The Church's Intervention

The Church’s requirement that royal couples were to confess their faith goes some way towards explaining the discrepancies between the political standings of monarchies and their sovereigns’ successes in the royal marriage market. After the long process of the Reformation and the Great Schism in the sixteenth century, the western part of Europe was divided into two confessional camps, Catholic and Protestant, which would become a significant divide in the royal marriage market. There were also some lesser splits between different Protestant denominations, particularly between Calvinism and Lutheranism (Ingrao 2003, 27-39; Clark 2007, 115-44). In my sample of monarchies, Spain, France and Austria were on the Catholic side, Austria since the mid-seventeenth century, when Archduke Ferdinand II restored Catholicism to the Austrian crown lands (Ingrao 2003, 28-39). In the Protestant camp of my sample were Denmark, Sweden and Prussia, as well as England with her Protestant Anglican denomination. Russia was the only monarchy in my data set whose official denomination was Orthodoxy, but the Russian rulers, after their entry into the European royal marriage market, regularly married from Protestant houses. Russia was effectively part of the Protestant royal marriage market. The equivalence of the monarch’s confession with the official denomination was eventually confirmed by law in all European monarchies, first in Catholic countries, such as France in 1593. According to the law, the kings of France must be Catholic (Collins 2009, 15). Protestant monarchies followed suit later on. In England, the Declaration of Rights in 1689 barred Catholics from the succession, as well as those who married Catholics (Crofton 2008, 181).

Even though the Spanish and French royal intermarriages can be explained by the Great Power status of these two monarchies, we can now say that the maintenance of this high-level status equivalence was made possible by fact that they were both Catholic monarchies. When in search of a spouse, their rulers could also turn to Austria, a rising monarchy. These three realms formed a strong and exclusive bastion in the royal marriage market between 1500 and 1800. Almost half of the monarchs’ marriages during this period were contracted within this three-monarchy conglomeration; almost one-quarter of consorts were found from other Catholic kingdoms, Portugal and Poland; and the remaining one-quarter were from Catholic principalities, including Bavaria, Savoy, Florence/ Tuscany, Mantua and Parma. No Catholic monarch married a Protestant princess. Philip II of Spain, who married Mary I of England in 1554, made an acceptable conjugal choice because, contrary to her father, Henry VIII, and her successor, Elizabeth I, Mary was a Catholic.

In the Protestant camp the situation was different. During the religious schism between Catholicism and Protestantism in the sixteenth century, Protestant monarchs, particularly in England and Sweden, contracted marriages to Catholic brides. This suggests that Protestant sovereigns had a more indifferent—or more liberal—stand on religion than Catholic rulers. Catherine Jagellonica, daughter of King of Poland, could maintain her Catholic confession of faith when marrying Protestant John III of Sweden in 1562 (Rangstrom 2010, 80). Marriage between King Charles I of England and the French Princess Henrietta in 1625 was also such a marriage. Charles I’s father, King James I, had long planned a marriage alliance to one of Europe’s two Catholic superpowers—the Habsburgs of Spain or the Bourbons of France—to add to his prestige, which he thought justified because the unification of England, Scotland and Ireland had almost made his realm a Great Power. At the same time, he trustingly assumed that such a marriage would reconcile Protestant and Catholic Europe. Negotiations finally led to the marriage of Charles I to Henrietta Maria, after the collapse of talks with the Spanish king, but there was to be no reconciliation between Catholicism and Protestantism. This marriage also shows that religious divergence caused far more conflicts in domestic politics than between the royal spouses (Whitaker 2011).

Between 1500 and 1800, then, the Protestant and Catholic camps shaped up differently in the royal marriage market. As Table 2.1 shows, successes were far more common in the Catholic camp: 65 per cent of Catholic monarchs married the offspring of monarchs, compared with only one-quarter of Protestant monarchs. Moreover, the proportion of internal marriages was much higher, 47 per cent, within the Catholic three-monarchy conglomeration than in the four-monarchy Protestant group (Russia excluded), where it was 20 per cent. Monarchs in the Protestant camp often chose their consorts from German duchies, a great majority of which converted to Protestantism by the mid-sixteenth century (Spiess 2007, 67). So numerous were German duchies that they provided an inexhaustible pool of princes and princesses for Protestant royal dynasties. Between 1500 and 1800, 59 per cent of Protestant monarchs’ consorts came from this pool. Although the matrimonial pursuits were widely scattered across different principalities, making the Protestant royal marriage market less coherent than its Catholic counterpart, there was one factor that tied the principalities together: their Germanic origins. This also explains Prussia’s choices in the marriage market: two- thirds of the Prussian rulers were married to princesses from German duchies. But German princely blood also flowed in the veins of Danish monarchs, 77 per cent of whom married German princesses between 1500 and 1800. In Sweden, the proportion of Danish monarchs was 50 per cent and in Great Britain one-third, all of them laid to Hanoverian sovereigns’ account. The royal blood of Protestant monarchs was thus largely blended with German princely blood, which was also true for Russian rulers since the early eighteenth century: with the exception of one sovereign, they took their spouses from German principalities.

The two Churches thus shaped the royal marriage market by dividing it into two camps. Because Spain’s and France’s early rise to dominance in the European political community coincides with Catholicism, it is tempting to assume that Catholicism gave monarchism its glorious grandeur, which was also reflected in the Church’s exclusive right to officiate the wedding ritual. The Catholic Church was the master extraordinaire of all grand rituals, most fitting for those in power. Although national Protestant Churches took steps to reduce the number of rituals in church ceremonies, ritualism did not disappear from royal ceremonies altogether. The solemn wedding ceremony was intended to glorify those in power, but also to confirm the authoritative power of marriage, embodied by the formalization of marriage under the state’s control. Even though the clergy had a strong influence on the way that marriages were arranged among royalty, they stood away from the royal marriage market. Catholic priests were of course outside the market because of their vow of celibacy, but the same was true of Protestant clerics as well, even though they were allowed to marry. No marriages were contracted between monarchs and clergymen or their daughters during the period from 1500 to 1800. There was thus an insuperable line of demarcation between royalty and clergy, which were separated into two distinct marriage markets.

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