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Lord Varys

Annulment vs. 'setting aside a wife/marriage'

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This is a thread to discuss the mechanics of 'proper annulment' - done, possibly only, when a marriage has not been consummated - and the rather vague concept of 'setting aside a marriage/wife' (usually that of a king or prince - in the latter case through the king) which has been consummated and which may also have led to the birth of children.

How does this work? Who has done that or tried to do it?

Annulment is something that has been discussed at length in the Sansa-Tyrion case in the books, also in relation to Jaehaerys-Alysanne's first wedding in FaB. But the 'setting aside' of marriages and wives is something that has up to this point on touched upon in passing.

But it is a notable thing in the books since Cersei feared Robert might set her aside for a new Lyanna, and we also do know - from multiple sources (Renly himself, Varys, and Pycelle) - that Renly planned to replace Cersei with Margaery as queen despite the fact that Cersei had born Robert three children - and Renly had no idea that they were actually fathered by Jaime.

Which means key background plot mentioned in the first two books involves a legal construct/action we have almost no understanding of.

But it is a fact of the text that crucial characters believe that King Robert could actually have ended his marriage to Cersei Lannister without facing (m)any legal problems. He could have simply set her aside.

What this would have meant for their children in a scenario in which the incest does not come out is completely unclear.

This can be a rather interesting topic to discuss.

Any thoughts on the matter.

[And, no, this is not the place to discuss whether Renly did know about the incest despite the textual evidence to the contrary.]

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3 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

But it is a fact of the text that crucial characters believe that King Robert could actually have ended his marriage to Cersei Lannister without facing (m)any legal problems. He could have simply set her aside.

This looks like an inconsistency to me.  Take the example of the matter between Lord Walder and Robb Stark.  Notice, Walder did not push Robb to annul his marriage with Jeyne.  Look, Varys, if there was ever a time of desperation to annul a marriage, let's say it was that.  Both men knew this is not done.  It is just not done.  Because the marriage was consummated just as surely as Robert's with Cersei.  

To say Robert could have ended it is not consistent with the evidence provided by Robb's consummated marriage to Jeyne.  Marriage are not easily ended because they are sometimes used to seal pacts and deals.  The sex is the point of no return.  No turning back after the man has checked her oil.  It's too late after the muffin has been buttered.  

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Renly probably thought Robert might divorce Cersei for a new Lyanna. He couldn't annul that marriage, even if the children were not his own. Perhaps "setting aside" a marriage means a divorce in this world. 

Also, Robert is a distant Targ relative. So it might be possible for him to take more than one wife. In any case, he's king and can re-make the rules as he goes. A king taking more than one wife would not be without precedent and probably will not face much resistance. I mean, it's Robert and everyone knows he's not a faithful husband. 

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Robert is king and he can rewrite the laws; however, he would have to deal with the septons.  And even then there would be discontent.  Robert is not seen as a Targaryen.  Visenya, Aegon, and Rhaenys got away with it because the marriage and the consummation took place before they accepted the faith.  The marriage bond is maintained after the religious conversion.  Robert cannot change religious laws but he can do as he pleases and force them to endure his multiple wives.  But the children of the second wife will be bastards in the eyes of the church.  Most people are religious.  Robert was born in the faith.  He cannot "grandfather in" polygamy like the first Targaryens did when they conquered.  

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11 minutes ago, Anti-Stark said:

He cannot "grandfather in" polygamy like the first Targaryens did when they conquered.   

This depends on who actualy "owns" the High Septon. When Maegor tried to take another wife the Hightower High Septon condemned him as a abomination and a false king. After the HS died, a weaker HS took his place and suddenly decided to recognize Maegor's many wives and even anointed him as the King.

 

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Posted (edited)

If we were to take "setting aside" as Robert taking one or several mistresses and simply ignoring or sending Cersi away, I would say this is a definite possibility and a very real fear for Cersi to have, Tywin can either take it laying down(unlikely), stand against the entire realm ( The Crownlands, Riverlands, Stotmlands, The Vale and the North are all firmly his, and Dorne wants Tywin broken and killed, leaving his only potential allies as The reach(posible) or the Ironborn(unlikely)entire scenario also unlikely), or wait until Robert dies and champion his grandchildrens claim if they still live(most likely).

Robert would face no legal repercussions, in fact such a thing would not be possible due to the above circumstances, and Cersie's children become whatever Robert decides they will be. When Robert dies however, his heirs will reap what he sew.

