How the illegitimate heir became a ‘bastard’ in medieval Europe

Interesting piece by Prof Sara Mcdougall (History) of City University of New York. The piece is on history of bastardy:

Understanding the changing meanings of bastardy helps us to arrive at a clearer picture of the workings and priorities of medieval society before the 13th century. Society then did not operate subject to rigid Christian canon law rules. Instead, it measured the value of its leaders based on their claims to celebrated ancestry, and the power attached to that kind of legitimacy. To be sure, marrying legitimately certainly received a good deal of lip service throughout the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, in this pre-13th-century world, the most intense attention was paid not to the formation of legitimate marriages, but to the lineage and respectability of mothers. Only beginning in the second half of the 12th century did birth outside of lawful marriage begin to render a child illegitimate, a ‘bastard’, and as such potentially ineligible to inherit noble or royal title.

How Social constructs form and then change overtime…


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