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bastards-msg - 4/13/08


Period views on children of unmarried women.


NOTE: See also the files: religion-msg, p-sex-msg, prostitution-msg, birth-control-msg, p-swears-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 07:33:33 EDT

From: <Seton1355 at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Bastards in the Middle Ages


I got this from a friend who works at a Dutch university. Some of you may

find it interesting.  I will ask her the name of the book.




For those of you who are interested:

This is a summary of a very interesting book that I just read. Excuse me

for the translation. It is a hell of a job to make look like acceptable





Bastards always have been endangered species in our western society.

During the ages they were the subject of juridical and social

discrimination, from and rejection and mockery. Our enlightened and

tolerant society is convinced of the fact that the discrimination of

bastards in general is not tolerable any longer and that we behave now in a

decent way towards them. A view in the history learns that we have to be

very modest in this opinion. Because in the Middle Ages bastards were often

treated with the utmost tolerance.


Bishop David of Burgundy from Utrecht (a town in the middle of the

Netherlands) was a bastard son of Duke Fillips De Goede (Fillips The Good).

An historical study puts the position of the bastards in a surprisingly new

light. Myriam Carlier  from the University of Gent (Belgium) investigated

the position of the illegal children in family and society during the 15th

century in the period that is now known as the Burgundic Netherlands



The attitude towards illegal children had everything to do with the

opinions about sexuality, love and affection. And these feelings have

always been related to time, place and social class. This goes also for

today: you just have to take in mind the contrast between the

conservative-inspired fuss about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and the

laughing-laconic reaction "so what?" when the French found out that

President Mitterand had an illegal daughter. In the Middle Ages this

attitude was not different, in spite of the moral of the Catholic Church.

Birthcontrol and family planning were hardly possible in those days, and the

numerous sexual relations caused a lot of children, especially

extra-marital. Amorous liaisons were considered as normal for nobles, and

also the catholic clergy, who were supposed to live in celibate, did not

care about the rules and regulations from Rome. Tolerance was very high in

the ranks of the political and economical elite's. Decisive norm was the

question to what social class the person belonged and if the marriages were

not jeopardized by the liaison. One has to realize that the marriage was

the only guarantee for the protection of the family patrimonium, for the

passing of noble titles, important offices and of course the heritages.

Men were very free during and before the marriage. They were able to have a

lot of sexual relations, as long as they did not jeopardize the marriage and

the family capital. Women did not have this freedom.


These double moral had varying levels of tolerance: although during the

Middle Ages marriage and the position of children belonged to the statute

of the ecclesiastical laws, there was an enormous gap between the juridical

theories and the social practice of daily life. Of course it was not

possible to prove a man's fatherhood, but even in these days the courts

could oblige a man to pay alimentation and even appoint him as being the

legal father. This often happened when it was common knowledge that the man

had a sexual relation with the mother.


For the illegal children of nobles, important politicians and people in

high social ranks it was relatively easy to be juridical legitimated by the

Burgundic Dukes. This legislation reduced the main part of the juridical

discrimination and even stopped it. In that way it was made possible that

the bastards were incorporated in the solidarity of the family and got

their place in the politic and social networks that were so very important

during the Middle Ages.  The integration of bastards in the family-network

mostly happened by employment, the bastards got jobs like estate agent,

clerk, lady-in waiting or an important servant at the (royal) household.=20

In those days the mortality for children was very high and often there were

not enough legal children for succeeding in all kind of offices and

positions. Therefore the bastards were needed to secure the continuity of

the family.


Myriam Carlier states in her book that the Burgundic Netherlands offered a

lot of possibilities for integration in the family and society and it was

even not unusual to make social promotion. In the culture of the Burgundic

courts having lot of bastards was concerned as normal and acceptable. It is

known from Duke Philips the Good that he had 26 illegal sons and daughters.

  A lot of these bastardsons made carrier, not in the least in the clerical

hierarchy. In noble families it was a habit to send the bastards to a

convent and with support and intercession of the family they could reach

the office of abbot or even bishop. A typical example was - like said

before - Bishop David van Bourgondi=EB (David of Burgundy) from the diocese

of Utrecht. He died in 1496 and was one of the many bastardsons of Philips

The Good.


In general the climate for bastards was very liberal during the time of the

Burgundic Netherlands. The majority of the clergy was completely

indifferent for the moral of the Roman Catholic Church. This was the reason

why at the end of the 15th century there was more and more critic at the

behavior of the clergy and the nobles. The results of the entire critic

were eventually the Reformation of the 16th century


Yet not everything was rosy for the bastards, some nuance is necessary.

The position of the bastards who could not prove their descent, or who were

not recognized, was far from enviable. By saying that somebody who had died

was in fact a bastard, the servants of the court of the Duke could

confiscate all the positions of the assumed bastard. And because of the

lack of reliable registers of birth, deaths and marriages and modern

communication it was almost impossible to prove that your deceased father

who came from the Northern part of France was no bastard.


