Marriage Annulment... Query

A noble lady's husband has been away on crusade for 17 years. Some fear he is dead, but occasionally someone says they have heard of him in travels through the Levant.

Another noble of influence and wealth covets the lady, and her land. He pressures her (wanting her to see the benefit of the annulment, and not harden her heart to him), and the Church, to have the marriage annulled.

After a particularly hard winter, she does indeed agree with the covetous noble's plan. The marriage is annulled.

The very next day (ta-da!), word comes that the crusading lord is returning home. The Lady has second thoughts...

What can she possibly do?

Also, what occurs when a marriage is annulled? Who can authorize annullments? Is there paperwork involved? What is the procedure in 1222ad?

Thanks in advance!


First, the marriage probably cannot be annulled. Annullment under canon law means that the marriage was never succesfully conducted. Thus, at the time of the marriage, there had to be circumstances precluding its lawful conclusion.

However, when one of the spouses dies, the marriage ends. If one of them is most likely deceased, the bishop can issue a declaration of presumed death.
When such a declaration is obtained, the surviving spouse can legally marry again.
However, such a declaration does not end the marriage (only death does). If the first husband turns out to be alive after all, the second marriage is invalid (in this case there are circumstances precluding its lawful conclusion, so it can be - and is - annulled) and she is required to return to him.

So, for your noble lady, she has to appeal to the bishop to have her first husband declared presumably dead and she'll be free to marry the coveting noble. As soon as the first husband turns out to be alive, she is presumed to have been married to him all along, and the second marriage - if conducted already - is annulled.

It might be different in the 1220's. I don't know.

Courtesy of Wikipedia:

The thought here is that for 17 years he has been absent, and their single night of congress did not result in a child, nor has he returned to attempt procreation, thus his intent is considered dubious and the marriage null and void.

That's how it's being lobbied, at any rate.


The pope can annull a marriage if the spouses were related too closely.
And in fact several european kings got their marriage annulled, even after several years, when suddenly (ta-tah) a document turned up that showed that his wife was acually closely related to him.
So if the noble women or her covetous noble went down all the way to the pope and ensured him the marriage was invalid and he agreed, there is no chance for the original couple to join again.
That is... unless they prove the document was forged (by the covetous noble himself?!?). However, even this would mean the pope would have to admit he was fooled... How likely is that in 1222?

Didn't Eleanor have her marriage to the king of France annulled due to lack of issue?

The official excuse was consanguinity. There was issue in the form of two daughters.

Open to reproduction just meansthat they are not deliberately conspiring together to not have children. Sex, once, is sufficent proof of this, although there isn't an actual sacramental requirement for sexto occur, it's just a legal proof of the emotional state of the participants.

No, it doesn't. Your husband becoming a monk and going to live in a monastery is -not- accepted as grounds for annulment for example.

Then by conventional doctrine it fails, I'm sorry. You need a corrupt bishop.

Not that difficult nor unfeasible to have in any given setting.

Make it slightly more complicated though:

  • make the crusader appear 3 years later, and the couple already have 2 children by that time. Make she be the one that originally brought the riches and lands to the marriage. Is she gonna allow him to discard her children? Maybe not legal, but makes for a cool adventure? Are the magi support the law or the blood?

Time for a few deaths in one side or the other (or both), I think, probably coupled with nasty consequences for both parties regardless of who strikes first.

Now some other (more informed) poster is gonna come and smack him in the head for thinking that would be feasible, but hey :wink:



Probably, yes. But not necessarily. If after a while the husband decides he wants to become a monk, the marriage was concluded legally. But if at the time of the wedding his consent was not genuine, that's a legal ground for annulment as early as the 13th century. From an article on marriage and divorce in medieval england:

Back to you question: If they insist on getting the marriage annulled rather than the first husband declared dead, the lady would need to apply to an eclessiastical court to have the marriage annulled. According to the article quoted above, that was both expensive and slow, with procedures sometimes stretching over several years.
She'll need to prove her husband did not really intent to enter the marriage. His leaving the marriage very soon can constitue corraborative evidence, but it certainly isn't enough. She'll need witnesses willing to testify he never really meant to marry her, and she'll need to prevent others giving testimony that he actually did. (So corrupt witnesses will do as well :wink: . Though it is unbelievably stupid to lie to an eclessiastical court of course.)
There's an obligation to notify the other spouse of the proceedings, though he need not agree or participate. I'm not sure when this was introduced.
Additionally, annulment is nigh impossible when one of the spouses is dead, so it's probably best to argue he's just pretending to be dead to hide from his wife.
She'll need proof though. Spin isn't going to cut it.

Appeal is possible, first to an archdiocesal tribunal, and eventually to Rome. If the first husband returns right after the marriage is annulled, he might be able to appeal the decision.

If the marriage is annulled, she's legally married to the second husband, even if the first one returns. Her marriage to him is deemed never to have existed. No problem for her children from the second marriage.
If she has him declared dead, than it becomes an issue if he returns.

Ah! But isn't it the case? "He is dead, so I marry this guy and form a family" but sudenly it appears he was not THAT dead :wink:

Loads of grief all around :wink:



This is true, but merely saying "I didn't really intend to marry" is insufficent to annul. The whole point of the Church taking over marriage was so that men couldn't skip out on their wives.

True, but only true if she has a case. She does not seem to have a case. This kills it dead at the first hurdle.

Being a -crusader- is grounds ofr annulment? Never. Attempting to deprive a crusader of anything that's his in his basence, and in England his wife is his property, is a henious sin.

It's not anything. It has negative value to her case that he left on crusade.

Which is entirely allowed in marriage. Marriage is not about convenience.

Proof you are hiding from your wife isn't grounds for annulment.

The appeal process so far is pretty easy "I intended to marry" destroys the whole house of cards.

Ah yes, you're right about the crusade of course. Best not rely on that. I agree that it's a hopeless case, but than again, that's no reason not to make it. The coveting noble doesn't seem that interested in what's legal...

No, it isn't. But proof that he is hiding because he never really intended to marry her would be. Not that that is easily achieved... But it's not strictly necessary either: I referred to proof of his lack of sincerity at the time of the marriage, not of his current whereabouts.
It's a problem that he's disappeared, because if he's dead, getting an annulment is pretty much impossible. Hence my remark. On the other hand, if he isn't dead, he should be notified about the procedure.

:smiley: True. I don't know how long the decision is open for appeal though?

Forever, I believe.

Children form marriages that are annulled remain legitmate. So if she has children from her first marriage, they remain legitimate even if the marriage is subsequently annulled. ... 1918ws.pdf (top of page 6.)

Or wives on their husbands. :wink:

No, this was gender specific. One of the rationales for the Church taking this over was an uptick in the number of guys who were ditching their children, moving to another village and starting again with a new woman. Women didn't do this as much, for economic and social reasons.

So, I stand by my original statement. 8)

Conveniently, this is the case.

Apologies for my poor grasp of the subject at hand and thanks to all who have corrected my thinking.