Medieval courtship dating
Church law on marriage was defined and clarified during thetwelfth and early thirteenth centuries.Basic Christian teaching was straightforward – what God has united, man must not divide (Mark ).But traditional marriage behaviour seems to have survived the coming of the Anglo-Normans, at least among . Many men and women among the aristocracy continued to have a succession of spouses and this was a key factor In the proliferation of some of the major families. This marriage pattern may have been confined to the upper reaches of Gaelic Irish society; lack of evidence prevents any estimate of marital behaviour lower down the social scale.For the Gaelic Irish aristocracy real difficulties were caused by canonical regulations on consanguinity and affinity.In the Anglo-Irish area the desire to safeguard inheritance rights could well have been a factor, but this was less important for the Gaelic Irish aristocracy, among whom acknowledgement of paternity rather than canonical concepts of legitimacy determined hereditary entitlements.Perhaps a troubled conscience, a wish to conform to church regulations, may explain some of them.But how do you know when God has united a man and a woman in matrimony, or, in other words, what constitutes a marriage?
What was it that prompted couples to seek these dispensations?
The church reflected this division and was split into two sections, one inter Ang/icos (among the Anglo-Irish), the other inter Hibernicos (among the Gaelic Irish).
We must therefore investigate marital behaviour in the two parts of Ireland, the section of the country under English law, and the Gaelic Irish area where the old brehon law still held sway.
And since it was the church that determined what constituted or did not constitute a marriage, it was accepted that marriage disputes should he heard only in church courts.
How were the regulations observed in Ireland between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries? The records of ecclesiastical courts do not survive for any Irish diocese, therefore we are forced to rely on the incomplete and haphazard records of marriage litigation which appear among the registers of the medieval archbishops of Armagh.