5 December 2013
Function of the Aristocratic Family and Marriage in the Late Middle Ages Marriage and function of aristocratic families such as the Pastons in the late Middle Ages was key to the success of the family. Marriages in the later middle ages were important to the status of families during this time period due to the importance of both the husband and wife being involved in family affairs, from economics to things that need to be done in day to day life. Marriage also functioned very differently, instead of being used as a binding of two people that love each other, it was primarily used as a something to be entered into for social and material reasons. Due to the political factors that were parts of marital arrangement the woman usually did not have much of a choice in who she would be married to. These factors led to the function of aristocratic families like the Pastons to be very deviant from the typical family function we see in today’s society. All members of the family such as the wife and children, as well as vassals, or servants, played important roles in the affairs of the family dealing with social, political, or economic issues. Different Members of the family would take on different responsibilities in their lives and be expected to uphold these responsibilities because everyone in the family had their own set issues to deal with. Love also played an important role in family relationships, but again functioned differently than what we observe today. Many times love would develop after a marriage because couples usually did not have a choice in the arrangement, but love still played a large role in the husband and wife relationship as well as other family relationships because it developed trust and caring within members of the family, making the bonds between them much stronger. Aristocratic families such as the Pastons functioned with every member of the family taking different responsibilities with many different factors coming into the equation. Marriage and love as well as family responsibilities all played a very important role in the functioning of an aristocratic family and were a central strength in keeping the family affairs running smoothly. Family members of the Paston’s aristocratic family took the role of different responsibilities in their lives that they were expected to withhold. Every member of the family was involved, from the husband and wife, to children and servants. First, the wife played a very important role in the functioning of the family. Often single handedly running the manor, the women of aristocratic families made a significant contribution to the economy of the family. In The Paston Letters the wife was crucial to the functioning of the family’s affairs because the husband was frequently away on other important business. The wife was often expected to deal with the management of acres of land, containing crops, animals, hundreds of employees, and their home. In The Paston Letters, Margret Paston writes to John Paston I, “I recommend me to you, desiring heartily to hear of your welfare . . . and I thank you for the letter that ye sent me” (5). This quote shows that the lady of the family, Margret Paston, was left to take care of the manor while her husband was away on some business for a long period of time, portraying why the Paston family conversed via letters about important business in the family. Margret Paston had many responsibilities when she was left in charge while her husband was away, one of which was sorting out complaints and legal disagreements in the local court. She was also in charge of the important task of organizing the defense of the estate if it were to be attacked. The list of responsibilities of Marget go on, she was subject to taking care of business in a household of hundreds of people, which as you can imagine comes with many duties. Aside from the lady of the estate and of any daughters...
Cited: Fenn, John, and A Ramsay. Paston Letters: Original Letters, Written During the Reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III. London: H.G. Bohn, 1859. Print.
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