Medieval Romance for NoblesEngland has always been an extremely class based society, and mobility between classes was all but forbidden. It's very hard for us to really imagine this, in a modern time where people can become rich or poor, world famous or a nobody in the blink of an eye. In many ways we are EXTREMELY fortunate in how open our modern society is (at least in most of the cultures). In medieval England, based on a feudal society, who your parents were meant everything. If you were rich - but of a poor family - you were still low class.
For a perfect example of this attitude, read Persuasion by Jane Austin. This book was written in the early 1800s and still clearly reverberates with that feudal system. Even at that date, the rules were only beginning to bend slightly.
In many senses, the nobles come out "on top" in these rule systems. Taxes are paid in to them. They are the only ones allowed to eat wild animals - venison, rabbits, bears, etc. Peasants can be slain for poaching these animals. Nobles get fine clothing, fine jewelry, fine food brought in from Asia, Africa and other exotic locations. Nobles have servants to tend to their needs, and can spend their time embroidering, reading, and socializing with friends.
However, these luxuries bring on their own set of problems. Nobles were often targets for ransom and killing. Noble men were expected to actually defend their peasants, meaning they were on the front lines in warfare. At times this was a quite regular threat. The peasants could hide within the walls while the nobleman sallied forth with his soldiers. Noblewomen could not have the freedom to pursue their interests. While many village women could enjoy hobbies of making pottery, designing dresses or baking delicious desserts, many of these things were considered "beneath" a noblewoman's time and she would be actively ridiculed if she began doing the activities.
Even worse of course was the romantic aspect. Some say that it was the poor noble women who were forced into loveless marriages. Actually it was ALL noble children who were stuck in an awful situation here. Nobility was all about land and title. Parents were EXTREMELY conscious about their rank and station and wanted to ensure that the family the child brought in at the wedding ceremony was worthy of the alliance. It is hard to even think of an analogy in modern times that makes sense, since we are so far removed (in general) from this type of thinking.
Imagine you were raising pure bred, pure white husky dogs and that your parents had done this, and your grandparents had done this. For eighty years you had been extremely carefully breeding and interbreeding and perfecting the line of huskies to create the perfect height, width, and color of an ideal Husky. And now you had reached that perfection with a husky named Snowflake. Snowflake was the ideal husky - and now you wanted to ensure you could create lots of Snowflake babies, to perpetuate your creation and bring pride to your family, and wealth to your coffers.
But now imagine that Snowflake ran off and began having sex with a daschund mongrel - creating babies which were nothing like your idea. And say Snowflake refused to listen to you, and wanted to live in a dirty dog house, ruining her fine white coat, getting fleas. You as the dog owner would be irate! This was your one perfect end result of 80 years of planning! How could Snowflake ruin it all with her base desires?
This is exactly how parents thought. They deliberately created children in order to continue the family line, to perpetuate the holding of land, to carry the title. Those kids couldn't just go off and join up with another family willy-nilly! They had to join a family of the proper background, the proper breeding, so that the family tree would maintain its stellar reputation and the next generation could hold its head up high. So both male and female children were carefully instructed who they could marry with those ideals in mind. It was expected that they would learn to love - or perhaps at least tolerate - the person chosen for them.
Part of this of course is that the parents went through the same thing :) We all well know that if WE go through something, we tend to figure "Heck if it was good enough for me, it is good enough for them!" And especially if the parents had a thwarted love in their own past, they are likely to think, "I had to give up MY love for the good of the family. She better darn well do it too."
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