The role and position of noblewomen in later medieval Europe is a subject about which comparatively little has been written. The noblewomen, particularly those of the higher nobility, usually found themselves in a situation where it was taken for granted they would marry and strengthen the position of the family by forming a union with a man of similar (or better) standing. Then, as now, the importance of the continuation of the family line was a constant concern. For gentlemen who were "upwardly mobile" the marriage to a noblewoman of high standing could be the means of getting estates and allies.

It was not unusual to find noblewomen holding and inheriting land and estates. She could have inherited them from her father, brother or a deceased husband, and in many regions this was fully accepted. The male line in a noble family could become extinct for a number of reasons: the sons could die on the battlefield, they could die of one of many diseases, some would go into the Church and be celibate, etc. So in many cases the continuation of the entire family depended on the succession through the female line, which (certainly in the case of absence of male heirs) was usually accepted.

There was the problem with the dowries, and to avoid the breaking up of the estates there was during the later 13th century and onwards a growing emphasis on male primogeniture, that is, the firstborn son inherited the estates (and where appropriate the title that went with it). The dower became more and more restricted over time during the later Middle Ages, until they were finally abolished and became more of a symbol. This helped to stop the dispersal of the estates outside the original family.

Another important factor in the growing emphasis on male primogeniture was the forming of political alliances through marriages. When arranged marriages became increasingly important as a tool in the political formation of Europe, high social status by birth (and the benefits it brought along) was considered a powerful asset. But many noblewomen were not passive spectators, though the emphasis on the male line of descent meant that their financial and political activities of more and more depended on their male relatives: husband, father, sons, brothers. In many cases, however, the noblewoman was not completely subsumed in the families of her male relatives. There is evidence that noblewomen continued to use the seals, surnames and titles that was theirs by right of birth even after getting married.

In my own family tree I have found several examples of the importance of the role of noblewomen. In some cases my ancestors married a lady from another important noble family, and this was recorded as a significant financial and political alliance. In other cases a lady from our family had a successful career of her own (e.g. as Abbess of a convent). In many cases the coat-of-arms of a noblewoman who married into our family was recorded and quartered in the arms of that branch of the family.

About the Author

Jan-Olov von Wowern lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is the head of the Swedish branch of the von Wowern family, dating back to its founder who was born around 1090 and made a Marquis in 1141. He is active in European charitable and nobiliary work.

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

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