Friday, September 13, 2013

Question from Peter - Family Alliances

I have come across a number of references where it is stated that certain families had 'alliances'.

It is seldom made clear what the nature of such 'alliances' is.

Does anyone have a view about what the term 'alliance' does and does not imply?

Thank you.


PhD Historian said...

There is actually a substantial body of scholarly literature on the concept of inter-family alliances in the Tudor period, though the term “affinity” is sometimes used rather than “alliance”. But the precise “nature” of the association depends on the specific families and the specific association involved. The goal for most such alliances was to bind two or more families together to create a larger multi-family group that would be more powerful, whether politically, socially, economically, or even militarily. The goal might be entirely local, such as acquiring the ability to exert controlling influence over a local community, or it might extend to larger areas (county, kingdom), or it might even be time related, such as two families forming a marriage alliance in anticipation of one child or grandchild of that marriage eventually inheriting all of the assets of the two families.

In my own research on Jane Grey, several families (Grey, Dudley, Herbert, and others) formed a very obvious political alliance through a series of inter-marriages and betrothals in May 1553. Several of the wealthiest (Grey) or most politically powerful (Dudley) families tied themselves together through the series of marriages in the hope that, should one of their number (i.e., Jane) achieve the group’s goal (becoming Queen), the individual families making up the group would each benefit and prosper in compensation for having lent support toward achieving the group’s goal. In short, had Jane remained Queen, a Dudley royal dynasty would have been born and the other families would have been “in-laws” of that dynasty, which usually entailed increased wealth for each “in-law”.

Groups are usually better at achieving certain goals than are individuals. Alliances between families were intended to enable the allied families to achieve some specific goal, usually increased wealth or power. Inter-marriage was the most common way to cement such alliances, but other ways also existed.

This is just a brief intro to a complex topic, I hope it helps.

kb said...

My doctoral research was on the family as the fundamental political unit and the role of kinship networks in running the kingdom. If you would like some dry reading and a couple of snazzy graphics you can download the dissertation/thesis from the following site.

The Carey/Knollys kinship network is the case study.

Marilyn R said...

You might find this essay useful and I think it could now be available online.

Barbara J. Harris, 'Sisterhood, Friendship and the Power of English Aristocratic Women'
in Women and Politics in Early Modern England, ed. James Daybell; Ashgate Publishing, 2004.

Peter Cockerill said...

Dear PhD Historian, KB and Marilyn R. Thank you all for your most helpful guidance. I am most grateful.