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Lords and Ladies
The life of nobility in the Middle Ages was majestic, and the lords and ladies held much power. Noble's lands were attained through a promise that they made to the king of the country. The king promised to provide land, or fiefs, to the noble and that noble then swore his fealty to the king and promised to give men to fight as soldiers in times of war. (Nelson) The lives of noble men and women were comparatively easy when compared to the lives of serfs and peasants; however they always had a full schedule for their daily lives and the occasional special event. One aspect of noble life that is many times overlooked is the life of noble children. (Rickert and Naylor)
As the sun slowly rises over the horizon, the lord and lady are themselves rising out of bed to begin their day. The first thing to be done was to get dressed then attend Mass to make morning prayers. After the morning prayers, was breakfast after which the lord and lady would go their separate ways. The lord would next go to hear reports on the state of affairs in his fief, he would also hold court where he could settle disputes and grant requests. (Daily Life of a Noble Lord in the Middle Ages) While the lord was holding court the lady would be discussing events such as tournaments, marriages, and engagements. Also, if there were any upper class girls living with the lord and lady, she would be in charge of their education. (Daily Life of a Noblewoman in the Middle Ages) After the lord had attended to the business of the fief, he would then practice weaponry. When he had finished with the weaponry practice, the lord and the lady shared mid-morning prayers and a small meal. (Daily Life of a Noble Lord in the Middle Ages) Once the mid-morning meal was finished, the lord and lady would then depart for a second time, this was considered to be leisure time. The lady would first supervise the evening meal and then practice embroidery and dancing. (Daily Life of a Noblewoman in the Middle Ages) The lord would spend his afternoons hunting, or inspecting the estate. After all their activities had been finished, the lord and lady said their evening prayers and ate supper. During or after supper there was usually some form of entertainment, whether it was a juggler, a dancing bear, or a troubadour. After dinner were evening prayers and bed. And so, the noble’s day was finished. (Daily Life of a Noble Lord in the Middle Ages)
Compared to the masses in medieval times, noble children made up a small percentage of the population. Medieval children, like today’s children loved to play. The children did very basic activities like tag, and using their imagination to amuse themselves. They were very curious and liked to imitate what they saw their parents doing. As children grew older, they could expect to learn behaviors not only from parents but from teachers and neighbors. Should they be caught making mischief, the usual manner of teaching lessons was corporal punishment. Life in medieval times was harsh, and children had to learn fast if they wanted to survive. As the noble children developed these basic skills, they also learned etiquette for their lives as nobles. Even though they lived their entire lives privileged, they were still made to simple tasks such as making their beds, cleaning their shoes, and washing their clothes. Children were also taught about their diets. They were told when to eat, what to eat and how to eat. The children were limited to three glasses of wine a day by their parents. (Snell) Education was not of upmost importance even to noble families. Most teaching would be done father to son, and mother to daughter. The boys would be taught to run the fief, while the girls would be taught to manage the home. (Rickert and Naylor) The rare formal teaching that was done was in nunneries and traditionally only girls were sent to them, although on some rare occasions boys were also sent while they were young. While in nunneries, the children would learn how to read, and sometimes write. The nuns would also teach them how to spin and do needlework.
Some of the girls from noble families would go on to become nuns themselves, usually against their parents’ wishes. If a noble girl did not attend a nunnery, she was sent to live with another noble family where she would be taught the practical instead of the academic; she would learn more about the operations of the household. While living in the house of other nobles, the girls were expected to act as servants to the older noble ladies of the house. They would learn how to do light cooking, preserve fruits, and to shoot a bow. The noble girls would also have intensive etiquette lessons where they could learn to mingle with the most well-known nobility in the land. (Noble Women in Middle Ages) If a noble boy was to become a true scholar, he would be taken to a monastery where he would be raised by monks. Traditionally, the younger sons of noble families would be sent away at a young age to live at a monastery. As the boys lived at the monasteries, they learned many things such as: reading, writing, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. The younger sons of a noble family, after they had completed this education, were sometimes apprenticed to very rich and powerful merchants, bankers, and other craftsmen where they would learn a trade. When they had finished their apprenticeship, they were expected to show favors to their family. (Snell)
In addition to the day to day lives of nobles, there were several events throughout the year that they might attend. The most joyous of these was a noble wedding. Noble boys could marry at the age of 14, while noble girls could marry at the age of 12. Even so many were betrothed as infants. Noble weddings would have been a huge event, with weeks of preparation. The day of the event would be very happy and extravagant. When a noble woman came into a marriage she was required to bring a dowry, or a collection of items. In Medieval times, a marriage was not considered legal until it was consummated. For the celebration of the marriage, there would be 9 days of feasting and jousting. (Noble Women in Middle Ages) Another exciting event for nobility was the tournament, where knights of the realm could gain the glory and honor of war without any of the unpleasantness. The most popular event in the tournament was the joust in which two mounted knights attempted to dismount the other from atop their horse. (The Medieval Tourney) In addition to these two events was the feast, which usually took place on holidays or other special occasions. Many lords and ladies would be in attendance at one of these events, and it was common for them to exchange gifts. (Nelson)
The life of Medieval nobles was an exciting affair. The nobles, unlike the peasants had many things to look forward to take their minds off of daily troubles. From children, nobles were groomed in a certain manner, to act in a specific way. Whether they liked it or not, no one is sure. One statement is certain, however, whatever they did, the nobles did it well.
Daily Life of a Noble Lord in the Middle Ages. n.d. 15 April 2011 <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/daily-life-noble-lord-middle-ages.htm>.
Daily Life of a Noblewoman in the Middle Ages. n.d. 16 April 2011 <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/daily-life-noblewoman-middle-ages.htm>.
Nelson, Lynn. Love Poetry and Social Change, 1100-1350. 1 January 2001. 16 April 2011 <http://www.vlib.us/medieval/lectures/nobility.html>.
Noble Women in Middle Ages. n.d. 16 April 2011 <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/noble-women-in-the-middle-ages.htm>.
Rickert, Edith and N.J. Naylor, The Babees' Book. Cambridge: In Parentheses Publications, 2000.
Snell, Melissa. The Medieval Child. n.d. 16 April 2011 <http://historymedren.about.com/od/medievalchildren/a/child_learn.htm>.
The Medieval Tourney. n.d. 17 April 2011 <http://www.nationaljousting.com/history/medieval.htm>.