Seminary LVIII: how to get carried away in early Frankish marriage

I’ve been out of action so long that Magistra et Mater‘s backlog of posts has begun to catch up on mine! This is often not a bad thing, especially when, as was the case at the Institute of Historical Research’s Earlier Middle Ages Seminar on 17 February, the matter is medieval marriage, and specifically marriage arising from abduction. The occasion was Sylvie Joye of the Université de Reims speaking to the title “Abduction and elopement in early medieval Europe” and Magistra has done a thorough write-up that I recommend you go and read.

Since Magistra has covered the subject better than I would have I only need to add a few particular things that struck me: firstly, the variety of strategies of which abduction might form part; that legislation over the sixth to tenth centuries about abduction tends to rise, sporadically, as part of a legislative interest in marriage, not independently; the idea that a monastery or nunnery might, in this respect, present themselves in a way analogous to a betrothed partner whose prior claim to the abductee had been infringed; and that the Carolingian period is where the idea that a marriage can be valid even if not consummated begins (and I guess those two things are connected). It also struck me, when Sylvie (who kindly gave me an offprint, full disclosure) answered a question about the disparity of approaches to the problem between Constantine and Justinian, that the rôle of personality does need to come in here. Constantine is not renowned as a family man; Justinian, by the few accounts we have, was devoted to his wife. Do an emperor’s attitudes have to be reflective of wider society, or can they form it? Well, this is a part of a much large question about normative sources and agency I guess, but it’s always useful to recognise it when it looms up I think. Anyway. This was a good paper and I enjoyed it, I shall look out for Sylvie’s work in future.


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