Morganatic marriage

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As morganatic marriage ( Latin matrimonium morganaticum or matrimonium ad morganaticam , Middle Latin neoplasms in Old High German * morgangeba " Morgengabe "), or marriage to the left hand , is a form of marriage in the European nobility in which a spouse - usually the wife - of was of lower social class (“not equal ”, see also hypergamy : “marrying up”).

A morganatic marriage often took place with the intention of the man to legitimize the existing love affair with a mistress as a publicly recognized relationship . Some ruling kings and princes entered into a morganatic marriage as a love marriage after the death of their first, "befitting" wife, if they had previously had children, in order to ensure the intended succession : The descendants from a morganatic marriage were usually not entitled to inheritance and from excluded from the line of succession. In other cases a morganatic marriage was concluded in order to avoid possible dynastic entanglements through a (new) marriage according to one's status. This possibility was particularly available to younger sons of ruling houses if they and their descendants were not intended for the succession to the throne due to the existing birthright of the eldest son.

Since after the death of the husband, his widow and descendants were mostly not entitled to inheritance , their financial support had to be secured by a corresponding marriage contract while they were still alive ; hence the name matrimonium ad morganaticam or "marriage on a mere morning gift". The legal form of the morganatic as "not befitting marriage" was abolished in 1919 in Germany.

legal form

In a morganatic marriage, not all of the usual legal consequences of a marriage occurred , but it was still a state and church marriage that came about properly. The children that emerged from her were legitimate descendants of the father, who in some cases rose to the highest ranks (for example Maria von Teck , the wife of King George V of Great Britain, granddaughter of Prince Alexander of Württemberg and Claudine Rhédey , later Countess of Hohenstein).

However, the rights of the offspring followed "the angry hand", so they only entered into the rights of the lower class spouse, usually the mother. Children in a morganatic marriage were therefore usually not entitled to inheritance and - if it was a ruling royal house - excluded from the line of succession. Neither the wife nor the children were viewed as members of the husband's family, they did not bear his nobility titles or coat of arms . In the protocol, the woman, although the official wife, ranked behind the youngest princes and princesses , which is why, for example, Auguste von Harrach , the widow of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. , could not attend his official memorial service in the Berlin Cathedral. Often increased their rulers nichtebenbürtige wife in the state (see also ennoblement ).

Examples from Germany

Examples from the House of Habsburg

Examples from other countries





  • King Alexander married the commoner Aspasia Manos in 1919 . The only daughter Alexandra became Queen of Yugoslavia.







  • Prince Carl, great-uncle of King Carl XVI. Gustaf , married Elsa von Rosen in 1937 and thereby lost the title of Royal Highness and was only allowed to call himself Prince Carl Bernadotte.


  • In 1900 King Aleksandar Obrenović married her lady-in-waiting Draga Lunjevica against his mother's wishes . The popularly unloved Queen Draga fell victim to an officers' conspiracy with her husband three years after her marriage.


United Kingdom

  • In 1785 the future King George IV (then Prince of Wales ) married the Catholic and widow of two Maria Anne Smythe . The marriage was considered invalid in the royal family.
  • In 1811 Princess Augusta married Sophia, daughter of King George III. , her father's stable master, Brent Spencer.

See also

  • Muntehe (for Teutons and early nobility: guardianship and determining power over the woman changes from father to husband)
  • Kebsehe (marriage form of the early Middle Ages: free man and serf, unfree woman)
  • Angular marriage (agreed in a corner of the house, without church involvement)
  • Mesalliance ("mismatch" between different social classes)
  • Uncle marriage (cohabitation of a widow with a man in order to maintain her widow's pension)
  • Sororat / Levirat (marriage in law: marriage of the sister of the deceased wife / marriage in law with the brother of the dead husband)
  • Anisogamy (marriage between different classes)
  • Marriage rules (social rules: Ge messenger and Ver messenger)


  • Johann Ernst Friedrich Danz: About family laws of the German high nobility, which prohibit civil marriages. A contribution to the German princely rights. Varrentrapp & Wenner, Frankfurt 1792 ( full text in the Google book search).
  • Heinrich J. Dingeldein : Graeflich-Erbacher family branches "on the left hand". Illegitimate children and morganatic marriages in the Grafenhaus Erbach until the end of the monarchy. With notes on heraldry. Gendi-Verlag, Otzberg 2020, ISBN 978-3-946295-19-8 .
  • About miscarriages of Teutonic princes and counts , Göttingen 1796 ( digitized version )

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Douglas Harper: morganatic (adj.). On: Without date, accessed on September 25, 2018 (English, with reference to Germany in particular), quotation: "1727, from French morganatique (18c.), From Medieval Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam " marriage of the morning ", probably from Old High German * morgangeba (Middle High German morgengabe) »morning gift« […] Also known as left-handed marriage, because the groom gives the bride his left hand instead of his right, but sometimes this latter term is used of a class of marriage (especially in Germany) where the spouse of inferior rank is not elevated, but the children inherit rights of succession. "
  2. Duden editors : morganatic. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  3. The saga of the Count von Gleichen , accessed on: November 19, 2015
  4. Marriage for three - The wives of Count von Gleichen , accessed on: November 19, 2015
  5. ^ Friedrich Cast: South German noble hero. Second section, first volume: The history and genealogy of the nobility in the Grand Duchy of Baden , Stuttgart 1845, p. 243.
  6. Quotations from: Law Collection for the Royal Prussian States. No. 21, 1824, p. 209.
  7. ^ Genealogical handbook of the nobility. Adelslexikon Volume 8 (= Volume 128 of the complete series), Starke, Limburg 2002, p. 31.