So the bastards often lived in unsteadiness about their desent, their

heritage and their juridical position. They were dependent from the

goodwill of their father and the servants of the court. When the bastards

could not integrate in a family-network, they had to live as individuals

and that meant they were lost in the medieval society. Tolerance was high

but there were also plenty of opportunities for the birth fathers to deny

the existence of the bastards. During the dark Middle Ages life for illegal

bastards could be a disaster.



Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 13:11:16 EDT

From: <DUCORBEAU at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re:  Bastards in the Middle Ages


There is also a book out (have to go hunting for the title) on Royal Bastards

of England.  Also notably different from English law, Welsh law provided for

bastards to inherit in the same manner as legitimate children.





Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 04:28:58 -0400

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: "INTERNET:sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu" <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Bastards in the Middle Ages


Once again we seem to be stuck in the trap of the only people who existed

in the middle ages were rich people and nobility, as many many, peasants

NEVER got married in the first place (at least not in Church, only by

declaration) may children by definition were bastards.


Agreed many noble bastards who were recognised did very well, thank you,

Perhaps the ones who didn't simply weren't the fathers children? Or were

not out of a relationship where they were recognised, ie a roll in the hay

versus and loving caring relationship.


For Early noble bastards-Look at the bastard children of Harold Godwinson,

all were brought up as Earls children & one daughter at least married into

Royalty. William the Bastard hardly did badly for himself and was brought up

at his fathers son. Both these examples were of well recognised

relationships which were 'marriages' of a type, just not church marriges,

many scholars now think for that time you often left the church marriage

for the greatest political gain.


Women were not offered such freedom? Well again in a political marriage

obviously not as the fatherhood needs to be firm in a society where male

line inherits, if the woman puts it about the child could be anyones.

However I believe there are women who had lovers after the line was secure,

& perhaps at othertimes they just didn't make it into any records (they

were careful)


Genetic test done randomly on babies and parents in hospitals (now) show

high, non relation to declared father figures. Man, as a species, is not

monogamous, as a great Ape he falls between chimps (very promiscuous) and

Mountain gorillas (many wives-one male). Interstingly this is demonstrated

by cetain body traits, but that is another story :)


Wales, well they are pretty different there from the earlier push back,

social origins.


Just some thoughts!





Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 09:17:11 -0400

From: "Bere Patterson" <crtnet6 at doc.state.nc.us>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: Bastards in the Middle Ages


I would also like to point out that bastard daughters of prominent

figures were frequently married off to nobility about one station down.

The future husband got a tie to a higher ranked family, the daughter got

to remain in the nobility class and be protected. The father washed his

hand of another daughter and got a new Allie <theoretically, win, win,

win for everyone.... theoretically as are all matters of interpersonal



This was of course, as you stated, all a matter of whether the daughter

was recognized by her father and was much more likely to be an issue

from a liaison of the nobility with another member of the nobility, vs a

romp with one of the servants.


Berengaria Tarislyn



From: clevin at ripco.com (Craig Levin)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period contraception

Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2004 20:32:44 +0000 (UTC)


Margaret Northwode  <margaret at easaraighEXPUNGE.org> wrote:


>Without forgetting that the nurse's own state of birth as well, and

>that's since _The Republic_ was written. In period Christendom the

>general belief was that bastards lacked fundamental mores that are

>either very evident (and sometimes manifested as physical deformities),

>or kept covert, to reappear when most devastating to good, upright,

>virtuous, married Christians and their offspring.


>Functional belief might have been different (hey, I know Pierre over

>there, and he's a bastard, and he saved me from falling off the bridge

>in the middle of nowhere when he could've pushed me over), but the

>propaganda was pretty explicit. It's also the reason I don't have a lot

>of patience with reading The Republic, or, say, Francis Bacon. They

>annoy me more than they edify me, I find.


It's definitely a YMMV thing, in much of our era. Bastardy was

apparently so common a problem in the Iberian Peninsula in the

Renaissance that the bishops' chanceries that they developed

blank forms for legitimization proceedings. This may be linked to

the custom of barraganeria, that is, clergymen shacking up. The

Christian Iberian principalities were always looking for men for

war and for settling the newly conquered territory, so population

growth was a good thing.


Also, on a more universal level, the aristocracy seems to have

had less of a hassle with the acceptance of bastards. Despite

grumblings from authors on nobiliary law and their ilk, bastards

fought in tournaments, had estates willed to them from their

fathers, and did all the other things that their legitimate half-

siblings did, including bear arms, suitably differenced. For more

on that, see Fox-Davies or one of the other intro. treatises on






clevin at ripco.com

Craig Levin                         Librarians Rule: Oook!


<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