The Trousseau

Gonzaga-Montefeltro-chest_7_custom_base_custom_base_custom_baseNicola here. Last night we had dinner with my mother-in-law and when I admired the beautiful, hand-embroidered table mats, she told me that she had made them in 1961 as part of her trousseau. That made me think; I hadn’t heard that word in such a long time and I have always loved the sound of it. And I also wondered whether people still had a trousseau or if it was another thing that has gone out of fashion.

The definition of “trousseau” is the clothes, linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage but originally the trousseau was the box itself. It’s also known as a hope chest or dowry chest, glory box or “bottom drawer.” It’s this last term that I remember from when I was growing up. My grandmother used to refer to putting things in your bottom drawer for when you got married, but by the time I married in the later 1980s things had changed!

The “cassone” of medieval Europe were large, decorated chests  like the one in teh picture that were extremely valuable in themselves and were a part of the dowry of a bride from a rich and/or aristocratic family. Elizabetta Gonzaga of Mantua and Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, were betrothed in 1486 and married in 1488. In an inventory of Elisabetta’s trousseau corredo, compiled around 25th February 1488 was recorded: ‘Venti forzieri, dieci lavorati d’oro, dieci depinti a la divisa’ (twenty chests, ten gilded, ten painted with heraldic arms/devices" which included the flames of love. This was a trousseau on a very grand scale both in terms of the boxes and their contents!

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Hi, Jo here.

On a Regency chat list we got talking about weddings at the same time as I was researching aspects for my MIP Too Dangerous for a Lady. (Out next April.) I thought I'd share some of what I learned here. None of it was entirely new to me, but there were aspects that were interesting.

The law about weddings changed in 1753/4 so this is about the situation after that and not in Scotland, which kept its old ways, leading to Gretna Green etc.

The law relating to weddings was designed to prevent abuses such as bigamy and the marriage of underage people without the consent of parent or guardian. Everything should be public and clear.

The simplest method was by banns. "The banns of matrimony shall be published in the church where they dwell three several Sundays or holidays, in the time of divine service." If the couple live in different parishes then the banns must be published in both, so everyone who knows them knows what they're up to.

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A wedding ceremony was not, however, seen as a religious one. It was a civil contracts, and in the case of noble marriages, a complicated legal agreement. As religious thinking turned against both women and sex (leading to the cult of the Virgin Mary) marriage itself was seen as unspiritual, so some clerics would have nothing to do with it at all. Most, however, would bless a union, but definitely not in the church.