Slaves or Thinkers?

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Highlighting Historical Romance with Rue Allen who continues here series on Medieval Women: Slaves to Convention or Independent Thinkers (Part two of three)

In the first of my posts [published here on Sept. 5, 2019] about Medieval women and the common mis-conceptions about them, I discussed the holy women of the time, Abbesses, Anchoresses and various other women who gained authority and independence by means of their faith in God.

Today I intend to introduce you to the noblewomem. from Queens to the wives, mothers and daughters of barons and local squires. These are the women who like it or not were inhabitants of the male seats of power and authority. Their world was a place in which a woman’s greatest value was as a pawn in male power games. At least that’s what the stereotype would have us believe.

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Yes medieval noblewomen were by definition residents of the same cultural world as medieval noblemen. But they were far from passive by-standers traded by arranged marriage from one nobleman to another. Eleanor of Acquintaine is perhaps the most famous example of a powerful medieval noblewoman. She was heiress in her own right to the Duchy of Acquintaine and queen by marriage at one time of France and later in her life of England by her marriage to King Henry II. Her story is one of passion and tumult–her relationships with men were not always calm. Some aspects of her life, like the rise of courtly love practiced in Acquintaine and elsewhere in Europe would fit perfectly in today’s version of an historical romance novel. Other aspects of her life might not be so appealing to modern readers of romance. Eleanor was neither a kind nor a patient woman, and by modern standards probably not a very good mother. She did however, give as good as she got when interacting with the powerful men who surrounded her throughout her life.

Even though history is littered with Queens from many cultures and eras at the other end of the spectrum is the daughter, mother, sister or wife of, what we might call, minor noblemen such as barons and squires. It was these men and their families who made up the majority of the noble population in the Middle Ages. One of the best examples of the sort of life lived by women of minor nobility can be found a a source known to scholars as The Paston Letters.

These letters, covering a period of roughly 125 years were written between members of the Paston family to each other. Most numerous were those letters from Margaret, a Paston wife, to her husband, John. “John Paston spend much of his time in London, leaving his wife to look after his business (and properties) in Norfolk, a task, which Margaret, a sensible and competent woman, managed with considerable skill.” While Margaret often consults with and reports to her husband in her letters it is evident that she did not need to wait on his permission to act in his interests.

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A detailed look at the Paston letters would probably show that marriages were arranged for the economic and social advantage of the family. The family’s advancement from local gentry to the Earlship of Yarmouth. The men of the Paston family did not manage alone. They had the aid and advantage of ‘sensible and competent’ women like Margaret who acted both independently and on their own authority.

When next I visit Hightlighting Historical Romance, I’ll deliver the final of these three posts about Medieval woman. Meanwhile feel free to comment with your thoughts about these fascinating women.

About the Book

A True and Perfect Knight

Is Theirs a Match Made in Hell or a Marriage Made in Heaven?

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Baron Haven De Sessions knows a hundred reasons to despise the widow Dreyford.  The widow is entirely too independent and a suspected traitor.  Worst of all, she had been married to his best friend—a man Haven arrested for plotting against the king.  Haven believes the treacherous widow should have given up her head, not his childhood friend.  Now an oath to that same friend forces him to protect a woman he does not want and cannot trust.

Genvieve Dreyford has her own reasons to detest De Sessions.  The man is far too handsome, and his reputation as Edward I’s most ‘true and perfect’ knight has swelled the baron’s head.  Worst of all, Gennie believes he betrayed his friendship with her husband to curry favor with the English king.  Now, because of Haven De Sessions, Gennie has lost her home, her title and nearly everything she held dear.  Only for the sake of her family, will Gennie place herself in the power of a man she fears and mistrusts.

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“This is a quick-paced and intriguing historical romance. The setting of medieval England and Wales make for an interesting story. The characters are well-drawn, with enough quirks to make them memorable. The plot catches your attention right away and keeps it right through the last paragraph. I very much enjoyed this book”. Merrie Weiler, Booksprout.

“I loved both Haven & Gennie and how they locked horns from the start. He was hard on the outside but oh so gentle, for example how he tenede to her feet. She was feisty and strong and determined to fight for what she felt was right. I also loved Thomas who brough a lightness to the book. My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read. I received a free copy of this book via BookSprout and am voluntarily leaving a review. JanB BookSprout.

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Heat Rating: R

About the Author

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I’m Rue Allyn, and mostly I’m about writing stories, books about heart melting romance. Books about characters and adventures in which love triumphs at the darkest moment. The kind of suspenseful, hopeful, cathartic romance that melts a reader’s heart. Subscribe to Rue’s News to get all the latest about me and my books, and you can join my crew for fun and games.

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4 thoughts on “Slaves or Thinkers?

  1. Carol, thank you very much for the opportunity to share my knowledge and thinking about medieval women. Hope this sparks some discussion among historical romance authors and readers.

  2. I found this post very interesting. From reading historical romance I admit to only believing the stereotypes were true representations. Any character that was especially brave, outspoken or bold seemed dangerously modern, created for our 21st C. sensibilities. I went back and read your first post in this series. Both articles turned out to be not only very interesting, but had the added spark of making me go down the rabbit hole of looking up this and that thing mentioned. Like the Paston Letters. Thank you!

  3. Michelle. I’m glad I could inspire you. There are brave and unique women in every generation, but they tend to be exceptions. I believe romance, especially historical romance should show the strength and bravery of women in all walks of life a rather than those few extraordinary individuals like Joan of Arc. Hope you enjoy the discoveries you make as you look up this and that.

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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