Sunday, 30 August 2009

Weak or Strong?

Having estabished that our heroine Alina was probably blond haired and blue eyed, what sort of person was she? She may have looked like a typical storybook heroine, but for the women of the aristocracy, life did not consist of embroidery and reading poetry, or being a decorative ornament on the dais next to her husband.

Since their men were so often away fighting, or training to fight, and since there were often several estates, which the lord would visit, most of the management of the estates was done by their wives. The household was a pyramidal structure, with a mass of ordinary servants who were controlled by a group of higher officials, and ultimately by the steward. But they were supervised by the lord and lady.

Most estates were largely self-sufficient in many ways. They grew their own food, and there would have been fish in the sea and the river. They had blacksmiths and farriers, tailors and armourers. For those familiar with Swansea, Orchard Street is where there was an orchard jsut outside the town gate, and Brynmill was indeed the site of a mill. But many items would need to be purchased, for example, the large quantity of spices used in medieval cooking, which were expensive and guarded like jewels.

The lady would have to authorise purchases, supervise the farms and livestock, keep accounts and manage the senior servants.

The medieval aristocratic household moved frequently, over considerable distances, visiting their estates and those of others. It operated like a well-oiled machine, packing all that was needed, including collapsible furniture, onto great sumpter horses and carts. There was also the need to transport goods bought from markets and fairs across the country.

Of course, when Alina was young, all this would have been the concern of her mother, Agnes, but she would have been raised to learn these skills. She married at the age of seven, but I don't know when she would have taken on her own household. Since her husband was only twelve, I would imagine they would not have set up on their own straight away, but her husband John de Mowbray, would inherit estates of his own, as well as those she would inherit from her father.

There was also a continual worry over money. Estates brought in revenue to their lords, but the De Breoses were very bad with money. I wonder how it affected Agnes and Alina?

So I think Alina would have been a strong character. She would have needed it for the future.

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