medieval

The Problem With Juliet

Argument: Early teenage sex and marriage were common in Medieval Europe, as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where the heroine is 13 going on 14. Fictional portrayals, such as Game of Thrones, also give us an accurate glimpse at what sexual and marriage customs might have been like (sex and marriage to very young women was acceptable). In the past old enough to bleed, old enough to breed was the norm.

My answer in brief: Wrong.

The Details

Here is a demographic table taken from Singlewomen in the European past, 1250-1800.

PLEASE read this and my other posts on similar topics, one looks at Jewish Medieval Marriages a bit and the other considers marriage ages during several time periods, including the Victorian era. It is all wrapped up with Final Thoughts on Marriage. The three other posts provide more links, sources, that I did not mention in this first post. Okay? Now go ahead.

When discussing a long chunk of time, such as the European Middle Ages, and a large region of the world (Europe is not one country, after all) making generalizations can be problematic. However, we can make some intelligent ones based on historical research. And we can say that marriage to very young women 12-14, was not the norm in most of Europe throughout this time period, though variations did exist.

“The so-called northwestern European marriage pattern included first marriages in the mid-twenties for women, and mid-to-late twenties for men. Nobility and gentry tended to marry a little younger: women in their late teens to early twenties while their grooms were often in their early twenties. During the later Middle Ages, reliable records for demographic studies are not as plentiful, but P. J. P. Goldberg has collated results from a variety of sources and studies and concluded that the pattern of late age at first marriage largely had been established by the later Middle Ages, but with averages a bit lower (late teens to early twenties) in rural areas, especially among the more well-to-do.” Source: He Would Never Consent in His Heart”: Child Marriages in Early Modern England, Johanna Rickman.

John McLaughlin states that a young woman of middle or low status in the Middle Ages would marry around 22 years of age. Noblewoman, he said, might marry younger. David Herlihy in the book Medieval Households pegs marriage age of noblewomen at 18 in Germany.

But what was happening in Shakespeare’s time period? Was marriage to 12-14 year-old girls becoming more common? Is that why Juliet is almost 14?I gathered a random sample of women of the Elizabethan and Tudor age, women who are roughly around the era Shakespeare is around. They are all noblewomen.

Here are the ages at which they married:

Catherine de’ Medici (14)
Catherine of Aragon (16)
Katherine Howard (16)
Lady Jane Gray (17)
Catherine Parr (17)
Catherine Howard (17)
Joanna of Castile (17)
Amy Robsart (18)
Isabella I of Castile (18)
Penelope Devereux (18)
Mary Sidney Herbert(19)
Cecilia, Princess of Sweden (19)
Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress (20)
Anna of Austria (21)
Helena of Snakenborg (23)
Isabella of Portugal (23)
Anne of Cleves (25)
Jane Seymour (28)
Anne Boleyn (32)
Mary I (37)

As you can see, women tend to cluster at around 17-20 (the average marriage age if we take this small sample is 21). Few women marry younger. It’s actually more likely for them to marry *older* rather than very young if you look at these numbers. A lot of the women I picked are British because it was just easy to pull a list of Elizabeth’s contemporaries that way. If we expanded the sample or analyzed it by countries we might find some pattern shifts. Shakespeare married a 26 year-old, by the way.

John Hajnal, in his famous study “European Marriage Patterns in Perspective” identifies a high marriage age for Europeans since the 18th century, but even in the Middle Ages he comes up with the number 17 as the mean age for women getting married around the 14th century. From 1480 to 1679, the period when Shakespeare is alive (he’s born in 1564), the age is 19.5. Which actually jives with my small math experiment above where I determined that a common age of first marriage would have been 17-20.

Juliet would have been an anomaly, just like Catherine de’ Medici. Why did Shakespeare make her that young, then? Maybe to shock, to make a point, who knows.

Argument: If this is true, does it hold true across other time periods and cultures? Maybe Europe in the Middle Ages was a special case.

It is not good to generalize. But what are some marriage patterns in other cultures and time periods?

The Demography of Victorian England and Wales shows that the mean age of first marriage 1884-1885 for women was between 22 and 26. Wives of miners married younger (22.6) compared to wives of farmers (28.9).

