Did medieval lords have "right of the first night" with the local brides?

When I was working in Boston, a colleague told me that his country had a traditional custom where the bride’s first night was spent with her FATHER IN LAW. Specifically, that he had the duty of deflowering her. My colleague did not provide a reason.

Admittedly this is hearsay with only one data point, and it’s over 15 years old at this point. Why do I even remember it? Well, my colleague was actually a very serious, nerdy, dorky individual - a very smart C++ coder, not very folkloric, or street savvy, in any other way. NOT a practical joker of any kind. He was also socially naive enough not to realize the “ick” factor in what he had just told me about his own countrymen.

I don’t even remember for sure which country he was from. Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia… this was at a time when that area was in violent upheaval, and a lot of skilled technical types were leaving to work abroad.

Link to original Straight Dope Archive post:

Wiki article on “droit de seigneur”

As for the stories of your co-worker,

Whether or not it EVER happened, anywhere in the world, it most certainly was NOT happening in Scotland in the time of William Wallace, no matter what you may have seen in Braveheart.

I’d guess that’s what his Dad told him.

Maybe I should make sure my sons know of this “family tradition”…

When I lived in the former Yugoslavia there was an old-fashioned, but sometimes done custom of the groom’s siblings spending the first night with the bride. Sex was absolutely not to occur however. In the old days (strict sexual segregation and semi- to completely arranged marriages), this was viewed as a way for her to meet and get comfortable with her new family. For example, if the groom had several brothers, they were suppose to play cards with the bride and let her win all the while telling her embarassing stories of the groom’s childhood.

As a minister in the Universal Life Church, I’ve performed four marriages. I’ve explained this custom each time, offering to deflower the lass. Each time the couple has declined my offer. I figure they thought I’d worked hard enough and did not want to be an added burden, but honestly I wouldn’t have minded. In three of the four cases, anyway.:smiley:

“Too late, we took care of that already.”
“She was deflowered before I got to her.”

In cases where the deflowering has already occurred, the appropriate response is to deflower once more, verdad?

This is off-topic, kayaker, but I wanted to mention that some courts have held that ministers in the Universal Life Church are not authorized to solemnize marriages. Your friends may not have valid marriages, unless the ceremonies were held in Mississippi, where they’ve been held to be valid, or unless they live in a state recognizing common law marriages.

As long as we’re speaking legalities, I believe that in most jurisdictions, if a couple thought they were being legally married by a valid officiant, then married they are.
Powers &8^]

No, that’s not correct. In fact, I don’t think that’s true in any U.S. jurisdiction, although in some jurisdictions it may mean that the marriage is merely voidable, and not void ab initio. Of course, if the couple then go on to hold themselves out as married, as presumably they would, then they could establish a marriage in a jurisdiction that recognizes common law marriages.

Huh. Well, it has been a few years since my most recent, but I had the couples check when picking up the licenses and all seemed kosher.

I once gave a friend last rites when she was so hung over she thought she might die. Wonder if that worked?!?

“Dad, meet my bride. Dad, Hank. Hank, dad.”

I believe that any ULC officiant is likely to be well aware of any such problems. There are listservs and websites targeted at ULC ministers that continuously update the state of the law across the country regarding who may and who may not sign marriage documents.

I don’t question your second sentence, but I do question the first. If that were the case, there would be no ULC ministers solemnizing marriages in New York, which does not recognize marriages at which a ULC minister officiated. I’m afraid we know that the mere existence of information does not mean that ignorance will be successfully fought.

And remember, the law doesn’t really care who “officiates” at a ceremony, when it comes right down to it. It’s only a question of who gets to sign the documents. I know a lot of people who have the official forms signed at the courthouse by an authorized agent of the state (a “civil ceremony,” that is) and pick whomever they want to officiate at the wedding. It really doesn’t matter who does what at the social wedding event so long as the paperwork is in order.

I have a friend who was an officer in the Indian Navy who said that one of his sailors once came to him and begged for his regular leave to be cancelled, because if he took his new wife home to his parents’ house then his father and all his older brothers would insist on their “turn” with her. That’s not a general practice in Indian or Hindu culture.

It’s true that some people choose to have both a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony, in which case the legal qualifications of the religious celebrant will not matter. (In theory, at least, it is the ceremony that matters, and not the signing of the documents.) I think these people are a minority, though, at least in the United States.

I have found that it is fairly common among atheists, neopagans, and others who are likely to end up using ULC ministers, and, at the very least, those kinds of people tend to be aware of legal niceties.

I don’t know about William Wallace’s wife, but Musa I of Mali, allegedly the richest King ever, renounced a similar custom in the 14th century: