Famous People Of The Middle Ages


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Medieval women were very limited in how they could live their lives. From the day they were born, they had men who told them what they could and could not do. Marriages were usually for convenience, to gain land or property. Henry VII, the king of England, searched for a suitable wife after his first wife died. He learned the widow of the King of Naples was available and sent out three agents to determine if she was healthy, attractive and had money. The widow passed the first two qualifications but failed the third, Henry remained a widower.

(This is a picture of the typical Medieval woman.)

Some children were as young as 4 or 5 years old when they were married. Prearranged marriages of children were so common that the church said children in the cradle could not be married. If a woman went through childhood without becoming married, her choices were then to marry or attend a convent.

A husband ruled the family in a marriage. His wife was required to lie at her husband's feet and beg for his forgiveness for anything she had done or failed to do on certain occasions. The children did the same at the feet of their parents. Although the rules said that the beating should be 'reasonable', wife beating was a common practice in the Middle Ages. However, women were a vital part in the family life and, in Italy, were a power in the family circle.

Much of the work in the Middle Ages was done by women. They not only spun cloth and made clothing for the family, they also worked in the fields like the men did. The upper-class girls were even taught to spin. Women continued to operate the buisnesses when their husbands died. A wide variety of jobs in trade and industry were held by women in Paris. London women played an important role in the cityıs trade.

Although women in the Middle Ages were as illiterate as their husbands and fathers, there was education available in a few places. One of the most famous of the love stories in the Middle Ages involved Heloise, who fell in love with her professer. Their romance cost him his job and she was expelled from the University of Paris. Women were thereforth barred from attending the university. Women still attended universities in Italy, however, and Maria di Novella became a math professer in the University of Bologne at the age of 25.

Here's a picture of Clare

Clare (no last name given) was one of the outstanding women in the 13th century. She was the daughter of a wealthy noble from Assisi and when she heard St. Francis speak, devoted her life to poverty. She invented the Poor Clares and all who joined became impoverished as well. She proved her firmness when the Saracens attaked the town; she went to the walls and the Saracens were so impressed by her courage, they left. Not only in the care that they took of the patients in the convent hospital, but also their example of self-denial, the nuns made others aware of their own greed and selfcenteredness.

(We do focus alot on women in this page, but don't worry, we do have some men on this page.)


Eleanor of Aquitane

Eleanor of Aquitane was the Queen of France (1137-1152) and England (1154-1204). She was the mother of two English kings, Richard (The Lion-Hearted, 1157-1199) and John I (1167-1216) and the most politically influential woman of her time. She was born in France as the daughter of William X and wed Louis VII of France in 1137. During her marriage to Louis, she had two daughters and accompanied her husband on The Second Crusade (Holyland) from 1147-1149. She took 300 women with her on the Second Crusade to fight and help nurse the wounded. Her marriage to Louis was consentially annulled in 1152. She later married King Henry II in 1154 and bore to him 5 sons and 3 daughters. She inherited the Duchy of Aquitane at 15 and brought it in her marriage, which marked the beggining of the ever present conflict between France and England that continued throughout the Middle Ages. Eleanor convinced Henry to invest in their son, Richard, with these lands. There were problems within Henry's marriage to Eleanor, his continued unfaithfulness alienated Eleanor and in turn, she joined her son's rebellion against Henry in 1173. They were unsuccessful in their attempt to overthrow Henry and Eleanor was captured while fleeing and imprisoned until Henry's death in 1189. Once she was released, she was a powerful influence presence at the court. She granted amnesty to prisoners and secured the succesion of Richard to the throne. She ruled during Richard's absence on the Third Crusade and thwarted an attempt by John to conspire with France against England. She also negotiated a reconciliation between the brothers upon Richard's return in 1194. This reconciliation maintained the peace in England and insured John's succession to the throne. Eleanor's influence also extended into culture and education, she gathered the leading poets, scholars and musicians to form an educational institution.

Now, here are some not well known, but interesting, facts about Eleanor: