In my story in Royal Weddings I refer to Queen Victoria’s marrying a man she loved. This, as we've mentioned before, was not at all common in royal families. In fact, marrying for love wasn’t common in general, in many cultures, until relatively recently. Consider my Albanian ancestors.
Following are a few excerpts from the lengthy Code (or Kanun) of Lekë Dukagjini, an extremely detailed compilation of the Albanians' customary law, which dates to medieval times, possibly earlier.
The Kanun requires marriage (a) be arranged by male heads of family and (b) involve a matchmaker.
“A young woman who has been abducted or who has run away to find a husband cannot be adorned as a bride; she must go as a girl—in a girl’s clothes—because she has been taken or has left home outside the laws of the Kanun and without a matchmaker.”
Once the couple is betrothed, the young man has the right to reject the girl. Following certain formalities, he and she are free to marry someone else. However,
“The girl who is betrothed may not reject the young man, even if she does not like him.”
Some girls must have put up a fight, making the following rules necessary:
“If the girl refuses to submit to her fate, under any circumstances, and her parents support her, she may never marry another man.”
Without her fiancé’s permission, she can’t marry anybody else and nobody’s supposed to ask her. It doesn’t matter if the rejected fiancé marries someone else. The only way she gets out of this deal is if he dies.
“With the death of the fiancé, the Kanun frees the girl and, if she so desires, she may marry.”
However, in the case where the parents don’t support her—
“If the girl does not submit and marry her fiancé, she should be handed over to him by force, 'together with a cartridge,’ and if the girl tries to flee, her husband may kill her with her parents’ cartridge, and the girl’s blood is lost [remains unavenged*], because it was with their cartridge that she was killed.”
*Blood feud was common, and the code involving it is extensive & minutely detailed in the Kanun.
Kanuni I Lekë Dukagjinit: The Code of Lekë Dukagjini
Illustrations: "Rok, tribesman of the Skreli," by William Le Queux, 1906, and Albanian Woman's Portrait, both courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
1610 "Newes from Virginia" by Richard Rich
2 years ago