Handfasting as a Means to Marriage in “Lady Chandler’s Sister” + a Giveaway

Although Sir Alexander Chandler and Miss Alana Pottinger do not come to their Happily Ever After in Lady Chandler’s Sister through handfasting, it is a subject of discussion. They met in Scotland, and handfasting was a more common practice there. But what was handfasting?

hf3 Historically, marriage toward the latter part of the medieval period in Scotland could be executed by the exchange of consent between a man and a woman. This was what we say in the modern setting, i.e., “I Edward take you Margaret to be my wife.” During the medieval times, witnesses were not necessary to make the marriage valid. Basically, this marriage by consent held true from the early 1200s to the Reformation. This was a practice of canon law, essentially the Roman Catholic Church, not civil law. Oddly, this practice went against the earlier precepts of parental consent and the marriage only being binding after it was consummated. However, the Catholic church argued that these “clandestine” marriages, as they were termed, were as legal and as binding as were those performed by a priest.

Some of these practices changed with the Council of Trent (1563). Roman Catholic law then insisted upon a priest performing the marriage for it to be legal. However, Scottish Reformation did not get around to “reforming” the marriage laws as quickly as did other Protestant countries. Both the Protestant Kirk and Scottish civil law did not change. Consent between the couple remained as the basis for a legal joining. That being said, the Protestant Kirk did not approve of “clandestine” marriages, any more than did the Catholic contingent. Many Scottish Protestants attacked the practice, calling it a form of “fornication” and declaring it illegal.

So, how does this apply to “handfasting”? In late medieval Scotland (and northern England), “handfasting” was a term for “betrothal.” In A. E. Anton’s “‘Handfasting’ in Scotland” (The Scottish Historical Review, October 1958), we learn:

“Among the people who came to inhabit Northumbria and the Lothians, as well as among other Germanic peoples, the nuptials were completed in two distinct phases. There was first the betrothal ceremony and later the giving-away of the wife to the husband. The betrothal ceremony was called the beweddung in Anglo-Saxon because in it the future husband gave weds or sureties to the woman’s relatives, initially for payment to them of a suitable price for his bride but later for payment to her of suitable dower and morning-gift. The parties plighted their troth and the contract was sealed, like any other contract, by a hand-shake. This joining of hands was called a handfæstung in Anglo-Saxon, and the same word is found in different forms in the German, Swedish and Danish languages. In each it means a pledge by the giving of the hand.

42de8778344bbcd5a555f3be0709922f “… The joining of the hands became a feature of betrothals in Scotland and in England during the medieval period. A Scottish protocol narrates that on 24 July 1556, the Vicar of Aberdour ‘ministrat and execut the office anent the handfasting betwix Robert Lawder younger of the Bass and Jane Hepburn docter to Patrick Errl Botwell in thir vordis following: “I Robert Lawder tak thow Jane Hepburne to my spousit wyf as the law of the Haly Kirk schawis and thereto I plycht thow my trewht and syklyk I the said Jane Hepburne takis you Robert Lawder to my spousit husband as the law of the Haly Kirk schaws and therto I plycht to thow my trewth,” and execut the residew of the said maner of handfasting conforme to the consuetud usit and wont in syk casis’ What this ‘consuetude’ was may be gathered from a protocol on the sponsalia of David Boswell of Auchinleck and Janet Hamilton, daughter of the Earl of Arran. After the consents had been exchanged ‘the curate with the consent of both parties with their hands joined betrothed the said David and Janet who took oath as is the custom of the Church’. In fact, the ceremony of joining hands became so closely associated with betrothals in medieval times that in Scotland, and apparently the north of England, the ordinary term for a betrothal was a handfasting. The use of the term in this sense persisted in Elgin as late as 1635.”

One catch in all this is the idea that if a couple had sex after becoming handfasted, they were no longer betrothed, but rather legally married. Handfasting could result in marriage if the couple made their consents to marry or if the pair enjoy conjugal relationships. If they did not exchange consents and did not have marital relationships, they were not married (simply betrothed, which means the betrothal could still be broken).


For more on Handfasting, visit Sharon L. Krossa on Medieval Scotland   

“Handfasting History” 

“History of Marriage in Great Britain and Ireland”  via Wikipedia ~ 

LCS eBook Cover-01

Sir Alexander Chandler knows his place in the world. As the head of one of the divisions of the Home Office, he has his hand on the nation’s pulse. However, a carriage accident  on a deserted Scottish road six months earlier has Sir Alexander questioning his every choice. He has no memory of what happened before he woke up in an Edinburgh hospital, and the unknown frightens him more than any enemy he ever met on a field of battle. One thing is for certain: He knows he did not marry Miss Alana Pottinger’s sister in an “over the anvil” type of ceremony in Scotland.

Miss Alana Pottinger has come to London, with Sir Alexander’s son in tow, to claim the life the baronet promised the boy when he married Sorcha, some eighteen months prior. She understands his responsibilities to King and Crown, but this particular fiery, Scottish miss refuses to permit Sir Alexander to deny his duty to his son. Nothing will keep her from securing the child’s future as heir to the baronetcy and restoring Sir Alexander’s memory of the love he shared with Sorcha: Nothing, that is, except the beginning of the Rockite Rebellion in Ireland and the kidnapping of said child for nefarious reasons.

An impressive ending to the beautifully crafted Twins’ Trilogy – Starr’s ***** Romance Reviews

Love. Power. Intrigue. Betrayal. All play their parts in this fitting conclusion to a captivating, romantic suspense trio. – Bella Graves, Author & Reviewer

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PVT5GQ9/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=lady+chandler%27s+sister&qid=1553390378&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1091376581/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=lady+chandler%27s+sister&qid=1553430979&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lady-chandler-s-sister

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131002644?ean=2940161421314


Now for the Giveaway! Leave a comment below to be in the mix for the one of two eBook copies of “Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book 3 of the Twins’ Trilogy.”  Winners will be announced April 7. 


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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