Elizabethan dating and marriage courtship
Particularly amongthe nobility, but even down through the middle and lower classes, marriages were arranged between families for mutual enrichment, to stabilize a family line, or by common acceptance that “of course these two families’ children will marry.” It was a situation that proved particularly challenging for women, as women were considered just slightly more important than cattle during this era (a mild exaggeration, but still).As a woman, you had absolutely no say in your future husband, and were expected to accept whatever wise decision your parents (father) made for you.” Even the children of the wealthy did however sometimes marry against their parents’ wishes."You know what to expect from me, as you have seen my character of a good wife.Suppose I tell you now, what I, in my turn, expect, and how you may best please me and make me happy.—Thus then I begin—Let me ever have the sweet consiousness of knowing myself the best beloved of your heart—I do not always require a lover’s attention—that wou’d be impossible, but let it never appear by your conduct that I am indifferent to you." Margaret Davenport Coulter to John Coulter, May 10, 1795.
Oddly enough, there seems to be a period in the late sixteenth century when the mean marriage age of women in and around the area of Stratford-on- Avon dropped as low as 21 years: the mean marriage age from 1580 to 1589 was about 20.6 years, and it was in this decade that Shakespeare, at the age of eighteen, married Anne Hathaway.
They were part of a small group of well-off, unmarried, young people living in the small city of Williamsburg.
When men and women did meet, they obviously enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner we assemble in the hall where the sweet Judah favored us with a good deal of her incomparable music.” (Peter S. ] Carr, July 28, 1787.) Young white men began courting in their late teens.
“After an agreeable ride we at length reached the house about two o’clock, just about the time when Miss J’s beauty was in its meridian splendor. The average man in Virginia married in his mid-twenties.
We found her doing the honors of the table with ineffable sweetness and grace. When he began courting Hannah Powell, William Drew was in his twenties and already established as the Berkeley County clerk of the court.
The wedding was the culmination of years of planning, preparation, and effort. Courting allowed young men and women to meet and socialize largely unchaperoned, at a variety of entertainments.