marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
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marycatelli

Young Medieval Women

Young Medieval Women edited by Katherine J. Lewis, Noel James Menuge, and Kim M. Phillips

Being a collection of essays on medieval woman, some of them specifically about maidens, and some about issues that would have been important to maidens, even if not specific to that age group.

The first essay is very specific:  the age of maidenhood, a woman old enough to marry but neither married nor having taken the veil -- as shown by her loose, unbound hair -- was in some ways treated as the perfect age for women.  The perfect age for men was in their thirties, but in such works as the Coronation of the Virgin or the Pearl, the woman involved is shown as a maiden, even though the Virgin lived to a ripe old age (reports of sixty or seven-two), and the Pearl maiden had in fact died before she was two.  Though this was less formalized than men's perfect age, which had theologians speculating that at the resurrection, everyone, regardless of age at death, would rise in their thirties.

The lives of the virgin martyrs were used to educate girls, which leads to what virtues they recommend.  Such as alms-giving.  And education.  Education was so respectable that St. Agnes was spotted by the pagan young man who fell in love with her while she was returning home from school.

Queen-making and the scandal of Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.  There had been only two kings who had married women previously married before -- Eleanor of Aquitaine had her lands which made her past overlookbable, and Joan of Navarre married a widowed king.  (Plus Joan of Kent, who never actually became queen.)   Discussion of the qualifications of a queen, of which child-bearing was obviously important, but did not trump the need for the king to marry a virgin.  The validation a queen could give, not only through alliances -- a request from the merciful queen could allow the king to relent without looking weak.  I particularly like the discussion of the coronations, where the woman about to be crowned would come dressed in white and with her hair loose and unbound, regardless of her martial status and history, and even whether she had borne children.  The appropriate queen was crowned after her marriage when she was still a maiden, and so all queens dressed as maidens for their coronations.

The age of consent and the treatment of female wards in both chivalric romance and real life.  "Free consent" had a much more restricted meaning, but still enough to cause considerable trouble to the matrimonial plans of guardians.  Goldborough in Havelock the Dane is uncommonly lucky because her marriage to a man who appears quite poor turns out well -- he's actually the rightful heir to the throne of Denmark.

Prostitution in England and how it differed from the continent.  It can be hard to tell from records because women were presented for fornication, not prostitution. so you have to guess which ones are actual prostitutes based on their pattern.  And there was only one place that had an authorized brothel, and the laws for it, unlike the continent, are chiefly oriented toward letting the women come and go freely.

And other topics, which also have their interesting sides.
Tags: ethos, families: matrimony, history reviews: medieval, non-fiction: essays, secondary source, world-building: royalty, world-building: social structure
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