Sunday, August 28, 2011

Question from Em - Marrying of sister's widower

I know that it was considered sinful for a man to marry his brother's widow. Was it also considered sinful for a woman to marry her sister's widow?


Mary R said...

Marriages within the seventh degree of kinship were forbidden; so, yes, it went both ways.

While highly placed persons got papal dispensations for marriages within the forbidden degree of kinship, I wonder if they did so more to keep the marriages from being challenged rather from the fear of sin.

Even the clergy seemed to be more concerned with the appearance of virtue rather than actually being virtuous. Cardinal Wolsey had a long-term liaison with woman whom he treated as a wife and had children with her. He only changed his domestic situation when Henry VIII found out and raised a fuss. When Anne Boleyn wanted her aunt to be named abbess of a nunnery, Henry reluctantly refused because the aunt had given birth to two children sired by a priest.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that just because something was considered sinful doesn't mean it wasn't a commonplace occurrence!

Mary R said...

Mea Culpa! Such a marriage would have fallen under Biblical restrictions rather than kinship by blood! Still, such a marriage would have been considered sinful. Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn was considered to be invalid by many because of his previous relationship with her sister Mary. There was also (probably unfounded) speculation that Henry had had an affair with Anne's mother, Elizabeth.

tudor princess said...

It's interesting that Catherine of Aragon's sister, Maria was married to the King of Portugal. He had been previously married to her sister Isabella who had died. So for Catherine's parents, there was a belief that it was natural to keep things in the family, hence Catherine's betrothal to Prince Henry.

Mary R said...

Tudor Princess, How much of of this do you think might have had to do with dowries already paid?

tudor princess said...

Not too sure about Maria and Isabella but Catherine's dowry was only half paid. So when Prince Arthur died, she was left in a kind of limbo. Henry VII would not betroth her to Prince Henry until the other half of the dowry was paid. Catherine's parents would not send the other half of dowry until she was betrothed to Prince Henry. So that was one of the reasons poor old Catherine got stuck. In essence she was the original "Waity Katy"!

Family links were extremely complex anyway. Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour were cousins of Anne Boleyn, for example.

Laura said...

Henry VII actually betrothed Katherine to Henry VIII without the payment of the second half of the dowry, though the lack of payment was likely one of the many reasons he later forced H VIII to renounce the betrothal.

Ferdinand seemed to have little scruples when it comes to the manipulation of his daughter's value on the marriage market. He was content to let Katherine continue to reside in England, dependent on H VII for her upkeep.

He also insisted on the payment of her jointure, while refusing to send the second half of her dowry payment. Katherine was forced to sell her gold plate, which was supposed to be part of her dowry, in order to feed herself and her servants.

Even after her betrothal to H VIII, Ferdinand refused to send the second part of her dowry, and when Isabella died, and the throne of Castille passed on to Juana, the alliance with Ferdinand was no longer as attractive, which was another contributing factor to the renouncement of the betrothal.

Most of Europe's royalty at the time was related within the seventh degree of kinship, so dispensations were not uncommon.

kb said...

It was my understanding that papal dispensations for marriage amongst royalty were standard operating procedure and a normal part of the betrothal negotiations.

Em said...

Thank you for all the information. Now I have another question...what if they were only half-related? (like they are both descended from one person but through different spouses.)

Rapunzela said...

I am not at all convinced that marrying your brother's wife was considered sinful. Marriages within 2-3 degrees of consanguinity (blood relatives--not merely related by marriage) may have been frowned upon; this stricture was often ignored by royalty. Henry VIII found the Leviticus passage a convenient excuse to change brood mares, but I wonder if the original Hebrew proscribes relations with your brother's (current) wife, rather than with his widow. Not only can I not think of a good biological or societal reason to stay away from his widow if the living brother is single, many societies prefer that the surviving brother pick up the slack.

Mary Lou said...

I believe that most of the opinion of sinfulness came from the wanting of any separation from being like the ancient sumerian and egyptian royalty.

it was seen as okay if a step brother married a step sister because they only shared one parent and had the new blood of the other parent. not really incest.

but it could put the first son of a son at odds to inherit the thrown because a child of a step brother to his step sister would mean double royal blood compared to single royal blood. and it cause alot of wars.

I have the opinion that is why it was in the OT as wrong and continued so.

I could be wrong.