Category Archives: History: Did you know?

Husbandry in the 16th Century

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Book of Husbandry

Did you know? In the Tudor Era work wages varied from Summer to Winter, as the days were longer or shorter. There was also no Welfare state. Poor people begged and were provided for by the charity of the wealthy merchants, nobility, and royalty. In fact, one main role of the Queen was to provide and care for the poor and orphans. Queens who did a good job, were hailed as good queens, were very popular and loved by the people. This was an important part of acceptance for her as usually she was foreign and needed to establish a good relationship with the people of her new home. Queens who did not do a good job were disliked and put themselves in more difficult and even often times dangerous situations. A queen consort was as secure as she was according to the love of her people. This love was gained by being generous and providing heirs. For the working and peasant classes, while men folk toiled, women also had their work to do. According to The Book of Husbandry by Sir Anthony Fitzherbert a hubsand’s wife must:

Clean the house
Feed the calves
Feed the pigs
Got to market if her husband was not available
Help her husband fill and empty the muck cart
Know how to make hay, winnow corn and malt
Look after the poultry and collect eggs
Make clothes from wool by spinning and weaving
Make butter and cheese
Prepare all her husband’s meals
Prepare the milk
Supervise servants (if she had any)
Wake and dress the children

Keep in mind, these women had no birth control, only the most basic rights, and no underwear… They still had to do their chores pregnant, during their monthly cycles, or not feeling well. It was that or starve. (At least there was no Facebook to distract them 😉 .)

P.S. You can find the old 1534 print of this book for 8.713,38 Euros or about 11,809.77 US dollars at this rare book site: http://www.biblio.com/rare-books.html (Some nice books there 😉 )

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His Grace, His Majesty

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Grace and Majesty

Did you know? Henry VII was the first king to be called “Your Majesty.” Before that, Kings were known as “Your Grace.” Until 1485 the king was “primus inter pares” (first among equals) but the Tudors lifted royal status much higher. However, “Most Gracious Majesty” was only used in the most formal of occasions. King Henry VIII decided Majesty should become the style of the sovereign of England. The Stuart Family, who followed in 1603, tried to go further and make it mandatory and official. This kind of increase in sovereignty eventually resulted in a Civil War in Great Britain (1642-1648) and the execution of Charles I (1649).

Childbirth and Child Bed Fever

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Lying In Chamber

Noble women in the Medieval and Renaissance era, believe it or not, died more often than peasant women in child birth for a few reasons. One reason was the fact that it was a Queens duty to produce as many heirs as possible because infant mortality was so high. For example, Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492) had 10 babies, her husband’s mother Duchess Cecily (1415-1495) had 7. These are how many children were born, we can assume there were other pregnancies that were miscarriages. Even today with modern medicine, 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Noble women had baby right after baby because they were not allowed to nurse their own babies. Wet nurses were hired to nurse royal children, making the Queen able to get pregnant again. Until fairly recently, most children were nursed at their mother’s breast for two years. Nursing exclusively normally stops ovulation. This means peasant women had one baby every couple years usually, whereas Queens had babies (or were pregnant) nearly every year.

Another reason childbirth was less dangerous for peasant women (it was still was dangerous, just not as dangerous) was the lying in chamber. During the 8th month of pregnancy, Important ladies were locked away in a dark, stuffy bed chamber. The windows were even blocked by heavy tapestry keeping out fresh air. She was surrounded by her ladies, and not allowed to leave. They believed this was protecting the mother and child, when really it did more harm than good. So many germs, but also so depressing… could you imagine the life it would suck out you just having to be in there everyday for a month or more? Women have easier, safer childbirth when they get plenty of exercise. Not having enough exercise can actually cause complications. Women who don’t walk when pregnant, even in the very last months have a higher chance of breech birth needing to surgically remove the infant. Back then that meant sure death for the mother, and usually death for the infant. The stuffy germ filled chamber usually cause infection and fever. And how did people back then treat fever? By trying to make you sweat it out by heating the chamber, which we now know is the worse thing you can do. In a way, the peasants way was actually better.