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Marital Affection and Expectations in a 14th-Century Parisian Court
By Kristi DiClemente
Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies, Vol.11:1 (2014)
Introduction: On July 31, 1386 the Archdeacon’s Court of Paris legally separated the marriage of Jean and Jeanne Trubert. The separation was “quo ad bona, salvo jure thori,” [“as far as goods, saving the right of bed”] a separation of goods, not of bed, which meant that the physical household was split, i.e. the goods, but the spiritual household was not, meaning that neither part could remarry, nor could they refuse the conjugal debt. The reason for this separation, according to the court scribe, was “because it is evident that enmity [“inimicitias”], rancor [“rancores”], and hatred [“odia”] had arisen between them, and in order that nothing worse occur in the marriage.” This entry was not the first, nor would it be the last time this couple appeared in court. From September 29, 1385 until their last appearance on April 26, 1387 Jeanne and Jean appeared in court on five separate occasions. Jeanne Trubart’s suit against her husband is an exemplar for the other separation litigation within the register, and contains most of the elements found within the other cases. Through a more detailed examination of this case in conjunction with other separation cases from the archdeacon’s court between 1384 and 1387, I argue that the women in fourteenth-century Paris expected affection, or at least a lack of hatred, within their marriages. Examining the separations within the court system presents an image of individual expectations of marriage, but the comparison to normative narrative sources—in this case, saints lives such as the vita of Saint Godelieve (Godelina) of Gistel—places these ideas in their cultural context.
Separation cases in particular provide evidence of marital expectations by presenting the complaints of the parties involved, and the opinions of the court in their final decisions. The separation cases in the present study are from the Archdeacon’s court of Paris from 1384-1387. The medieval Church controlled marriage disputes by the fourteenth century, and in Parisian marriage cases, separations as well as contract disputes were heard in this court. Through an examination of the notary’s use of emotion words, an emotional community—Barbara Rosenwein defines this as a system of feelings within a social community—emerges, one that indicates an expectation of good treatment and affection within marriages.