Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Middle Ages

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When you think of the Middle Ages, you may think of honorable knights or gigantic castles. In this essay I will be focusing on a much different subject, the ladies of the court.

In the Middle Ages, women were not regarded as equals to men. Church leaders even called women evil. Even in marriage women were treated unfairly. Many noblewomen were married before they were fourteen years old. When a woman married, she forfeited her land and rights to her husband. Women were taught to obey their husband. The law allowed a man to beat his wife if he thought something was her fault. Women could get beat for ridiculous reasons like giving birth to a mentally challenged child. Upon their husband’s death, women would receive only one third of his land.

Many noblewomen had several responsibilities. When their husbands were away, many noblewomen took on the responsibility of running his land. With this power, women would then be able to settle local disputes, manage the farms, and handle finances. Some women even fought battles and defended their husband’s castles when they were under siege. Noblewomen were taught as children how to manage a large household, give orders to servants, and to keep accounts. The wife of a knight would organize domestic tasks such as cooking, brewing, making clothes, and picking lice out of people’s hair. She would hire laborers, supervise stewards, and sell produce. Female landowners were powerful figures, and an unmarried woman of property had equal legal rights as men. They even had their own seal.

Women also did things on their own time. They could become honorary members of certain knightly orders, such as the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Women members were known as Chevaliers. Unlike men, ladies did not go hunting except on extraordinary occasions. Most ladies preferred the sport of chasing small birds with hawks.

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There are not very many well-known famous women of the Middle Ages. Eleanor of Aquitaine went on a crusade in full armor. She also divorced King Louis VII of France, and married Henry II of England, who she later led a rebellion against. Joan of Flanders, also known as the Countess of Brittany, defended her husband’s castle and led a counterattack with what one writer called “The courage of a man and the bravery of a lion.” Christine de Pisan wrote poetry and books protesting the way women were both glorified and insulted by male authors.

In closing, I hope you have learned a great deal of interesting facts about ladies of the court. I also hope you know appreciate all the women who grew up during the Middle Ages.

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