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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Medieval marriage and the Wyatt Rebellion

My new novel, The Viscount's Birthright, is based on the very real fact that consent on both sides was vital for a marriage to take place.  I have seen descriptions for historical romances which have the woman having no say in the matter.  I even saw one where the woman found she had been married by proxy without her knowledge.  Absolute rubbish!

The fact is that while consent can be coerced through threats of penury by the bride's family, consent still must be got before a priest will marry a couple.  There were very few grounds for divorce in the middle ages, but one of them was proof that the marriage took place without consent.

I have set it at the end of Edward VI's reign, the short nine day reign of Jane Grey and the coronation of Mary I.  My hero and heroine are protestants and not welcoming to a catholic monarch, especially one as zealous as Mary.  It was very likely that such a man would get involved in the Wyat rebellion of 1554.

This rebellion was led by Sir Thomas Wyatt following the announcement that Mary would marry Prince Philip II of Spain.  The people did not want the influence of Spain on England and they most certainly did not want the Inquisition here.  It must be remembered that Mary was the first female monarch since the Empress Matilda in the twelfth century, who failed to win her throne back from her cousin Stephen.  People did not believe a woman could rule and believed that if Mary married Philip, he would be king.  As it happened, that was one privilege she failed to give him.

Wyatt's plan was to murder Mary and put her half sister, Elizabeth on the throne, but Elizabeth was far too sensible to get involved in such a plot.  She was imprisoned following the failure of the rebellion, and famously sat on the steps of Traitor's Gate and refused to enter that way, declaring that she was no traitor.

Despite the efforts of her enemies, no evidence was ever discovered against Elizabeth in the plot and her name was cleared.

To assume Elizabeth would be willing to marry Edward Courteney and take the throne was really idiotic on the part of the conspirators, and the plan had no hope of succeeding.

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