What goes on in the bedrooms of the rich and famous has been fodder for the gossip mill for centuries. And longer. But when it comes to royalty and nobility, the interest has another spin. When the inheritance of money, lands, titles, and even countries is involved, what goes on in the bedroom cannot stay in the bedroom. For many a noble couple, the sole purpose of marriage was to beget a few heirs and cement alliances. Which meant consummating those marriages was of the utmost importance. Without consummation, marriages could be annulled, alliances could fall apart, rivals could gain the upper hand, and all manner of unnatural hell could break loose.
How’s that for wedding night pressure?
My current WIP starts with just such a marriage. Forced by the king to wed in order to ally feuding clans, my couple face their marriage bed with less enthusiasm than one might hope. And of course, as their plight was on my brain, I noticed similar circumstances more than usual. Watching Kirsten Dunce in Marie Antoinette had me researching other famous non-consummaters, just for fun 😉
While not completely historically accurate, the Marie Antoinette movie did get one thing right…Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI did not consummate their marriage for several years after their wedding. Reasons for this vary, though most point to ignorance and perhaps some physical issues on Louis’s part. Thankfully for the royal couple, they figured out what was what eventually and birthed a few children.
Louis XIII and his wife, Anne of Austria took four years to consummate their marriage and despised the duty enough that it took 22 years before they managed to produce an heir.
It didn’t help that many of these couples, the women especially, were never made aware of what was to take place after the wedding. For a sheltered princess completely deprived of any kind of physical education, especially in reproductive matters, the wedding night must have come as quite a shock. Princess Frederica Dorothea of Baden ran screaming from her bridal bed upon discovering what was expected of her. It took weeks before her marriage to King Gustavus IV of Sweden was consummated.
And perhaps one of the best known unconsummated (supposedly) marriages is that of Arthur, the Prince of Wales (and brother to the future King Henry VIII) and Catherine of Aragon. Catherine’s marriage to Henry after the death of his brother was only permitted because Catherine swore the marriage had never been consummated. A fact which Henry would protest later in their lives.
History is full of such examples, and the aftermath of such miserable unions. Thankfully, my hero and heroine will find a much happier ending 🙂