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English Marital Age

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Medieval Marriage


  • Misdemeanor to "ravish" a "maiden within age", whether with or without her consent. "Within age" interpreted as the age of marriage. At the time, it was 12 years old. Source: Jurist Sir Edward CokeWikipedia: Marriageable age

12th century

  • Puberty -- between 12 and 14 years old -- was an acceptable age for marriage. But "consent" could apply if the child was older than seven. Jurist Gratian, an influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe; other authorities claimed consent apply to children younger than seven. Marriage would then be valid as long as neither of the two parties annulled the marital agreement before reaching puberty, or if they had already consummated the marriage.
  • Note: As a vehicle for political, and financial gain, some parents arranged marriages for children as young as two or years old. Judges considered these marriages as being of mutual consent.

17th Century

  • By this time, young marriages may have been less common. Church law also mandated that both bride and groom be at least 21 years old.

1753 Marriage Act

  • Required couples to be at least 21 years old to marry without parental consent.Wikipedia: Marriage Act 1753
  • Forced couples to obtain marriage licenses from an Anglican church to make the marriage valid. Not all complied.


  • "Parliament raised the age limit to 16 for both sexes in the Ages of Marriage Act. This is still the minimum age." www.parliament.uk The Law of Marriage.
  • England and Wales: 16 with parental consent.Wikipedia: Marriageable age
  • Scotland: 16
  • Northern Ireland: 16 with parental consent (with the court able to give consent in some cases).

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