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Title: "My well-beloved companion" : men, women, marriage and power in the Earldom and Duchy of Lancaster, 1265-1399
Author: Holdorph, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 5407
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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Contemporary debate about what marriage is and who should be allowed to enter into it is often based in assumptions about ‘traditional’ historical marriage. The study of marriage in the Middle Ages is particularly relevant: this period saw the emergence of the establishment of many marriage patterns that exist today. Scholarly work on marriage in the Middle Ages has generally focused on the middle and lower classes. Where it has examined elite society, previous literature has often focused only on landed wealth and politics as motives for marriage. This thesis addresses this gap. By exploring how one aristocratic family created and experienced marriage across five generations, I provide an in-depth examination of elite marriage in the medieval period. To that end, I have focused on three major questions: why did the elite classes marry? What was marriage like and what defined a ‘successful’ marriage? What were marriage’s legacies, in the short and long term? The earldom and duchy of Lancaster provides a strong case study to use in answering these questions. As some of the most influential figures of their day, members of this family – both men and women – appear frequently in historical records. The duchy’s absorption of the crown following Henry IV’s accession in 1399 has meant that extant documentation in The National Archives is unusually rich. In addition to these records, I have analysed other evidence, including literature, chronicles and material evidence. I argue that in this family, marriage was a considerably more complicated than is usually appreciated. Motives for marriage extended beyond the acquisition of land or power. They included specific political ambitions, the need to reinforce a weak line of succession, the desire for security, and even love. Most couples had a decent personal relationship, and some developed deep affection for each other. What was perhaps more important, however, were the relationships – with in-laws, step-families, or rulers – that emerged as a result of marriage. These connections were not a mere by-product of marriage, but rather one of its most important functions. Marriages had important legacies. Memorialisation strategies can reflect the quality of a relationship in life, as well as a family’s needs after a spouse’s death. In the longer term, marriage facilitated the creation of networks or claims that could last for generations. This thesis adds new knowledge on the creation and experience of marriage for the elite classes of late medieval England, as well as the public and private lives of those in elite society. By shedding light on marriage’s past, I contribute to understandings of the present and future of this enduring and universal relationship.
Supervisor: Curry, Anne ; Clarke, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available