As evidence I present the reign and heirs of one Aegon IV, and the Blackfye rebellions which followed a few years after his death.

 

Edited by Back door hodor

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10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

This is a thread to discuss the mechanics of 'proper annulment' - done, possibly only, when a marriage has not been consummated

In the medieval world there was a far more common reason for annulment - relationship:

The monarchies in medieval europe were often related to another- so if to kingdoms try to make closer ties by marriage it was incest. Often the church often turned a blind eye on this (corruption etc.). It gets really interesting when an alliance was disolved and this marriage was no longer of use. Then  one party would bring up the incest argument as legitimate reason for an annulment because the marriage was not valid in the first place. 

A good example is Catherine of Aragon:

Before Henry she wed his older brother who passed away a few months later. Technically she would be seen as Henrys sister. But Spain and England wanted an alliance badly so it was claimed the marriage wasn't consummated. After some years Henry needs to get rid of her. He says: This marrige is illegal because Cat and my brother have consummated their marriage and that's why his and Cat would be incest. The end is history.

Annulment is more the marriage was never valid in first place so the partners officially  never married each other

 

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I think:

annulment = both men and women can ask for it + specific reasons approved by religious councils (eg the marriage wasn’t consummated or infertility) + money + influence/power 

setting aside = only men can do it +  money + influence/power (if you are the King, you can do what you want)

 

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8 hours ago, Son of Man said:

This looks like an inconsistency to me. 

It is not, there are many examples for this - Cersei fearing it and Renly planning for it are just the instances in the main series. There were some ancient kings who set asides wives who had given them children for new Andal brides, there is Prince Daemon asking King Viserys I to set aside his marriage to Rhea Royce (which had been consummated), Alyn Velaryon had to agree in the name of the Iron Throne that Prince Viserys' marriage to Larra Rogare (consummated) would not be set aside for any reason, etc.

8 hours ago, Son of Man said:

Take the example of the matter between Lord Walder and Robb Stark.  Notice, Walder did not push Robb to annul his marriage with Jeyne.  Look, Varys, if there was ever a time of desperation to annul a marriage, let's say it was that.  Both men knew this is not done.  It is just not done.  Because the marriage was consummated just as surely as Robert's with Cersei.  

In Robb's case we can say that no such course was attempted or taken because Robb Stark didn't want to set aside his marriage with Jeyne Westerling. Robb realized that he had angered the Freys, but he never had the intention to end his marriage with Jeyne.

6 hours ago, Ghost+Nymeria4Eva said:

Renly probably thought Robert might divorce Cersei for a new Lyanna. He couldn't annul that marriage, even if the children were not his own. Perhaps "setting aside" a marriage means a divorce in this world. 

That is what is implied. However, it seems this kind of thing is only something kings can do. Or, perhaps, Lord Tywin, who essentially also set aside Tyrion's marriage to Tysha.

6 hours ago, Ghost+Nymeria4Eva said:

Also, Robert is a distant Targ relative. So it might be possible for him to take more than one wife. In any case, he's king and can re-make the rules as he goes. A king taking more than one wife would not be without precedent and probably will not face much resistance. I mean, it's Robert and everyone knows he's not a faithful husband. 

Royal bigamy or polygamy seems to be a larger problem/scandal than replacing a queen with another. That we see by the examples of both Prince Daemon - who asks Viserys I to set aside Rhea so he can marry Rhaenyra - and King Aerys I - who is urged by his Small Council to set aside his marriage to Aelinor Penrose in favor of a wife who is more to his liking.

Not to mention Jaehaerys I's reaction to the prospect of Princess Saera taking more than one husband...

6 hours ago, Anti-Stark said:

Robert is king and he can rewrite the laws; however, he would have to deal with the septons.  And even then there would be discontent.  Robert is not seen as a Targaryen.  Visenya, Aegon, and Rhaenys got away with it because the marriage and the consummation took place before they accepted the faith.  The marriage bond is maintained after the religious conversion.  Robert cannot change religious laws but he can do as he pleases and force them to endure his multiple wives.  But the children of the second wife will be bastards in the eyes of the church.  Most people are religious.  Robert was born in the faith.  He cannot "grandfather in" polygamy like the first Targaryens did when they conquered.  

Considering how much the Faith is under the thumb of the Iron Throne since Jaehaerys I this is all not very likely. I agree that a polygamous dragonless king might face problems with the legitimacy of the children from a second or third wife, but it doesn't seem as if it was an issue for a king to aside a wife and take a new one. That's what Cersei fears might happen to her, and it is what Renly plans to do.

