1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Morganatic Marriage

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MORGANATIC MARRIAGE, a form of marriage properly peculiar to the German peoples, but also found in the royal families of other European countries. It is one in which the contracting parties are not by birth of equal status or rank (ebenbürtig), and under which the wife, if not ebenbürtig, does not take the rank of her husband, and the children, whether it be the wife or husband that is of lower rank, have no right of succession to the dignities, fiefs or entailed property of the parent of higher rank. This equality by birth was formerly throughout Germany the necessary condition to a complete and perfect marriage, but it is now only applicable to members of reigning houses or of the higher nobility (hoher Adel), and it is thus of force among the “mediatized” princes of the German Empire. In the constitution of the various states, and in the “house laws” (Hausgesetze) of the reigning families, the rules are laid down as to what constitutes ebenbürtigkeit. Generally it may be said that members of a present or former reigning house, either in Germany or Europe, would be recognized as ebenbürtig, but a former morganatic marriage would be taken as destroying the qualification. In Great Britain the regulations as to the marriages of members of the royal family are contained in the Royal Marriage Act 1772 (see Marriage). The term “morganatic marriage” is applied generally to any marriage of a person of royal blood with one of inferior rank. The origin of the term, in medieval Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam, is usually taken to refer to the Morgengabe, i.e. the morning gift, made by a husband to his wife on marriage. The German name is Ehe zur linken Hand (marriage by the left hand, whence the phrase a “left-handed marriage”), the husband of such marriage ceremonies giving the left instead of the right hand to the bride. Such marriages are recognized as fully binding by the Church, and the children are legitimate, and no other marriage can take place during the lifetime of the contracting parties.