Morganatic marriage

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In the context of European royalty, a morganatic marriage is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage. It is also known as a left-handed marriage because in the wedding ceremony the groom holds his bride's right hand with his left hand instead of his right.[1]

Generally, this is a marriage between a male of high birth (such as from a royal or reigning house), and a woman of lesser status (such as from a non-royal or non-reigning house, or with a profession that is traditionally considered lower-status).[citation needed] Neither the bride nor any children of the marriage has any claim on the groom's titles, rights, or entailed property. The children are considered legitimate on other counts and the prohibition of bigamy applies. Morganatic marriage was also practised by the polygamous Mongols as to their non-principal wives.

It is possible for a woman to marry a man of lower rank morganatically, but this is extremely rare. In the past, women of high rank often did not have titles that they could pass to their children, and in most cases did not choose their own husbands.[citation needed]



Morganatic, already in use in English by 1727 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), is derived from the medieval Latin morganaticus from the Late Latin phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam and refers to the gift given by the groom to the bride on the morning after the wedding, morning gift, i.e. dower. The Latin term, applied to a Germanic custom, was adopted from a Germanic term, *morgangeba (compare Early English morgengifu, German Morgengabe, Danish and Norwegian Bokmål Morgengave, Norwegian Nynorsk Morgongåve and Swedish Morgongåva). The literal meaning is explained in a 16th century passage quoted by Du Cange: a marriage by which the wife and the children that may be born are gift.[2]

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