Prenuptial agreements 300 years old have been unearthed by an archivist in the state archive of Bückeburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. To be exact, 5500 contracts between 1712 and 1740 have been registered. The administrative district of Stadthagen is represented with 1600 prenuptial agreements (Eheberedungen).

The information on these prenuptial agreements is discussed in a article titled Marriages without Romance in Hanover? The commentary points to civil administrative changes that occurred after the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church called the Council of Trent ordered that a marriage had to be performed before a priest and two witnesses.

Prior to this ecumenical directive, two families and their witnesses met to discuss the terms of the marriage between their children. The church mandate made it necessary for a written statement to be made prior to the marriage. This served several material purposes, such as, problems with dowry claims sometimes years after the marriage and expanded official control over land ownership. The lord of the manor too had to give his blessing, since his wellbeing was at stake. (The not so simple life that we sometimes yearn to live was actually quite complicated and object-oriented.)

If couples had nothing to record they still had to appear before the officials to register their intentions of marriage, so they could receive their permit to present to the priest.

Click on Marriages without Romance in Hanover? to read the article. You can also follow the links in the article to gain a broader view of life in Hanover, Germany 300 years ago.

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2 Comments on 300 year-old prenuptial agreements found in Germany

  1. Kittie Kat says:

    This is such an interesting article. You write well and keep it interesting. This is one of the best genealogy and history sites I’ve seen. We all imagine that life was less complicated back then because they weren’t bombarded with technology and it’s highly probable that it was more complex because of the the type of class distinction that you don’t see these days.

  2. Sean Mac says:

    Your writing just keeps getting better. I enjoy this blog and see you’ve made a change to the title “GENEALOGY AND HISTORY ET CETERA”. It leaves the field wide open. Yes?

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