A few months, I very much enjoyed a playthrough of the video game Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which is set within the borders of what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia during the Western Schism (1378 - 1417). Video games are, of course, never a great source for a serious historian; the primary focus of any games designer worth his salt must be on what is fun, and not necessarily on what actually happened. But, for all that, Kingdom Come: Deliverance has earned a reputation for an unusual fidelity to history - at least by yardstick of other games. Indeed, it awoke an interest in my own heart for Late Medieval Central Europe that I never knew I had.

One of the subplots of the game involves a romance between the player character, Henry, and his wily young friend, Theresa. Both characters are unmarried, perhaps in their late teens, from one of the lower rungs of the feudal hierarchy. Following a brief courtship, the two make love, and, while it is half-implied that this may be Henry's first time, it is clearly not Theresa's. Afterwards, when Henry tentatively broaches the topic of marriage, Theresa replies that she would like to get married one day, perhaps to him, but she has no intention of marrying for the foreseeable future.

I was curious as to how likely this series of events would have been, in the place and time in which the game is set? It seemed to reflect more modern attitudes to sex than medieval ones, but perhaps these are more constant throughout history than I had imagined?

In terms of qualitative data, I suppose I'm looking for things like sermons along the lines of "Look how widespread fornication is these days!" Or maybe even a seduction manual from the period, some kind of Late Medieval update on Ovid's Ars Amatoria? In terms of quantitative data, perhaps an estimate on the proportion of babies born to unmarried mothers would be a good start? Although the game is in Bohemia, I would be interested to read about data from any country in Central or Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages; prove me wrong by all means, but I can't imagine that attitudes would differ radically between Roman Catholic countries in that period.

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    BBC History did an article five or six years ago discussing a methodology for answering a similar question about Victorian London. The results wouldn't help, but the methodology might. From memory, I think you're on the right track. ( I personally suspect that premarital sex was ubiquitous.)
    – MCW
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:57
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    Pre-marital or pre-betrothal? Betrothal was sometimes the important step, not the wedding itself.
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 14, 2022 at 19:27
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    Notoriously, betrothals and marriages were easy to confuse in the day. In particular, in medieval times, even if you used the future tense (normally indicating a betrothal) and had intercourse, you were, in fact, married.
    – Mary
    Dec 15, 2022 at 1:27
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    @KateBunting I agree that, in the days before reliable contraception, female promiscuity would have been reckless. But young people - especially HORNY young people! - have a well-known taste for reckless behaviour. Such behaviour may have been reckless, but my question is: How UNUSUAL was it?
    – Tom Hosker
    Dec 15, 2022 at 14:19
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    @TheHonRose I don't think your understanding the consequences part is true historically. Anyone who grew up close to farm animals knows how human reproduction works by analogy and that meant everyone until the beginning of industrialization. I think the very concept of someone reaching adult age without knowing the connection between sex and pregnancy only appeared around 1800 or so.
    – quarague
    Dec 18, 2022 at 13:58


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