MARRIAGE AT THE TIME OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT (1560 - 70): CLANDESTINE MARRIAGES, KINSHIP PROHIBITIONS, AND DOWRY EXCHANGE IN EUROPEAN COMPARISON JUTTA SPERLING* Hampshire College A A close analysis of marital dispensations granted by the Holy Penitentiary shows that so-called clandestine marriages were widespread all over Catholic Europe before the Council of Trent. Only in Italy and perhaps in France were domestic partnerships rare, while they were very common in Portugal and Spain. This essay argues that the pop- ularity of the dowry system in Italy made it di ﬃ cult for women to choose their part- ners without parental consent. On the Iberian Peninsula, where forms of joint ownership in marriage and equal inheritance were predominant, free-choice marriages were wide- spread. The lively debates preceding the abolition of clandestine marriages at the Council of Trent show how divided the church was on this issue. While parental consent was not made mandatory for a marriage to be valid at Trent, post-Tridentine church admin- istrators promoted parental involvement by acknowledging dowry exchange as a vital component of social reproduction. After Trent, applicants had to specify a reason for their intended violation of kinship prohibitions; the most often
Journal of Early Modern History – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2004
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