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BOOK gifu.” So Elfeda, in her will, says, “Rettendun

that was my morgen gyfu®;" and Elfhelm, in his will, has this passage: “And I declare what I gave to my wife for her morgen give; that is, Beadewan, and Burge steile, and Strætford, and the three hides at Hean-healem.” The same testator notices an additional present that he had made his wife on her nuptials: “And I gave to her, when we two first came together, the two hides at Wilburgeham, and at Hrægenan, and that thereto lieth.”! The morgen gift was therefore a settlement on the lady very similar to a modern jointure. It was bargained for before marriage, but was not actually vested in the wife till afterwards. Our conception of the thing will be probably simplified and assisted by recollecting the language of our modern settlements. The land or property conveyed by them is given in trust for the person who grants it “until the said marriage shall take effect; and from and immediately after the solemnization thereof,” it is then granted to the uses agreed upon. So the morgen gift was settled before the nuptials, but was not actually given away until the morning afterwards, or until the marriage was completed.

Nothing could be more calculated to produce a very striking dissimilarity, between the Gothic nations and the Oriental states, than this exaltation of the female sex to that honour, consequence, and independence, which European laws studied to uphold. As the education of youth will always

7 See her will. Hickes's Pref. xxii.
8 See Lye, Sax. Dict. voc. morgen gife.

9 See his will at length, from Mr. Astle's collection, in the second appendix to the Saxon Dictionary.


rest principally with women, in the most ductile CHAP. part of life, it is of the greatest importance that the fair sex should possess high estimation in society; and nothing could more certainly tend to perpetuate this feeling, than the privilege of possessing property in their own right, and at their own disposal.

That the Anglo-Saxon ladies both inherited and disposed of property as they pleased, appears from many instances : a wife is mentioned who devised land by her will, with the consent of her husband in his life-time. 10 We read also of land which a wife had sold in her husband's life.11 We frequently find wives the parties to a sale of land 2 ; and still oftener we read of estates given to women, or devised by men of affluence to their wives. 13 Widows selling property is also a common currence; so is the incident of women devising it.15 That they inherited land is also clear, for a case is mentioned wherein, there being no male heir, the estate went to a female.16 Women appear as tenants in capite in Doomsday.

THERE are many instances of land being granted to both husband and wife. The queens frequently join in the charters with the kings 18 ; and it is once mentioned, that a widow and the heirs were sued



10 Hist. Ram.
3 Gale, 460.

11 Ibid. 466. 12 Ibid. 472. 474, 475. 408.

13 3 Gale, 441. 407, 408.; and see the wills of Ælfred Dux, and of Elfhelm, in Sax. Dict. App. 2. and several Saxon grants.

14 3 Gale, 468.

15 Ibid. 471. See the charta of Eadgifa in Sax. Dict. App. and of Wynfleda ap. Hickes.

16 Ingulf, p. 39.
17 As in Claud, B. 6. p.

38. So Offa gives land to his minister and his sister. Astle, No. 7. ib. 8.

18 Astle's Charters, 48.; and Heming, p. 9, &c.

BOOK for her husband's debts. 19 Indeed, the instances VII.

of women having property transferred to them, and also of their transmitting it to others, surround us on all sides. To name only a few: a king's mother gave five hides to a noble matron, which she gave to à monastery.20 When a bishop had bought some lands of an husband and a wife, he fixed a day when she should come and surrender them, because she had the greater right to the land by a former husband.2 A mother bequeathed property to two of her daughters; and to her third daughter, Leosware, she gave an estate at Weddreringesete, on the reproachful condition, that she should keep herself chaste, or marry, that she and her progeny might not be branded with the infamy of the contagion of prostitution.22

In the oldest Anglo-Saxon law, widows were protected by an express regulation. Four ranks are mentioned : an eorlcund's widow, another sort, a third and fourth sort. Their tranquillity invaded was to be punished by fines adapted to their quality, as fifty shillings, twenty, twelve, and six shillings.23

They were also guarded from personal violence. If any took a widow without her consent, he was to be fined a double mulct.24 It was also expressly forbidden to any one to marry a woman if she was unwilling.”

The morgen gift was not left optional to the husband to give or withhold after the marriage. One of the laws of Ina expressly provides, that if

19 3 Gale, 468.

20 Ibid. 481.

21 Ibid. 472. 22 Ibid. 507. So Alfred in his will gives estates to his three daugh

and also money. 23 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 7.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid. 145.


The morgen

a man bargained for a woman, and the gyft was
not duly forthcoming, he should actually pay the
money, and also a penalty and a compensation to
her sureties for breaking his troth. 28
gift was also the means by which they punished
widows who married too early. Twelve months
was the legal time prescribed for widowhood. By
Ethelred's law, every widow who kept herself in
the peace of God and of the king, and who re-
mained twelve months without a husband, might
choose afterwards as she pleased. But by a sub-
sequent law, if she married within the year, she
lost her morgen gift, and all the property which
she derived from her first husband.28

These pecuniary bargains which were made on
the Anglo-Saxon marriages do not breathe much
of the spirit of affectionate romance.
however, cannot be called mercenary suitors, as
they appear to have been the paymasters. These
contracts give occasion to the Saxon legislators to
express the fact of treating for a marriage by the
terms of buying a wife. Hence our oldest law
says, if a man buys a maiden, the bargain shall
stand if there be no deceit; otherwise, she should
be restored to her home, and his money shall be
returned to him.29 So, in the penalty before men.
tioned annexed to the non-payment of the morgen
gift, the expression used is, if a man buys a
wife.30 In this kind of marriage-bargains it was
a necessary protection extended to the lover, that
the same law which forbade the compelling a wo-
man to marry the man she disliked, also, as an

The men,

26 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 20. 28 Ibid. 145.

27 Ibid. 109. 122. 30 Ibid. 19.

29 Ibid. 7.


BOOK impartial counterpart of justice, directed that a

man should not be forced to give his money, unless
he was desirous to bestow it of his own free will.31
There is another passage which tends to express,
that marriage was considered as the purchase of
the lady. “If a freeman cohabit with the wife of
a freeman, he must pay the were, and obtain an-
other woman with his own money, and lead her to
the other." 32 In this point, we have greatly im-
proved on the customs, or at least the language of
our ancestors. Pecuniary considerations and ar-
rangements are still important formulas preceding
marriages; but ladies frequently bring their hus-
band property, instead of receiving it; and if they
do not, their affection and attentions are his dearest
treasure. They are not now either bought or sold,
unless their interest counterfeits affection.

AFTER adding that marriages were forbidden
within certain degrees of consanguinity 33, we have
only the unpleasing task remaining of mentioning
the penalties which were attached to the violation
of female chastity.

Ir a slave committed a rape on a female slave, he was punished with a corporal mutilation. If any one compelled an immature maiden, he was to abide the same punishment. Whoever violated a ceorl’s wife, was to pay him five shillings, and be fined sixty shillings.34

For adultery with the wife of a twelve hundred man, the offender was to pay one hundred and twenty shillings; and one hundred shillings for the wife of a six hundred man, and forty shillings for

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31 Wilk. Leg. Sax. 145.
33 Ibid. 52. 129.

32 Ibid. 4.
34 Ibid. 40.


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