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Thread: What did Princesses/Queens do all day?

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    What did Princesses/Queens do all day?

    Historically... in reality. I mean before the modern era...

    I tried to look it up, but I'm having a bit of trouble finding a list of duties. I can find a modern list, but it really doesn't list daily activities of say, medieval and before.

    Any country you've got, though this story happens in Ancient India... I just need ideas that would be believable. I have weaving, can't do embroidery due to the religion... riding, but that's about it--which parts of palace management?

    Also traditional role of women when the king is away... ideas? What range of power did they enjoy? Kinda clueless here, so I'll take what I can get.

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    but appreciated anyway... Unimportant's Avatar
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    It varied so much from time period to period, from culture to culture....your best bet may be to find a few queens in 'your' time and place and read their biographies.

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    They managed the household staff. Planned meals, saw to distribution of household goods and clothing among staff (like, here are your candles and fresh straw). They also oversaw matters of health among servants and villagers in some cases, and of course made all practical arrangements for guests and feasts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JadeVarden View Post
    They managed the household staff. Planned meals, saw to distribution of household goods and clothing among staff (like, here are your candles and fresh straw). They also oversaw matters of health among servants and villagers in some cases, and of course made all practical arrangements for guests and feasts.
    No, really, that's the job of a Steward, not a queen or princess.

    That's pretty much completely ahistorical for any culture. Generally speaking, once you enter post literate cultures, there's a long line of servants and courtiers between a queen or princess and these tasks.

    Rachel, if they're Hindu there are law texts and courtesy manuals that specifically describe the duties and education appropriate to members of the royal family and various royal servants and courtiers. I don't know if they're available in English, but in the first two years of Sanskrit students are routinely assigned excerpts to analyse/parse and translate—so grammar texts may prove helpful (often there are translation answers in the back).

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    Needlework. Music. Maybe a dance practice with her ladies. Religious practice--Catherine of Aragon went to Mass multiple times a day, just as an example. Played with their children. Greeted guests. Changed their clothes--though that might be more of a modern thing, the multiple changes of clothes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    Needlework. Music. Maybe a dance practice with her ladies. Religious practice--Catherine of Aragon went to Mass multiple times a day, just as an example. Played with their children. Greeted guests. Changed their clothes--though that might be more of a modern thing, the multiple changes of clothes.
    No, that's a cross-cultural thousand year old tradition associated with presentation of self and royal courts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Any country you've got, though this story happens in Ancient India... I just need ideas that would be believable. I have weaving, can't do embroidery due to the religion...
    No embroidery at all? I know there are proscriptions in Islam about depicting humans and animals, but there are strong traditions of geometric decoration and patterns. Or are you meaning something else?

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    Dunno if this will be of any use to you, but it might be worth a quick squiz: http://playpen.icomtek.csir.co.za/~a...ks/cultddk.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
    No embroidery at all? I know there are proscriptions in Islam about depicting humans and animals, but there are strong traditions of geometric decoration and patterns. Or are you meaning something else?
    Dealing with Ancient India, so at the time period everyone thought the needle piercing the cloth was "dirty". It wasn't until the Kushans came in around the time period I'm dealing with that there was tailored clothing. (Also the introduction of the sari from the uttariya/antariya set up).

    Women did the weaving... but both Buddhism and Hinduism said the needle was evil (at the time). So I'm following that fairly closely, which would put it at the time at today's highest levels of Brahmin standards, though the stratification of the caste system came later. (Nivi style came MUCH later.)

    Pretty sure knitting didn't really exist yet either.

    I have to look into managing the household.

    I don't have resources for what Queens/Princesses did back then. Kushani culture is thin at best, so I figure I should make it believable by looking at the list of things Queens and Princesses did throughout history and take a best guess based on what culture I'm dealing with.

    There was some argument that they were more involved with the religion too... though it's not clear in what capacity.

    Since I'm dealing with relatively early Hinduism from a written standpoint, it makes it a bit more difficult.

