Michelle McLean – To Consummate or To Not Consummate…

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 😉


Marie_Antoinette_1767While 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.Catherine_aragon


History is full of such examples, and the aftermath of such miserable unions. Thankfully, my hero and heroine will find a much happier ending 🙂

Follow Michelle McLean:

Michelle McLean is a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who is addicted to chocolate and Goldfish crackers and spent most of her formative years with her nose in a book. She has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and a knack for explaining complicated things to uncomplicated people. Michelle's non-fiction works include guides on how to write essays, term papers, literary analysis essays, and poetry. She also writes romance with a good dose of mystery and humor, historicals, and a paranormal here and there. When Michelle's not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. She resides in PA with her husband and two children, an insanely hyper dog, and three very spoiled cats.

6 Responses

  1. JoannaM

    Poor women! Not only not knowing what was going to happen but isn’t it true that royalty had to have witnesses to the deed? I don’t even want to imagine what they went through *shudders*

    • Michelle McLean

      They were put to bed with witnesses but I think once the bed curtains were drawn they were left alone. And many of these weddings were performed by proxy, with someone else standing in for the bride/groom. Then they would get in bed with their proxy partners and touch bare feet in front of witnesses and the marriage would be considered consummated. Not the case when a queen was giving birth though. Can you imagine going through that with half the court watching?

  2. Barbara Monajem

    I don’t understand why no one explained to the women!! Not their mothers, their friends, their maids??? So weird.

    • Michelle McLean

      Right?!? Seems incredibly counter-productive. If I wanted to ensure a consummation and some heirs, I’d make sure the couple knew what was going on.

  3. ki pha

    Fascinating isn’t it? Many of the stories in my head has to deal with this issue but of course, there’s a HEA.