Dating in the Middle Ages | Blaze Your OwnMidlife Tribe
In the Medieval times, marriage was quite different than today. Women didn't have a choice as to who they would marry and, most of the time, women didn't even. These days, couples in Western countries usually date casually — though online matchmaking has Europe in the Middle Ages (). No, no, no not medieval times, apologies for the misleading heading. I'm talking about being middle-aged and stepping out into the world.
The book does, however, live up to its description as 'a fascinating introduction for the general reader' to the concerns and social milieu of aristocratic and gentry women in the later middle ages. The lengthy introduction makes some interesting points about the way in which letters were written, the forms of address, the problems of dating and the use of seals as a means of authentication, but it then widens into a general description of the education of girls, marriage and widowhood as necessary background to the letters.
For the most part, a number of complicated matters, such as the laws of inheritance, are explained with commendable clarity but the letters themselves become almost incidental to an account of the condition of women in later medieval England: While using similar source material and agreeing on the central importance of the family, Krug, unlike Crawford, has a thesis to propound on the subject of 'women's engagement with the written word in late medieval England'.
She draws on a body of theory, mainly from social anthropology, to contest the feminist idea that in the middle ages 'women took part in text-based activities as expressions of female insurrection against male-dominated social forces'.
As a literary scholar, Krug is concerned with historical sources as texts and is not primarily interested - as Crawford is - in the contents of letters.
Letter writing is 'the most easily adopted mode of active, textual production' p. She aims to cover 'a range of disparate text-based practices, including literary patronage, dictation, memorisation and recitation' p.
Women's daily involvement with writing is explored by means of four case studies. The first two concern individual women, Margaret Paston and Margaret Beaufort, while the other two look at women's literate practice within two religious communities, the Norwich Lollards and the Bridgettine community of nuns at Syon.
Writing by Women in Later Medieval England | Reviews in History
The chapter on Margaret Paston's epistolary relationship with her husband and sons begins with the contrast between her inability to write and her respect for the written word, demonstrated by her advice to her son to remember his father's advice to keep safely his 'wrytyngs and evidens'.
With the death of her husband, however, Margaret was forced 'to confront the male-dominated basis of her literate practice' p. This new interpretation of familiar letters is intriguing, although the conclusion that Margaret came to understand how writing could change her life is not entirely convincing.
The first of the reading communities, or 'families', to be examined is the Norwich Lollards and it is argued that the women members of the sect had in common 'a sense of the importance of written texts and of "study", even if they were unable to read for themselves'.
Attention is drawn to the contradiction that saw members of a monastic order embracing poverty while owning valuable books. The nuns of Syon were expected to be living images of St Bridget and 'reading too was construed as an act of visual perception and reflection'. The particular nature of the involvement of the nuns in literate culture was helped by the fact that they were recruited from social circles in which book ownership by women was taken for granted.
Writers associated with the order were encouraged to produce reading material and devotional exercises to help the nuns manage 'the disjunction between their secular, familial experiences and the demands of life in the monastery'. The plausible answer is that women engaged with literate culture in a personal, familial context and it simply did not occur to them to write for a wider audience.Sex in Medieval Times!
Indeed, as Krug points out, 'The dominance of men in late medieval England, the inequality of access to education, and the expectation that women would be subordinate to men are facts about the past that will not go away'. A charming letter from a Paston wife to her husband about their first pregnancy, containing a witty postscript linking a ring which she had given him as a remembrance with her swollen stomach is wrongly attributed by Crawford to Margery Brews, Margaret Paston's daughter-in-law.
For Crawford this letter is simply an example of a woman happily exaggerating her size in order to get a new gown from her absent husband. For Krug, however, the correct attribution to Margaret Paston is vital, because her pregnancy demonstrates both her compliance with social norms and her contribution to her husband's prestige.
The letter becomes, 'like the ring, like her body, a remembrance for her husband that has explicitly extrinsic meaning'. However, men were sometimes able to choose their bride. Marriage back then was not based on love; most marriages were political arrangements. Husbands and wives were generally strangers until they first met. If love was involved at all, it came after the couple had been married. Even if love did not develop through marriage, the couple generally developed a friendship of some sort.
The arrangement of marriage was done by the bride and groom's parents. In the middle ages, girls were typically in their teens when they married, and boys were in their early twenties.
Romancing in Medieval Times: Knights, Love Potions & More!
The arrangement of the marriage was based on monetary worth. The family of the girl who was to be married would give a dowry, or donation, to the boy she was to marry. The dowry would be presented to the groom at the time of the marriage.
After the marriage was arranged, a wedding notice was posted on the door of the church. The notice was put up to ensure that there were no grounds for prohibiting the marriage.
The notice stated who was to be married, and if anyone knew any reasons the two could not marry they were to come forward with the reason. If the reason was a valid one, the wedding would be prohibited.
There were several reasons for prohibiting a marriage. One reason was consanguinity, meaning the couple was too closely related.