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Daily Medieval Life

Wealthy Medieval Women are often depicted in fiction, art, and film as damsels in distress. Their sole purpose in the world is to wait to be rescued by an attractive price or knight. These depictions are completely false. In Medieval Europe, the lives of women were extremely active. A woman’s way of life, her expected activities, and her daily schedule were all based on her class, education, and religious beliefs. There were three basic classes of women: the lady, the working woman, and the peasant. Positions of Wealthy Women

The top level position for a woman, was to be a lady – a woman of wealth. The position of Queen held the most respect and the most power. These women dealt directly with politics and law making. A Queen’s descendants included Royal Princesses, Duchesses, Countesses, and Baronesses. In additional to nobility, there were also women of the aristocracy. Wealthy city heiresses were women (wives and daughters) who gained their status and wealth through marriage. Wealthy women were arranged into marriages as babies, physically married at the age of 7 and had their first child at the age of 13 or 14.

The arrangement of the marriage was determined by the girl’s father and no one else. Women had no choice during medieval times in their selection of a husband. If a girl’s father died before the arrangement of a marriage, the father would be sure to leave the daughter a dowry. This would be used to encourage male suitors or if marriage was not possible then to place the girl into a nunnery. There were only two options for wealthy women of Medieval Europe – being a wife or being a nun. Nunneries were exclusively for upper class women. These women could include wives, widows, and daughters.

They were often used as a safe and restrictive place for men to send their women (daughters or wives) in their absence. For example if a husband must travel abroad for extensive periods of time without his wife, he would place her “comfortably” in a nunnery. Education Education of girls within a nunnery taught young girls to read and write. These girls were encouraged to story tell, read romantic novels, and evaluate poetry. They were schooled in fashion sense and proper attire for themselves and any men that would be in their future lives. Nunneries also provided girls with proper manners and societal behaviors.

Speaking properly was another essential quality for a wealthy woman. Girls were also expected to play chess, hawking, play musical instruments, and sing. Additionally, wealthy girls were often sent to stay with women of the upper class, as mentors. In these wealthy households girls were introduced to society in hopes of finding a proper husband. The talents learned and polished within the nunnery could now be used in a practical setting. Many men valued proper manners over intelligence and believed in the old adage – women should be seen and not heard. Ownership

Wealthy women in medieval times owned land usually by inheritance. Women who owned land were considered a person of importance in the community. When a woman of this class married, everything she owned became her husband’s property for as long as she is married. Widows were allowed to only one third of the marital property. She was expected to remarry. However, these wealthy wives in times of need were expected to take the roles of their husbands if he should die or be called away for emergency business. She was expected to look after the manor in the times of her husband absence.

She was expected to collect rent, direct the work on the farm, understand and enforce laws which effect her husband’s property. Additionally she would be required to manage, budget, pay bills, take care of household expenses, give to charity, and pay officials. She was expected to know how to spend her allowance wisely. Manor House In larger manor homes, the production of consumable goods for the people the manor house supported would be overseen by the woman of the house. Usually rooms and sometimes small out buildings would be built to house these operations.

For example, all baked good would be made in the bake house which would be next to the mill. Other consumable goods, made at manor houses, would be ale, bread, butter, cheese, candles, bacon, winter meats, clothes, and spinning of silk. The woman of the manor would in addition to controlling the farm or dairy would also be in charge of hiring help and house servants. She was in charge of the daily purchase of top of the line meats, wines, and raw materials that could not be made at the manor house. Wealthy women of the medieval period in Europe would also be skilled at gardening.

She would understand the basics of gardening (flowers) as well as fruit trees and direct the gardening staff. These women were also keen business women fully capable of hiring tradesman to do home improvements projects and bargain for the best prices. These ladies had a good sense of the law and would be able to write and draw up wills and business contracts as needed in the day to day activity of the manor house. Social Activities Community and social activities were extremely important to all people during the Medieval period, wealthy and poor alike.

