1. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    French aristocracy in middle ages

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BFGuru, Jan 27, 2012.

    Circa 1300's.

    I need an aristocrat that would have SOME contact with court. He needs to be able to send a letter to the king requesting a favor, but obscure enough to not be in court non stop. He is married to a girl from another small, obscure kingdom who has royal connections in her kingdom, but since these are all made up, he needs the obscurity to NOT be under the scrutiny of "that's not how he really acted".

    I'm having trouble determining the hierarchy of Vicomt, Baron, Prince, Marques etc. Who is higher on the totem pole and who is lower?
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to research more. Until around 1400 France was not completely centralised under one dynasty (the Capet) and one court in Paris, although it was in the throes of becoming one country and finding its identity as 'French'. The region was under different counts and dukes, especially the Dukes of Normandy, and the Counts of Equitaine and Toulouse. The Lords of Brittany were allied to England, and England held large areas of territory in France--so lords swore allegience to the Englsh king.

    You need to check the hierarchy of nobility for this time, not later eras. It's also different from English titles. A vicomte is pretty much the same level as a count in France, it's just an older word, although sometimes an older brother was count and his younger brother was visconte--at any rate, during the period you mention. Since a count ruled, he was equivalent to a sovereign. There were also several strong women rulers at this time, like Anne of Britanny and Eleanor of Aquitaine (or was she later?). Just saying--they weren't all men.

    At the time you speak of, there were really only these types of title in France. Other titles came in later. There were also other ancient titles, like ch√Ętelain (controller of a fortress or sometimes, an abbey):
    A duke (usually military leader).
    A count (governing a city and its surroundings, or later, in the king's entourage).
    A marquis (a type of count who was governor of a region that needed particular protection against invasion).
    A viscount (lieutenant of a count, or like a count if the area was controlled by the King).
    A baron (quite a bit later) a major feudal lord like a duke or a count)
    The order of importance became blurred sometimes, as you see.
     
  3. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    This helps tremendously, and thanks for clarifying that I was looking too far ahead. I do know that Phillipe reigned during this time (the fourth I believe but I have to double check my little stack of history facts I'm building here). I'm working within France and the Basque lands. It's proving difficult finding the Basque history, and even difficult finding the French history for the exact time frame I'm writing in. I don't remember much from French history when I studied it many years ago in high school. LOL.

    I do need a male though. He is the husband of one of my lesser characters (who does have a significant role at one point in redirecting the story so I call her a major-minor character haha). I just need to figure out his standing.

    Here is the breakdown...if you can follow.

    Heir to the throne in my little imaginary Basque kingdom marries a woman of good standing from France. She is escorted to the kingdom by her older brother, who then falls for a girl who is more or less a lady in waiting to the new heiress (both heir and new wife will reign pretty soon within the tale, but this is how it starts). After many events where the brother must come back to visit (aka, wedding, then coronation then christening of his sister's children etc...) enough of a relationship has bloomed that the lady and brother marry and return to France together...

    If you followed that...this relationship is integral later in the story when the actual king of France is called upon for a favor to this tiny kingdom and he has to be high enough ranking that the king will see fit to grant this little aristocrat's request.

    Hopefully that all made sense without giving away too many details of my story. But I'm leaning towards a count or viscount now that I've read these. Must ponder and delve into more history. I will get a good start on this story. Eventually. Must get my history straight first.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't forget that in those days, there was often marriage by proxy: the bride (and bridegroom) went through marriage ceremonies in e.g. the cathedral in their own territories, with someone 'standing in' for the absent partner. Then the bride would travel as the wife of her intended, even though she had actually never even met him. Or, they might have been married as children, say, eight years old, and then never seen each other again. Also, the bride's ladies in waiting tended to come from her home region, at any rate for the first 'settling in' period. Since aristocracy nearly always had arranged marriages, you could have the sister understand that her brother was enamoured of a girl and then put forward the idea? He might not know until the last minute that the marriage he is dreading is in fact to the girl of his dreams, then. The situation of vassal states through marriage alliances and/or doing a ruler a favour because of family ties is a recurring one through history.
     
  5. BFGuru
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    Beautiful madhoca! This is sort of what we are leaning towards. So many nuances to work in and although I didn't think of the marriage by proxy, it most certainly could work in this situation. The queen to be is going to be what introduces Christianity to the region and the completion of the chapel is what brings her. I didn't give thought to the fact that the prince and new princess could already be married. I was waiting for the marriage to occur after that point.

    Huzzah. That actually cinches some things for me. And since it is a made up kingdom in a region with it's own history separate from the rest of Europe, I could keep the ladies in waiting as hers or have the new girl introduced later. But the lady in waiting is important and she has to have reason for being there as well as for leaving for France.

    I'm also torn with the whole marriage idea as well. I want respectful marriages at least. The idea of mistresses and affairs are common in this time era, but I envision a loving relationship between the two...at least in the beginning. How they respond to trauma later I haven't worked out. It really will not matter, since they are not the main characters. Everything revolves around their child. The offspring of this marriage is my main character. I'm just doing the background work right now to support this baby to be.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    google is your best friend!
     
  7. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Trust me mammamaia, we are utilizing google to its upmost. :D Some of it was just down right confusing.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yeah, it's often hard to sort out all the hits... the trick is to develop 'creative googling' skills... good luck!
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hard as it is to sort out the gems from the garbage through google, you won't get more reliable information by posting on a writing forum. At least through google, the best information will come complete with supporting references.

    Research can be a challenge. There's no getting around that.
     
  10. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I agree, however, I use this forum as I use wiki, as a launching point to spur my research further. I've also got reliable contacts I've been interviewing as well. This is just one small piece of the puzzle.
     

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