Aristocratic women in the Sung Period in China (from The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the Sung Period) were often married young, when they were between 17 and 22. 90% of women had been married at 22, generally to men of a similar age. Almost no women were married at 15 or younger. Minimum age for marriage was set as 13 for women and 15 for men, though scholars suggested the perfect age was between 14 and 20.

The mean age at first marriage for women in Mexico City in 1811 was 22.7. The Women of Mexico City, 1790-1857 states that 22 was younger than the average European range at the time. However, indigenous women tended to marry younger than women of Spanish or mixed descent. Claude Morin and Cecilia Rabell state that during this same time period women in the countryside married at the average age of 18.

Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale references marriage customs in the 19th century. In Florence’s social circle it was perfectly acceptable for women to marry in one’s mid or late twenties.

Class had an impact on marriage age. In the Sung book I mentioned it shows palace maids married older (25-35). Location also had an impact: rural versus urban. Religion also had an impact.

Why does this matter?

It paints a skewed picture.

For example, I copied and pasted this from a Yahoo board:

“Game of Thrones is modeled after medieval culture. In those days a girl was considered sexually mature enough for marriage as soon as she had menstruated, signaling that she was capable of bearing children. A lord or prince wanted to produce heirs for his dynasty, and lives tended to be short. Therefore an older man would seek a younger bride still capable of bearing several children. Those were the facts of life in ancient times.”

A lot of people repeat this mantra. Those were the “facts of life in ancient times,” constructing an imaginary past in which courtship, marriage and sex bear little resemblance to historical reality.

In conclusion:

  • Don’t try to argue that in the good old days of Medieval Europe it would have been perfectly acceptable to marry and sex a 12 year old.
  • If you are writing anything historical or world-building, please read about real-life marriage and sex customs.

PLEASE read this and my other posts on similar topics, one looks at Jewish Medieval Marriages a bit and the other considers marriage ages during several time periods, including the Victorian era. It is all wrapped up with Final Thoughts on Marriage. The three other posts provide more links, sources, that I did not mention in this first post. Okay? Now go ahead.

Note: It is likely women in the Middle Ages had access to some type of abortifacients (see “Oral Contraceptives and Early-Term Abortifacients during Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages”) but this does not necessarily indicate that most women were engaging in early teenage pre-marital sex. Most likely they were regulating their fertility after marriage and they were older.

silviamgThe Problem With Juliet

Comments 31

  1. Howard Tayler

    These numbers suggest that the parents of the Middle Ages cared about their teen-aged children, in turn suggesting that good parenting is something that got invented before television.

    It makes sense. I mean, biology! Teenagers are still growing, puberty notwithstanding. And humans — even pre-written-history humans — are pretty smart about things. Starting a family before you’re full-grown probably wasn’t a great survival strategy. I bet we figured that out thousands of years ago, right about the time agriculture, horticulture and wheels were lengthening our lives.

  2. Zoe McNair

    This was really interesting, I’d wondered before what the actual average ages were, (seeing and Shakespeare even includes a line that says Juliet’s a bit too young for marriage), especially seeing as the discussion about it in regards to historical fiction always has a slightly gross overtone to it.

  3. Bryan

    By making Juliet and Romeo so young, Shakespeare could make his play more palatable to moralists, since it was then a cautionary tale about disregarding your elders as a teenager. Ignore your elders? Become “romantically” active at that age? YOU DIE!

  4. Seth Gordon

    Perhaps Shakespeare was appealing to the prejudices of his audience by portraying Italy as such a wild and decadent place that fourteen-year-old girls would defy their parents to get married while their elders duelled in the streets?

  5. Matt

    Be careful to not confuse marriage with sex. My background is with early American colonial history but in that case you have people marrying later but evidence of sexual activity at a younger age. It was socially acceptable in many place for teenagers to be sexually active with each other and not be married. You also see this in other cultures such as the Kung in Africa. In the case of Romeo and Juliet you have two star crossed teenagers who want to run off together to get away from their families which fits with teenage sexuality. This might have been a thing at the time that didn’t end in marriage like most modern teenage flings/romances. I am curious if there is any information about sexual activity…my thinking is there is little as those that recorded documents would not have written about that, especially if it did not fit with a political/cultural view of what should happen.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
      silviamg

      You can look at birth records to help you figure out sexual activity. In the case of noblewomen, it is very likely sexual activity and marriage went hand in hand because of their social status and the importance of their chastity in order to obtain a husband.Lower class women might have had more leeway with that.

