Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I Thee Wed-More or Less-But Mostly Less

Have you ever wanted to get married to someone of an inferior social rank, but didn't want to risk causing a national crisis? If so, than a morganatic marriage may be for you.

Image result for franz ferdinand and sophie
Franz Ferdinand (of WWI fame) and his wife, Sophie, had
a morganatic marriage.
Morganatic marriage, or 'marriage of the left hand' is a kinda-sorta marriage, in which someone, usually a man, of a royal house marries a person of lower rank, usually a commoner, with the stipulation that the spouse, and all children from that marriage will not inherit any lands or titles. It sounds like kinda a shitty deal, but it was the only way for many royal and noble people to marry the person they loved in the time before the 20th century.

Aside from inheritance, a morganatic marriage behaved exactly like a normal marriage. The couple was married in a church, and all children were declared legitimate. Bigamy was still prohibited, and women still took their husband's last name. The only difference in these aspects, is that when marrying the husband would extend his left hand to the bride, instead of his right, to symbolize a morganatic or 'of the left hand' marriage.

Image result for alexander II and ekaterina
Czar Alexander II and his wife, Princess
Ekaterina Dolgorukova. Though Ekaterina
was a princess at the time of their marriage,
their marriage was still morganatic. Also shown
are their children, Georgiy and Olga.
The word 'Morganatic' comes from the German word for morning. This references the 'morning gift', or a gift given by the husband to the wife the morning after their wedding. This gift was usually a tract of land, or a similarly useful item that could support the woman and her children should the husband die. This gift remained the sole property of the wife, and should the couple divorce she would still retain it.

Morganatic marriage has most frequently been used to avoid a general uprising should a person of royal rank decide to marry 'beneath them'. Social rules were more strict in times gone by, and part of being a nobleperson was the understood obligation to marry for the benefit of the state instead of oneself. Doing contrary to that could land a person in serious trouble (To this day both Sweden and the United Kingdom have laws saying that the monarch has to approve the spouse of any royal family member.). But sometimes true love just couldn't be stopped, and so to deal with the social strictures of the time, morganatic marriage was the compromise.

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