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 Women & Feudalism

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Melisende
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PostSubject: Women & Feudalism   Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:25 am

Women & Feudalism in the Crusader States


Women of noble birth could marry where they wished - except when landholding was linked with military service. In Medieval society, military service was a condition of survival of the state; therefore, aristocratic heiresses were not obliged to follow their hearts.

The Law of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was much more liberal toward women landholders. It was not uncommon for noble women to purchase landed estates in their own right. Where women held title by right of being a widow or as an heiress on the death of her father, she could only be required to marry of the fief carried the obligation of military service. Women who refused could legally be deprived of their fief.

Church opinion at the time was against second marriages, especially for widows - but in the Crusader States, military obligations and requirements took priority. Marriageable ages in Europe were typically 12yo for girls and 14yo for boys. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem, marriageable ages for both was 13yo.

In the Kingdom of Jerusalem, dowries were protected and widows enjoyed rights of revenues from the estate of her dead husband.

Standard feudal practice often witnessed the liege lord of an heiress (as her legal guardian) asserting pressure upon her to force her into a marriage as would-be suitors would be expected to pay fro the privilege of marriage.

The Laws of the Kingdom of Jerusalem set limits to a lord's rights - he could not require a female vassal to marry if her fief was not subject to military obligations - and he must nominate at least three candidates for her to choose from, suitable to both her rank and social position.

Even if there was no military obligation attached to the fief, a woman still needed her lord's permission to marry where she wished - and the Laws state that permission could not be withheld indefinitely or unreasonably.



Also posted on: Notes Regarding Female Succession

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