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Today's Lesson is Life in the Tudor Era

by Ruth Elizabeth Stiff about a month ago in Historical
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"Of all losses, time is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed" Henry VIII

Hampton Court

Good morning, today we will be looking at life in the Tudor Era. The Tudor Dynasty was in power from 1485 Henry VII) to 1603 (Elizabeth I) and it followed the Wars of the Roses. The National Religion was ‘changed’ and some of the literature is still read today, hundreds of years later. The diaries of those who could read and write have been handed down to us in today’s Century, so that we can learn about the daily lives of the Tudors.

We see the Rich and the Poor, the Master and the Servant, both living side by side, but living very different lives. Ostentation was the fashion of the Rich, who wore the richest materials which were beautifully embroidered and studded with precious stones. It was said that a woman could walk around with the worth of two manors around her neck in jewellery. The Poor were more practical in their clothes, wearing loose-fitting and simple woollen cloth, and they often wore these clothes until they were thread-bare. The women would often wear an apron over their dresses, hoping to preserve the dress during work, and the Poor had to work in order to survive.

Most people were farmers, keeping animals and growing crops in order to feed themselves, but also selling some of these for money. Other work was weaving, sewing, smithing, barber, baking and service. The Rich rarely needed to work, and some would spend their days in entertainment. You had to be tough and ‘lucky’ if you weren’t rich because life in Tudor times was hard. This meant that most people worked six days a week, sometimes every day, with just the Holy days and or public holidays as their only days off.

Many believed that Education was the ladder to climb up the social scales. During the Mediaeval Era, many colleges had been set up for ‘the poor and needy scholars’, (for example, Winchester and Eton). Some of these colleges are still used today! Of course, it was the boys who received the schooling. Girls were kept at home to learn domestic duties (from their mothers), marry and have children. If they were lucky and had nice brothers, these girls might be schooled by their brothers. The exception was the Rich or Royals. Henry VIII made sure that his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, had private tutors. The printing presses of W.Caxton made sure that books were widely available.

A Tudor Family

Food was popular in Tudor times. If you were Rich, you ate well. Chicken, pheasant, wild boar, pig, peacock and even porpoise were meats that were served at Henry VIII’s table, along with fruits and vegetables, the desserts being served at the same time as the savouries. The Poor would eat whatever they could catch or afford, (rabbit, blackbird, pigeon). Living and working on a farm provided healthier choices, as long as the harvests came in. If the harvests failed, the family would often starve. Bread, bacon, cheese, beer and cider was a staple diet for the workers. Only the Rich could afford wine. Many of the cooked dishes were heavily flavoured with spices, nutmeg, ginger and pepper (if they could be afforded).

Food the Rich may have eaten in the Tudor Era

Life for women in the Tudor Era was very different to what we know today. As we’ve already discussed, girls were not sent to school and were ‘taught’ to be meek and submissive. There were a few ‘strong-minded’ women, usually from among the Rich classes, and who had usually had some kind of schooling, which enabled them to have some kind of influence over their own lives. Women were not allowed to be doctors or lawyers, but many wives did help their husbands with the family business. Some did become midwives, but the majority of women married, had children and looked after the home.

She would be busy cooking, washing, cleaning, sewing the family clothes, raising the children, but she also had a good knowledge of ‘medicine’ and acted as a kind of doctor when someone in the family became ill. Very often, notebooks of ‘physic’ were handed down from mother to daughter. Childbirth was dangerous at this time. Without the knowledge about sanitation, or even how the female body works (subjects we take for granted today), many mothers and babies died. Many women who were religious would use ‘religious items’ to help them through childbirth, (for example, the “Girdle of Our Lady”).

We can’t really talk about the Tudor Era without mentioning Hampton Court. Hampton Court is a Grade 1 listed Royal Palace. The building of this Palace started in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was the chief minister for Henry VIII. When Wolsey started to fall out of favour with the King, he gave Hampton Court to Henry VIII. This Palace became a favourite of Henry’s, and the King had it ‘enlarged’ to be able to accommodate his Court. Today, it is owned by Elizabeth II and the Crown. The Palace, its gardens and its maze are one of the most beautiful in the world. It claims to have the largest grape vine in the world (as of 2005).

So here we have ‘seen’ a little of what life was like during the Tudor Era. Could you have lived during this Era? I’m not sure I could have.


About the author

Ruth Elizabeth Stiff

I love all things Earthy and Self-Help

History is one of my favourite subjects and I love to write short fiction

Research is so interesting for me too

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