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Title: Proxy Marriage
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Rank:Silver Member

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Posts: 83
From: United Kingdom

(Date Posted:05/20/2009 1:29 PM)
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Whilst looking into Royal marriages through the ages I was struck by the number that were proxy marriages. Yesterday was the anniversary of both, yes both, Arthur, Prince of Wales' and Katherine of Aragon's proxy marriages. The first on 19 May 1499 and the second two years to the day later in 1501. On both occasions, rather curiously, the Spanish ambassador stood in for the young Princess. The young "couple" met for the first time in November 1501, two and a half years after they'd been "married".
Presumably a proxy marriage was arranged so that the couple would be "out if the market" as it were, a simple betrothal could be broken, but a marriage would mean both partners were "taken" and free from further offers. Presumably also any dowry would be paid once the marriage was performed ? Any thoughts on this curious procedure. Apparently it's legal today in some countries under certain defined circumstances. 


You're playing chess with Fate and Fate's winning.
Arnold Bennett

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Rank:Diamond Member

From: USA

RE:Proxy Marriage
(Date Posted:05/23/2009 7:09 PM)

I noticed that, too....C of A married Arthur the same day Henry had her nemesis Anne Boleyn executed.  I have one of them in TDIH (I may have mentioned there were some interesting juxtapositions when laid out like I have it) but didn't realize there were 2.  Bet Henry never even thought of it ROFL

As far as I'm aware, the sole thing that made a marriage legally binding was consummation; this is why one could relatively easily procure an annulment from your local bishopric if, say, the husband was willing to admit to impotence or for some reason or other the parties just didn't do anything....but only if the unwillingness or incapability to consummate was not disclosed prior to the wedding.  Annulments could be had if a female was not a virgin & failed to mention it before the fact (I'm guessing they assumed widows were not, as in C of As case as per the wording of her dispensation to marry H8), but lack of such could not be used to get out of a marriage later if the husband was informed of this.

You'll recall Mary Tudor not only had a proxy ceremony but a proxy bedding & a proxy "consummation" as well when she married Louis XII.  The Duc de Longueville, as a prince of the House of Orleans, stood in for Louis, Mary was readied for the "bedding", & de Longueville peeled off his hose & touched his bare leg to Mary's in front of as many important folk as could be crowded in.  This was something Wolsey dreamt up ROFL because H8 was not about to send his sister off to France with a hefty dower & have her sent back repudiated for some reason.  Both kings agreed this was considered legal & binding consummation, & I'm sure similar weird things were done after proxy marriages in other cases.  I mean, in those days you had precontracts, formal bethrothal, proxy ceremonies, & eventually the "real" wedding.  They tried their damndest to make it ironclad at every step of the way because marriage was nothing more than a business transaction, basically.  I wouldn't be surprised if that TTOS nonsense about the Portuguese court standing round "Margaret's" nuptial couch applauding really happened on occasion just to make sure the deed was done.

There's only a handful of US states that allow this nowadays & it's reserved for military active duty personnel (though I did hear of a case around 6 years ago where the parties were both serving time in separate prisons & it was permitted ROFL).  But it's only considered legal if there's eventual consummation & cohabitation (don't know what the time limit is on that, I'd assume whenever one's deployment is ended). 

So I'd think even a proxy ceremony back in Tudor times etc could be successfully squizzled out of with enough groats crossing papal palms, lacking consummation & cohabitation.  Look how H8 was ceremonially escorted by the Yeomen of the Guard to C of As apartments when they were about to lie back & think of England....such things were deliberately made public knowledge in days of separate bedrooms.  H7 was sweating that Ferdinand & Isabella were going to back out of this agreement (the Treaty of Medina del Campo was in 1487, I think, so quite the long engagement) because they refused to allow Catherine to be sent to England & raised there (a la Marguerite & Alice when they were betrothed to Henry the Young King & Richard I) with all the Yorkist intrigues.  H7 was NOT viewed as superglued to his throne & may have thought a proxy wedding to be more insurance, paranoid that he was.  Maybe it was tougher to get out of than a mere betrothal, papacy-wise, as all it required for Mary to get out of her engagement to Charles V was to repudiate the betrothal in front of witnesses & sign; H7 also had H8 do that re C of A.  It also gave the princess the right to upgrade her status to that of her spouse's, be addressed as such, & maintain a household in accordance with such, even if they were 1,000 mi apart.  (Technically E4 shouldn't have held onto the Norfolk estates when Anne Mowbray died because her marriage to his son was never consummated seeing as they were 5 & 3 at the time of it & she died 2 yrs later.)

A couple didn't actually require the services of a priest for it as long as it was done in front of witnesses at a church door.  There was no central office of records; everyone did their own paperwork & tossed it in their strongbox.  Even in England one didn't require a priest or even a license until some point in the 1700s, which is why folk ran off to Gretna Green, as it wasn't required in Scotland.

Funny you should inquire, as in my historical TBR pile I have a book called Marriage: A History.  I'll have to take a peek & see if there was anything more to a proxy (if it's in there).  It's been forever since I last looked at my Garrett Mattingly C of A bio, so I'll thumb thru that & see why they did it twice.

The Aimoo spellcheck does not recognize precontract & betrothal as words ROFL....& I had to come back & edit because then of course I misspelled "spellcheck".

(Message edited by Forever_Amber On 05/23/2009 7:10 PM)
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Rank:Platinum Member

From: USA

RE:Proxy Marriage
(Date Posted:05/24/2009 4:05 PM)

Twas good theatre for the monarch, mayhap?  Why should the groom's country get the good excuse for pageantry & displaying majesty & not the bride's?  Did they get a slew of wedding gifts back then?  Double pressies LOL smiley17
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Rank:Bronze Member

From: USA

RE:Proxy Marriage
(Date Posted:05/25/2009 9:09 PM)

I'm not sure when a dowry would change hands.  The Jane Rochford book author said there was still a copy of Jane's betrothal contract with George Boleyn so there must be others.  The problem is that they're all in glass cases in libraries and not in Google.  How exactly would you Google that?
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