Sunday, 12 June 2011

When youngsters marry

November 24, 1615 - 
Wedding of Louis XIII
of France and Anne of Austria
I've been researching adolescent-marriages—right now, the marriage of Anne of Austria to the French king, Louis XIII, in particular. She was a Spanish princess (confusing, I know). They were both 10 when engaged, and 14 when married.

Often, in such cases, the young bride and groom do not live together and consummation is postponed until they have matured. In this case, however, the issue was forced in order to prevent the possibility of an annulment.

Although the son of the manly Henri IV (or, perhaps, because of it), Louis XIII was a timid boy, especially with respect to the opposite sex. It's likely that he was homosexual by inclination. It's said that he had to be bodily carried to the wedding bed.

Examining the evidence
The bed was canopied, but in the room sat two nurses. In the morning, the boy's mother, the Queen-Regent, examined the sheets for evidence of virginal blood. The two nurses testified that the act had been performed twice.

One wonders about this, for once free of his young wife's bed, the fourteen-year-old king refused to return, refused even to eat with her for over six months.

A solution proposed
His reticence was a serious diplomatic concern. A cousin suggested a solution. She was going to be married: she and her betrothed suggested the King watch their nuptial congress. He did so, applauding as they performed for him twice—or so the story goes. Yet even so he would have nothing to do with his wife.

Success ... after 23 years
Louis XIII did, eventually, manage to do "his duty." Anne suffered a series of miscarriages, unfortunately. The first child she carried to term was Louis XIV, the Sun King, aptly called "God-given." Needless-to-say, because Anne did not give birth until after she and Louis XIII had been married for over twenty years, there have always been rumours—ungrounded, I should note—about the Sun King's true biological father.

Do you know of other stories of youngsters marrying? If so, please write to me—I'd be delighted to know.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The First Africans in Virginia

In 1619, the first Africans arrived on a Dutch ship near present-day Hampton, Virgina. About twenty were aboard after having been stolen from a Spanish ship. The crew traded the Africans for food, then set sail. It's unclear whether the first group were indentured servants or slaves. Slave laws had yet to be written, and many of the first arrivals were indentured and given the same opportunities to live as free people after their terms had been served.

Arriving in 1620, Anthony Johnson was one of the first arrivals. He married Mary, and they had four children. By 1635, they had gained their freedom and inherited land as well as indentured servants of their own. In 1665, he moved to Maryland. The land he left behind was seized because he was a "negroe and by consequence an alien."

One of the first records of slaves for life was in 1640 when three indentured servants ran off from a plantation. Two servants were white and one was black. When recaptured, the white servants had four years added to their terms, while the black man, John Punch, was enslaved for life.

Ironically, a black servant of Anthony Johnson's filed suit against him in 1654. Johnson won the case and John Casor's indenture term was extended to life.

Slave laws in the colonies were first written in Massachusetts in 1641. Virginia followed suit in 1661. A year later, Virginia decided that children born to slave mothers would also be enslaved. In 1672, England officially entered the slave trade when the king chartered the Royal African Company. Between 1680 and 1686, the company transported approximately 5,000 Africans a year with most of the them going to the colonies, not just Virginia. In 1698, the average increased to over 20,000 a year.

In 1705, the Virginia General Assembly declared:

"All servants imported and brought into the Country, by sea or land, who were not Christians in their native Country. . . shall be slaves... All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves... within this dominion. . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resists his master, or owner, or other person, by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master, owner, and every such other person so giving correction, shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened."

Kim Murphy