One guesses that such an action would not automatically declare the children from the first wife bastards. It would be more like a divorce, not an annulment - which essentially erases a marriage from history (although that kind of thing did not usually cause the children from such an annulled marriage to become bastards retroactively - but then, bastardy is a much greater stain in Westerosi society than it ever was among real world nobility, especially for the greater part of the middle ages).

That retroactive bastardy is a thing that's established when Jaehaerys I and Alyanne declare Lucamore Strong's children bastards after they rule on his transgressions. And the explanation there is not just that Lucamore was a KG by the time he wed, meaning he could not legally marry, but also because he took more than one wife.

6 hours ago, The Hoare said:

This depends on who actualy "owns" the High Septon. When Maegor tried to take another wife the Hightower High Septon condemned him as a abomination and a false king. After the HS died, a weaker HS took his place and suddenly decided to recognize Maegor's many wives and even anointed him as the King.

Maegor helped break the Faith, and Jaehaerys I started to effectively rule it - he even added his own doctrine of Targaryen Exceptionalism to the tenants of the Faith. But only the traditional Targaryen incest was normalized - polygamy wasn't. And Maegor basically only could get through with that with brute force. The fact that he had no living heirs of his own body by any of his wife or mistresses did not push the issue - Jaehaerys I and the Faith didn't have to rule whether Maegor's non-existent children by, say, Alys Harroway or Elinor Costayne were legitimate or bastards, or whether Maegor's only trueborn children would be those by Ceryse Hightower, his first wife.

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Posted (edited)

Maybe, a wife can be set aside, and the marriage will be deemed as invalid, if, for example, she will become a septa, or a silent sister, and will "marry" with the Faith. 

Wasn't there a story about a man, who was married, and forced his wife to become a septa, and then he became a Kingsguard? So, even though his wife was still alive, he wasn't seen as a married man. In similar case, if someone wanted to get married with a new wife, he could have done it by making his first wife to join the Faith.

Found him, it was Quentyn Ball -

https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Quentyn_Ball

Edited by Megorova

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

Royal bigamy or polygamy seems to be a larger problem/scandal than replacing a queen with another. That we see by the examples of both Prince Daemon - who asks Viserys I to set aside Rhea so he can marry Rhaenyra - and King Aerys I - who is urged by his Small Council to set aside his marriage to Aelinor Penrose in favor of a wife who is more to his liking.

Not to mention Jaehaerys I's reaction to the prospect of Princess Saera taking more than one husband...

That's just the thing. Marriage rules for the royals are based on expedience. The septons seem to promote a traditional Christian-style monogamous marriage, but whether it's strictly followed really depends. As you said, Tywin brutally exiles Tysha from Casterly Rock, even if she was Tyrion's lawful wife. Doesn't he get the septon who conducted the ceremony to undo it or something? The rules are different for Targs altogether.

It seems that what really keeps most non-Targ marriages going is how wealthy and powerful the wife's family is. Robert is only married to Cersei because of the power and wealth of Casterly Rock. He doesn't kick her out of the castle because he fears Tywin's wrath. Had the Lannisters lost their prestige, I'm sure Cersei would have been quickly replaced with a new bride.

The point is, if the king really wanted to get rid of a wife or even take on a new one, there are plenty of ways to do that, mainly by getting the High Septon on his side. It would be fine as long as the first wife's family doesn't rebel. And the smallfolk don't seem to particularly care about it. When Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna, the smallfolk weren't outraged. In their version of the story, Rhaegar "loves" Lady Lyanna, unlike in Robert's version where he kidnaps her. 

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I imagined, though Cersei's paranoia can muddy the waters, that Renly's plan cemented the possibility.

Suddenly King Robert would have it proclaimed his wife the Queen discovered a sudden vocation and wished to join the Silent Sisters.

By gaining the support of the Tyrells, even the might and moneys of the Westerlands would be in a precarious position for Tywin to openly make waves. You don't mess with the main religious power, especially in a system where it favours the Crown.

Imo, it'd be feasible without too much fuss. Luckily for the Lannisters, King Robert's laissez faire attitude allowed for enough time for things to be resolved in a more immediately favorable way.

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20 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

This is a thread to discuss the mechanics of 'proper annulment' -

I don't see how to do this without getting into the ideals of the Catholic Church, specifically the medieval catholic church, and the historical practices of church officials (which, arguably, are not necessarily in conformity with the ideal).  That's what Westerosi annulment is obviously based on.

