Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean

By Donald J. Kagay; L. J. Andrew Villalon | Go to book overview

FORCE AND FEAR: A MARRIAGE CASE FROM
ELEVENTH-CENTURY ARAGON
James A. Brundage

The thesis of this paper centers on the bundle of legal and pastoral problems that arose from marriages that one partner entered unwillingly—in other words, from what we might call “shotgun marriages.” More specifically, I propose to examine one particular case decided by Pope Urban II (1088–1099) on 1 July 1089.1 This case arose in the royal family of the Kingdom of Aragon and was brought to the pope by King Sancho I Ramírez (1063–1094). Sancho's query to the pope has apparently not survived, but the pope's reply struck canonists in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries as sufficiently interesting that several of them included it among the papal decisions they reported in their collections of canon law.2 Sometime around 1140 a Bolognese law teacher named Gratian incorporated the text of Pope Urban's letter into his Decretum, which soon became (and long remained) the basic textbook in medieval schools of canon law.3 The decision in this Aragonese case thus entered the mainstream of canonical doctrine on the difficult legal issues that cluster around the problem of marriages contracted through force or fear.4

Canonists considered that only part of Pope Urban's letter to King Sancho held much legal interest and they therefore incorporated only that segment of it in their collections. In that portion of his letter the pope wrote:

____________________
1
JL 5399; also see Appendix A. I am greatly indebted to Robert Somerville, who first directed my attention to the legal problems that this text raises.
2
The letter first appeared in the Collectio Britannica. Ivo of Chartres reproduced it in his Decretum 8.24 and Panormia 6.109, as well as the Collectio trium partium 3.15(16).22.
3
See James A. Brundage, Medieval Canon Law (London, 1996) on Gratian and the schools of law.
4
The studies collected in Angeliki E. Laiou, Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies (Washington, 1993), present a useful historical introduction to the issues and their treatment in various regions and periods, as well as numerous references to the abundant literature on this topic. I have also addressed some of these issues in a paper on “Coerced Consent and the 'Constant Man' Standard in Medieval Canon Law, presented at the Davis Center colloquium on Reason, Coercion, and the Law, in November, 1993.

-11-

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