Force and fear as impediment to marriage. Attitudes, norms and legislation during the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the Counter Reformation

Project: Research

Layman's description

According to medieval Canon Law a marriage could be declared invalid if the consent had been given through force or fear. The project will examine and compare the interpretation and application of this principle in legal sources during the Middle Ages and the period directly following the Reformation an Counter Reformation

Forced marriages has been the matter of much debate lately, and legal measures to prevent such marriages more efficiently are currently discussed. The history of this kind of legislation is however to a large extent ignored. Already in the Middle Ages, a marriage could be declared invalid if the consent had been given through force or fear. This ruling was a natural consequence of the insistence on free consent as the only requirement for a valid marriage. It did, however, entail a number of both practical and theoretical problems. It could be difficult to prove force and fear within the family, but also to define what should count as sufficient force and fear to render a marriage invalid. During the Reformation the conception of marriage changed radically. Marriage was no longer considered a sacrament in protestant countries and the legal control that parents/legal guardians could exercise increased. This project proposes a study of the discussion surrounding the impediment of force and fear during the Middle Ages and the changes brought forth by the Reformation and the Counter-reformation. By comparing legal sources from three different regions (North-western France, southern England and Sweden) during the late Middle Ages and the period following the Reformation movement, the project will examine how attitudes and norms concerning consent to marriage developped and changed during the period.
Effective start/end date2010/01/012012/12/31