St. Mary's County Times August 10, 2017 - Page 27

Thursday, August 10, 2017 Contributing Writers The County Times 27 The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton By Terri Schlichenmeyer Four turrets and a drawbridge. Oh, and a moat. Your home abso- lutely must have a moat, plus a din- ing hall, red carpet to the throne, and servants’ quarters. You’re already Queen of All You See, so why not have a castle to match? If you lived six hundred years ago, as in “The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women” by Elizabeth Norton, you’d be lucky to have it. In Shakespeare’s time, it was believed that human life could be sectioned into Seven Ages of Man. The word “man” was taken liter- ally, in that case – but in Tudor times (roughly 1485-1603), women left their marks, too… Queen Elizabeth of York might’ve thought she was expecting, but she couldn’t know for sure until she felt a quickening. It was 1492, and knowl- edge of pregnancy was scant; still, Her Highness’s suspicions were cor- rect. That fall, after weeks of tedious confi nement and labor on a wooden pallet, she would deliver a princess that she would immediately turn over to a wet-nurse and two “rockers.” They would basically raise the child through her infancy, which would end in her seventh year. Alas, the little girl died at age three and the family mourned but “life went on”: her mother was pregnant again. For Tudor children, adolescence began at age seven and, while boys were usually sent away to be edu- cated, girls often received schooling at home. Most Tudor parents believed that “a little learning could not hurt” a girl before she’d be put to work at service jobs, often on farms. Consid- ered a sort of on-the-job training, it was a rough life for a child – espe- cially when rape was common and rapists were rarely prosecuted. Fourteen years old was a time for romance and early adulthood, and twenty-eight was a “time for action.” Marriages then were sometimes ar- ranged (or strongly encouraged), with both men and women expecting to have some say in the choice. Women might own or run businesses. They were not able to serve, politically, but had ways of being heard by munici- palities. They took control of family- planning and could divorce. And then Henry VIII ascended to the throne… That’s the point where author Elizabeth Norton’s narrative seems to take an ugly turn. It’s where com- mon notions of life in the Middle Ages are no longer happily thrown out a turret window. Instead, “The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women” ex- plains how and why things changed, beginning with the mother of the fi rst Tudor princess, ending with the death of Elizabeth I, and with plenty of commoners between. This lively, fun-to-read account recalls how a teenage Lady became a servant, and how women became marginalized as they aged. Among other tales, you’ll read about the brav- ery of a heretic who lost her life over her beliefs. Though the fi rst part of this book is mostly positively eye-opening and even somewhat empowering, beware that latter parts can be gruesome at times. Don’t let that deter you, though; for an Anglophile, reading “The Hid- den Lives of Tudor Women” is like getting the red-carpet treatment. c.2017, Pegasus Books $28.95 / higher in Canada 416 pages g n i d d e W New for 2017 e d i Gu Publication Date : October 19 Reservation Deadline: October 9 A Great Advertising Opportunity For: Bridal Shops • Photographers Venues • Florists • Bakeries • Jewelers Caterers • Car Services • DJs Stationary Shops •Videographers County Times St. Mary’s County l Calvert County For more information contact Jen Stotler at 301-247-7611 or 301.373.4125 | 43251 Rescue Lane | Hollywood, MD 20636