Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
II. - MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE TIME
IN the days when Margaret of Anjou lived, the kings, princes, nobles, and knights who flourished in the realms of England and France, though they were, relatively to the mass of the people, far more wealthy, proud, and powerful than their successors are at the present day, still lived in many respects in a very rude and barbarous manner. They enjoyed very few of the benefits and privileges which all classes enjoy in the age in which we live. They had very few books, and very little advantage of instruction to enable them to read those that they had. There were no good roads by which they could travel comfortably from place to place, and no wheeled carriages. They lived in castles, very strongly built indeed, and very grand and picturesque sometimes in external appearance, but very illy furnished and comfortless within. The artisans were skillful in fabricating splendid caparisons for the horses, and costly suits of glittering armor for the men, and the architects could construct grand cathedrals, and ornament them with sculptures and columns which are the wonder of the present age. But in respect to all the ordinary means and appliances of daily life, even the most wealthy and powerful nobles lived in a very barbarous way.
The mass of the common people were held in a state of abject submission to the will of the chieftains, very much in the condition of slaves, being compelled to toil in the cultivation of their masters' lands, or to go out as soldiers to fight in their quarrels, without receiving any compensation. The great ambition of every noble and knight was to have as many of these retainers as possible under his command. The only limit to the number which each chieftain could assemble was his power of feeding them. For in those days men could be more easily found to fight than to engage in any other employment, and there were great numbers always ready to follow any commander who was able to maintain them.
Each great noble lived in state in his castle, like a prince or a petty king. Those of the highest class had their privy councilors, treasurers, marshals, constables, stewards, secretaries, heralds, pursuivants, pages, guards, trumpeters-in short, all the various officers that were to be found in the court of the sovereign. To these were added whole bands of minstrels, mimics, jugglers, tumblers, rope-dancers, and buffoons. Besides these, there was always attached to great each castle a large company of priests and monks, who performed divine service according to the usages of those times, in a gorgeously-decorated chapel built for this purpose within the castle walls.
Thus the whole country was divided, as it were, into a vast number of separate jurisdictions, each with an earl, or a baron, or a duke at the head of it, who ruled with an almost absolute sway in every thing that related to the internal management of his province, while however, he recognized a certain general dominion over all on the part of the king. Such being the state of the case, it is not surprising that the nobles were often powerful enough, as will course of this narrative, to band together and set up and put down kings at their pleasure.
Perhaps the most powerful of all the great nobles who flourished during the time of Margaret of Anjou was the Earl of Warwick. So great was his influence in deciding between the rival claims of different pretenders to the crown, that he is known in history by the title of the King-maker. His wealth was so enormous that it was said that the body of retainers that he maintained amounted sometimes in number to thirty thousand men.
The employments, and even the amusements of these great barons and nobles, were all military. They looked down with great disdain upon all the useful pursuits of art and industry, regarding them as only fit occupations for serfs and slaves. Their business was going to war, either independently