Sibling marriages again

In the teeth of the evidence, some authors maintain that Richard Duke of Gloucester and Anne Neville required a third dispensation because his brother had already wed her sister, an argument that Barnfield has conclusively fisked.

We don’t have to go very far to find a similar case of sibling marriages – the Neville sisters’ own parents (Lord Richard Neville and Lady Anne Beauchamp) and Lady Cecily Neville to Lord Henry Beauchamp in Leicester during 1434.. In fact, this was a “simultaneous” ceremony, which Hicks claims trumps his “affinity begets affinity” argument.

There is surely no such thing as a simultaneous wedding ceremony. For a single couple, one partner makes their vows before the other does and at a double marriage, one pair would speak before the others – making the second couple related to each other instantaneously if there were ever any validity to such a doctrine. It would also apply to John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley with Constanza and Isabel of Castile, or Henry III and Richard Earl of Cornwall with  Eleanor and Sanchia of Provence. There is no suggestion of affinity requiring a further dispensation in these cases, or the second family being illegitimate.

So either, if there were anything in Hicks’ argument:
1) Lord Richard and Lady Anne went first, requiring the future Duke and Duchess of Warwick to obtain a further dispensation, or
2) Lord Henry and Lady Cecily married first, causing the future Earl and Countess of Warwick to be invalidly married, such that Isobel and Anne would be illegitimate. Would Henry VI‘s son or Edward IV‘s brothers seriously consider marrying a bastard or two?

Part of the problem is that such “traditionalist” authors have made statements just to attract attention, such as denying the identity of Richard III’s remains. However, there are real experts on canon law and one will pronounce on this subject soon!


By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.


  1. Considering the well-accepted pattern in European fairytales of a pair or trio of brothers marrying a pair or trio of sisters as the denouement (and royal ones, even!), if there /were/ any problem with the legitimacy of such unions in all of medieval Christendom, we would expect objections to have been raised long ago – especially as such fairytales also have the theme of incest-avoidance writ rather strongly (e.g., widowed king seeks to wed own daughter as substitute for her mother, the two being identical in beauty, she flees him in disguise á la Maupin, encountering further adventures along with her band of maidens-in-waiting…).

    I believe that “Snow-White and Rose-Red” (oh, the floral irony there) trumps the good professor’s claim, as the aforenamed /sisters/ marrying the arcanthropic prince /and his brother/ for a happy ending goes off without any mention of impropriety – or need for a papal dispensation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was quite common for a couple to marry and then cause their sons and daughters (stepbrothers and sisters) to marry one another. Many people now would find this slightly ikky, but the idea was to keep everything in the family and I have never seen *any* suggestion that the church was fazed by such arrangements. To give but one example, Mary Ferrers, Joan Beaufort’s daughter by her first marriage, was married to Sir John Neville, the son of Ralph, Joan’s second husband, by his first wife Margaret Stafford. You will find many similar cases in the nobility and gentry, certainly into Tudor times and quite possibly beyond. It was no big deal.


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