      “Unmarriages: Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in the Middle Ages” is a good book on the subject. We have records of women suing men for offering “carnal knowledge after promises of marriage” that we can look at and some other data. Looking at Medieval research in general I think it’s fair to say very young teenagers were probably not engaging in sexual activity (or getting married, for that matter). Which makes sense: you have a lot to lose if you get pregnant and not much ways to regulate fertility aside from abstinence if you are living in that time period.

  6. Cheryl

    Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VII) was married at 12 and gave birth a year later, and I remember reading somewhere (can’t remember where though) that this was frowned upon because she was so young. Just because it was permitted (Canon Law allowed for marriage as young as 12) doesn’t mean it was common.

    One problem is, most of the records we have will be for the aristocracy which will skew things away from what regular people did. Plus, while it’s entirely likely political marriages would be made when it was expedient, regardless of the girl’s age, it’s equally likely a father might hang on to a marriageable daughter until she was a bit older, looking for a better match.

  7. Dan B

    It is absolutely correct that marriage at age 12 wasn’t the norm in “Medieval Europe” (a term that covers a thousand years and a pretty diverse set of cultures). But there is one area where it would not have been unusual: Italy in the fifteenth century. Look at the figures in Tuscans and their Families by Herlihy and Klapisch-Zuber. The most common age of first marriage for women was 16, but they found that 4% of women were marrying at 13, 7% at 14, and 15.5% at 15 in the cities, with the early marriages concentrated among the wealthy (those are higher percentages than any age over 20). Men usually didn’t marry until they were about 30.

    Romeo and Juliet, then, is a reasonably accurate depiction of a situation in fifteenth-century northern Italy. Juliet is betrothed to Paris on the young end, but not unusually so. Shakespeare, whatever other reasons he might have chosen for that choice, is pretty accurately reflecting the time and place his story took place in and the source he drew from almost certainly had Juliet in her early teens.

    Italy was highly unusual in this marriage pattern, and it shouldn’t be extrapolated to anywhere else. But it shouldn’t be entirely ignored, either.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
      silviamg

      Yes, Italy is a funny one, but even then 4% is a low number. I mean, it happened in other places, too, Margaret Beaufort for one (she was 12, a real oddity), but even in Italy Juliet would have been on the young edge of the spectrum. She’s 13, not yet 14.

      The problem is that *most* representations of Medieval Europe focus on Great Britain. Game of Thrones, it’s based on Great Britain (Martin has mentioned this) in the Late Middle Ages *but* the marriage patterns are very odd. They don’t correspond to that culture.

      Now you can argue that this is fiction and that is fine but the other argument: that it is accurate because it is based on real-life historical patterns does not fly. BUT it is a commonly held belief. Drives me nuts.

      1. Dan B

        I totally agree share your annoyance with putting a skewed version of a marriage pattern that is typical of only one time and place into a setting based on a very different place, then seeing people view it as being accurate. I see that a lot with most representations of the middle ages- mixing and matching elements from different parts of Europe and times centuries apart and lumping them all together, creating a really inaccurate picture of the era in a lot of peoples’ minds.

        I highlight Italy just because it was both unusual and producing a fair amount of pretty influential art and literature, which is either still read or was widely adapted. So its weird patterns get seen as more typical than they actually were. As in the case of Romeo and Juliet, a case that would have been in the range of normal (especially for a daughter of a wealthy family) only in one time and place becomes, because of its fame, seen as typically medieval/early modern.

        1. silviamg Post
          Author
          silviamg

          There’s some discussion about why this happened in Italy (younger marriages) and I have seen discussions on scarcity/abundance of brides and also the issues of dowries but I haven’t read through everything, ha.

          1. Kaleberg

            That one’s easy. The status of women was lower in southern Europe than in northern Europe. It still is.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
    1. silviamg Post
      Author
  8. William

    What the author seems to miss and those who have commented is a very interesting fact regarding Juliet’s father. When Paris is seeking Juliet’s hand, and one senses that this has the air of a business proposal, although not completely, Lord Capulet stipulates several things Paris must do before marrying Juliet. One, he must wait two summers, so when the marriage takes place Juliet will be 15 – which skews all the data in this article and the outraged comments. Second, Juliet’s father also stipulates that Paris must woo Juliet and win her heart – a rather progressive attitude for any father of the time I think. Finally, when Capulet forces Juliet to marry after Tybalt’s death it is purely because of Juliet’s and his own grief. As it is, to say Juliet gets married at 13 is, at its core a mistake or at least too extraordinary to be summed up in dry statistics.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
  9. Adam Lipkin

    Great piece!

    One of the things I’ve always found off-putting about Juliet’s age is that in the source material (Arthur Brooke’s “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet”), Juliet is 16. So WS was not only inconsistent with the times, but with the inspiration.

    An aside: A few years ago, we caught a brilliant production of R&J at MIT (which has a surprisingly innovative Shakespeare troupe). They did a lot of fascinating things with many characters, and they chose to highlight Juliet’s youth more than almost any other version I’d seen. They had the woman playing her carrying a teddy bear and stay barefoot throughout the entire first act. Especially in a production where most of the cast was (understandably) of roughly the same age, it served to emphasis the creepiness of Shakespeare’s choice.

  10. Mord Fiddle

    It’s an interesting argument, but not really supported by the facts you present.

    Juliet was not a medieval aristocrat, but the daughter of a wealthy and influential renaissance merchant family in Italy. In that sense, she is closer to Catherine de’ Medici who, as you point out, was married at 14 and Lucrezia Borgia who was, like Juliet, married at 13. While not universal, the practice was commonplace among Italian merchant clans of the time – a fact evidently not lost on Shakespeare.

    Setting aside Shakespeare and Juliet, the noblewomen you list are not from what most historians regard as the medieval, or even the late medieval period . Eleanore of Aquitaine was 13 when married to Louie in 1137. Maude of England, the daughter of Henry I of England and mother to the future Henry II of England was betrothed to the 24 year old Holy Roman Emperor Henry V at the age of eight and married him a month before her 12th birthday in 1114. Hildegard of Vinzgouw married Charlemagne in 771 at the age of 13.

    The evidence for the practice is not at all hard to find. Research shows that there are certainly many medieval noblewomen who married later than their early teens. However 12 and 13 were not uncommon.

    As to the scholars you cite, only one of them is a medieval historian.

    John McLaughlin, is not a trained historian at all (and yes, it does matter).

    Rickman is an early modern historian (~1450 on) from a third tier university who depends on records from the very late medieval period – on the cusp of the renaissance – when the age of marriage in northern Europe was indeed going up due to a number of social and economic factors. No responsible historian would attempt to say that is representative of marriage patterns the previous 900 years of medieval history.

    Your paraphrase of Herlihy, your sole credible source, is too broad to be credible evidence in support of your point. Surely he doesn’t say that all women across the area that is now Germany married at 18 throughout all of medieval history.

    I appreciate that the practice is reprehensible by modern standards, but simply saying it didn’t happen and providing evidence that at certain places and certain times women married later does not prove your case. The practice was, sadly, not unusual in much of medieval Europe.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
      silviamg

      I’m writing an 800 word blog post, not a paper. As for Herlihy:

      “Marriages in the early Middle Ages seem closely to resemble the barbarian model described by Tacitus. Men and women were roughly equal in ages at first marriage, and they married in their middle or late twenties” (Herlihy, Medieval Households).

      From the same book “a study based on marriage contracts from Toulouse, in southern France, in the 14th and 15th centuries, concludes that brides were typically age 16.”

      I have some tables of marriage ages beginning in the 1200s taken from a study on marriages in the Middle Ages and as I explained in a follow-up post marriage age could be affected by location. If you were in Italy, you were probably younger. North of Europe: older.

  11. Mord Fiddle

    Tacticus work isn’t regarded as aa reliable source on the subject of the ‘germanic’ culture. He never observed the subject of his writing first hand and, at best, was reporting hearsay from the comfort of Rome. As a contemporary source he’s worth reading, but must be read with a jaundiced eye and cannot be taken at face value.

    Tacticus’ purpose in writing the work was to scold the Romans for becoming soft and immoral and to promote traditional Roman virtues.Most of the qualities he extols in the ‘barbarians’ (simplicity, honor, valor, heterosexuality) are a means of calling out the lack of such qualities in his fellow Romans. How much he made up in order to support his point is unknown.

