September 27th, 2007


Middle Ages - breaking your marriage contract

Let's pretend it's about 1220, and we're in the middle of England.

Assume Lord Dodgely marries his sweet young daughter Isabelle to the nearby Earl of Stokely. Lord Dodgely is concerned that the Earl is known as a bit of a brute, (his last 2 wives died apparently after some "disciplining") so he has written into the marriage contract that the Earl is not allowed to beat Isabelle.

The Earl manages to lose his temper after 6 months and beats Isabelle, although not to the death. He's therefore broken the contract.

What can Lord Dodgely do? I'm assuming this means that Isabelle can come home and bring with her all she brought to the marriage (money, jewels, clothing, peasants), but from here I'm stuck. Is the marriage considered over, and thus Isabelle may marry again? Or is the marriage still legal (so the Earl cannot re-marry), but neither can the Earl force Isabelle to return to him or submit to his needs.

I've tried searching on "Marriage Law", "medieval", "middle ages" and "breaking contract", and have a stack of stuff on what can be in the contract (and who signs it), but not on what the limitations are of breaking it.