Out of Love for My Kin

Out of Love for My Kin: Aristocratic Family Life in the Lands of the Loire, 1000–1200

Amy Livingstone
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Out of Love for My Kin
    Book Description:

    In Out of Love for My Kin, Amy Livingstone examines the personal dimensions of the lives of aristocrats in the Loire region of France during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. She argues for a new conceptualization of aristocratic family life based on an ethos of inclusion. Inclusivity is evident in the care that medieval aristocrats showed toward their families by putting in place strategies, practices, and behaviors aimed at providing for a wide range of relatives. Indeed, this care-and in some cases outright affection-for family members is recorded in the documents themselves, as many a nobleman and woman made pious benefactions "out of love for my kin."

    In a book made rich by evidence from charters-which provide details about life events including birth, death, marriage, and legal disputes over property-Livingstone reveals an aristocratic family dynamic that is quite different from the fictional or prescriptive views offered by literary depictions or ecclesiastical sources, or from later historiography. For example, she finds that there was no single monolithic mode of inheritance that privileged the few and that these families employed a variety of inheritance practices. Similarly, aristocratic women, long imagined to have been excluded from power, exerted a strong influence on family life, as Livingstone makes clear in her gender-conscious analysis of dowries, the age of men and women at marriage, lordship responsibilities of women, and contestations over property.

    The web of relations that bound aristocratic families in this period of French history, she finds, was a model of family based on affection, inclusion, and support, not domination and exclusion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5896-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xii-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Aristocrats and Their Families
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the year 1102, records tell us, Adelina and Walter Minter and their children rode across the town of Chartres, passing under the shadow of the cathedral and traveling east through the winding streets and alleys of the market district to the abbey of St. Père. Upon arriving at the monastery, they proceeded to the chapter house, where they arranged to give property to the brothers.

    During their long marriage, Walter and Adelina had added to their joint inheritances by purchasing extensive properties, including fiefs, vineyards, land, houses, mills, and wine presses, thus giving them the means to make not...

  7. Chapter 1 The Lands of the Loire, 1000–1200
    (pp. 9-26)

    Adelina and Walter Minter lived their lives, raised their children, and died in the lands of the Loire. To understand the complexities of family life and the forces that shaped it, and why Adelina and Walter and their neighbors made the choices that they did, the physical, political, and social backdrop needs to be sketched out.

    Let us start with the stage on which these families lived their lives: the land, the territory. What geographical area does the term “the lands of the Loire” actually cover? For the purposes of this study, it encompasses the territories of the Chartrain, the...

  8. Chapter 2 Aristocratic Family Life
    (pp. 27-59)

    What did family mean to the elites of the Loire region? There were many layers to “family” in the medieval world. Family was of immense importance to medieval people since a person’s standing in society was determined by his or her family and that individual’s place in it. But “family” also connoted relationships and affective ties. The conjugal unit of parents and children provided the focus of most noble families,¹ but extended kin, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, also played key roles in the lives of the noble born. An aristocrat’s concept of family stretched out to include “relatives,”...

  9. Chapter 3 Aristocratic Family Life Writ Small: The Fréteval, Mondoubleau, and Dives Kindred
    (pp. 60-86)

    Living to the west of the Chartrain, according to Bernard of Angers, was a nobleman who had all anyone could ask for: status, wealth, happiness, a beloved spouse, and many children to whose care and upbringing he devoted his life. Sadly, this happy life did not remain untouched by tragedy, for one by one his children died. Struck through with profound grief and sadness, this father withdrew completely into himself. When word of the death of the last remaining child reached relatives and neighbors, they rushed to this couple’s side to provide what comfort they could. But the parents were...

  10. Chapter 4 Inheritance: Diversity and Continuity
    (pp. 87-119)

    Lambert of Ardres, reflecting upon the inheritance practices of the nobility, recorded that Count Arnulf of Boulogne “distributed his land proportionally to his three sons according to how well they loved him, what their pursuits were, and how suitable their love and pursuits were.” William of Ponthieu, Lambert tells us, did the same:

    Now since William had four sons, he gave the land that is now called Ponthieu, as the most worthy and excellent part of his dominion, to the most worthy, the firstborn, because with glorious eagerness he took pleasure, as regards knighthood, in weapons and horses. To the...

  11. Chapter 5 Marriage and the Disposition of Property: A Sign of Status?
    (pp. 120-140)

    Arranging marriage portions was a serious matter that worried aristocratic fathers.¹ As life was slowly ebbing away from the once-indomitable lord of Montlhéry, for example, the future of his daughter occupied his thoughts. To provide her with security, he decided she should wed Philip, the son of King Philip and the countess of Anjou. The castle of Montlhéry was designated as this young woman’s dowry, causing her in-laws to “rejoice as if they had plucked a mote from their eyes or had broken down the barriers that had enclosed them.”² Castles were important property in the twelfth century, and the...

  12. Chapter 6 Marriage: Practicalities, Ideologies, and Affection
    (pp. 141-169)

    Two roughly contemporary twelfth-century writers, Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, each offered commentaries on the nature of aristocratic marriage. In her poem Yonec, Marie de France juxtaposed the power of the mature man against the powerlessness of his young bride.

    The man was very far along in years

    but because he possessed a large fortune

    he took a wife in order to have children,

    who would come after him and be his heirs.

    The girl who was given to the rich man

    came from a good family;

    she was wise and gracious and very beautiful—

    for her beauty...

  13. Chapter 7 For Better, Not Worse: Wives and Husbands as Partners in Family and Lordship
    (pp. 170-203)

    Marriage, both as a transitional moment in their lives and as a lived reality, shaped the life experience of noble-born women. Much ink has been put to page recounting the more sensational marriages of the central Middle Ages. But within the tapestry that was medieval aristocratic life, there are lighter and brighter hues as well. It is these experiences that this chapter seeks to highlight. Chronicles are full of references to women acting with and in place of their husbands, indicating that in terms of authority and power, “the two were one.” The charter evidence also offers a more moderate...

  14. Chapter 8 Contestations: Asserting and Reasserting a Place in the Family
    (pp. 204-233)

    Medieval monks and modern scholars alike have grappled with making sense of property contestations. Guibert of Nogent laid the blame on “the growing laxity of modern times,” and lamented that “for now, alas, those gifts which their parents, moved with love of such things, made to the holy places, their sons now withdraw entirely or continually demand payment for their renewal, having utterly degenerated from the good will of their sires.”¹ Bernard of Angers offered a stronger condemnation: “But it should thoroughly frighten those who violently steal goods from God’s holy Church, or those who appropriate, as if it were...

  15. Conclusion: Out of Love for My Kin
    (pp. 234-236)

    To end this discussion of aristocratic family life, it is appropriate to come full circle to where we began in the introduction: the Minter family. The charters recorded that Adelina and Walter Minter chose to divide their holdings among all of their children, and that the couple acted in tandem in deciding the future of their progeny and property. Furthermore, although Adelina had two adult sons at the time of Walter’s death, she remained in control of family holdings and acted as head of the family. These experiences are clearly at odds with modern assumptions of patrilineage, patriarchy, and primogeniture...

  16. Appendix. Genealogical Charts
    (pp. 237-246)
  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 247-270)
  18. Index
    (pp. 271-280)