In theory, once married, then always married.  In order to obtain an annulment, one must prove that no valid marriage ever occurred.

Various reasons have been given for annulling marriage.  Some of these have been (arguably) mere pretexts, endorsed by (arguably corrupt) church officials, because of political considerations and/or in exchange for financial incentives.

20 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

But it is a fact of the text that crucial characters believe that King Robert could actually have ended his marriage to Cersei Lannister without facing (m)any legal problems. He could have simply set her aside.

Setting her aside is no problem.  Sending one's wife elsewhere is rather mild on the list of kingly abuses.  

Marrying again is a slightly bigger problem.  At least, it might be a problem to get the High Septon to agree that the new marriage was valid.  Two ways to do this:  (1) obtain an annulment on some (corrupt?) pretext; or (2) accuse Cersei of some crime (trumped up or not) and have her executed.

Alternatively, one could just "marry" again, and ignore the finger-wagging of the High Septon.  Then, the king could legitimize his bastard children, if he wanted them to have rights of inheritance.  Traditionally, Westerosi kings have always had the power to legitimize their bastards.

So, basically, I see no contradiction here.

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Setting aside could be like one partner (in most cases probably the woman) can not fullfill her duty as bride anymore.

This could be due to infertiality or joining the faith. The wife cannot do her side of the contract (giving him kids) but also isn't dead. Setting aside gives the husband the possibillity of getting heirs even if he weds a barren, long living woman in the beginning

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From what I can tell, the only examples we have of "setting aside" are by Kings.  If so, it may be that there is a special dispensation for Kings, or simply that they are powerful enough to get away with it.  Which would explain, for example, why Robb was never requested to set aside Jeyne.  He couldn't  even if he wanted to. 

The idea that the existing wife could be forced to join a religious community to open a spot is also one that could make sense.   I think on this issue we are going to have to wait for Martin to make things clearer, or not, as the case may be.

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Didn't they explore this in the 'Two Sisters and a King' Tudor adaptation?

They made Catarina de Aragon old enough to be declared no longer fertile. Ergo the King needed a new wife. Annulment presto and Bob's your uncle, or Norfolk, and Mademoiselle Boleyn is Queen, for a bit.

Our own King Robert already had an heir, spare and girl to trade for alliance but let us be 'pious' and fear for the children if the Stranger should take them once his hipothetical new Queen gave him more.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Karneol said:

In the medieval world there was a far more common reason for annulment - relationship:

The monarchies in medieval europe were often related to another- so if to kingdoms try to make closer ties by marriage it was incest. Often the church often turned a blind eye on this (corruption etc.). It gets really interesting when an alliance was disolved and this marriage was no longer of use. Then  one party would bring up the incest argument as legitimate reason for an annulment because the marriage was not valid in the first place. 

A good example is Catherine of Aragon:

Before Henry she wed his older brother who passed away a few months later. Technically she would be seen as Henrys sister. But Spain and England wanted an alliance badly so it was claimed the marriage wasn't consummated. After some years Henry needs to get rid of her. He says: This marrige is illegal because Cat and my brother have consummated their marriage and that's why his and Cat would be incest. The end is history.

Annulment is more the marriage was never valid in first place so the partners officially  never married each other

 

 

Edited by Lady Winter Rose

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50 minutes ago, Nevets said:

The idea that the existing wife could be forced to join a religious community to open a spot is also one that could make sense.  

It could; if GRRM chooses to depart from his historical inspiration.

But under the (Medieval) Christian analogy, a marriage cannot be dissolved by one or both of the partners joining a religious community.  They might choose to do this (or be forced to do this), but both would still be barred from remarriage.

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It's already present in the canon -- Fireball's wife was forced to become a silent sister, freeing him of his marriage and thus making him eligible to join the Kingsguard.

GRRM is definitely departing from history at points.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Ran said:

It's already present in the canon -- Fireball's wife was forced to become a silent sister, freeing him of his marriage and thus making him eligible to join the Kingsguard.

GRRM is definitely departing from history at points.

That's not a departure.  It is 100% consistent with what I said.  Both parties may join orders and take vows of celibacy (in theory this must be by mutual agreement).  Neither may remarry.

Here, both partners have taken vows of celibacy.  The only thing wrong is the coercion.  But that's always an abuse.

Edited by Platypus Rex

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