QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2008-11 > 1225746829
From: Mona Andrée Rainville <>
Subject: Re: [Q-R] Marriage Age
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2008 16:13:49 -0500
Civil majority and Matrimonial majority are two different concepts.
Civil majority is whatever the laws of the land say it is.
Religious majority stems for old Roman law which deemed one was not
quite ready to face the responsibilities of life until "she" had reached
the ripe old age of 25, or "he" the age of 30. It was therefore decided
that anyone not having reached this age would need the official
permission of his or her parents or guardians to do get married. Hence,
you will usually find a mention showing such a person to be a minor in
the parish registers. Note, this has nothing to do with the minimum age
required of the spouses to legally enter into marriage in the first place.
In 1663, with the imposition of the "Coutume de Paris", 25 was
proclaimed to be the age of civil majority for all, in New France.
However, the Church being distinct from the State, continued to apply
its own rules and so it continued to require parental consent for girls
not yet 25 and for boys not yet 30 years of age.
In 1763, the act by which the King of England obtained control of New
France, the Treaty of Paris, stated that Civil law as it presently
existed in New France would remain in force. Largely, it did.
However, by 1764, legislation was brought in which curtailed the
application of the Treaty of Paris and brought some measure of confusion
as to what, in fact, was the applicable law. This confusion become
evident when going over notarial documents where the age of majority
seems to float aimlessly between 21 and 25.
It took another piece of legislation, this time emanating from King
George III and his Parliament, the Quebec Act of 1774, to reinstate
French civil law in what was now Canada.
But again, the temporal being distinct from the spiritual, the Catholic
church stood steadfast by its own rules. 25 for women, 30 for men...
Well, almost steadfast. There were, of course some measure of confusion
there too, but they were rare.
In 1795, the civil age of majority was lowered to 21 by the Governor in
Counsel, but the church did not follow suit.
It was not until Pope John XXIII and his Council, sometimes in the 1960s
that the matrimonial age of consent was officially lowered to 21.
So there it is. In the early 1800's in Québec, it was possibly to have
reached the age of civil majority and still be considered a minor by the
Jackie Doty wrote:
> What constituted the age of marriage which differentiated a person from being a fille or fils majeur or minor in the early 1800's in Quebec