The Remarriage of Elite Widows in the Later Middle Ages

Rhoda L. Friedrichs


Although late medieval widows had considerable legal control over their own remarriages, in practice their freedom was limited by the constraints of family social strategies and, for the highly placed, by political manipulation by powerful men. Similar factors operated in many countries. The wealth and prestige which gave these women consequence also attracted men who wished to use those assets. This can be found at all levels of property and status, from widowed queens pressured by those seeking power, to widows on the margins of the aristocracy, who could be required to remarry to suit a patron. The freedom of widows to choose was almost always contingent on the greater social and political power of men. The article concludes with a case study of Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby.

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