The “childhood” is a relatively new concept, invented in Victorian times.The Victorians began to see childhood as a time of innocence and play-at least for wealthy children, but so the youth was not always seen in earlier times. Children, for the most part, were deemed to behave as adults. Few exceptions were made for their youth when it was about education or making mistakes.
The Tudors saw childhood as a somewhat dangerous time, and not only because 50% of children never reached the adult age.They found that when they were not strictly held on the path of justice, children were in great danger of becoming reckless, immoral people.
Showing affection would spoil children too much, according to the textbooks.Loving parents would not punish hard enough so the character of a child would then tend to anger. The manuals advised that a child should be given regular corporal punishment to be obedient. Of course, there must have been parents who did not remember this, because the manuals emphasized it so strongly. They warned that saving the rod would lead to rebellion and anger, perhaps even to father murder.
And if thy children be rebel and will not bow them low,
If any of them misdo, neither curse them nor blow [yell;
But take a smart rod and beat them in a row,
Till They cry mercy and their guilt well know.
Dear child, by this lore
They will love thee ever more
Children had to realise that these penalties were for their own sake :
A wise Child, lore he behoveth;
And as men say that learned be,
Who Spareth The rod, the child hateth he;
And as the wise man saith in his book,
Or proverbs and Wisdoms, who will look:
“As a sharp spur maketh a horse to move,
Under a man that should war prove,
Right so a yard [rod may make a child,
To learn well his lesson and to be mild.
Children, here may ye all hear and see,
How all children chastised should be.
And Therefore, childer, look ye do well,
And no hard beating shall you befall.
Jane Grey was once complaining:
For When I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number , even so perfectly as God made the world; Or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and Bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) so without measure misordered that I think myself in hell.
We have no concrete evidence that Jane’s parents were incredibly cruel at the time, on the scarce memories that have remained.It may be that Jane’s parents were simply strict, as was the advice at that time, and did not accept the laziness of their daughter.
Children were expected to have a deep, respectful respect for their parents or they were punished.Children of nobility, raised by an army of Nutritors, Wiegers, caregivers, children’s girls and teachers, might have seen their parents once a day, when they asked their parents for the blessing of going to bed. In the evening, children were presented to their parents to ask for a blessing. They then knelt for them, while they took their hat off. Sometimes they were asked to nominate the lesson of the day or a Bible verse, then the parent put the hand on the head of the child and gave them a blessing. (Remnants of this are giving a night kiss by parents). Even as adults, children were deemed to kneel for their parents.
And child, Worship thy father and thy mother;
Look that thou grieve neither one nor other,
But ever, among them thou shalt and down,
And ask their blessing and Benison [Benediction.
Education started early, especially for the royal family and the nobility.Princess Mary played the virginal (key instrument) so well at age four, that the Imperial ambassadors were impressed and she spoke fluent Latin at her ninth. At the age of three, Prince Arthur Tudor already had a strict educational scheme that made him skilled in various languages and state affairs. At the fifteenth he was familiar with all the prominent classical wise.
It was customary to send a child at the age of seven or eight years away to complete their training with another family, or in the case of Anne Boleyn, to grow up at the court.
The daily schedule for children was very long compared to today.A school day in 1612 looked like this:
The work starts at 6 o’clock.
First come, have the best spots. At 9 o’clock there is 15 minutes time for breakfast and relax. After that, the work continues until noon or afterwards (to compensate for the 15 minutes break). Lunch follows, and then work up to 15 or 15:30 hours, then 15 minutes break. After the break work until 17:30 when the school closes with part of a chapter, two verses of a psalm and a prayer by the master.
The patronaries of Queen Elizabeth I had the following daily schedule:
At 6 o’clock they went to church, Studerees Latin to 11 o’clock, lunch from 11 to 12, music from 12 to 14, French from 14 -15, Latin and Greek from 15 -17, then pray, dinner and “honest pastime” to 20, then music up to 21 and to bed.
Poor children work, just like adults, as soon as they are physically able to do so.Some children could go to the school of the parish, but only if the parents could have their labor maybe. Children were allowed to play, but it was dependent on the economic pressure and how strongly the parents were keeping to the advice of the manuals: children should be sober and sad and spend their time on work, study and prayers rather than games.
As for love, it is plausible that children received the most from their nursters and children’s girls.Henry VII gave his nurse, Anne Luke, a strong retirement when he entered the throne. Elizabeth I had a deep affection for her governess, Kat Ashley, and kept her to the day when Kat died. Edward VI gave a banking to the various women who had cradled him and cared for in his childhood.
The original writer of this translated post has written more about this on her blog.