History's Women: Misc. Articles: Influence of Medieval Institutions - Woman's Marital Position - Henry I

Henry I

In the charter of Henry I., prefixed to the laws of that monarch, and written in the first year of his reign, 1100 or 1101 A.D., he promises to act in regard to his authority over the barons in this regard, with the utmost disinterestedness.

“And if,” he says, “any one of my barons or men wish to give in marriage his daughter, or sister, or granddaughter, or kinswoman, let him talk to me about it. But I will neither take anything from him or his license, nor will I forbid him to give her, unless he should intend to unite her with my enemy. And if my baron or other man being dead, his daughter remains his heir, I will give her with her lands by the advice of my barons. And if, the husband being dead, his wife survive, and be without children, we shall give her dower and marriage, and I will not give her to a husband, except according to her will. But if the wife survive with her children, she shall have her dower and marriage, as long as she shall keep her body lawfully; and either the wife or some other near of kin shall be the guardian of the land and children. And I order that my barons shall forbear similarly towards the sons or daughters or wives of their men.”

Such was woman’s marital position under feudalism; forbearance was proclaimed nominally, but was far from being the practice, if various writers of this period are to be accredited.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.