Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Berman, Constance

First Committee Member

Tachau, Katherine

Second Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond A

Third Committee Member

Kamerick, Kathleen

Fourth Committee Member

Berhkofer, Robert, III

Fifth Committee Member

Moore, Michael E


This study examines the ways Parisians viewed marriage contracts and marital relationships in the late fourteenth century. It focuses on the Archidiaconal court of Paris and the ways men and women used the court to modify their marriages. My argument in this project is two-fold: First, I argue that the Parisian laity had at least a basic understanding of marriage law, especially the importance of consent for the creation of marriages, and that women, in particular, used that knowledge to control their choice of marriage partner. Second, I argue that after the formation of the marriage, society had certain expectations for both husbands and wives. The evidence from narrative sources—such as conduct manuals and saints lives—presents a picture of obedient wives loving their husbands, who not only financially supported the household, but also loved their wives in return. Similarly, within Parisian separation cases, these same expectations allowed the majority of plaintiffs—usually female—to legally separate from their husband who did not live up to this ideal.

The majority of this study uses documents from the Archidiaconal court of Paris from 1384-1387, but my arguments speak to a wider view of medieval marriage and the ways society viewed marriage more generally. Overall, these court cases indicate a wider cultural acceptance of affective marriages in the Middle Ages, and fit into the larger argument of female agency within the medieval legal system. Despite women’s marginalized legal status—in many cases not being allowed even to testify in court—women in the late fourteenth-century Archidiaconal court of Paris were regularly plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses before the officials. Women pled their cases sometimes with the support of legal counsel or their parents, but often alone, and they successfully negotiated the legal system to achieve their preferred outcome.


Emotional History, Legal History, Marriage, Women's History


ix, 250 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 233-250).


Copyright © 2015 Kristi DiClemente

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