Queens: 5 Observations about royal mothering through the centuries - Aimed at the Heart

A few months ago I came across a movie on Netflix about Marie Antionette. I watched it and loved it. History, drama, love, politics. It had everything. Netflix recommended another movie to me about Queen Victoria. Then there was one about the Boleyn sisters, so I watched it too. Last week I went to the library for the first time since Baby Bear’s birth and decided to get a novel for myself (since I’m sitting so often to rock and/or nurse him). I saw a rather thick novel about the King Henry VIII and the Boleyn sisters. The librarian mentioned that, although it had some racy parts, it was one of her favorite novels. I’d say that’s pretty high praise from someone who works with books for a living so I checked it out.

A couple pages in and I was hooked.

There are not many things that I lack self control in but novel reading is one of them. Most of my housework was neglected as I devoured all 661 pages in four days. (Don’t worry, I did remember to feed my family and play with the kids but you don’t want to see my floors or laundry pile right now!) That’s in addition to numerous Wikipedia articles and other Tudor history websites. That naturally drifted into reading about the current British monarchy. I look at queens and princesses so differently as a mother than I did when I was a little girl. I’ll let you in on a 5 of my observations about royal mothers through the centuries:

  1. Royalty did not raise their babies. I couldn’t imagine not being able nurse my son and hold him and see him at will. Babies were handed off at a young age to wet nurses and nannies. Then sent away to school for much of their lives and usually only came back as teenagers, when they were ready to wed. Even much of the current royal family hires nannies. It is incredible to see the Duchess of Cambridge go against this trend and lean toward more of an attachment style of parenting.
  2. Girls didn’t matter. They were merely bargaining chips in the political game. The main purpose of a queen was to produce a male heir. Since I have 3 boys I can’t necessarily speak from experience, but I believe that mothers love their daughters just as much I love my sons. Aren’t you glad to live in a society that allows you to embrace your daughters as much as your sons?
  3. In the 1500s, a mother of noble blood had about a 2 month “laying in” period. They stayed in a dark and calm room for about a month before their expected delivery date and then a month after the birth and were waited on hand and foot. Sounds nice! I carried my first with no problem and could have been fine being pregnant for a while but, unfortunately, my second and third pregnancies were much tougher. It would been so nice to do nothing other than grow a baby that last month. I also completely support a “laying in” period after the baby is born. I don’t think the room needs to be dark but I do think that Mama should spend the first 40 or so days just focusing on her baby and her recovery. This is such a hard one to remember but, even with multiple children and no family around, you can make the decision to allow yourself this much-needed recovery and bonding time. Even if you have the perfect birth experience and a super mellow baby, remind yourself to take the time to just be a mom. It is such an important time in the mother-baby relationship and neglecting this time can cause so many problems when it comes to birth recovery, bonding, breastfeeding, sleep rhythms, and all the neurological and physical development that takes place in those early days.
  4. Babies were breastfed. By the mother for lower classes and a wet nurse for higher classes.  There was no other way. No other option. It never occurred to generations of old that breastfeeding wouldn’t work. Before someone jumps down my throat on this topic, please remember that this is a fact, not an opinion. This is my opinion: the most common issue with breastfeeding relationships is not a supply issue or latch issue; it’s an expectation and lack of support issue. We have options that seem easier, so people take them. If we didn’t have those options, we wouldn’t be able to take them.
  5. Children were raised in the faith of their parents. Even if their parents weren’t directly involved in raising them, parental beliefs were taught to and encouraged in the child. I have read Facebook threads and blog posts where parents boast about giving their children the right to choose what they believe. Whether they have a personal faith or not, they are proud of the fact that they give their children the opportunity to learn about all different worldviews and then accept whichever their child chooses. I’m a pretty black and white thinker so the way that I look at this is if your faith is important to you, why wouldn’t you want to impress that importance upon your children? If your faith isn’t important enough for your to teach your children and hope that they make it their own, then why do you even bother having it in the first place? If you believe it’s true, then why shouldn’t your children be taught it as truth too? If you are a Christian (which most of my current readers are), is your relationship with and belief in Christ strong enough that you will teach your children there is only One Way?

I’m working my way through the British royal history and it’s incredible to see how it directly affects my life today. An example: King Henry VIII’s desire to have Anne Boleyn as his wife resulted in England’s separation from the Pope, which opened England up to an English Bible and the Protestant Reformation. No matter your personal beliefs, that is life-altering history.

Just for fun: Here is a site with portraits of mothers and their children from the 1500s.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Is there a time period or a certain element of history that you look at differently in your current life season than you did previously?

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