    I’ll have to give Herlihy a read but, as you point out, one must be careful about extrapolating evidence from one place and time to the rest of Europe.

    Interesting stuff, but it doesn’t prove your thesis: That ealy marriage of women in the middle ages wasn’t ‘acceptable’. I think the answer is that it depends on when and where you were.

    Cheers,

    Mord

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
      silviamg

      It was not as common as we think. ‘Medieval maidens : young women and gender in England, 1270-1540′ by Kim M. Philips has some more info and states that the stereotype of medieval child marriage is being eroded by recent research. For noblewomen, their ages would be younger but it was hardly every girl that started menstruating gets married and has a child. Kim M. Philips, states that although very young marriages might be allowed as a question of expediency but it was not necessarily seen as suitable. In the same book, there is a mention of John Carmi Parson’s study that shows consummation was often delayed if the bride was under 15. It seems it was not seen as the best choice for a daughter, perhaps because the marriage could go on to be contested later on due to the age of the bride or groom, perhaps because it would be more difficult to give birth if a girl was very young.

  12. gordsellar

    This is a great post!

    It’s been a while since I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, but I suspect from the way I remember it, Shakespeare’s actual presentation of their so-called “love” kinda supports your thesis: the idea of them getting married seems, to (almost) everyone else around them, pretty bananas. (I’ve long suspected the play was more about what a PITA teenaged kids can be, plus a little rubbing together of the medieval norms–marriage=union of houses–against Renaissance ones–love-matches and so on–for dramatic friction. Certainly it doesn’t seem to me to be Shakespeare’s notion of an ideal love story…)

    I just thought I’d add to the cross-cultural side of it, since you mention Song China: the text of Family Rites by Zhu Xi–which is where that age range in China you mention, 14-20, comes from–is widely cited, but I’m not sure we’re understanding the age designations correctly, because age-reckoning in NE Asia works differently:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_age_reckoning

    (And this is so deep-seated I routinely have to ask Koreans whether they’re talking about Western age or “Korean age”–and they’re almost always using the latter.)

    I don’t know if your sources for Song China–or any of the numerous texts I’ve seen that cite this rule–convert the age difference or not. I do know that Zhu Xi was influential in Korea–especially in the (highly Confucianized) Joseon Dynasty, where the legislation for marriage specified minimum ages was based on those same scholarly ideals (which were actually 14-20 was for women but 16-30 for men).

    But from what I’ve seen of *royal* marriage/birth records, as in one well-done chart in this paper it seems like those ages are *not* converted. In which case, we’re really talking about women’s ideal marriage age being 12-18, and men’s being 14-28. (Which isn’t a *huge* difference, but significant enough.) There are also references I’ve seen to families being punished for allowing a daughter to reach age 20 without being married off. (And, indeed, I’ve heard one or two folktales about fathers selfishly refusing to let their daughters marry off, because they want to keep the girls at home and enjoy their beauty, bla bla bla. Even the notion of the “virgin ghost” suggests that preventing a girl’s marriage is a kind of moral crime: she may never know the pleasure of love, or fulfill her duty of producing male children, and be stuck here in the afterlife as a result.)

    Even so, girls from aristocratic families in Korea still seem mostly to have married between 15-19 (from 1600-1950, anyway), and at least queens deferred child-bearing until at least their late teens most of the time. Not always, though: the famous Lady Hyegyong (who would have been a queen if her son hadn’t gone crazy and been eliminated) was married at 9 (Western reckoning), though the marriage wasn’t consummated for five more years, and a child came along a year later. But she also deems this “quite early” in her memoirs.

    How things worked among the peasant/slave classes is more tricky to figure out, of course. I’ve read things that make it sound like in the poorest families, girls were married off (and indeed “sold off” into concubinage or marriage) younger in those classes, but mostly that comes from accounts by Western visitors, lurid and shocked and so on. I’m leery about taking those accounts too much at face value, though at the same time, the misogyny was pretty over the top, and the poverty and social disruption of the late Joseon Dynasty was pretty severe. (My sense is that the more severe poverty and social disruption get, the lower the marriage age falls, because of both economic desperation among the women, and the reduction of regulation enforced upon the men, though, you know, caveat a bunch of assumptions there.)

