Discussing the marriage arrangements of one of his daughters in
1685, the Duke of Newcastle commented ‘If
her friends and relations thinkes it fitt to marry her my Wife and I will not
opose it’. Marriage during the Seventeenth Century was often
subject to the interference of parents and other family members, particularly
at an elite level. From the selection of potential partners to the negotiation
of terms and dowries, marriage was a social drama involving family, peers and
extended kin. This involvement however did not end once the couple was married,
with family and kin continuing to have an active role throughout the entire
life cycle of marriage. They could provide emotional support during times of
conflict or grief, give advice to newly married couples, and even offer refuge
in times of need. This involvement varied greatly and could be welcomed by the
couple in question as useful advice or spurned as unsolicited interference.
Through a case study approach of a network of elite families, this paper will
examine the continuing role of family and kin throughout the life cycle of
marriage as well as how such involvement was received.