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Marriage in Fifteenth-Century England: Part II, Secondary Sources

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English Marriages in the Fifteenth Century:  A Discussion of the Secondary      
Sharon D. Michalove, Department of History,                                      
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign                                       
Sir John Paston, son of Margaret and John Paston, was betrothed to Anne         
Haute during the winter of 1468 69.  Because she was a kinswoman of              
Elizabeth Woodville, the consort of Edward IV, this betrothal gave the           
Pastons a new tie with the court, which was necessary to them as they tried      
to safeguard the inheritance they had received from Sir John Fastolf.  This      
inheritance included Caister Castle, which was coveted by the Duke of            
Norfolk, a powerful enemy.  Therefore the Pastons needed a powerful              
protector.  Sir John felt he had found one in Anthony Rivers, Lord Scales,       
the brother of the queen.  Sir John was a courtier, and, with Edward IV's        
court, was primarily based in London.  He left the running of the Paston         
property to his mother, Margaret, and his younger brother John II.  The          
Pastons were moving up from minor to major gentry.                               
 But while the Paston family's thoughts were turned to marriage, not all         
the marriage news was good.  Margery Paston, Sir John's sister, had              
clandestinely  married Richard Calle the Paston's bailiff.  Calle, who was       
a valued member of the Paston retinue, was not considered a suitable match,      
since he was only from a respectable merchant family.  John Paston III           
complained that the couple claimed that he looked favorably on their             
marriage.  Irate, he wrote to his brother Sir John, "if my father, whom God      
assoil, were alive, and had consented thereto and my mother and you also,        
|Calle| should never have my goodwill to make my sister sell candles and         
mustard at Framlingham . . ."                                                    
 Sir John's betrothal illustrates the type of marriage that historians of        
fifteenth-century England consider typical a marriage for property and           
prestige rather than a love match.  But was Margery Paston Calle's marriage      
an anomaly?  Was a love match the exception rather than the rule?  I hope,       
through the secondary materials and primary sources, to find out.                
 The Paston letters and papers are one of four great fifteenth-century           
collections.  Three other family lives are illustrated the Celys, the            
Stonors, and the Plumptons.  Their letters and papers have all been            
published, although not in as many editions as the Paston material.  And         
while all of these families have been studied and written about, they have       
not been looked at as a group.  I hope to bring together the various             
threads of these lives and see whether their attitudes toward marriage were      
similar and whether they can be used to draw any conclusions about marriage      
in the merchant and gentry families of fifteenth-century England.                
 In searching the vast available secondary source material that either           
touches on or deals specifically with marriage, some are useful for              
pointing to possible methodological frameworks or for making comparisons.        
The study Tuscans and Their Families:  A Study of the Florentine Catasto of      
1427 by David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber (New Haven:  Yale            
University Press, 1985) is useful in giving a model of fifteenth-century         
marriage to compare against the English data.  Herlihy's Medieval                
Households (Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 1985) deals with        
"Domestic Roles and Family Sentiments in the Later Middle Ages" as its           
fifth chapter.  Lawrence Stone's classic study The Family, Sex and Marriage      
in England 1500 1800 (New York:  Harper Torchbooks, 1979) carries the story      
further in time, but also discusses methodology.  His latest book, The Road      
to Divorce also has some insights that might usefully inform this study.         
Another study of England is Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England,          
Press, 1990).  Ingram's discussion of the differences between marriage           
theory and marriage practice, as seen through court records is valuable.         
And he makes the point that the attitudes prevalent in the sixteenth and         
seventeenth centuries were already well established by 1500.   Another book      
dealing with court records is London Church Courts and Society on the Eve        
of the Reformation by Richard M. Wunderli (Cambridge, Mass.:  The Medieval       
Academy of America, 1981).  Wunderli is only dealing with crimes and spends      
very little time on the subject of marriage, but the small amount that he        
has to say is useful in setting the context.  Alan Macfarlane, not to be         
outdone by Lawrence Stone, has an even broader sweep in Marriage and Love        
in England:  1300 1840 (Oxford:  Basil Blackwell, 1987).  He looks at "the       
purposes of marriage" and the "rules of marriage."  His study has an             
economic basis, and is interesting when viewing marriage as a business           
arrangement.  Another legal study is that of Richard Helmholtz, who looks        
at canon law court cases and the theory of marriage in canon law in              
Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge, England:  Cambridge          
University Press, 1974).                                                         
 Two books that deal with medieval attitudes toward marriage are The             
Medieval Idea of Marriage by Christopher Brooke (Oxford:  Oxford University      
Press, 1991) and Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe by           
James A. Brundage (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1987).             
Brooke looks at law, theology, architecture, and literature and discusses        
famous examples including Abelard and Heloise and Henry VIII.  While his         
approach may be too theoretical and literary to be of direct use in my           
study, his observations on demography and statistics give me yet another         
method for comparison.  In Brundage's book, the chapter "Sex, Marriage, and      
the Law from the Black Death to the Reformation, 1348 1517," discusses law,      
theory, and practice in marriage in the social context of late medieval          
Europe.  His geographical sweep is wide so comparative assessments can be        
attempted.  Another general book that discusses medieval marriage is             
Shulamith Shahar's The Fourth Estate:  A History of Women in the Middle          
Ages (London:  Methuen, 1983).  Her chapter on married women deals with        
law, property, and status, all relevant issues when looking at the               
marriages in these families.                                                     
 English history in the fifteenth century, while not particularly popular        
with American historians, has seen a revival of interest among the British.      
