Book Review: “Tales of the Marriage Bed from Medieval France (1300-1500) by R.C. Famiglietti

couple-in-bed-in-illuminated-manuscript

This book was listed as a reference which I found while researching Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of King Charles VI of France. I happened to find a used copy of the book although it wasn’t cheap. There is an interesting section on her in which he describes her as the “perfect wife”. I decided to read the whole book.

Published in 1992, this is one of the best books I’ve read recently. I love French history. What makes this book unique is it delves into the lives of the people of France, from royalty down to ordinary people. It’s more of a social history. Most of the stories related deal with the nobility including the petty nobility. As it states on the book cover, “The vignettes, episodes in the lives of married couples, allow us to observe the vast panorama of life in medieval France and to explore the mores, attitudes, and concerns of the time.”

Sections of the book deal with the following topics: incest, choosing a mate, negotiating a marriage, weddings, elopements and abductions, mistresses and bastards, adultery, abuse, murdering a mate, the perfect husband and the perfect wife. Some of these tales are gruesome. In some of these instances, there were court cases brought to justice. This gives Famiglietti a chance to describe the workings of the justice system in medieval France. These stories definitely give us a glimpse of the status of women during this time period and it certainly isn’t pretty.

I especially liked the description of a wedding in Bordeaux in 1460. One episode relates a ghastly tale of a wife being murdered by her husband. There’s a long drawn out case of incest in the fourteenth century. There’s a description of a marriage where the husband beat his wife and one where the wife was kept locked up in a tower. All of these are true tales which Famiglietti found in historical sources.

This book has a map of medieval France, an extensive bibliography, sixty-eight black and white plates depicting some of the characters in the stories along with extensive explanations for the illustrations. This book is well researched, well written and fascinating to read. Famiglietti also wrote a book about royal intrigue during the reign of King Charles VI. I’m looking for a copy of that one for a reasonable price.

One thought on “Book Review: “Tales of the Marriage Bed from Medieval France (1300-1500) by R.C. Famiglietti

  1. Pingback: Book Review: “Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI 1392-1420” by R.C. Famiglietti | The Freelance History Writer Notes and Reviews

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