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The Reluctant Chatelaine - Part 1 - The Flour of Youth

Started by Jerusha, May 27, 2014, 11:10:46 AM

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At younger ages, the fledgling pages/apprentices/servants/chatelaines-in-training might have had more of an "observe and learn" role, but they were still expected to gain more hands-on learning experiences than our modern learners generally do, at much younger ages and with more at stake.  Considering, of course, that the tasks they were learning were often quite necessary to the household's survival, society couldn't afford to let children remain idle once they were old enough to learn something productive, so that led to an "all hands on deck" mentality.  This mindset lasted to some degree even into more modern times; my grandmother was a sharecropper's daughter and was expected to put in a day's work along with the rest of the family from an age as young as Jana.  Granted, children being children, they still found ways to incorporate play into their work, and their parents would wait until they'd mastered very basic tasks before giving them harder ones to learn.  Any child raised on a farm will tell you that even a seven-year-old is old enough to snap beans, help pull weeds (and learn which plants are weeds and which aren't), milk goats, shoo crows and other birds out of the crops (or put together something to do that job for you once it gets boring), etc.  And they're also young enough to turn cartwheels behind the plow when Dad's not looking, or have spitting contests off the back of the farm wagon.  Or, for a little chatelaine-in-training, the period and occupationally-appropriate equivalent of these activities.  ;D  So the Steward wouldn't leave the inventory of food stores completely in the hands of a seven-year-old, but on the other hand Jana would be expected to learn how to inventory the stores well enough to do it by herself (with supervision) the next time around, and to continue doing it under supervision until the Steward felt comfortable enough with her ability to do the task to know she could do it competently.  After all, if something were to happen to him unexpectedly, she might need to manage on her own for a while before a new steward was hired to take over the job.  Not only would she need to know how to do the job for that reason, she'd need to be familiar with what the job entails for her own protection from some future unscrupulous steward or other servant who might try to steal grain and sell it under the table to line his own pockets, or some such scam.  A future manager of a household also needs to know what various tasks entail, even if she won't be responsible for doing them all on a daily basis, so that if her staff complains about a certain task being too difficult to complete, or if she notices a certain task isn't being done in a timely manner, she'll know from personal experience whether the work schedule needs to be modified (two people assigned to the task rather than just one) or if she's got a slacker who's just whinging to get out of doing their fair share of the household duties.  The larger a household, the more future responsibility a chatelaine-in-training would have, so better an early start at the job training than a later one, to the medieval mind.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Running a household that size would be more like managing an hotel than running a modern household.


Great chapter!  Nice to see kitty get her mouse!  And sneezing flour on Livia was very funny!
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


I really want to see something really nasty happen to Lady Livia.  I don't want her killed--she hasn't done anything THAT bad--but something embarrassing, humiliating, uncomfortable, and so very, very public that she'll never want to be seen in public again.  I almost wanted to say that would 'make her retire to a convent', but I don't hate the Reverend Mother and Sisters that much.


Quote from: AnnieUK on May 28, 2014, 06:28:39 AM
Nice. :)

It always strikes me at what a young age kids were expected to take on duties and responsibilities. At 7 or 8 these days you might get asked to lay the table occasionally, or empty the rubbish (trash), not keep an eye on the food supplies and account for what's been used.

Learning to manage a household would have been a big responsibility and a lot of work for a gently-born girl. Serving as a page or squire would have been challenging and demanding for a gently-born boy.

I think, however, that the children of commoners (and their parents) would have been working harder. Kelson's Gwynedd is a few centuries away from child labor laws, 40-hour work weeks, washing machines, and frozen dinners :) Society was not wealthy enough to allow much leisure time at the lower levels.
I don't just march to the beat of a different drummer...I dance to a beat no one else can hear :)