“It is disgraceful to be ruled by a woman.”—The great men of Teutonic nations held to this maxim. There is no Boudicea or Maidhbh in our own annals till after the accession of the Tudors, when Great Eliza rivals her elder kins-women’s glories. Though Tacitus expressly notices one tribe or confederacy, the Sitones, within the compass of his Germania, ruled by a woman, as an exceptional case, it was contrary to the feeling of mediaeval Christendom for a woman to be emperor; it was not till late in the Middle Ages that Spain saw a queen regnant, and France has never yet allowed such rule. It was not till long after Saxo that the great queen of the North, Margaret, wielded a wider sway than that rejected by Gustavus’ wayward daughter.
“The suitor ought to urge his own suit.”—This, an axiom of the most archaic law, gets evaded bit by bit till the professional advocate takes the place of the plaintiff. “Njal’s Saga”, in its legal scenes, shows the transition period, when, as at Rome, a great and skilled chief was sought by his client as the supporter of his cause at the Moot. In England, the idea of representation at law is, as is well known, late and largely derived from canon law practice.
“To exact the blood-fine was as honourable as to take vengeance.”—This maxim, begotten by Interest upon Legality, established itself both in Scandinavia and Arabia. It marks the first stage in a progress which, if carried out wholly, substitutes law for feud. In the society of the heathen Danes the maxim was a novelty; even in Christian Denmark men sometimes preferred blood to fees.
Marriage.—There are many reminiscences of “archaic marriage customs in Saxo.” The capture marriage has left traces in the guarded king’s daughters, the challenging of kings to fight or hand over their daughters, in the promises to give a daughter or sister as a reward to a hero who shall accomplish some feat. The existence of polygamy is attested, and it went on till the days of Charles the Great and Harold Fairhair in singular instances, in the case of great kings, and finally disappeared before the strict ecclesiastic regulations.
But there are evidences also of later customs, such as “marriage by purchase”, already looked on as archaic in Saxo’s day; and the free women in Denmark had clearly long had a veto or refusal of a husband for some time back, and sometimes even free choice. “Go-betweens” negotiate marriages.
Betrothal was of course the usage. For the groom to defile an espoused woman is a foul reproach. Gifts made to father-in-law after bridal by bridegroom seem to denote the old bride-price. Taking the bride home in her car was an important ceremony, and a bride is taken to her future husband’s by her father. The wedding-feast, as in France in Rabelais’ time, was a noisy and drunken and tumultuous rejoicing, when bone-throwing was in favor, with other rough sports and jokes. The three days after the bridal and their observance in “sword-bed” are noticed below.