    (You’ve provoked plenty of other thoughts for me, too–especially in the light of a book I just finished reading on governesses–but this comment is long enough!)

  13. Mord Fiddle

    It may not have been as common as previously thought, particularly by popular culture The research to date is not sufficient to be conclusive. There remains ample evidence that early marriages did occur and was accepted practice depending on social and economic drivers.

  14. Barry King

    When I studied Romeo & Juliet back in high school, a point was emphasized by our professor that in Shakespeare’s time, and I think by extension, part of the tragedy of the play is that the man of God at the end, the priest, friar, or whatever he was who married them did so against the family, church, and nature’s wishes. It was his hubris that was the ultimate destruction of both of the children.

    I haven’t gone back to read it again, but from what I’ve read in the intervening years, I think that these very young marriages that actually did happen were very much political alliances. Sex and childbirth was not supposed to happen for several years after them. It was more in line with the practice of promising children to each other to cement family alliances that is still part of society in parts of South Asia and around the globe.

  15. Erica

    Thank you for posting this, as it’s something I’ve been wondering about since I read Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (and some other sources), which states that age of menarche was far later (16 -19 on average) in most pre-industrial societies than it is today. There is also a “subfertile” period that lasts for around three years after menarche. So it seems unlikely that most girls would have been physically ready to become mothers much before their late teens, or even their early twenties.

    The explanation most often given for the much earlier ages of menarche in industrialized nations (between 12-13 on average and sometimes much younger) is hypernutrition. If this is the case, it makes sense that the nobility would have sometimes married younger in the middle ages (and of course, they had the political incentive to betroth kids from a very young age).

    This makes me wonder, though, would unusually well-nourished and prosperous societies also have had earlier ages of menarche (and consequently earlier first marriage) for girls? Are there any data available for ancient India, Greece, Rome or Egypt, for instance? I was talking to someone who is writing a historic novel set in ancient Egypt, and she insists that girls were routinely married by 12-13 there, according to her research.

    1. silviamg Post
      Author
      silviamg

      I wouldn’t know. If you see my two latest posts, one mentions Jewish brides and Muslim ones. They were generally younger than their European counterparts in the Middle Ages, so it might hold that women in, say, India would be younger but you’d have to do some research on that. Greece, Rome and Egypt are very different and it depends what time period you are imagining I suppose, just as the Late Middle Ages begin to yield older brides it could be earlier brides might have been younger.

      1. Erica

        I just ran across something that said the average age of menarche was around 14 in Ancient Greece, and that girls were often married shortly thereafter, but of course, “Ancient Greece” was around for a long time and not all the city states were the same culturally. And there’s the usual issue with us having far more data about the upper classes and almost none about the working classes.

        I think that it’s reasonable to assume, at least, that the age of sexual maturity of girls, first marriage and birth varied quite a bit throughout the pre-industrial world, and works of fiction that portray very young girls marrying much older men as if this were the unilateral norm in medieval and renaissance-era societies are not being terribly realistic.

  16. Esteleth

    Most women would have married in their twenties. Heiresses and noblewomen a bit younger. The only women who tended to marry very young were the great heiresses – i.e. the women whose husbands would become very rich and/or powerful once they were married. Margaret Beaufort is such an example.
    Of course, people in the Middle Ages and Renaissance were not stupid and to them marriage did not necessarily equal sex. A husband was expected to wait until his wife was “old enough” to safely be pregnant and give birth, and people would frankly discuss the development of young people and when a consummation could be reasonably planned. The letters exchanged between the courts of Henry VII and Ferdinand and Isabella regarding the marriage of Arthur Prince of Wales and Catherine of Aragon are an excellent example of this – they discuss the young couple (who were, IIRC, both 14 at the time) like you might discuss horse breeding.
    Society may have accepted the idea of Margaret Beaufort as a bride at 12, but when she was pregnant almost immediately (and she was apparently still small and undeveloped, and nearly died in childbirth) people shook their heads in disapproval over his conduct. The fact that Henry VII was her only child was directly attributed to the fact that she gave birth to him so young and suffered so much in the delivery. FWIW, many years later Margaret was apparently influential in holding up the weddings of her granddaughters until such time that they were – in Margaret’s opinion – sufficiently developed. She was apparently afraid that their husbands wouldn’t wait.

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