What Was Love and Marriage Like in Elizabethan Times?
Love and marriage in Elizabethan times were often not associated concepts. Marriages were often arranged, and the parties involved often had very little say in the matter.
Since women could not inherit property in Elizabethan times, marriage was important to securing their future and well being. Marriage pacts were made between families in order to secure wealth, property and/or status with little consideration of love. It was not unusual for marriage pacts to made when those involved were still very young children.
The legal age for marrying in the Elizabethan era was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, although people generally did not marry until they were in their 20s. Marriage licenses could only be issued by church officials during the time. A public announcement of an engagement was repeated several times in order to allow time for any issues with the engagement to be made public.
Once a marriage took place, a woman became the property of her husband and was subject to his whims. When a marriage had been sanctified by the church, for a woman to disobey her husband from that point was for her to defy the will of God, and she would be treated as a criminal.