Originally Posted by meagain
Is it not true though that they still legally have been minors then?
Laws were quite different in mediaeval times; marriageable age was well below 16.
The first recorded law concerning marriageable age dated back to 1275. As part of rape laws, it was deemed a criminal offence to "ravish a maiden within age, with or without consent". The "within age" was interpreted as the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years old. Although people still could marry younger than that (although they had to be at least 7), in order to consummate the marriage, they had to be over 12.
According to 12th century jurist Gratian, the marriageable age was considered to be between 12 and 14. However, the age of consent was 7; consequently, most authorities honoured marriages conducted between two consenting individuals older than 7. In fact, marriages between children younger than that, though rare, were accepted as well; there are records of marriages of children as young as 2. As long as the child was consenting (although what consent can be given at 2 is arguable), the marriage was unlikely to be considered illegal. At the same time, the age of consummation was still expected to be 12.
When the American colonies were established, they took the English law and traditions as model. Consequentially, the age of marriage was established at 12, although younger marriages were accepted as well.