Studies have been made, on a broad scale, of the Pastons and the Celys,         
although not of the Stonors and the Plumptons.  Alison Hanham's The Celys        
and Their World:  An English Merchant Family of the Fifteenth Century            
(Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985) is a study by the         
editor of the Cely letters for the Early English Text Society.  Hanham           
looks at the Cely marriages in the context of merchant society, but she          
does not attempt to compare them to wealthy, nonmerchant families.  As           
society became more fluid in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth              
centuries, aristocrats did marry the daughters of merchants, so a                
comparative view would be a logical next step.                                   
 The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century:  The First Phase by Colin           
Richmond (Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 1990) looks at        
the same issues for the Pastons, not comparing them to the Celys but to the      
aristocracy.  This is the first in a four-part study.  Richmond's paper          
"Landlord and Tenant:  the Paston Evidence," in Enterprise and Individuals       
in Fifteenth-Century England, edited by Jennifer Kermode (Gloucester,            
England:  Alan Sutton, 1991), 25 42, despite its title, also deals with          
aspects of marriage in the Paston family that are not in the larger work.        
The material on Paston gains from their marriage alliances may reflect           
material in later volumes.                                                       
 While Frances and Joseph Gies' Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages       
(New York:  Harper & Row, 1987) is a general work on medieval marriage, one      
section is on the late middle ages.  They use the Paston family in England       
and the family of Lapo di Giovanni Niccolini dei Sirigatti, a wealthy wool       
merchant in Florence as their two examples.  The Gies stress "marriage           
strategies and clashes between parental wishes and children's consent" in        
looking at the differences in the marriages of sons and daughters in the         
Paston family over several generations.  The Florentines do not seem to          
have so much difficulty over consent, so perhaps their daughters were more       
 Other books that deal with the Pastons are Private Life in the Fifteenth        
Century:  Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family edited by Roger Virgoe        
(New York:  Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989) and the classic study by H. S.        
Bennett, The Pastons and Their England:  Studies in an Age of Transition         
(Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 1970).  Bennett's book         
was originally published in 1922 and a new edition was published last            
year a testimony to the interest in the family and the readability of the        
book.  Bennett has a chapter on marriage but interestingly discusses             
Margery Paston and Richard Calle in a chapter entitled "Love."                   
 Joel Rosenthal is one American historian who is interested in                   
fifteenth-century England.  His new book, Patriarchy and Families of             
Privilege in Fifteenth-Century England (Philadelphia:  University of             
Pennsylvania Press, 1991) discusses the idea of marriage as family               
strategy.  He mentions the Celys and Stonors and discusses the Pastons at        
some length.  But the Plumptons are missing from this study.                   
Michael Hicks' "Descent, Partition and Extinction:  The Warwick                 
Inheritance," in Richard III and His Rivals:  Magnates and Their Motives in      
the Wars of the Roses (London:  The Hambledon Press, 1991), investigates the     
marriages of George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to        
the daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker.       
Richard's marriage to Anne, the young widow of Henry VI's son, has been          
characterized by Paul Murray Kendall as a love match that his greedy older       
brother tried to thwart.  But love match or not, Anne was a great heiress        
and Hicks believes that it was Anne's property, not love that attracted          
Gloucester.  On the other hand, Anne also gained her inheritance by              
escaping from her brother-in-law's custody.  Each had much to gain and           
little to lose.                                                                  
 Several other papers are of some interest.  Anthony' Smith's "Litigation        
and Politics:  Sir John Fastolf's Defence of His English Property," in           
Property and Politics:  Essays in Later Medieval English History, edited by      
A. J. Pollard (Gloucester, England:  Alan Sutton, 1984), 59 75, is               
important in understanding the Pastons since they too had to defend              
Fastolf's English property when they inherited it after his death.  In the       
same volume, "Rich Old Ladies:  The Problem of Late Medieval Dowagers," by       
Rowena E. Archer (15 35), explains that some marriages had to be delayed         
because an estate was tied up by a widow who lived on into old age and           
might remarry several times.  Her heirs had to wait for her to die because       
the income from the estate could be tied up in her jointure for decades.         
This was not only a problem in the gentry and aristocracy.  Anne Crawford's      
article, "The King's Burden:  The Consequences of Royal Marriage in              
Fifteenth-Century England,"  in Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in        
Later Medieval England, edited by Ralph A. Griffiths (Gloucester, England:       
Alan Sutton, 1981), 33 56, argues that the financial settlement on a queen       
at the time of her marriage could be a major drain on the king's treasury.       
 Finally, Keith Dockray looks at the question in "Why did Fifteenth-Century      
English Gentry Marry?" in Gentry and Lesser Nobility in Late Medieval            
Europe, edited by Michael Jones (Gloucester, England:  Alan Sutton, 1986),       
61 80.  Dockray does look at the Plumptons, Pastons, and Stonors and             
discusses the love versus property argument.  But he treats the gentry in        
isolation.  I hope to carry his study further by comparing the gentry and        
the merchant class.                                                              
 Sharon Michalove,Academic Advisor                                               
 Department of History, UIUC                                                     

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