marriage wasn’t just made for love here in these lower parts, it was also made for survival. Children also played an important role for the future of the family.

We won’t forget the church, many priests, especially monks won’t get married. They were living a life devoted to Christ (Taking Christianity as an Example) and they focused mostly on their union with God. The same went for the nuns and the orders that were established later on.

For the lower class in the city it might be different. As cities flourished it gave birth to a lot more opportunities. For instance you might have no chance in securing a better future living in a village but a city could give different options. It is safe to say for the lower class that most of them will marry for love, but they now had an option to stay single if they want to. Living in the city doesn’t require for you to marry because it was quite different.

In the cities you had multiple professions and you depended on your performance and quality, both men and women were given a chance to show their set of skills and to prosper from them. If you are asking why this would be a factor, take this as an example… A smith might have to travel around and work as a subcontractor for several years to afford to open a shop. This would mean that he would have to postpone getting married and building a family because he would be traveling constantly and couldn’t care for his family.

Religion also had a huge impact on the marriage system. While we mostly know about Christianity, we currently lack the sources to write more about other religions such as Islam and their state on marriage, if you know any good information on this topic it would be nice to share them. Religion was the only “legal” way to bring two people together and various ceremonies were held. Each culture has its own wedding traditions which makes it unique. It has developed and advanced with time and many people get married following these traditions.

Resources:

Coontz, Stephanie. 2005. Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy

 

Leave a Reply