Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Summary of Articles of a Marriage Contract

A Love Story




Real Life

The adoption of the marriage contract was derived from the aristocracy and embraced by many bourgeois families wishing to increase their social standing. The following contract illustrates how a dowry was raised during this time period. Although it was originally drawn up in the early eighteen century, it reveals the general character of the situation in which a marriage entailed the temporary linkage of assets between two families. Also note the way in which the wife's property was retained within her family and way in which the husband had full use of the income generated from the dowry.

A Contract of Marriage, Toulouse, 1722

(A.D., Contrats de mariage separes, 11803, March 24, 1722)

Prospective Husband: M. Francois-Denis de Pavie de Becarie, Marquis quis de Fourquevaux (military nobility).
Prospective Wife: Dlle Henriette de Catellan (daughter of a councilor of Parlement).

Attending for Groom:
Dame Marie de Prohenques de Fourquevaux, widow, mother of the prospective husband.
M. de Pavie de Fourquevaux, brother to the prospective husband.

Attending for Bride:
Dame Marie de Boisset de Catellan, widow, mother of the prospective wife.
M. Jean-Baptiste de Catellan, Former Canon of the Church of Toulouse, great uncle.
Dlles. Jeanne et Francoise de Catellan, aunts.
M. Jean-Louis de Catellan, Councilor of the King at the Parlement of Toulouse, brother.
M. Aimable de Catellan, Canon of the Church of Toulouse, brother.

Articles of Marriage:

  1. The marriage will be celebrated according to the rites and usages of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
  2. Dame de Catellan, mother, promises to "glid" [dorer] the bride, that is, provide the trousseau.
  3. For the charges of the marriage, Dame de Catellan constitutes 8000 livres for the amount of the paternal portion regulated between the future wife and her brother, Seigneur de Catellan. The future wife renounces all claims to a paternal portion. Seigneur de Catellan pays 2000 livres at present to the prospective husband. The remaining 6000 livres will be paid by the brother of the bride as follows: 4000 livres in three months, 2000 livres in two years at 4% [denier vingt-cinq] (to be paid in coin, not in any kind of paper).
    Dame de Catellan, mother constitutes 4000 livres, payable by the Seigneur de Catellan, brother, on the same conditions as above at 4%.
  4. The future wife renounces all claims to a maternal portion, unless the number of Catellan children diminishes before the death of her mother, Dame de Catellan.
  5. M. Jean-Batiste, great uncle, makes a donation to his grand niece of 2500 paid as follows: 1500 already released to the brother, and 1000 lives payable after his death and under the above conditions of "right of return."
  6. All of these sums total 23,500 livres, of which only 12,000 are "dotal." Following the Customs of Toulouse, if the prospective wife dies first, her husband will gain 12,000 livres. In the contrary case, the prospective wife will gain the 12,000 livres and the increase of 6000 livres.
  7. Nevertheless, the prospective husband will enjoy the revenues from the entire sum of 23,500 livres.
  8. If the prospective wife dies childless, the prospective husband will retain 12,000 livres of the sums received. The remainder will be restored to the family Catellan.
  9. Finally, the prospective married couple has given to one of the male children to be born of this marriage half of all their property, present and future, preferring to elect and name him,...but if they fail to name him, they have named and elected the eldest son not engaged in Holy Orders.

-Signed at Toulouse, March 24, 1722 by Fourquevaux and Catellan families before witness of a notary.-

Forster, 196-198