    I do have the basics: Weaving, gardening, managing ambassadors and instructing servants to serve them at meals (since the stratification would have kicked in later.), teaching the next generation (Ashram for the men though). First two I'm 100% sure of since I have cross reference on it. Women of the Court often managed the gardens--overseeing how they were grown, etc. Also women dealt with the finances traditionally, but I'm not sure how that would pan out. It's relatively early in the Empire (Guessed to be only the second or third king--it's fuzzy. Scholars disagree on it)... so I'm trying to mitigate the bureaucracy a bit... Newly established kingdoms usually don't have that many levels of servants, etc.

    I'm sure, though, I'm missing something else.

    Clothes and presentation? Managing servants? Ensuring Education? as said above? I know that Korean Joseon (which is WAAAYYY after this time period and a different country) had women doing such things. That was the job of the Queen. Not sure though how universal it is and how close I could slide on that.

    Oh and this would have been before Islam and Muslims in India and before Buddhism came into full swing. (Kanishka wasn't born yet...)
    Last edited by Rachel Udin; 01-09-2013 at 04:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Dealing with Ancient India, so at the time period everyone thought the needle piercing the cloth was "dirty". It wasn't until the Kushans came in around the time period I'm dealing with that there was tailored clothing. (Also the introduction of the sari from the uttariya/antariya set up).

    Women did the weaving... but both Buddhism and Hinduism said the needle was evil (at the time). So I'm following that fairly closely, which would put it at the time at today's highest levels of Brahmin standards, though the stratification of the caste system came later. (Nivi style came MUCH later.)

    Pretty sure knitting didn't really exist yet either.

    I have to look into managing the household.

    I don't have resources for what Queens/Princesses did back then. Kushani lore is thin at best, so I figure I should make it believable by looking at the list of things Queens and Princesses did throughout history and take a best guess based on what culture I'm dealing with.

    There was some argument that they were more involved with the religion too... though it's not clear in what capacity.
    I think knitting was essentially introduced from the west. There was always weaving, but royalty wouldn't do it, weavers would. There's be specialist weavers who could do really fancy stuff. I don't think the royals would be doing much by way of handicrafts.

    The queens/ princesses would do, I believe, the following:
    Follow complex worship rituals both for themselves and for their house/ husband/ sons; visit the temples on the grounds of their palaces and maybe even be escorted to major temples outside.

    They might ride and learn such sporting things, but it would be less usual than being carried in a palanquin. A princess who demanded it, and whose parents agreed might learn sporting skills such as archery.

    They would seldom be alone (privacy is a modern-day concept) and so they'd be surrounded by a bevy of friends and spend time talking with them. They'd play games. Sing together. Ask entertainers to sing or dance or tell stories.

    You'd see some of the same kinds of deep friendships and petty rivalries develop as in, say, high school, including competition for the King's attention.

    If they had small children, spend time with the kids.

    Eat long-drawn-out meals.

    Select clothing and jewelry from suppliers who would come into the palace. Either they jewelers and tailors would sell actual pieces, or more usually, take orders. They might show samples of their work.

    Manage the personnel issues arising from a large permanent staff of women around them, all of whom had to rely on the queens and princesses to sort out anything from a clash with other staff to sickness to domestic problems to special requests for their kids.

    If they were literate or scholarly, then read or invite scholars to discuss topics of philosophy or science.

    An older queen might take responsibility for her growing and grown children. She might be instrumental in arranging marriages for her daughters and even her sons.

    A princess or queen who took an interest in affairs of state could become quite influential as a trusted adviser to the King.

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    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    What time period in India? What parts of India?
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    From, The Tales of Netherron,
    Book 1, A Game of Pawns
    Book 2, Pawn takes Queen,
    Book 3, Pawn's Gambit,

    In the pipeline,
    Children of Netherron, follow up trilogy
    Guardians of Netherron, prequel trilogy

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    Quote Originally Posted by thothguard51 View Post
    What time period in India? What parts of India?
    As said, Kushan. Before Kanishka. Kadphises to be exact. I know it's hard, which is why I'm trying to extrapolate with surrounding information.

