Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘aristocracy’


Nobles Had Little To Do With Their Children

Indeed the medieval magnates had surprisingly little to do with their children. Almost immediately after birth, they were handed over to the care of a nurse whose duties, as described by Bartholomew the Englishman, included not only the physical care of the child, but also the display of affection which is now considered essentially maternal. According to Bartholomew the nurse’s duties were very extensive. She was ordained to nourish and feed the child, to give it suck, to kiss it if it fell, and comfort it if it wept, and to wash it when it was dirty. The nurse was also to teach the child to speak by sounding out the words for him, to dose him with medicines when necessary, and even to chew the toothless child’s meat so that he could swallow it. The mother must have been a rather remote figure. Discipline was always considered the father’s primary duty. Bartholomew specifically insisted that the father must treat his child with harshness and severity. He should teach him with scoldings and beatings, put him under wardens and tutors, and, above all, show "no glad cheer lest the child wax proud". The old adage of "spare the rod and spoil the child" was firmly entrenched in all medieval treatises on the proper upbringing of children.

Margaret Wade Labarge, A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, pp. 45-46

No Match for a Well-Trained Aristocrat

All [medieval Japanese] warriors, regardless of rank, were trained in swordsmanship. Those of the upper ranks, of course, had more time to devote to the pursuit of excellence in this art, and to the pursuit of superior instructors—which explains why a retainer of lower rank, notwithstanding his longer exposure to the hardships of military life, was usually no match for a higher-ranking bushi in a duel. This type of situation…resembles that of Europe during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries [C.E.], when hardened veterans of countless battles were still no match for a well-trained aristocrat with a sword—the noble’s weapon which, with the rise of the bourgeoisie to power at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, became known as the gentleman’s weapon.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 254-55

Three Checks to Autocracy

The supreme, god-like position of the Assyrian monarch was promoted and enhanced in a variety of practical ways. Access to the king by individuals was, at best, extremely difficult, and the long walk through the gates and corridors flanked by bull and lion colossi and stone reliefs depicting the king slaying and mutilating his enemies would overwhelm the visitor, as it was intended to do, with ‘awesome splendour’…. The only mortal who could be regarded as an equal of the Assyrian king was a foreign king, whom the Assyrian monarch addressed as ‘my brother’, but even he was a potential subject of the ‘king of kings’….

The Assyrian king enjoyed absolute power over the state, there being only three checks to his autocratic rule, religion, legal precedent, and the temper of his nobles and officials. The monarch was subject to religious belief and practice, and examples of royal attempts to depart therefrom are extremely rare. As to legal precedent, the king had to respect the traditional rights of individuals, such as property ownership, and of groups or institutions, such as tax exemptions granted to privileged cities. Finally he had to respect the mood of the upper classes or run the risk, as a few kings did, of revolution and regicide. Apart from these considerations, however; the king’s will was supreme in all affairs of state. Indeed, in the legislative sphere he was not only the supreme but the sole legislator, his ‘law-making’ consisting of royal decrees. There was not even an assembly, as in Sumer, with which he might discuss a proposal, although he did seek advice from his various officials and sanction from the gods by means of omens. The king was presumably supreme judge, and he was definitely commander-in-chief of the army. In religion, although he was subject to commonly accepted beliefs and practices, as already mentioned, he was the high priest…of the god Ashur. This is in contrast to Babylonia where the high priest was not the same person as the king. Finally, even the economy was subject to his will, for in theory he owned all the land, and trade, both domestic and foreign, depended upon his sanction.

The Cambridge Ancient History, volume III, part 2, p. 196

Perpetuated Monopolies of the Aristocracy

The people who initially got control of economic resources immediately monopolized them. They could do anything they wanted thereafter provided that they remained a relatively homogenous and peaceful group. By and large they did remain homogenous and peaceful among themselves. They decided how to divide up the power, how to divide up the wealth, who should be king, and which family should become the royal dynasty. The instability in these societies usually came from external invasions by new peoples, who at various times pushed into these wealthy lands and gained control. Their control usually collapsed or was overthrown a few generations later by the old native aristocracy or by later invaders. But all invaders perpetuated the existing social structure, taking over the prerogatives of the old aristocracy.

Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, p. 3

Monastic Hospitality for Aristocratic Patrons

The monasteries of 10th and 11th century Europe [C.E.] were not simply communities of devout men and women living a life given over to corporate prayer and worship. Envisaged by monastic teachers as arks of salvation in a flood of worldly perils, they remained an integral part of the society which brought them into being. The Castilian monasteries were repositories of dynastic tradition, mausoleums, powerhouses of loyalty to the comital family. Links between the landed aristocracy and the monasteries were thus extremely close. Noblemen looked to the monastic houses of which they were the often very generous patrons for diverse reciprocal services and expressions of gratitude. The provision of hospitality was one of these. A patron would expect to be put up (with all his human and animal retinue), and probably in some style, in "his" monastery as in some sort of private hotel. The hospitality sought might be permanent. The active career of an aristocratic warrior might be as short as that of a 20th century footballer, and he had to have somewhere to spend what might be a long retirement. It is probably correct to envisage the monasteries of this period as containing more than a few incapacitated or elderly knights among the community. Assured of comfort and security, surrounded by fellows of their social rank to some of whom they might be related, ideally placed to receive news and gossip, they must have spent their declining years in an agreeable way.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, p. 66

Emphasis mine.