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p-child-manrs-art – 10/18/06


"Medieval Manners for Small Folk!" by Marija Kotok.


NOTE: See also the files: children-msg, p-manners-msg, SCA-courtesy-art, children-msg, courtesy-msg, How-to-Behave-art, p-customs-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Previously accepted for publication in "Pen Feathers".


Medieval Manners for Small Folk!

by Marija Kotok


Yes, even in the middle ages Mums were expected to teach their children manners. For those of you who are interested more than a few books were written in England on the subject.  Some of the items discussed are ones you would expect and others may seem a bit unusual to us. Here is the quickie version for you!


The well mannered child was expected to pray first thing in the morning and then go on to the typical cleanliness chores. Wash face and hands and < only if they needed it > brush their teeth. If no servents were avaliable and the child was old enough they would be expected to brush and/or sponge their clothing clean and make their bed.


When dining children were to restrict themselves no more than two or three glasses of wine or lite beer a day. <Please, remember this was in a time when drinking water was not safe and children as well as adults often had alcoholic drinks on a daily basis.> By no means should they drink or eat before their Lord had commenced and permission been given.  And never should they appear drunk! Food should always be eaten in moderation. Young folk were instructed to never serve themselves. They were to wait until food had been completely dished up onto their plates and eat only when so instructed. Young diners were cautioned to wipe their knives on the trencher and not the tablecloth! It was also considered polite to wipe out your cup with your napkin when finished.  Scraps were to be placed in the voider and not back onto the serving platter. Throwing bones on the floor was frowned upon and no pets were allowed at the table. Here is a small excerpt from what Chaucer had to say on the matter:


"Till you are fully helped,
touch nothing.

Don't break your

bread in two,

or put your pieces in your pocket,

or your meat in

the saltcellar .

Don't pick your ears or nose,
or drink with

your mouth full,

Don't spit over or on the table;

that's not proper.

Don't out your elbows

on the table,

nor belch as if you had

a bean in your throat.

Sit still till grace
is said

and you've washed your hands,

and don't spit in

the basin.

Rise quietly,

don't jabber, but

thank your host

and all the company,

and then men will say,

'A gentleman was here!'


Children were also taught that it was not mannerly to throw sticks and stones at horses, dogs, cats, or other animals. Fighting and swearing were on the do not do list as well! And like today getting clothing dirty and making fun of adults were things that were discouraged.


So you can see that in some ways things were not all that different from now. Customs did vary a bit from place to place as is normal and it is to be noted that even the adults often did not hold to these few rules! This is intended  only as a brief guide to what children were taught was right. Then as now we know what is taught is not always what is done. But hopefully now you will have a better idea of what the standards were and can go from there based on your prsona!


These works and others like them can be found in Rickert, Edith, ed., Babees' Book: Medieval Manners for the Young (New York, 1966).

Hanawalt, Barbara, The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 182.

Ibid, p. 183.

Hanawalt, Barbara, Growing Up in Medieval London (Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 67.

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Little Childrens Little Book 1480


Copyright 2002 by Marilyn Kinyon, 1598 Sawmill Rd., Hedgesville, WV 25427. <MamaLynx at allvantage.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org