Thursday, 10 April 2014

I is for Intinerant Nobles

I Itinerant Nobles

This year, I’m looking at aspects of medieval history that might be useful to writers in lending flavour to their fantasy or historical worlds. Today, I’m looking at one crucial fact about kings, nobles, bishops and just about anyone else who was important: they rarely stayed in one place.

I only really got this into my head while looking at the itineraries of successive Archbishops of York. In general, if they spent more than a week at a time in York, it was a rarity. Instead, they travelled between a succession of archiepiscopal palaces and minster churches, bouncing around like an ecclesiastical pinball. The same is true of kings and more important nobles.

Why? Partly as a way of imposing their power and reminding their further flung tenants that they owed them loyalty (and cash). Mostly, because all these figures were surrounded by large courts or retinues that would quickly have eaten any one place out of all resources if they had stayed still for long. The royal court in particular wasn’t some room down in London, but an army, moving about the countryside at the pace of its carts, setting up camp or demanding hospitality along the way. It’s worth remembering the next time you have a king sitting in a castle somewhere.


A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

I love reading Philippa Gregory books because she deals so often in her novels with a moving court. It's a trick and a half, both as literature and as history research :)

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J E Oneil said...

Cool theme for the challenge. I don't know much about history. I certainly wasn't aware that the nobility moved around like that.

kelworthfiles said...

Huh, cool. The phrase 'itinerant noble' makes me think of what it would be like if the title actually changed as the guy moved around. This week, he's the Baron of Shropshire, but soon he'll become the Count of Essbury. :D

M. J. Joachim said...

You know, I hadn't thought much about this before, but it's so true. Even today, leaders spend a lot of time traveling.

M. J. Joachim

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