When we think of medieval women, in particular the ladies, we are inclined to label them a little as is the following two illustrations. Simpering, sighing and generally being soppy over their menfolk. As above. There they are at a tournament, looking star-struck, and only good for making cow-eyes at the men and presenting the prizes. Or perhaps being fawned over by one of said menfolk. I wonder, is that a real bird she’s holding?
Or is it more likely she’d be petting a dear little squirrel, while her chap brandishes a ring and a fearsome hawk. Hmm, on reflection. The ring’s acceptable, I suppose, but I think I’d rather have the hawk than a squirrel. The latter are nasty little varmints. I think the lady’s hound knows who’s better off.
So, the above is generally how we view these well-born ladies. Decorative, dim and dull. It’s the men who were brave and courageous, shielding their womenfolk and generally being Knights in Shining White Armour. However, a quick trip around Google Images soon reveals that there was another side to the medieval female of the species. They went hunting with the men, not to watch and sigh prettily over their heroes, but to take part alongside them. Sometimes they went out in all-female groups, and bagged quarry of their own. They handled bows and arrows, crossbows, spears, swords and whatever else, and sometimes even wore armour and fought alongside the men!
There is even an illustration of a queen indulging in a little bricklaying! OK, maybe that’s be to be taken with a grain of salt, but even so, it is clear that in general, these fine ladies were not so decorative, dim and dull after all.
Perhaps it just suits our romantic present-day selves to view the past with a rosy glow; to see the noble ladies of the medieval period as if they all stepped from a Mills & Boon novel. They didn’t, they were as courageous and capable as the men . . . but with hardly any of the rights and freedom.