In the era of dynastic marriages between royal and noble families contracts and treaties were often dependent on the promise of a marriage between heirs of the parties involved. If the intended bride and groom were not able to be in the same place, or were too young, proxies acted on their behalf. Sometimes a proxy betrothal was performed as a formal agreement for the two parties to marry and other times it was an actual proxy marriage.

Several of the Tudors were married or betrothed by proxy, such as Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. A few more examples – Patrick Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, acted as a proxy for James IV of Scotland for his betrothal to Margaret Tudor at Richmond in January 1502 before the couple were married in Edinburgh that August. Margaret’s sister Mary was married by proxy to Louis XII of France with the duc de Longueville standing in for the king. As an interesting extra step in this ceremony, the Duc put his bare leg in a bed and Mary touched it as a symbolic consummation of the marriage. The Earl of Worcester acted for Mary’s proxy when the ceremony was performed in Paris with Louis (but presumably with out the leg in the bed part!).