“Spin-doctoring Discourse” explores debates around Arbella and William’s marriage. While the law is held up as an authoritative institution, the il/legality of actions is contested. Arbella and William claimed their precontract and wedding were legal, but James declared their precontract and marriage illicit. Early modern marriages created factional, as well as legal, bonds. Arbella’s supporters argued that her similar status to William made them a suitable match, but opponents warned against combining their lineages. Discourses of love provide an alternative moral code. For supporters, the couple’s defiant marriage was excused as romantic, whereas opponents declared that the pair were not a “fit match.” Marriage contracts were typically accompanied by financial arrangements, which gave parents more influence over whom their children wed. James used the discourse of wardship to claim that he had legal rights over Arbella’s marriage, while Arbella posited that he had forfeited those rights through inaction.


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pp. 187-218
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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