by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
All quotes from Sarah Mally’s book ‘Before You Meet Prince Charming’ are in blue text.
Goody-goody-gumdrops! The end is in sight this book. I’m so excited.
“Know That God Arranges Marriages” is the last titled chapter in the book. I expected to learn something about how God arranges the Princess’ marriage to Sir Valiant, but most of the allegory centers on Sir Valiant chatting with the Alligator about the dangers in the land followed by the King and Valiant discussing the dangers in the land. At the very end of the allegory, Sir Valiant finally works up the courage to ask the King if he can….marry?….court?…..have some sort of relationship with the Princess.
The allegory begins with Sir Gallant and a non-descript delegation telling the King that it’s time to marry his daughter off and that they recommend having a contest to determine who the best option would be.
My main thought was that the Kingdom is in worse shape than I expected if the King’s closest counselors are worried about the complete and total absence of marriage plans for the Princess and the only solution they can find is “let’s use her as a prize in a talent competition!” The book has been prattling on about how the People look up the Princess and her pure, untouched ways; this section shows that the average person in the Kingdom is more confused or pessimistic about the Royal Family’s ability to marry off their daughter than inspired by their ways.
The King wants to know more so the delegation fills him in on the details:
“Your Majesty, the contest would be open to all the young men of the kingdom. It would not be a small event but would span the sum of three days. An array of games and competitions would be held, including all forms of combat, many skills of the farm & craft, the ability of debate, and a concluding jousting match. Then at a great feast the king himself shall judge and announce the victor.” (pg. 221)
- I know this section wasn’t meant to be funny – but I’m cracking up. The Princess is the prize for the Champion of Champion of Champions at the Kingdom’s State Fair!
- In real life, I’m an excellent detail person; give me your “big picture” idea and I’ll flesh in how to get it done. That’s why this paragraph is killing me.
- We need to create competition games for ALL forms of combat? Are we trying to find a husband for the Princess or decimate the Kingdom’s military? How do you test the skill level of a pikeman without killing anyone?
- The farmers are going to be mad. Producing champion crops requires advance notice. Are you awarding on yield or size? Yield is more fair on short notice – but how will you prevent rampant lying on crop yields? Do you have access to enough forage and water for the animals to be judged?
- The guilds – the same 5 or more guilds the Princess is a member of – will want to be consulted on judging the works of their master craftsmen. Don’t let the King be that judge; that will NOT go over well at all.
- Public debates aren’t a thing in the Middle Ages; people had far more interesting forms of entertainment.
- So…jousting IS a form of military combat – not a separate category. People love to watch it, but the practitioners are limited to fairly wealthy people.
- I have no clue how to determine the overall winner picked from the champions of combat, farming, crafts and public speaking. Picking the champion of champions within each discipline is hard enough – but determining a ranking for the four champions will be a nightmare. Honestly, this whole process is more likely to destabilize the kingdom than lead to a happy marriage.
The delegation waited for the king’s response as he thought for few moments. What would the princess think? Someone who could be champion of the games would certainly be able to protect her, but this would not ensure that his life purpose would be the same as that of the princess. He who showed himself superior in the skills of farm & craft would be able to provide for her, but would she love him? The debate would be won by Sir Eloquence. That would not do. And jousting? This would be entertaining and a good jousting match is popular –but would all of this determine God’s choice?
Finally the king answered, ” I will discuss this and give thee an answer tomorrow.” (pg. 222)
Ms. Mally missed the lesson on the Divine Right of Kings and the practical applications therein. The King is king because God wants the King to be king. Likewise, God clearly wants the Princess to be the next queen regnant (or queen consort) of the Kingdom. The primary concern of any reigning monarch is producing an undisputed biological heir who had the ability to defend the Kingdom from incursions by other states. The preference for male heirs was due to patriarchy – but also a reflection of the realities of leading an army for many nations. (Of course, a half-a-dozen examples of regnant queens who led armies are now cascading through my head….but you get the gist.)
In that basic reality of reigning, the King’s concerns are absolutely anachronistic.
- God’s Choice is the King’s choice; the King’s choice is God’s choice. There is no separation of those two ideas during this time period.
- The Princess has two options: marry the choice of the King or ally with an armed rebellion to place her choice of husband on the throne after deposing her parents. Since the Princess has the mental fortitude of wet tissue paper, she’s going to marry the King’s choice for her; the King can choose him however he wants to.
- Marrying the Princess off to the best military commander – which is how I’m interpreting the champion of the games including jousting – is a safe bet if and only if the King is under severe threats that are external to the Kingdom and the King must keep the commander loyal to him. If the commander isn’t loyal – or decides the King is going to destroy the kingdom before the King dies – a civil war may begin.
- The life purpose of a non-reigning female royal is to produce male heirs. That’s it – and yes, being a champion of games will not assure male heirs – but that’s not what Ms. Mally meant, unfortunately.
- There is no situation where the Princess would be married off to a farmer, a guild member or a bard (otherwise known as the champions of farm, craft and debate respectively) because they are all commoners. The Princess might marry a member of the nobility as long as the marriage wouldn’t destabilize the King’s reign.
- The best outcome for the Kingdom would come from an eligible prince from an allied kingdom who has several healthy older brothers showing up for the joust and winning. This would create the dynastic marriage that a sane king would have lined up for a female successional heiress.
The evening meal was an interesting time. The servants were intrigued, the princess was resistant, and the queen was horrified. The king just smiled and listen to the multitude of responses. In the morning he gave his answer. “The contest shall be held! But not for the hand of the princess. The victor shall receive a silver sword with a golden hilt. The hand of the princess, however, shall be reserved for one of God’s choosing. ” (pg. 222)
If the Princess is resistant and the Queen is horrified, why is the King smiling and listening to the servants? Clearly, the King is insane.
Hhe’s offering a silver sword with a gold hilt to the winner of the contest; that’s insane as well. Metals have different properties that drive their uses. Gold and silver are both soft metals; they are easy to shape – but also easy to deform and tear. A blade made out of silver would be absolutely worthless in a fight; it would be sliced in half on the first hit by a blade made of bronze let alone iron or steel. The hilt of gold is equally worthless since the tang of a good blade would rip through the gold on the first hit. Seriously, the best thing to do with this award sword is to make it into jewelry; that’s the traditional use of gold and silver for a reason.
Oh, geez. I meant this allegory to be a one-post review, but the anachronisms did it for me. Well, we get to hear the Alligator chat with Sir Valiant next time.
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