THE TUDOR CHILD
by Amy Licence
It’s something of a myth that the Tudors treated their children like small adults. Although some portraits show them dressed similarly, these were moments captured of children dressed up for the occasion. Society did recognise that there was a process of development involved; a rite of passage with different stages. Once the child had survived the dangerous years of infancy, learning to walk, read, write and care for themselves a little, they progressed into a different world.
Seven was a critical age, especially for young aristocratic boys. Until then, they were under the care of the Lady Governess, overseeing the nursery, where they were dressed and shared similar experiences to their sisters. From their seventh birthday onwards, though, a boy’s masculinity was asserted, their clothing changed and they entered male company more frequently. Often the household of noble boys was rearranged, to give new positions of authority to trusted men, whose job was to serve and mentor their charge. Poorer children were often expected to work at this age: recent archaeological excavations show the effects of hard labour on the bones of children this young. Their formal education would begin, with the appointment of tutors, and their involvement in sports like archery and hunting would have been stepped up.
The next crucial stage was around twelve, when girls could be considered of marriageable age, rising to fourteen for boys. Some aristocratic matches were arranged well before this, in the children’s infancy, after which they might be brought up in the household of their betrothed. Royalty were united young: Richard of York was married at the age of four in 1478 to a five-year-old heiress, Anne de Mowbray. Sometimes these matches did not work out but often, the pair were considered capable of consummating the union by their mid-teens, such as with Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon in 1501. The onset of puberty was also considered to pose certain dangers to health, with girls suffering from “green sickness,” or anaemia, and commencing their menstruation. Early childbearing was avoided where possible, for the potential risks, with the consummation of marriages being delayed. However, this was not always the case and Margaret Beaufort’s experience of bearing Henry VII at the age of thirteen or fourteen either damaged her physically, or led her to avoid childbirth completely in later years. Writers on health, like Sir Thomas Elyot, identified fourteen as a cut-off point, offering different dietary advice to those younger than this, from the “adult” advice intended for men who had reached that age.
Fourteen was also the traditional age for apprenticeships and service to begin. Boys and girls could be bound to a master and learn a trade for the next seven years, being sent away from home and working long hours, sometimes for little food or recompense. They had to follow strict rules of conduct or face dismissal and punishment. The bands of unruly apprentices that caused havoc on London streets must have been exploiting their only outlet of freedom; small wonder these groups of repressed adolescents frequently turned to violence and mischief on feast days. The May Day riots of 1517 saw a few thousand young men causing mayhem in the streets under the excuse of xenophobia; many were captured but later pardoned by Catherine of Aragon.
Education was uneven across Tudor society. The wealthiest could afford their own private tutors. Henry VIII was taught by some of the leading thinkers of his day, such as poets Bernard Andre and John Skelton. Grammar schools did exist, particularly established under Edward VI, to instruct the sons of the middle classes in the basics, such as the one Shakespeare attended in Stratford-upon-Avon but there was no universal curriculum. Discipline was again harsh, classes large and experiences determined by the interest and character of the school master. Girls learned at home, from their mothers, who prepared them for their future lives as wives and mothers. A medieval poem “How the Goodwife taught her daughter” focuses on desirable behaviour and morals, such as modesty, charity and religion. Even Princess Mary was raised with these expectations, although she was then the heir to the throne. Other manuals, such as the fifteenth century “Babees’ Book” and the poem “Urbanitantis”, focused on table manners and a child’s interactions with others; they were to speak sensibly when spoken to and otherwise remain silent. As the sixteenth century progressed, more noble women were taught to read, to enable them to run their own households. The survival of letters, diaries, poems and recipe books show how this skill was becoming increasingly valued. Later, when religious changes meant that people were encouraged to read the Bible themselves in English, more impetus existed for the teaching of literacy. The most prominent women set the example; Elizabeth I, Jane Grey and the daughters of Thomas More all received impressive educations and by the end of Elizabeth’s reign, many more women were reading, writing and composing: the “Blue-stocking” had already been born.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Licence is an historian of women’s lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also interested in Modernism, specifically Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Post-Impressionism.
Amy has written for The Guardian, The TLS, The New Statesman, BBC History, The English Review, The Huffington Post, The London Magazine and other places. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman’s Hour, and made her TV debut in “The Real White Queen and her Rivals” documentary, for BBC2, in 2013. She also writes literary fiction and has been shortlisted twice for the Asham Award.
Her website can be found at AMY LICENCE.
BOOK DESCRIPTION FOR All About Henry VIII
MadeGlobal’s “All About” series is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to know more about the key characters of history. The books are colourfully illustrated throughout, have a simple narrative to explain the key points in the character’s life and more detailed sections for the more-able reader or teacher. The book also contains a section of thought-provoking questions which can be used to further discussions about history.
Henry VIII is probably the most famous Tudor. He was a handsome, athletic young man; he never expected to become king and so was determined to enjoy his reign. Henry had six wives but could hate as passionately as he loved. He even had two wives executed. Henry surrounded himself with extraordinary men, including Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and, during his reign, he changed religion forever in England. His son and daughters went on to be famous monarchs too.
Why did Henry have so many wives? Why was his reign so important?
Read the facts about Henry VIII in this book and make up your own mind.
Paperback: 42 pages
Age Range: 7 years and up
Publisher: MadeGlobal Publishing
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Amy Licence and MadeGlobal Publishing are graciously offering a complimentary copy of All About Henry VIII to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on January 30, 2017. Good Luck!!!