The story that I'm writing is set in an alternate, vaguely-medieval Europe. There are some differences, since in this world, magic has been a known and relatively steady influence on culture and politics since the late Roman Empire. But broadly, I'm trying to still preserve at least some of the actual cultures involved.

The two characters involved in one dispute are ~French and ~German, and the dispute touches on their attitudes toward marriage. My family (American Midwest) sees marriage as combining both families, but that's not universal. So my question is, if anyone has experience with French or German culture (or literally is French or German), what tend to be the general attitudes? (Especially the traditional attitudes, since the characters are the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of their respective countries.)

Do they have different attitudes? Are they similar or shared? Is the general view that the two families unite (and the in-laws are considered as much the new spouse's family as their own)? Is the view that one spouse (generally the wife) leaves her family to join her husband's (and his family may or may not consider her family to be part of theirs)? Did attitudes change over time? (The timeline and technology are different enough that I can't tie it to any specific year or century, but probably somewhere between the 14th and 18th centuries.) Did different social classes hold different attitudes? Did different areas have different attitudes?

If it wasn't obvious, I'm very curious about basically any information that even vaguely touches on this. Anyone with any answers, thank you in advance!

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WBSE! Although I would say this is a good question I would also recommend checking History for this rather than WB - I'd say it's not so much a "how do I justify this thing in-world" problem you're having so much as a "how did these cultures historically interact" problem. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ There is an expectation that you will do basic research before asking questions here. 14th to 18th century is mostly not medieval, "French" and especially "German" did not have the meanings you think of today (the countries did not exist), and there was such a massive change in society across that many centuries - especially the Reformation - that asking "Did attitudes change over time?" is frankly incredible. There are plenty of online resources dealing with society in those (modern) regions over that period, I suggest you do some research before asking a more focused question. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055: France absolutely existed in the 14th to the 18th century. It is the oldest country in continuous existence in Europe. Yes, its borders were quite different that what they are today, but it surely existed and was called France. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 9 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP the question is about society, including extra questions about different areas and social classes. While France (unlike Germany) was an identifiable country through that period, my understanding is that socially and linguistically it was severely fragmented, it is only very recently that most of the population has even spoken a common language. However, I'll bow to your greater expertise on European history if I'm mistaken there. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9 at 23:38

2 Answers 2

  1. In the Middle Ages, there could not be a crown princess of France, and there could not be either a crown prince or a crown princess of Germany.

    • A female absolutely could not inherit the crown of France, nor could she transmit the right to the crown. (Famous legal decision in the High Middle Ages.)

      The title of the crown prince of France was Dauphin in French, sometimes rendered as the Dolphin in England. (Long story.)

    • In the Kingdom of Germany, such as it was, the Crown was elective. King of Germany was not a hereditary title. The King was elected by the Princes Elector. Prince Elector, Kurfürst, was the highest hereditary title available; and not all of the seven such positions were hereditary, as three of them were Prince Bishops.

      Please note that throughout most of the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Germany was an almost purely theoretical concept. It was mostly vaporware, as the notional King had very limited power; the myriad German states were in all practical aspects independent.

      Oh, and the actual title was King of the Romans, at least since the 11th century onwards. The only practical use of the title was to indicate the Emperor-Elect of the Holy Roman Empire (nothing to do with the real Roman Empire). The man elected King of the Romans became Emperor when the Pope crowned him. (I don't know if there was any absolute legal bar against a woman being elected; what I know for sure is that it never happened and that it was never even considered.)

  2. Even in countries where a female could inherit the crown, such as England or Spain, there most usually could not be such a thing as a crown princess.

    A woman would be heiress-apparent to the crown if her mother was Queen in her own right, and was past child bearing age. Or, as user Mary points out, if her father had been crown prince, and died before his father, and consequently, she could not be superseded in the line of succession. Otherwise, if her father was King, the theory was that he could have a male child at any time, who would take precedence over any female children.

  3. You will have to make up your own legal systems to allow for a crown princess. Note that you will have to alter history quite drastically in order to make room for a real practical Kingdom of Germany with a hereditary crown.

    But then here comes the rub. Princes, princesses and high noblemen and women are not normal people. Their marriages were completely unlike the marriages of normal people. The marriage contract of a prince or of a princess ran in the hundreds of pages, detailing who gets what and when; they were state events, arranged after long and laborious diplomatic negotiations.

    There would be no notion of merging of families. When King Louis XIII of France married Anne of Austria, the eldest daughter of King Philip III of Spain and of Margaret of Austria there was absolutely no idea that her children will somehow be half-Bourbon and half-Habsburg. Not at all. France continued to at war with the Habsburgs throughout the reign of her husband, throughout her reign a queen-regent, and throughout the reign of her son, the future King Louis "The State Is Me" XIV.

  4. Be careful with projecting modern realities back into the Middle Ages. Germany was a place, and not a country; there were countless little or not so little German states, each with its own laws and customs. France had different borders than today, and only a minority of the inhabitants spoke French. A large part of what was considered Germany in the Middle Ages is now in Poland or Lithuania. The legal systems and the customs of northern France were very different from those of the Provence and of Navarre. (And whether Navarre is in France or not depends on when the story is set.) (At least the legal systems of the many German states were somewhat compatible.)

  5. The only recommendation I can make is first to get a general orientation on the medieval history of France and Germany. For example, Lynn Thorndike's History of Medieval Europe (revised edition, 1928) is freely available at Archive.org. Then, once you can orient yourself in the thousand years we call the Middle Ages, pick a time period and try to find and read good biographies of one or two or three real historical characters who more or less match what you have in mind.

If I may suggest, for a nice background on the romantic life in the French high society in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, nothing can beat Brantôme's Illustrious Dames (link goes to Archive.org).

  • $\begingroup$ Actually a woman could be a crown princess if her father had been crown prince, and died before his father. Consequently, she could not be superseded in the line of succession. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented May 9 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary: Yes, true. Added the corner case to the list of possibilities. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 9 at 23:58

I am British - and poking fun at French and German culture is part of our national past time.

  • French Marriage - Fidelity is more of a suggestion (The commonly cited stat is less than 50% of French people think Cheating is immoral)

Even if you put the stereotypes aside - looking at the history, Mistresses in French society were much more prominent and visible than in say British society. That is to say - it's not that the rate of cheating is different between the countries, more that the French were much more open about it.

  • Germans have a perfectly functional marriage where everything is done at the exact correct time, within the approved parameters. And any deviation from zis vill result in ze perpetrators BEING SHOT A DAWN!

I should note - I love Germany and Germans - there is something so incredibly nice about the German way of doing things - because everything is done 'the correct way'.

Now - the one thing both Germany and France agree on is consumption of Alcohol.

In terms of inspiration for your help - there are some YT channels that could help you: Laura Ramoso (She does a parody of her German Mother) and Uyen Ninh who is Vietnamese, but Married to a German.

I have not ventured much into the French space - but there you go.

Also - I should add - have visited both countries - this is said with friendly Bants.

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    $\begingroup$ Some French kings had official mistresses. OK, quite a few French kings had official mistresses. But then at least one or two English kings had very visible mistresses, although you are right the English never officialized the position. (And I don't know of any French king who even thought for a moment that he ought to be faithful to his queen.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 9 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ 'OK quite a dew French kings had official Mistresses' - You have no idea how much that makes me laugh as an Englishman. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10 at 0:56

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