French Renaissance Paleography


Saugues, [1] 9 February 1599
Expédition du contrat de mariage de Catherine Lobeyrie et Jean Favy
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case MS 5027


Marriage, in medieval and Ancien Régime France, was serious business. Before a man and woman married, they would have a notary draw up a marriage contract, not only to set the details of the dowry, but also to protect the rights of the bride and determine her share of her family’s patrimony. As such, the marriage contract was an act of succession.

The marriage contract was usually drawn up at the bride’s residence, in the presence of members of both families, who would sign the official legal document, or minute. In the following days or weeks, the signatories would receive a copy of the marriage contract, signed only by the notary, called expédition. While the minute was the official document, kept by the notary, the expédition was usually preserved by families with other important papers, and could be used in litigations. As the expédition represented the essence of the marriage contract, it was generally a solemn document, often written on a large piece of parchment, a noble and expensive material, in a beautiful and ornate handwriting.

Presented here is the expédition of the marriage contract of Catherine Lobeyrie, daughter to Guillaume, whose marriage contract is reproduced here. A document related to Catherine’s grandfather Jean is the Procuration au profit de Jean Lobeyrie accordée par son beau-père Guillaume Du Pré. Notice the very elegant and solemn script used for this document.

These two contracts are part of a large archive of personal documents of allied noble families established in Auvergne, the Lauzanne Family Papers. They were probably acquired as part of a sub-collection of documents related to the Lobeyrie family, who allied with the Soubrany, the second most important family in the collection. Gilberte de Lobeyrie married Amable de Soubrany in 1636, and indeed brought to this family the seigneurie de Bénistant. From then on, the Soubranys became Soubrany de Bénistant. Guillaume and Catherine, though, are part of a bourgeois parallel Lobeyrie branch, established in the community of royal notaries and public officers in the commune of Saugues. For an overview of the collection, see the Lauzanne Family Papers.

Compare the dowry and details of the succession clauses in these two marriage contracts with those of members of the nobility: Marriage contract of Sauveur de Lombard and Antoinette de Geoffroy _and _Mariage d’Annet d’Anglars et d’Anne de Rochegude_/manifest, _and Expédition du contrat du mariage de Jean de Jardon et de Françoise de Rochefort.