A letter is returned, by the post, to Tanith’s place of residence – in the admittedly rare event that the Imperial Postmaster-General’s department was operating as efficiently as it was supposed to.
18 GT 1770
To Ms. Tanith,
I did read your open letter with interest, given the public discourse surrounding the topic. As an amateur student of history myself, I was particularly interested in the anecdote you presented about Lorin of Kaedrin. It is a topic that I have never undertaken much in the way of research on – I have a somewhat cursory awareness that she was the mother of Emperor Tobias, and that prior to that she had a husband, but I did not know that he was so much a terrible brute... I suppose that is an argument for maintaining more elven chroniclers in this country. Less would be forgotten that way, I should think.
Regardless, as a solicitor by trade (albeit a venerable and retired one), I do feel compelled to write to you to defend arranged marriages. The first defense that I would have is that this anecdote that you have represented is, in addition to being an arranged marriage, a forced one, which I should think is a different matter entirely. It is a truly horrifying anecdote, but ultimately in this country the practice of a ‘forced marriage’ is already functionally outlawed. I shall explain my view:
In the context of the Oren Revised Code, statute 301.032 and statute 301.033 state that, firstly, ‘men and women are those entitled to marriage in accordance to the Canon and these legal provisions’ and secondly that ‘there shall be no marriage without matrimonial consent’. However, there is an argument that that conflicts with the statute you cited, 301.0313, that states that ‘all marriages require the consent of the man and the legal patriarch of the woman participating in matrimony. If this patriarchal prerogative is withheld and the marriage proceeds, it is to be considered unlawful and null.’
To my view, they do not conflict, predominantly because ‘matrimonial consent’ is not explicitly defined in the code. It may well be the case that ‘matrimonial consent’ could mean the mutual consent, of man and woman, that you propose. The additional statute of the consent of the ‘legal patriarch’ is bizarrely worded, but in my opinion any court of law would uphold that this means ‘additional consent’, rather than ‘consent in the place of the woman’. This is supported by the fact that according to the Canon law of the Church, the sacrament of marriage is sacramentally valid only insofar as the man and woman provide their mutual consent. So, in essence, we have stumbled across the truly strange legal situation whereby many marriages may technically require the consent of three people, rather than two...
Which, of course, is peculiar in itself, but from a legal standpoint it seems as if it were crafted to prevent elopement. I will touch more on that later.
Nonetheless, at its core, both you and I (And most interpretations of the law) agree that any marriage ought to receive the consent of both the man and the woman. However, your open letter deals with the practice of ‘arranged marriages’. The issue here is that the overwhelming majority of arranged marriages are perfectly consensual. The Princess Imperial, who is to someday be Holy Orenian Empress in her own right, was herself betrothed to her husband in a match arranged by their parents when they were three and seven, respectively, and they grew up as great friends. In my role as an informal legal counsel to the late Lord Protector, I drew up much of the contract. The Emperor’s late wife was wed to him in an arranged marriage – she, in fact, rejected two candidates before him that had been arranged by her parents (proving that perhaps she did have some more agency than Lorin of Kaedrin). So, you could say that our country is in many ways built upon this practice. It is a way to encourage one to marry within their station and many such marriages are wonderful unions in any case.
Nor is it true that every arranged marriage is as murderous as your anecdote, and any marriage independently contracted perfectly happy. I wish that mine parents had the good sense to arrange me a bride rather than allow me to marry the woman I did, which I undertook ostensibly out of some teenage love. She was a miserable old harridan and we are well rid of her!
As to the legal conceit of the ‘patriarch’s consent’ – and I do detest the concept of the ‘patriarch’ as a primitive one perhaps as much as you do – for what is he patriarch of? Is he patriarch of a household or an Ecumenical Council? – there are practical and political concerns in the prevention of elopement. These are largely a byproduct of reforms towards the ability of women to hold property in the last seventy years. For example, prior to around 1710 (And this was the world that you knew) women were in all legal senses property of their fathers and husbands, an offshoot of their inability to own property in their own right. They were void from most systems of succession and it would be incredibly rare to see a woman as a peer, let alone a monarch in her own right. This is a sad consequence of dynasticism whereby those who developed our law and custom believed that the most important thing to a succession was a family name, which of course a woman can not pass on... we have made great leaps, since then, to move past this prism of thinking. Women are now entitled to more property in inheritances and a place in the succession of titles, peerages and thrones. For the first time in history, a daughter comes before her paternal uncle, which would have been unthinkable even a hundred years ago.
But with these expanded natural rights must also come further responsibilities, and so the introduction of statutes to prevent elopement occurs. Elopement (or even marrying below one’s station without eloping) is a societal ill that could have grave consequences for the succession of title or property... and make no mistake, this is the case for both men and women. In theoretical terms, it would be just as bad for the majesty of the Imperial family for the Princess Imperial’s son to elope with a common courtesan as it would for her daughter to elope with a common lumberjack. Both of these actions would introduce unacceptable elements into the succession that would create a legal quagmire and in the worst case, a very bloody civil war. I understand that to be the crux of your ‘patriarchal consent’ statute.
In short, I agree with you that none should be able to compel another to marry against their will, and I am perfectly willing to support you in any way I can as you lobby for the clarification of that, in the law. It is already the case that such a sacrament is invalid in Canon law without mutual consent. However, I disagree vehemently with your characterization of arranged marriages. For the most part, I believe them to be helpful for both individuals and in a more general sense, our wider society, and there are countless historical examples of this being the case.
Sir Frederick Armas PC KHE
The Rt Hon. The Viscount Rillsworth