Members of the upper class would be expected to attended all the cities events. These events would include fairs which consisted of street performers, and vendors, a variety of games, and knightly tournaments. This would be one of the few ways in which the upper and lower classes would have occasion to intermingle. Medieval weddings were also quite the event and the whole town would turn out to celebrate including the Lady and Lord of the Manor. Wealthy women and members of the upper classes would often attend the theater in the larger cities.

They would travel to these cities on covered carriages and sometimes a overnight stay at a luxury hotel was necessary. Clothing The difference in women’s clothing between the upper and middle classes was usually in the material the clothing was made from. Wealthy women would require fine silks and cottons. Most women’s clothing, in style, consisted of tunics or long dresses which would cover the ankles and usually drag on the ground. Underneath the tunics a blouse would be worn. In public most women actually wore a “kirtle” (a shorter tunic) on top of their long one.

Women who were married were required to wear caps which would keep their hair sufficiently in place. Most wealthy married women wore their hair in a bun. Veils, and braids were also popular medieval hairstyles. Hygiene Medieval society was not as dirty as often depicted in history. Bathing was not an easy activity especially in the absence of indoor plumbing. The ability to bathe and how often one could bathe was dependent on how wealthy a person was. More affluent families, those living in manor houses or castles would use wood tubs that were heated by a fire.

In the warmer summer months, baths would sometimes take place outdoors. Manors houses would actually hire a person who sole purpose was to draw and maintain baths for the entire family. This person was essential in the daily lives of medieval wealthy women and would often travel with the family. Food What a woman ate during the middle ages was based on the class of the woman. Women living in manor households usually have their choice of a variety of foods. Fowl was a popular choice and included chickens, larks, geese, duck, and capons.

Their own farms would make available a whole selection of meats like beef, lamb, and bacon. If their houses were near water they could also have a variety of fish like salmon, eels, and fish from fresh water lakes like bass and trout. Wealthy families could also afford grains, and dairy products like cheese and milk daily. Regardless, of the variety of these available foods. Most medieval diets lacked vitamins specifically A, C, and D which lead to chronic health problems. Health The medieval period in Europe was still uneducated especially about medical and health issues.

Most people, upper and lower classes, believed that health was controlled by God. Disease was seen as punishment for some wrong doing. Diseases of the body were a constant struggle as well as infection from any type of injury. This was because of the lack of hygiene and also the lack of vitamins within the daily diet. Local barbers also were the local surgeons, and bleeding was the only form of acceptable treatment for a number of health problems. Affluent women did have better access to new medical treatments. However, the advancement of medicine was slow.

As time progressed, medical treatments became more successful. Hospitals and well experienced doctors were luxuries only the rich could afford. It was trendy during the medieval period of wealthy families to seek out doctors from the east. Doctors from the orient were seen as much more experienced. Disease While skin disease, and pneumonia were concerns for the peasants of society, they were less of a concern for wealthier women. However, wealthy women were often plagued with mental disorders – depression, hysteria, and manic behavior.

Leprosy was the major medical fear of the time and that was replaced by the plague. The plague was an equal opportunity killer and wealthy women were not excluded as it’s victims. Black Death In 1347, the Black Death was killing people at an alarming rate. One in four people, over a three year period, would suffer and then die of the Black Death. Wealthy women living inn cities were more at risk then people living in isolated areas because this disease was spread by sick people having contact with other people.

However, class and no amount of money could not prevent the Black Plague from taking family members. The disease spread from rats to people, and then people would spread it to other people. The disease effected all systems of the body, and once a person had it – it was terminal. Wealthy women would have a Christian funeral and be buried within a family plot near their local church. Affluent women would be buried in elaborate wood caskets and have a church service before the burial. Conclusion Medieval wealthy women had the best of both worlds.

They lived in the lap of luxury having the finest of foods, clothing, houses, and medical care. They were educated and often got a chance to become aggressively involved in the business affairs of their manor houses and the management of farms. However, it is important to remember that wealthy women of this time, regardless of intellect or wealth, were always seen as property. No level of achievement negated the fact that women were inferior creatures and should always be subordinated by the will of their fathers, and husbands.

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