In our time, relationships where a man is younger than a woman is not uncommon, although society, as a rule, does not look at this very positively. And what was the situation with this in Russia in the old days?
Why were early marriages accepted in Russia?
In Ancient Russia, the age of marriage was determined based on the norms of Byzantine law and corresponded to 15 years for boys and 13 for girls. However, these norms were often violated, especially when it came to people of noble birth. So, it is known that Prince Yuri Dolgoruky married an 11-year-old girl. Novgorod-Seversky Prince Igor Svyatoslavich married his son Svyatoslav at the age of 11. Vladimir Prince Vsevolod Yurievich married his son Konstantin at the age of 9.
Another Vladimir prince Mikhail Yuryevich married his daughter Elena at the age of three. The daughters of the Kiev prince Svyatopolk Izyaslavich and the Suzdal prince Vsevolod the Big Nest were married at the age of 8. Chernigov Prince Rostislav Mikhailovich arranged the marriage of his daughter Agrafena at the age of 9.
These unnaturally early marriages were primarily for political reasons. This was due to the need to cement relations with one or another noble neighbor for the sake of obtaining economic and political benefits. Married children began to lead a married life only when they reached puberty.
At the same time, the husband and wife were not always the same age, or the husband was older than his wife. If this was demanded by political interests, then the difference in age turned a blind eye. So, Peter I was three years younger than his first wife Evdokia Lopukhina. At the time of the marriage, he was 16 years old, and she was 19. The marriage was arranged by Peter's mother, Tsarina Natalya Kirillovna, nee Naryshkina.
Peculiarities of peasant marriage
In 1830, Emperor Nicholas I issued a decree, according to which the marriageable age for girls was set from 16, for boys - from 18 years. In the second half of the 19th century, most Russian girls got married at the age of 17-20, boys - at the age of 19-21. In the peasant environment, they tried not to delay getting married when the children "entered their age." They were afraid that, having become older, the guy would leave the parental will and bring an unwanted wife into the house. A young half-child daughter-in-law was also more desirable than a girl in years, it was easier to train her to obey in her husband's family.
In peasant families, they tried to ensure that the age difference between the young did not exceed two or three years. Marriages, unequal in age, were undesirable primarily because of the likelihood of early widowhood: "It is better to burn seven times than to be widowed once."
Marriages, when the husband was 10-15 years or more older than his wife, were comparatively rare among the peasantry and were condemned. But the cases when the wife was several years older than her husband were treated quite loyally. The fact is that the wife was required to master certain household and household skills, as a result of which the girls sometimes stayed in the parental home. The young woman was seen primarily as a worker.
Probably everyone remembers perfectly the lines from Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin", where the nanny tells Tatyana Larina:
I was younger, my light, And I was thirteen years old."
Apparently, the family of the future husband simply did not have enough working hands. How else to explain that in the case of Vanya they did not even wait for the previously established 15-year-old age?
Our days: for love and for convenience
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the age of marriage increased, since in 1874 universal military service was introduced. All men fit for military service had to do it at the age of 21. The service lasted from 3 to 6 years. Accordingly, a young man could afford to marry only at the age of 24-27. In this regard, women began to marry later.
Life expectancy has gradually increased, and life has become not so difficult. Therefore, the need for early marriage and working wives was no longer so urgent. This is how we came to the current norm, when marriages are concluded either in accordance with feelings or with financial calculation, and the age difference is looked at a little differently than hundreds of years ago.