In the past year of doing research on the family structure of St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), I have come across a number of interesting details of which I had no hint when I started. The latest of these is something I found in the marriage license applications 1785-1803 in the East Florida Papers. They all mention something called the Real Pragmatica de Casamiento -- the Royal Law of Marriage. It was instituted by Carlos (Charles) III in 1776. I have not delved into it in detail, though I have found some sources on it. What I get from a cursory look at these is that the law was originally intended to be applied to the royal family, to be sure that there were no "unequal" marriages (no royals marrying commoners, that is). This was necesitated by the amorous and dissipated adventures of Crown Prince Luis de Borbón, son of Carlos III (Note 1) The Real Pragmatica found universal application to all subjects of the Spanish Crown, including those in the New World colonies, by 1778. (Note 2)
One provision of this law was that a person under the age of 25 (though I find it applied to older persons, as well, in St. Augustine) had to have the permission of his or her parents or other older relative in order to marry. (Note 3) This was often waived in the case of the colonies. The waiver was based on the fact that many of the people in St. Augustine had come by themselves, leaving family behind in Spain or Menorca or the Canary Islands or Cuba. In these cases, where the intended couple had no older relatives in close range, the governor of the colony would be the one granting the permission. (Note 4)
Usually in these cases also, the groom or bride would bring in witnesses to make sworn statements that they knew the individual had no older relatives in the area. These sworn statements, and the other documents in the file of each application, have revealed further information on these families. I found out that a couple of men who shared the same surname were indeed brothers. I found that a woman living in St. Augustine was the aunt of one applicant, and I have found the names of parents, which I had not known before. These documents are helping me make a little more progress in linking related people together.
The imposition of the Real Pragmatica on all Spanish subjects was a departure from what had been a less stringent attitude on the part of the Catholic Church, which up until the promulgation of the Real Pragmatica had pretty much been in charge of the marriage business. The church was not that concerned about status inequality in marriage, and in fact was in favor of free choice of marriage partner without requiring parental permission. That lax attitude was contravened by the Real Pragmatica. (Note 5)
Next: further provisions of the Real Pragmatica.
Note 1: María Luz Alonso, "El consentimiento para matrimonio de los miembros de la Familia Real (Sobre la vigencia de la Pragmatica de Carlos III de 1776)," Cuadernos de la historia del derecho, No. 4, Servicio de Publicaciones, UCM, Madrid, 1997, 64.
Note 2: Christian Buschges, "Don Manuel Valdivieso y Carrión Protests the Marriage of his Daughter to Don Teodoro Jaramillo, a Person of Lesser Social Standing (Quito 1784-85)," in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives: Documents in Latin American History, 1550-1850. (Oxford University Press, 2000), excerpted on the website Women in World History, file:///G:/Personal%20Data/My%20Documents/UNF/HIS%204609%20DIS/Real%20Pragmatica%20de%20Casamiento/Quito%20lawsuit%20re%20Real%20Pragmatica.html (accessed 19 December 2010).
Note 3: "The Real Pragmatica of 1776 - What Does it Say?" on website Unequal Marriages in Spain: the Pragmatica, http://www.heraldica.org/topics/royalty/pragmatica.htm#pragm%E1tica (accessed 19 December 2010).
Note 4: See, for example, East Florida Papers, Matrimonial Licenses 1785-1803, Reel 132, Bundle R298R9.
Note 5: Buschges, "Don Manuel Valdivieso y Carrión Protests the Marriage of His Daughter . . ."