Choosing a Spouse
In a deposition repeated on 18 June 1591, William Smithe reported the comments of Joan Mortimer regarding her freedom to choose her husband: “neither her ffather nor mother should chuse for her, she was of herselfe able enoughe” (DL/C/214/34). Many London Consistory Court depositions for 1586 to 1611 contain similar statements in which men and women self-consciously emphasized such autonomy. These statements support the conclusions of social historians such as Richard Adair, Eric Josef Carlson, Laura Gowing, Ralph Houlbrooke, Martin Ingram, Alan Macfarlane, and Keith Wrightson concerning the autonomy the non-elite experienced when choosing a partner in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England.1 For instance, Adair comments that “among the middling sort and even more the propertyless, individual choice of partner seems to have been commonplace” (134).2
KeywordsParental Consent Marriage Partner Forced Marriage Individual Consent Late Sixteenth
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