Feudal Constraint and Free Consent in the Making of Marriages in Medieval England: Widows in the King’s Gift
By Sue Sheridan Walker
Historical Papers, Volume 14, Number 1 (1979)
Introduction: The administrative and legal records of medieval England testify that feudal lords, the king paramount among them, received financial satisfaction for their rights to control the marriage of their vassals. With perhaps rare exceptions, the feudal law did not force a widow to marry if she wish to remain single or to marry contrary to her wishes. But did that law sometimes affect personal choice in the matter of choosing a spouse? This paper will be limited to the king’s widows, the relicts of tenants-in-chief or of their tenants when their feudal lords’ lands were in the king’s hands by reason of wardship, escheat, or ecclesiastical vacancy. Their marriage (actually remarriage) was said to be in the king’s gift.