Monday, 17 January 2011

Shotgun wedding, seventeenth century style?

Application for a marriage licence:

Pettyt, John, of Graveney, husbandman, and Margaret Martin, same parish, spinster. At same.

Before this licence was granted, the said Margaret appeared and alleged that whereas Peter Keyne of Graveney, husbandman, hath heeretofore obteyned a license to marry with her, truth yt is that she was never contracted in matrimony unto the said Peter, but longe before … she … was contracted in marriage unto John Pettyt, whose fathers maid servant she was, and by him, the said John, begotten with child wherewith she is now great; and upon some agreement made between the said John Pettyt and Peter Keyne (to salve the said John Pettyt’s credit) viz. for the som of ten pounds, the said Keyne undertook to marry with her the said Margaret, which she utterly disliked and yett disliketh; and now at the length hath persuaded the said John Pettyt (god soe putting yt into his mynde) to be as good as his word, and to marry her.’ April 1 1612
J.M. Cowper (ed.) Canterbury Diocese Marriage Licences Volume 1 1568-1618

John Pettyt was a husbandman, a farmer, so this is not a case of the serving maid being seduced by the young gentleman. Margaret might be from a very similar background to John.

Margaret is to be admired for insisting that John Pettyt kept his word and married her, but how successful would the marriage have been, given that each of them must have felt resentment towards the other?

And what about Peter Keyne? Ten pounds might have seemed like a nice lump sum to have in his hand, when a day’s wages was about 1s 2d-1s 6d, but in the long term would it really be sufficient incentive to get married and take on another man’s child as his own? Unless he really did want to marry Margaret. If that was the case, one has to feel a little sorry for him.

One has to wonder how often agreements such as John Pettyt's with Peter Keyne were actually carried through, and in consequence present day family historians end up tracing a completely wrong line of descent.

The fact that a licence was applied for doesn't mean that the marriage actually took place. It would be interesting to discover, if possible, whether John and Margaret did get married and what happened to them subsequently.

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