a1 Wadham College, Oxford
In this paper an attempt is made to study the marriage customs and family relationships of the titular peerage and the 500 or so leading county families who together formed the dominant political and social grouping of Tudor and Stuart England. Generalisations here made apply only to this restricted class and not necessarily to those below it. When it comes to be investigated, the behaviour of the lesser gentry, the yeomanry, the peasantry and the merchants may well show significant differences from the model set by their betters.
1 In the interests of compression, this paper is confined to an outline of the main conclusions. The great bulk of the supporting evidence and the footnote documentation has been omitted, and will appear in my book on The Nobility of England, 1558–1642. I am very grateful to Mr. Keith Thomas and Mr. Christopher Hill for having read and criticised this paper in draft. Their comments, particularly those of the former, have saved me from many errors of judgment, though I have no doubt that they believe that many more remain.