The sale of women in today’s American culture is strictly taboo and illegal but in the Middle Ages in Europe this merger of sorts (combing two families with marriage) was quite common. But what of the women’s feelings? Or of the men’s attitudes toward these feelings?
In a surprising turn of events, though women were posed as the inferior gender within these dealings, they were strong enough to make independent choices to remedy their situation, even if their choices were against popular opinion. For example, we know from Christina of Markyate and Yolanda of Vianden that not all women took this arrangement sitting down as both women ran away to fulfill their dreams of becoming nuns. They both had to endure their families trying to get them back by whatever means necessary (bribery, guilt, threats, etc.), though they were choosing go along a very righteous path.  This kind of desperate behavior from their families shows that marrying off a daughter was very important to a family, most likely for economic reasons. From this, it can be deduced that there were many unhappily married women living throughout Europe in the High and Late Medieval Ages that were not able to escape their selling before a wedding took place. Additionally, many of these women were married to men that did not love them either and treated them terribly as such. This is especially noted in Etinne de Fougéres’s poem of good marriage. Fougéres, bishop of Rennes, writes women as whores for looking in other places for love though he admits that their husbands treat them terribly within their marriage. If his opinion is like other men’s at the time it is safe to assume that a woman’s feelings on a forced marriage did not matter. She was to grin and bear it and never look toward other outlets for her misery, though it was perfectly acceptable for a man to do so. But it is the fact that he wrote about this scenario that puts weight on the issue. The theme: women hated their position as human property and tried their best to find relief in their station (through adultery). This is proven by Fougéres’s poem of women’s talk at the time:
This is what she says to those who would reproach her:
she wants to take vengeance on her lord
who takes too much pleasure in mistreating her.
And additionally with how the wife pays no attention to beauty for husband, yet spends time on her makeup to look perfect for her forbidden lover:
Towards her husband she’s sullen and mute
but what a change when she’s with him!
for her lover she paints her face and changes
more than the sparrow-hawk fresh from molting.
The reader can easily pick out the wife’s excitement to meet her love and her obvious disdain she has for her husband. Etinne de Fougéres’s poem shows that women were not okay with the status quo and were dabbling in ways to remedy their misery. They found lovers outside of their marriage to give them love, take away the hurt, and make them feel beautiful. It is from this – and from the girls that were able to run away from this arrangement – that though they had no power in society, they still had power to go against popular opinion and fine happiness through whatever means they could. In an ironic turn of events, it is the women that were inferior that secretly held the most independent power over themselves.