    I did find two separate sources that said women had a role in the temples, but didn't clarify what and chronologically when. Also the women of the royal court did weaving. And there are tons of sources on the gardening bit. Plus the architecture itself supports the idea.

    But that's about it. I'm looking for something more substantive for my women to do. Any ideas? Also since the King is gone in Bactria (historically accurate) the women have a bit more power if I understand correctly.

    BTW, this would make knitting not invented yet... Knitting came from the last part of the 1st millennium AD from last evidence, Egypt.

    And Kushana women were all expected to ride, as evidenced by the clothing style, which had women riding. Kushans were excellent horsemen/women. The current style of clothing closest to it also had women riding. Best guess, Princesses and the Queens are most likely very good with horses. Even the nobility wore pants/trousers... contrast this with say, Japanese women who rode in palanquins and they never had pants/trousers. The del on Mongolian women can split... also making it possible for them to ride.
    Last edited by Rachel Udin; 01-09-2013 at 09:41 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Dealing with Ancient India, so at the time period everyone thought the needle piercing the cloth was "dirty". It wasn't until the Kushans came in around the time period I'm dealing with that there was tailored clothing. (Also the introduction of the sari from the uttariya/antariya set up).

    Women did the weaving... but both Buddhism and Hinduism said the needle was evil (at the time). So I'm following that fairly closely, which would put it at the time at today's highest levels of Brahmin standards, though the stratification of the caste system came later. (Nivi style came MUCH later.)

    Pretty sure knitting didn't really exist yet either.

    I have to look into managing the household.

    I don't have resources for what Queens/Princesses did back then. Kushani culture is thin at best, so I figure I should make it believable by looking at the list of things Queens and Princesses did throughout history and take a best guess based on what culture I'm dealing with.

    There was some argument that they were more involved with the religion too... though it's not clear in what capacity.

    Since I'm dealing with relatively early Hinduism from a written standpoint, it makes it a bit more difficult.

    I do have the basics: Weaving, gardening, managing ambassadors and instructing servants to serve them at meals (since the stratification would have kicked in later.), teaching the next generation (Ashram for the men though). First two I'm 100% sure of since I have cross reference on it. Women of the Court often managed the gardens--overseeing how they were grown, etc. Also women dealt with the finances traditionally, but I'm not sure how that would pan out. It's relatively early in the Empire (Guessed to be only the second or third king--it's fuzzy. Scholars disagree on it)... so I'm trying to mitigate the bureaucracy a bit... Newly established kingdoms usually don't have that many levels of servants, etc.

    I'm sure, though, I'm missing something else.

    Clothes and presentation? Managing servants? Ensuring Education? as said above? I know that Korean Joseon (which is WAAAYYY after this time period and a different country) had women doing such things. That was the job of the Queen. Not sure though how universal it is and how close I could slide on that.

    Oh and this would have been before Islam and Muslims in India and before Buddhism came into full swing. (Kanishka wasn't born yet...)
    Well, it's not India, but there is an anecdote about Alexander the Great that might be relevant. When the Macedonians captured the Persian royal ladies (Xerxes being on the lam as it were), Alexander had the exact same question as you. So he solved it in a Helleno-centric fashion (being Hellenic, that's where his center was). He sent the ladies some needlework so they could pass the time.

    Consternation ensued. When Alexander arrived, he found the ladies begging not to deal with them harshly. They interpreted the needlework as a sign that they were to be degraded to the level of slaves. Alexander said he had no such thought. He assured them that even royal Greek ladies did sewing and the very shirt he was wearing had been made by his sister (IIRC).

    The story is in Arrian, and may be true or it may be made up. I wasn't present so I can't personally vouch for it, but then again no one who was present is around to deny it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Udin View Post
    Japanese women who rode in palanquins and they never had pants/trousers.
    Sorry for the derail, but they actually did wear wide trousers under all these layers of kimonos in the Heian and Kamakura-Muromachi periods. Also, the aristocracy used oxen carriages rather than palanquins then.

    To add something productive, I'd say the queens and princesses probably did a lot of preparations for festivals and such, religious or otherwise.
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    I don't know much/anything about the period, but surely there were "parlor games"--or whatever the equivalent of a parlor would be in ancient India. They could have had games like blind man's bluff or charades, or maybe there were board games or something similar. These things probably won't be found in the record, so you have some latitude to invent games.

