Happily Ever After doesn’t always start as a fairytale romance…
Take a step back in time when marriage choices were nearly non-existent for women. Noble marriages were arranged by king and family, not for love. What happened if the woman’s consent was not freely given?
Four medieval romances
Courtly love, as sung by troubadours, was often a refuge for Medieval wives. Yet, its basis was fantasy, a far cry from the harsh realities of everyday life. Will an unwilling bride find courtly love and satisfy the longs of her romantic heart?
Can a Medieval woman who doubts her vocation to the Church find true love in an arranged marriage?
Marriage based on love was foreign to the Medieval mind. Yet consent had to be freely given for a marriage to be valid. Can a reluctant bride dare refuse her betrothed without suffering the consequences?
A trip to the British museum in London catapults a modern exchange student back in time to a tragic life shrouded in secrecy, lust, and true love.
Amazon Review: I thoroughly enjoyed these four Medieval romances. I was reminded of what I already knew, but in a poignant way, that Medieval women had little control over their choice in a marriage partner. These four short romances tell four different tales of what four Medieval women did in refusing to give free consent to the matchmaking their parents or sovereigns did on their behalves. The results of their either running away or reluctantly succumbing to passion with their betrotheds or dreaming back in time with their beloved made for some wonderful stories about their wisdom, strength and passion. I recommend this anthology highly.
Amazon Review: Freely Given gives us a glimpse into this time in history through the eyes of four ladies that found themselves facing unwanted marriages. These stories are not the typical flowery romance that glosses over the lack of choices available to females. I find the topic interesting to look back upon and enjoyed Jan’s take on how four such situations may have played out.
Excerpt from The Betrothed
The great hall is crowded with strangers—knights, men-at-arms, squires—all in attendance to Sir William. My household servants are busy with their morning tasks. In the kitchen outside, Cook prepares the midday meal. I spy my seneschal and nod to him. And then I catch Sir William’s eye. My heart quickens. I am afraid, but I extend my hand as he approaches.
This time he cannot see the outline of my body beneath my gown. I am suitably dressed, as befitting my station. I am the lady of the household, an earl’s only daughter and heir. All of this is still mine and will continue to be once our betrothal is broken.
He bows over my hand. “Lady Eleanor, God give you health, honor, and joy.”
At the mention of “honor,” he lifts his head and raises a dark eyebrow suggesting the night of our wedding. I cannot snatch my hand away, because everyone is watching. Instead, I curtsy as is proper.
“And God give you pleasure, peace, and health,” I answer, knowing full well what pleasure he wants from me.
“Walk with me and show me your household.”
My betrothed places my hand on his outstretched arm and leads me through the great hall to the door at the far end. People stand aside as we pass. We process as if already married, the lord and his lady, letting ourselves be seen by one and all.
DeHart Castle is a strong, square fortress with round towers at each corner and a moat fed by springs. We have a drawbridge and a stately entrance guarded at all times. We stroll through the bailey, stopping at the mews and the stables, viewing the small church where we are to be wed.
Once again we pause in the garden with its heady aroma of lilies and lavender. We are alone.
I take a deep breath. “My lord, I will not marry you,” I blurt out.
He turns to me, his eyebrows drawn down in a puzzled frown. “What say you?”
“I do not consent to our marriage.” I raise my chin and stand tall.
His gloved hand squeezes mine. “You have no say in the matter.”
“I do,” I remind him. “If I refuse, my chaplain will not marry us and the church will not recognize the union.”
“What game is this you play?”
“No game, my lord.” I pull my hand from his grasp. “You do not suit me. I repudiate a contract made against my will.”
His eyes flicker and his jaw tenses. He is not happy with me, but takes my measure nonetheless. “You defy convention and the order of your father. We have an agreement. King Edward bids us marry on the morrow. My men and I will depart for the coast in three days. You, Lady Eleanor, will not dare disobey the command of the king.”
“You know not what I dare,” I say in a hushed voice, knowing I am in danger.
“Forgive me. I have underestimated you, my lady.”
“Many have,” I reply and then turn away. My lord lets me go.
I resist the urge to look at him again. To gauge what he is thinking. Sir William has not reacted like I supposed he would. I thought he would rage and threaten. He has not. I fear this is not the end of the matter.