Wilbrecht is five today.
And, you know, I wonder what it might be like, if you were on your own – that you loved someone, maybe, but that maybe they didn’t know, or that it just wasn’t the right time or place to tell them – if maybe, it might choke in your throat, to see a room full of happy, healthy, bright children, and to think – I could do that. One of those screaming, laughing little whelps could have been mine. If she hadn’t died. If she had known.
That everyone you knew, even the unlikely, even the plain and the unpromising, belonged. And there you were, at twenty-ish, single, a widower, someone who had known what it was to be a part of a little commonwealth, and who had lost it. Thinking, perhaps, that life was unfair, and wondering what your own children might have looked like, if you had been blessed.
If she hadn’t died.
How you might have loved your never-children. Dried their tears, kissed bumps and grazes, told stories. Wiped noses. And it would have all been a kind myth, because you would have been just as cross and impatient as any other of these harrassed parents at times, but not in your never-world.
They loved their children, even in 1645.
Reckon we need to get Luce married off?
I have a certain situation, in Selby, and your opinion would be much valued.
Luce, Gray, and Russell, inside the barricades. Doing deeds of daring nefariety, if that is a word, which Hollie is going to go mental about when he finds out, but there it is.
(“You did WHAT!! If you get your damn’ fool self killed Lucifer your bloody auntie will never sleep with me again!”)
Luce – nice young man, earnest, principled.
Gray – no principles at all but likes Luce and wouldn’t want to make him sad
Russell – stark mad most of the time and nothing to lose, but essentially a decent young man
So…. having been helped by a Royalist sentry, how would you feel, as a reader, if either Russell or Gray cut the sentry’s throat?
“Kersen” is back in the Kindle short story charts. Which is, of course, right and proper.
But whilst I have been playing with the formatting of “Red Horse” prior to its being unveiled with its lovely new cover courtesy of Jacques le Roux, I have realised something that I think I might have always known.
You see, Margriete Babbitt – nee Gerritszen – aka the Amazon, is all of thirty-seven, thirty-eight when she marries her young mercenary. (He’s eighteen, but it’s all right… he’s tall for his age.)
And that would make her forty-five when she dies. Now Hollie never knew what happened to his first wife: he was away at the time of her death, up to the elbows in mud and blood at the siege of Nuremberg. But I think I might…
Pregnancy and childbirth were a risky business, in the 17th century. It is estimated that between 6 and 7 per cent of women could expect to die from childbirth related causes. A married woman would become pregnant, on average, five or six times.
From 1619 to 1660 in the archdiocese of Canterbury, England, the median age of the brides was 22 years and nine months while the median age for the grooms was 25 years and six months, with average ages of 24 years for the brides and nearly 28 years for the grooms, with the most common ages at marriage being 22 years for women and 24 years for men; in one parish in Devon, the aberage age of marriage fluctuated between 25 and 29 years. Interestingly, the Church dictated that the age when one could marry without the consent of one’s parents was 21 years. A large majority of English brides in this time were at least 19 years of age when they married, and only one bride in a thousand was thirteen years of age or younger. (So much for the myth of the Early Modern child bride!)
So – Griete, married for a second time, a middle-class widow of independent means, already living on the polite peripheries as the owner of a tavern. In her book In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860, Dr Judith Schneid Lewis gives details of a woman whose last surviving child was born when she was 46; Catherine Tothill, wife of William Tothill, Esq., who resided at Shardeloes in Buckinghamshire during the 17th-century, is thought to have given birth to 33 children, the last, presumably, being in her forties. Margriete at forty-four would be an older mother, but not a freakishly old one.
And it would seem that women were aware of their chances, in childbirth. Anne Bradstreet’s poem “Before the birth of one of her children” addresses her husband directly on the possibility of her death in labour, with resignation, though not necessarily with fear. It has been suggested that women possibly expected their suffering in travail as an affliction of humanity resulting from Eve’s original sin – certainly, most women expected danger in childbirth, and expected to get on with it in as well and with as much Christian fortitude as may be. The midwife, and, if you could afford one, the physician, were instruments of God’s will, and although it would be sinful to rely on them to thwart His design, it would be equally sinful to not take appropriate concern over one’s bodily welfare.
For a good, thorough reading of the 17th century woman’s approach to childbirth, I suggest Sharon Howard’s academic paper ‘Imagining the Pain and Peril of Seventeenth-century Childbirth: Travail and Deliverance in the Making ot an Early Modern World’ (2003)
And as for Margriete?
No, that won’t ever be a story in its own right, because she died without her lollopy mercenary-boy with her, and he would have held her hand if he could, and he couldn’t.
Some things are too sad for even me.
(Image of The Cholmondley Ladies copyright Tate Gallery)
Well, the good news is, I’ve finished the new book.
The bad news is, it is not “Babylon’s Downfall” – it’s part one of the road to Marston Moor, it’s the battle at Selby in 1643, and it’s called “The Smoke of Her Burning”.
I should like to say, worry not, I am not turning into George R R Martin (tha knows nuthin‘, Hollie Babbitt)
But I’m not sure that I’m not.
I can honestly say no one comes back from the dead, mind, but there is a Walk of Shame, all the way from Essex to Yorkshire. Instead of the Wall I have the Ouse. I have in-fighting Babbitts, disfigured heroes (yes, Russell’s back!) stern heroines, and there may even be one or two scenes of Het Babbitt without her stays on.
Game o’ thrones, my lily-white backside, as Rosie would have it.
Bloody game o’ commonwealths, more like it.