Saturday, 29 June 2013

Harsh reality

"In 1206 Walter fitz Gilbert died leaving a widow, Emma and two daughters, Alina and Alesia. Herbert de Penewurth offered two hundred marks and two palfreys for the marriage of the widow, but at the price of two marks and one palfrey she obtained leave to marry whom she would, subject to the king's assent.
In 1207 she married Peter de Vaux, who paid the king five palfreys."

Such little snippets found in old manuscripts amaze and horrify women today. The thought of not being able to choose the man you married, and having to bribe the king in order to have any choice at all, is deeply upsetting. I don't know how men feel about it, but authors ought to take note of such transactions and include them in their storylines. Tales of feisty heroines running off into the countryside and meeting a handsome young knight who feels impelled to protect, love and marry them are just so much the stuff of dreams.

The reality is more likely a man of mature years seeking a second wife because his first has died in childbirth. His first priority may well be to ask what she brings with her in terms of land or property, and the size of her dowry. Her looks were probably immaterial, or at best a lucky bonus if she was passably handsome. He may well have battle scars, missing teeth and several children as old as the bride, but who wants to write, or read, of such marriages? But it doesn't hurt to inject a little reality into historical romances. Not every girl got to marry the equivalent of Mel Gibson.

1 comment:

Ursula Thompson said...

You do a good job of touching this particular subject with Meg Douglas, her father and his child bride - who was ten years younger than his daughter.