Laws relating to Marriage
Marriage laws began to evolve during the Renaissance.
The Council of Westminster decreed in 1076 that no man should give his
daughter or female relative to anyone without priestly blessing. Later
councils would decree that marriage should not be secret but held in the
open. But it wasn't until the 16th century Council of Trent that decreed
a priest was required to perform the betrothal ceremony. Separation of
couples was tolerated, but there was no legal divorce, though betrothals
between those too closely related could be annulled.
Grooms, on the average, were 14 years older than their brides. Noble women
sometimes didn't marry until the age of 24, but this was rare. More than
3/4 were married before they reached 19. By today's standards, western
Europe was inhabited by the young, with more than half of the population
under 20 years of age