History of Prenuptial Agreements

Prenups Are Not a New Idea

Simone Pievani/Creative RF/Getty

What is commonly known as a prenuptial agreement is not a new idea either legally or culturally. Women have wanted assurance that in the event of a divorce or death of a spouse that they wouldn't end up homeless.

"People have been making prenuptial agreements for thousands of years. Scholars tell us that the practice dates back to the ancient Egyptians and that prenups have existed for many centuries in Anglo-American tradition.

In previous times, the parents of the bride and groom negotiated the agreement on the new couple's behalf."
Source: Prenuptial Agreements: How to Write a Fair and Lasting Contract, page 1/2.
by Katherine E. Stoner and Shae Irving


Examples of Prenuptial Agreements in History

The Ketubah, the Hebrew marriage contract dating back 2000 years ago, "is one of the first legal documents giving financial and legal rights to women."
Source: Definition of Ketubah

Dowries, often considered to be early prenuptial agreements, were mentioned in seventh-century writings as a necessity.
Source: Marriage in Early Ireland

Edward IV reportedly had a prenuptial agreement with Eleanor Butler sometime between 1461 and 1464.
Source: Michael Miller - Wars of the Roses

Elizabeth Oglethorpe, in 1744, before getting married, required General James Edward Oglethorpe to sign a prenuptial agreement protecting her property rights.

Source: The Manor of Bishop's Ockendon