The Working Classes in Revolutionary France




  • 1830 / 1832

  • 1848

    Works Cited

  •  Families, Dowries, and Ceremonies

    Marriage in the nineteenth century among the working class was in a state of flux. It was still greatly influenced by one's family, but it was also beginning to be influenced by the tradition of romantic love. Dowries were on the decline, but they had not completely disappeared, and ceremonies were much simpler, but varied widely. 

     Family still played a large role in determing a marriage, although by now a tradition of romantic love had been established, and the bride and groom to be exercised veto power. Still, marriage remained, beneath the surface an economic joining together of two families.


    "My father and mother, seeing that I was not inclined to settle in Le Creusot, decided to make me settle there anyway by getting me married. . . There were two unsuccesful attempts, partly because I did not like the young women. . . "

    (Jean-Baptiste Dumay in Traugott, 328)


     Dowries were in decline among the working class during the nineteenth century. In the cities they had mostly died out, though they still persisted in rural areas, particularly among those who owned property.

    Jacques Bede makes no mention of a dowry in his story of his marriage, yet Martin Naduad tells of having to borrow money at vey great interest for his sister's dowry.

    (Traugott, 58 and 214)


     "In those days, the taste for fancy dress was not widespread in our rural areas. A solid black dress of ordinary material, a kerchief instead of a shawl on the shoulders, a coif or cap, either with or without lace, wooden shoes with pretty straps, one or two silver rings which acquired significance in the eyes of our young newlyweds when the priest had blessed them--this constituted the wedding atire of our pretty country girls."

    (Martin Nadaud from Traugott, p218)

    I was accompanied by about thirty young men, chosen from among my Paris friends. . . As we arrived at the brides house, preceded by two fiddlers, young boys observed our ancient custom by firing a volley of pistol shots into the air. They did the same as we entered and as we left the church"

    (Martin Nadaud in Traugott, p240)

    "A day was chosen for the celebration of the marriage, and the two families were notified . . . We had arranged with the mayor and the priest the respective hours at which we would present ourselves before them. The agreement was that we would be married in a civil ceremony at 7pm, followed by a family dinner, after which we would all go to the chapel to receive the nuptial blessing.

    (Jacques Bede in Traugott, p58)