Elizabethan dating customs

Weddings where guests paid for the entertainment and made gifts to help the couple set up house may have been customary over much of the north of England and in Wales.The Prayer Book service mentioned three reasons why God had instituted matrimony: the procreation of children, the avoidance of fornication (by keeping legitimate sexual activity within the bounds of marriage), and “the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity”.It was common practice for couples to declare their mutual acceptance during courtship.

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(In Tudor times the most likely such reason was a ‘pre-contract’ between one of the partners and somebody else, rather than their relationship within the ‘prohibited degrees’.

William Hanwell had entrusted one of his witnesses with two pennies to give to Isabel.

A couple might contract marriage secretly, and regard themselves as ‘man and wife before God’, but a church wedding was needed to satisfy the expectations of family, friends and community.

It is a period famed for the high-profile marriages of Henry VIII and his six wives, but what of nuptials lower down the social pecking order?

Here, Professor Ralph Houlbrooke from the University of Reading reveals the customs surrounding love and marriage in Tudor times In Tudor England, most people who married did so only after they had the wherewithal to establish a household of their own.

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