With divorces far less common amongst the peasant class, finding the right husband was a serious matter. One of the ways a girl could try a man on for size was called “bundling.” Bundling was sleeping together without intercourse. Parents would literally tie the girl into a ‘bundling sack’ and place her in bed with her potential mate. Sometimes a board was placed in between the young lovers to further deter any mischief. The basic idea was that couples could spend the night together without the temptation of….nakedness. I am not exactly sure what this accomplished, but at least you could figure out if your potential spouse snored or had morning breath. (of course, if he did snore than there was nothing you could do about it because you were tied up in a sac. )
Bundling was a common ritual in Switzerland and Germany too, but was called Kiltzgang …which is German for ‘keep your kilt on kids’. The practice continued in Colonial England with ballads singing its dubious praises;
“ but bundlers clothes are no defense, unruly horses push the fence.” (1)
“Care, Nance and Sue proved just and true,
Tho' bundling did practice;
But Ruth beguil'd and proved with child
Who bundling did despise.” (2)
The practiced continued in rural England until those clever Victorians thought it best to keep a girl’s suitor at arms length.
It is still freezing here in New England. If you are reading this from an equally icy location, then please bundle up with your loved ones. burrrrrrrrr
(1) Denny p. 83
(2) Ulrich p. 123
Sources and Further Reading:
Denny, Joanna. Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy, London: UK, Piatkus Books, 2005.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New Enland, 1650 -1750, New York: NY, Vintage, 1991.