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One of the English differences

Late marriage has long been an English thing:

For most Tudor children, their exit from childhood came with puberty and entering the world of work. Apprenticeships often began around 12-14, the same age that fortunate adolescent boys might go to university. Marriage came much later — about 28 for men and 25 for women, and members of both sexes spent years working in preparation for establishing a household.

The aristocrats, especially the women, might well marry much younger. But one of those grand differences across Europe was the late age of household formation in England.

8 thoughts on “One of the English differences”

  1. Tim. Must admit I’d heard this was also the case in Germany.

    As you point out, it was a class thing. The bloke needed time to accumulate the money/resources to allow him to support a wife and family.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    Its probably been distorted now because of immigration, but IIRC when I served in Germany in the ’80s the age gap between men and women at marriage was the highest in Europe. Something like 7 years.

  3. What boganboy said…

    In the Crafts/Guilds you couldn’t get a wife if you didn’t at least finish your Journeymanship.
    In rather compact Clogland this didn’t involve much travelling, but in Germany it did, and in some cases still does.
    That “getting a degree/getting acknowledged as a craftsman” thing that provided an economic future was a major hump in getting hitched, especially as you tended to marry into an existing workshop/trade.

    Didn’t mean you couldn’t get engaged young, but you had to get that Mark of Craftsmanship. Which depending on ability/politics/money(!!) could take well over a decade, or forever…

    Outside of high nobility, the deciding factor was whether or not you went and got an education that largely determined marrying age. Not unlike nowadays.
    With the difference that there was very little room for Grievance Studies back then. You had to join the monasteries for that. Which, well, took you out of the equation anyways..

  4. Yep & you can correlate the age of marriage with the number of children the marriage produces. The later the marriage the fewer opportunities for a successful pregnancy.

  5. Bis – I don’t think so.

    Blokes often married much younger women, at least first time round.

    Otherwise a family had to support a girl to 26 too. Much cheaper to marry her off at 18.

  6. Used to commonplace to meet guys turning 50 who were already grandfathers a number of times over. Not sure that’s the case these days.

  7. Back in the 19th and early 20th Cs, I suspect that family formation was a precursor to marriage amongst the lower orders. My maternal grandparents got married already with a 3-yr old and a second imminent. My father was either was very premature or his mother was, as they say, already showing at the wedding. I haven’t done a close analysis of all my forebears but there seems to be quite a number of other cases where shotguns were considered.

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