Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, and with the advent of feudalism and the increased influence of ecclesiastical law near the end of the Middle Ages, women lost many of the legal advantages they had possessed during the first few centuries of the Middle Ages.
Since divorces were rare, most custody disputes involved contests between a parent and a third party (or between two third parties, if both parents were dead.) This was most likely to occur when a father died leaving a will in which he named a third party to take care of the children. In such cases, the father had a legal right to designate a testamentary guardian for his child other than the child’s mother.
image: David playing the harp, surrounded by musicians and dancing children. C. 1500-10, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague
If you have kids and want them to learn about Middle Ages try visiting this great blog I discovered. It’s full of museum walks, DIY workshops, interesting and easy-to-understand lessons. Here are some of the tags:
Back in the Middle Ages a priest named Datedo disposed the institution of Italy’s first orphanage for children born out of adultery to save them from abandone and death.
In 1198 Pope Innocent III ordered the Santo Spirito hospital to install a wooden “Ruota” (Wheel) behind a wooden door into which women could anonymously slip new-born babies they were unable to keep, then ring a bell before they fled into the night. The last of this “Cradles of Love” was inaugurated at Abbiategrasso, Milan, on Christmas Eve 2009.
This true story occurred in 1386 in Falaise, Normandy, France. A sow was sentenced to be ‘mangled and maimed in the head and forlegs, and then to be hanged, for having torn the face and arms of a child and thus caused its death…As if to make the travesty of justice complete, the sow was dressed in man’s clothes and executed on the public square near the city hall at the expense to the state of ten sous and ten deniers, besides a pair of gloves to the hangman.’
(from E.P. Evans: The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals).
Childhood in Medieval England, c.500-1500
Nicholas Orme, University of Exeter
image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Children’s games
Again something for my followers that have kids. :) Or just something from our childhoods.
You don’t want me to get started on this one so here’s a short version: my favorite animated movie of all times. This opening scene always reminds me of my childhood, of all the times I watched this and cried, and laughed. This was my first encounter with fantasy stories. The animation is beautiful, the script, the cast, everything.
Plus, it’s clearly set in a medieval-like world. So, if by any strange accident, you haven’t watched this, please do. And share the thoughts.
“Lullay, mine liking" is a Middle English lyric poem or carol of the 15th century which frames a narrative describing an encounter of the Nativity with a song sung by the Virgin Mary to the infant Christ.
Here is the original text in Middle English:
Lullay, myn lykyng, my dere sone, myn swetyng,
Lullay, my dere herte, myn owyn dere derlyng.
I saw a fayr maydyn syttyn and synge,
Sche lullyd a lytyl chyld, a swete lordyng,
That eche lord is that that made alle thinge,
Of alle lordis he is lord, of alle kynges kyng.
Ther was mekyl melody at that chyldes berthe,
Alle tho wern in hevene blys thei made mekyl merthe,
Aungelebryt thei song that nyt and seydyn to that chyld,
“Blyssid be thou, and so be sche that is bothe mek and myld”.
Prey we now to that chyld, and to his moder dere,
Grawnt hem his blyssyng that now makyn chere.
image: Fresco of Madonna & infant Jesus, north aisle of St Peter ad Vincula parish church, South Newington, Oxfordshire (by Motacilla)
Is criminalising children really the best way of preventing them from becoming adult offenders? The best minds of the tenth and eleventh centuries thought not. For all that Anglo-Saxon justice could be brutal, the age of criminal responsibility in later Anglo-Saxon England was higher than it is today, 1000 years later. In the first half of the tenth century, King Æthelstan (924-939) decided that the age of 12 was too young to treat offenders so harshly, and raised the age instead to 15. Around one hundred years later, Wulfstan complained that very young children were considered to be guilty when they hardly knew the meaning of the word.
Again something for my followers that have kids. Buy this for them! :)
Medieval life by Andrew Langley.
In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul
on 26 June
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
and lost at the place of execution near the koppen.