Daily Smart Fact

Your daily dose of smart. So you don't feel so dumb.

Daily Smart Fact #13: Just because you’re a feudal lord doesn’t mean you can have sex with brides on their wedding night

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: There is very little evidence that Prima Nocta, the ancient privilege of the lord of the manor to share the wedding bed with his peasants’ brides, was ever instituted during the medieval era.

I love the movie Braveheart – when Mel Gibson cries out “Freeeeeedom” at the very end, it makes me tear up every single time.  There’s a scene in Braveheart in which English lords crash a Scottish peasant wedding and the feudal lord declares his right to exercise Prima Nocta, essentially to have sex with the bride on her wedding night.  In fact, that is the main reason why Mel Gibson’s character (William Wallace) marries his childhood sweetheart in secret – so he wouldn’t have to share her with an English lord.

Anywho, two of our friends are getting married this weekend and my husband will be playing the role of emcee.  He’s been joking and threatening that he’ll begin with the Prima Nocta speech from Braveheart…”I declare my right to exercise Prima Nocta” (in a loud, drawn out, nasally voice).  Anyway, this got me curious on the subject.  To my surprise, it turns out Prima Nocta is probably a myth.

From Suite101 (a review detailing the inaccuracies of the movie Braveheart):

Prima Nocte (First Night) is a myth that during the Middle Ages, local lords could force a new bride to have sex with them on her wedding night. Quite aside from the potential for justifiable revolt every time a lord did this, it was flagrantly adulterous in the eyes of the Church and a good way to die in a state of mortal sin with your angry wife’s knife in your back. In other words, it never happened. While rape, murder and all sorts of pillaging certainly occurred during the English invasion of Scotland, Prima Nocte did not.

According to Straight Dope:

Yet detailed examinations of the available records by reputable historians have found “no evidence of its existence in law books, charters, decretals, trials, or glossaries,” one scholar notes. No woman ever commented on the practice, unfavorably or otherwise, and no account ever identifies any female victim by name.

So sorry husband, looks like you can’t bring up Prima Nocta this weekend…oh yeah, and its probably inappropriate just in general.

Written by Bea

May 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] are in full swing of wedding season.  Our close friends are now all getting married (see my Prima Nocta post) and it’s made me question: What makes a successful […]

  2. […] how wretched life was back in the days before electricity and lawyers. I have two words for you: Prima Nocta. Okay, so it never existed. Wait, you followed that link, right? Go ahead. Read it. I’ll […]


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