Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anne Easter Smith Guest Post - "Queen By Right" Virtual Book Tour

It has been a pleasure being able to participate in the "Queen By Right" tour. Anne Easter Smith is an amazing author who I'm honored to host today.  Thank you, Anne, for this fascinating post!.

Medieval ideas of love and marriage: A Guest Post by Anne Easter Smith

Cecily Neville and Richard, duke of York, are said to have had one of history’s few real love matches in an arranged marriage. This probably came about because they were together at Cecily’s father’s castle of Raby from an early age. Richard was orphaned when he was only four, and after being put in the care of Sir Robert Waterton for several years, his wardship was eventually purchased by Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland. And so Richard would have met and been under the same roof as Cecily when he was twelve and she was eight. It was not long afterward that Ralph wisely betrothed his youngest daughter to the young duke. Richard Plantagenet had a strong claim to the throne (but that’s another story!), so when he married Cecily she became the highest ranking of all the Neville clan.

When Ralph died in 1426, he willed the wardship to his wife, Joan, who was then placed in the king’s household with Cecily and Richard until Richard took his place at court, probably when he was 17. In Queen By Right I have the couple married before November 1429 when we know Richard received a Papal indulgence to have a portable altar and a confessor “for the duke of York and his duchess” (so we know they were married by then).

You might ask why it was unusual for theirs to be a love match? As lovers of historical fiction, I’m sure you know that most marriages from the gentry up to the royals were those of political and economical expedience. Many contracts were arranged between families when their offspring were only a few years old. But these young people might live at opposite ends of the country from each other and never meet until the legal age for marriage arrived: 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Sometimes--in the case of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou--one or other had someone stand proxy for them and you might be married before you even saw your husband! Imagine dreaming about your knight in shining armor or your Guinevere and being forced to live the rest of your days with Eygor from Frankenstein or Cruella Deville. Yes, a familiar love grew between couples in many cases, but it was hardly what we know today as conjugal bliss! Romantic love was most definitely missing for these very often mismatched pairs; can you blame them for looking for it elsewhere?

And so early in the medieval period, the troubadours began to sing about love and romance, which quickly spread to literature and pretty soon, anyone born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth was caught up in what we would probably call affairs today. We now refer to this idealized version of romance as “courtly love.” We would laugh at it now as it was highly exaggerated and artificial; we would also deem it highly dangerous as it’s most exciting aspect was secrecy. When a knight or lord fancied a lady, he was supposed to let her know by sending her secret gifts, singing her songs or penning poems. The lady on the other hand was supposed to  only afford her pining lover a mere nod of approval and hint at affection. The relationship was more of a mistress dominating her servant, and the men apparently went for it.

Did they go all the way? You betcha! In fact medieval intellectuals believed that romantic love had to be adulterous because everyone knew that marriage was just for begetting children, thus real love was precious and lovers should be allowed to carry on in secret. Andrew the Chaplain, a medieval clergyman, wrote: “Love rarely survives when it becomes common knowledge.” And Heloise (the lover of Abelard) is said to have stated: “The love freely given matters. The name of ‘wife’ may seem more sacred or more worthy, but sweetest to me will always be the words ‘lover, concubine or whore.’”  Quite controversial for even our time, wouldn’t you say!

Back to Cecily and Richard. Compared with many of their rank in the 15th century, there is no evidence of Richard ever having a mistress--or a bastard that has surfaced in this age of genealogy fascination--and Cecily faithfully followed her husband around the country or to France or to Ireland or wherever his career took him dragging her children with her. When Richard returned from 10-months exile in Ireland and the king had tried to stop his progress from the North Wales coast to London, the first person he sent for was Cecily, who raced up to meet him at Worcester, to where he’d pushed his way down, gathering men as he went. It was one of the few times she went to him without her children. I am sure it wasn’t to talk about the weather or how little George and Richard were, I think they were hungry to wrap their arms about each other.

For more information please visit Anne Easter Smith’s WEBSITE and FACEBOOK PAGE.

“Thank you Theresa, for hosting me here at Just One More Paragraph”.  – Anne Easter Smith

Make sure to stop by the Queen By Right Virtual Book Tour Page to hear what others had to say about Queen By Right and to read more guest posts by Anne Easter Smith.

1 comment:

  1. I would really love to learn about one of the rare love matches in English Royal History. Please enter me in this giveaway.