Please welcome historical romance author, Jenna Jaxon. Stay tuned after her guest post for an expert of her new novel.
B is for Bedding the Bride
Marriage customs during the Middle Ages were varied and in some cases, exceedingly strange to our modern day sensibilities. One such custom was “bedding the bride.”
The ceremony actually should be called “bedding the couple” because both bride and groom were participants along with their family, friends, and wedding guests.
According to Alison Weir, “One feature of medieval royal weddings that seems shockingly intrusive today was the public bedding ceremony, in which the newly wedded couple were put to bed together by their attendants and toasted by their guests, as the bed was blessed by a bishop or priest. Then they were left alone to attend to their chief duty, the begetting of heirs to ensure the succession. This bawdy custom had died out by the end of the 17t century.”
The custom was not confined to royalty, however. Both nobles and commoners celebrated weddings in this manner as well.
After the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom would retire to separate rooms and their attendants (family or friends) would dress them for bed. At one time, in Scandinavia, the guests would instead strip the couple naked. Then they would be conducted to the bedroom, often followed by shouts of bawdy comments. A priest would bless the bed and the couple would be put into bed and handed a cup of “sweetened and spiced wine, again blessed by the priest, known as the ‘benediction posset,’” according to George Monger.
Afterward, the attendants participated in “the divination custom of throwing the stocking.” The attendants would have secured the stockings of the bride and groom. Two grooms’ men would sit on one side of the bed and two brides’ maids would sit on the other with their backs to the center. Each one took turns throwing the stockings over their shoulders. If a groomsman hit the bride or a bridesmaid hit the groom with one, then it indicated that person would soon marry. A forerunner of tossing the garter and the wedding bouquet.
Once the posset was drunk and the stockings tossed, the curtains would be drawn, the company would retire, and the newlyweds would be left to their own devices.
In rare cases, if the couple were royalty, or if there was a doubt about the “ability” of the groom, attendants stayed in the room while the consummation took place.
The custom of the bedding ceremony died out by the late 1600s. But until then, brides and grooms had lots of company on their wedding night. Apparently no one had heard that two’s company, twenty’s a crowd. 🙂
Marriage Customs of the World: From Henna to Honeymoons by George Monger
Sex: A User’s Guide by Stephan Arnott
A Hard Day’s Knight
My medieval novel, Time Enough to Love, is the story of knights in the service of King Edward III of England. Knights are perhaps the iconic image most readers have of the period. The men didn’t, however, spring fully ready at birth for this way of life. There were years of training and hard work that went into becoming a knight.
Training to be a knight began actually at birth. Male children who were not destined for Holy Orders, began learning at his parents’ home what is expected of a knight, good manners, and the code of chivalry. Most knights came from noble families as the training and equipping of a knight was expensive, but any free man could become a knight. At age seven, the young boy would be taken to a different castle and serve the liege lord as first a page and then by about age fourteen a squire.
Pages were considered boys while squires were young men who had arrived at puberty. Growing up in the service of the lord, these young men learned everything about becoming a knight from religion to manners to practical experience. At age fourteen they rose in rank to squire and tended to the knight directly. They gained experience hawking and hunting by both watching and practicing these skills. They were also taught to use knightly weapons such as the sword and the lance.
Usually at age twenty-one, although sometimes earlier, the squire, after learning how to comport himself in both combat and chivalry, underwent the ceremony of Knighthood, and was knighted by having a sword tapped on either shoulder, and bidden, “Arise, Sir Knight.”
Knights as the warrior class adopted a set of idealized behaviors known as chivalry to be followed both on and off the battlefield. These behaviors included being a ferocious fighter, a devout Christian concerned with the well-being of the weak and helpless, a charmer who loved to dance and flirt with ladies, and a man who would allow no stain on his honor.
Although there was no standard of chivalry to which the knight was held, there did arise, in literature, a standard of sorts where the treatment of noble women were concerned. A knight was expected to honor and serve his lady, whoever he might choose her to be. She could be the lady of the castle where he received his training or a lady who he esteemed from afar but never met or a lady he was destined to marry. Whatever their relationship, the knight was bound to do whatever the lady bid him do. Many stories of King Arthur and the Round Table, especially those with Lancelot as the central figure, illustrate this idea of devotion to the lady.
TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE
When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?
TIME ENOUGH TO LOVE EXCERPT
Geoffrey hurried on with a suggestion. “’Twould be the work of a few moments for me to teach it you, my lady.”
It would have to serve. She shot a look over her shoulder at her husband, who nodded and laughed with the princess though his eyes were trained on her. Best get on with it then. The sooner ’twas done, the better.
“Your skill at dancing is such that you would certainly learn the steps with but slight instruction from me.” Geoffrey leaned so close his voice, against her ear made her jump and recall herself. She stepped back and looked at him.
His practiced courtier’s smile flickered at her, and she caught something deeper shining in his eyes that she fought not to see. Her heart stuttered a beat.Her body flushed with the anticipation of dancing with him again even as misgivings swirled in her mind. No good would come of this dance, but Thomas watched closely to see that she acted cordially to Geoffrey. Would that it was an act.
With a sense of heavy foreboding, she extended her hand to him. “Very well, Sir Geoffrey. What must I do first?”
He placed her hand atop his arm and led her to their place in the circle of dancers then grasped her hand to pull her around to face him.
The moment his hand touched her skin, a streak of fire shot through her. Her mouth went dry, and her gaze flew to his face. Surely he felt that as well?
He stared back, his eyes mirroring all too clearly the blaze that coursed up her arm.
Damn Geoffrey Longford.
In a daze, she looked around at the other dancers, expecting them to stare accusingly at her. As if they could see this sinful feeling that tore at her soul. At a loss for how to act, she raised her gaze to beseech Geoffrey. “What do we do now?”
’Twas an apt question for, God forgive her, at the touch of Geoffrey’s hand, all thought of her husband had fled. She was back on the deck of the Phillipa, facing him once more. Loving him once more.
Geoffrey cleared his throat, his face flushed, and said simply, “Follow me.”
Then they were twirling around the circle, hands clasped, arms touching intimately, He seemed to brand her wherever he touched. The figure reversed, and her other side was scorched as if a red-hot blade seared her. Her gaze locked onto Geoffrey’s, and the music, the dancers, the Great Hall and all its inhabitants melted away until all that was left was the whisper of his breath in her ear and the heat of his body pressed close against her.
He leaned in closer to whisper, “I must lift you now.”
Before she could grasp that staggering news, his arm went around her waist and he lifted her, twirling them around full circle. She panted, blood pounding in her temples, roaring in her ears.
They continued to dance, but she moved as though she were a doll made of rags, her legs barely able to stand. Her world narrowed to the single source of light and life that was the man who held her in his arms again. The man whose love she could no longer deny. Despite the agony of the betrayal, in the core of her being she knew neither the vows she had spoken to Thomas nor the passion they had enjoyed in his bed would ever match the intensity of love and belonging she shared with Geoffrey. As soon compare a candle’s flame to the sun.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
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