A French Merchant’s Way of Life in Lorraine Province, France in 1429
France was for a long time involved in battles often with England, to try and stop the Englishmen’s gradual dominance over some of the major French provinces (Abbot 15). Having lived in the Lorraine province, I witnessed a number of unfolding events within and without our province. Some of these events were quite captivating. For instance, I would never have imagined a girl as young as nineteen years old, all dressed in white armor, in all brevity, carrying her banner high leading a whole army of soldiers into war! This has remained one of the most spectacular scenes my eyes ever beheld.
Most of my good mornings began with a one-hour mass at the St Mary’s Cathedral, where people gathered for prayers and thanksgiving. Several times we would partake of the Holy Communion sacrament. I was a firm believer professing the Christian faith. In my prayers, I would usually ask God not to allow me, or any of my family members to fall ill because medical care back then was hard to find. The hospital and other health institutions were just evolving. The people who were believed to be physicians then did not handle serious illnesses as they found their knowledge in the field still wanting and inadequate to deal with real diseases. Operating on a human body was believed to be an abomination before God as human beings were created in the image of God. Many of these institutions that existed were based on the religious organizations of the day. Religion had a major influence on many aspects of the society then. For example, the food eaten was dictated by religion. Meat was allowed as food but on certain days, religion prohibited its consumption. Also some herbs were used as food while others were banned by religion (Mackay & McDowell 340-346).
There were very unique designs used in building houses. The homes were made mainly out of timber, although in some cases where families were wealthier, they had houses whose walls were half stoned and half-timbered with cobbled sheets. Ours family house was made of timber. My parents belonged to the peasant class which was the average class in the society then. However there were other families whose status was much lower, they were poor, could hardly afford a meal and mainly relied on help extended to them by the well able families. This is another aspect I really admired about our society. The warmth and love the people shared, no matter the social differences was priceless. Many homes found together at one particular place formed a village set up. Religion to some extent also dictated dressing. Some clothing was disregarded as an abomination in the society. A woman was not allowed to wear a man’s clothing. There were clothes specifically designed for each gender (Houston 151). Both men and women wore tunics which were differently designed, and during some special occasions men would wear some unique circular cloaks. Making these clothes formed a major leisure activity for many women and women. I enjoyed designing and cutting out the designs. Sometimes I could sell them for a little cash.
Most members of the peasant families were small scale merchant who traded in goods such as spices and herbs. Some of these spices were obtained from the natural environment locally, while others which would be more expensive were brought in by visitors who set sail and delivered them at the seaports. Sailing ships at sea was the main means of transport. However, horses were also used especially for those in authority as well as those going in to war (Mackay & McDowell 350-354).
France was divided into different provinces, each of which formed almost a distinct state or kingdom. They were ruled by lords, dukes and barons who got their names from the provinces they ruled. These provinces were either under the England rule or the French rule. Those in the northern side were answerable to the king of England while those in the interior and southwards were under the king of France. Lorraine province was large beautiful and valuable, situated to the eastern side of France. Anjou province was locates to the westward of it. One of the reasons our province had become famous was that it was the origin of a heroine who showed great courage and determination at war and even led a whole army in to the battlefield and thereafter emerged victorious. King Rene was incharge of Anjou, hence the title Rene of Anjou. The Duke of Lorraine was called Charles. He had a daughter named Isabella. She was married off to Rene and in the year 1429, they bore Margaret Rene, their daughter. Margaret was later on to become a heroine whose life was a series of military exploits, dangers and sufferings (Abbot 15-18).
Several provinces in France at around this term were at conflict with the Englishmen from England. The Orleans was a major stronghold for England. A lady by the name Joan of Arc, born in Lorraine province, was more than determined to free the Orleans from the siege by England. She called herself ‘La Pucelle’ to mean ‘The Maiden’. She was born out of a humble background in which her father was a farmer. Her mother equipped her thoroughly on hospitality and household chores. At the age of about seventeen, she claimed to have heard voices she believed came from St Michael, St. Catherine and St Margaret that she should go and lift the English rule over the Orleans. The then King made her to be Commander in chief of the army. She, in the company of Dunois, led a military army of about 3.500 to 9,000 men in to a war against the Englishmen and won the battle. She was a young lady who exhibited military skills in battle. Her aim was to get have England pull out so that Charles would be anointed and crowned as king, an occasion which she witnessed. Her military army always brought home victory in the battles they fought and one of the noble things St Joan of Arc would do after every victory was call everybody to a mass of Thanksgiving (Kiester 22-26).
I find the history of France very fascinating and of all the world history, I would be keen to read on this particular state. I would be keen to read about the restoration the crown of Kingship to Charles and the withdrawal of England from France. Even more interesting is the story of the battle of the Orleans which was led by St. Joan of Arc. Any history books giving an account of these events are what I would look for in the library.
Those are some of the aspects that made up the humble and simple life of a French merchant living in the province of Lorraine, France in 1429. It is a life that was surrounded by uncertainties of war and sometimes poverty, yet in a way witnessing some of the major happenings making up the French history.