Noble Women at Home
COOKING - CLEANING - SHOPPING - GARDENING
- LIVESTOCK & POULTRY
images of noble women usually show scenes of sewing or reading, the
reality of a noble woman's responsibilities was nothing short of amazing.
Very few were what we would call "the idle rich." As well
as managing a household, she was required to have many of the skills
that a regular woman had in order to instruct her staff. Her home duties
included hiring and firing staff, overseeing orders for the pantry and
butlery, checking quality of foodstuffs, fabrics and the prices of them,
and a variety of tasks on behalf of her husband. If her husband was
away on crusade, this may extend for several years.
A noble woman neither did the cooking for her household herself nor
did she wait on tables. Even female servants did not bring food to the
tables and manuscripts almost always show men cooking in the kitchens
and preparing food. A noble woman had no place in the kitchen.
It goes without saying that the cleaning in a noble woman's house was
also not done by a noble woman herself.
Laundry was also carried out by female servants who were usually under
the charge of a senior laundress who was herself under the charge of
Christine de Pisan in Le Livre des Trois Vertus writes of the
duties of an aristocratic wife and says that while such a wife may not
actually do any of the weaving in her household herself, she must be
knowledgeable about every facet of the process so that she may oversee
each and every stage of the process- from the selection of the fleeces
to the final construction of finished garments.
Only embroidery or making of fine pieces was seen as a suitable at-home
sewing activity for a noble woman.
The noble woman did very little actual gardening herself, but rather
employed others- both male and female- to tend her flower and vegetable
gardens. Noble women are often painted enjoying flower gardens and picking
flowers such as the 1410 scene The Garden Of Eden shown at right.
The Goodman of Paris speaks to his young wife about her girlish passtimes
which he feels are entirely suitable for her position in society. He
Know that I take delight rather than
displeasure in your cultivating rose bushes, caring for violets and
making chaplets, and also in your dancing and singing; I wish you
to continue to do so among our friends and peers, for it is only right
and just that you should thus pass the days of your maidenly youth.
I feel that there is a certain emphasis
on among our friends and peers, and is not to be confused with
gardening with the servants.
Aagain, this was not the domain of the wealthy woman who hired the staff
neccessary to look after any animals. Even a Lady's favourite horse
for riding or hawking was not cared for by herself, but rather a groom
and a stable boy.
A Lady would not even have fed her own little lap dog or cat, leaving
that to the cook or a servant.
Wet nurses were not uncommon in the world of the noble lady. We constantly
see the Virgin Mary held up as the finest example of motherhhod that
a woman might aim to emulate, and a large portion of those images show
her breastfeeding and taking care of her own child, the reality was
Just as a busy upper class woman bottle-feeds her babies today and has
one or more nannies to take care of them, a busy and socially-important
medieval woman also had her children cared for by others.