"The wedding feast of Sir Philip Sidney and Frances Walsingham threatens to spill over into the next day"

An Elizabethan wedding feast
Public DomainAn Elizabethan wedding feast - Credit: Joris Hoefnagel
Weddings amongst the Elizabethan aristocracy were usually arranged by parents in order to bring wealth or prestige to the family, with little choice for the man and even less for the woman. Often the bride and groom would set eyes on each other for the first time on their wedding day. Women would bring a dowry of money or property. They were expected to be subservient to their husbands, to run the household and provide children. Girls could be married very young; Frances Walsingham was only 14 when she married Sir Philip Sidney. Prior to this she had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.


Marriages were solemn religious affairs, traditionally celebrated afterwards with a large wedding feast featuring exotic dishes, music and dancing.