    Also, what about music? What kind of instruments might be considered appropriate for a princess to play?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tocotin View Post
    Sorry for the derail, but they actually did wear wide trousers under all these layers of kimonos in the Heian and Kamakura-Muromachi periods. Also, the aristocracy used oxen carriages rather than palanquins then.

    To add something productive, I'd say the queens and princesses probably did a lot of preparations for festivals and such, religious or otherwise.
    Thanks for the correction and thanks for the suggestion. I'll have to think about festivals, etc too, which might be fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    I don't know much/anything about the period, but surely there were "parlor games"--or whatever the equivalent of a parlor would be in ancient India. They could have had games like blind man's bluff or charades, or maybe there were board games or something similar. These things probably won't be found in the record, so you have some latitude to invent games.

    Also, what about music? What kind of instruments might be considered appropriate for a princess to play?
    Not sure what parlor games there were--I'll have to ask and look around--I do know there was a betting game back then like Parchesi, but the men played it, definitely can do music--forgot about that. Thanks!

    I hope that's enough since the women can't really go much outside the palace without escorts or getting scolded.

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    I don't really know much about India, but you mentioned the women probably had a bit more power with the King gone. So, I would imagine there was a certain amount of "palace intrigue" as it were, with scheming for position and building up power-bases and the like. That would take up a certain amount of time, and the Queens/Princesses would be rather at the center of it, since presumably all power flowed from them with the King gone. Or perhaps there was some sort of male seneschal/vizier type who would have been given the job of day-to-day governing? What sort of relationship would he have had with the women? Would they be allies, or adversaries? Or would the Queen have been left in charge of daily governance? The thing about low-bureaucracy governing is it requires a certain amount of daily supervision by a single person In Charge, or else it starts to get a bit wonky.

    Anyway, I've seen you post elsewhere about your WIP, and I just have to say, it sounds like it's going to be amazing. Good luck with your research!
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    You might want to read Terry Jones' Medieval Lives for an interesting view on this. The chapter on 'Damsels' has some real historical examples of what some women certainly got up to while their husbands were away (managing the estate, acting in his stead, in one case at least actually defending the castle from seige).

    It also depends on what period you are talking about... in the Renaissance, for example, queens/princesses were educated and would read and write. They composed poetry, wrote and played music, did dressmaking and gardening. There would also be a lot of letters being written between the women in various courts - carrying intrigue and gossip - and of course the intrigue and gossip in the court itself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bookewyrme View Post
    I don't really know much about India, but you mentioned the women probably had a bit more power with the King gone. So, I would imagine there was a certain amount of "palace intrigue" as it were, with scheming for position and building up power-bases and the like. That would take up a certain amount of time, and the Queens/Princesses would be rather at the center of it, since presumably all power flowed from them with the King gone. Or perhaps there was some sort of male seneschal/vizier type who would have been given the job of day-to-day governing? What sort of relationship would he have had with the women? Would they be allies, or adversaries? Or would the Queen have been left in charge of daily governance? The thing about low-bureaucracy governing is it requires a certain amount of daily supervision by a single person In Charge, or else it starts to get a bit wonky.

    Anyway, I've seen you post elsewhere about your WIP, and I just have to say, it sounds like it's going to be amazing. Good luck with your research!
    Thanks so much. I'll have to give that some thought... there aren't many references towards that direction, so I'll have to inference it a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by areteus View Post
    You might want to read Terry Jones' Medieval Lives for an interesting view on this. The chapter on 'Damsels' has some real historical examples of what some women certainly got up to while their husbands were away (managing the estate, acting in his stead, in one case at least actually defending the castle from seige).

    It also depends on what period you are talking about... in the Renaissance, for example, queens/princesses were educated and would read and write. They composed poetry, wrote and played music, did dressmaking and gardening. There would also be a lot of letters being written between the women in various courts - carrying intrigue and gossip - and of course the intrigue and gossip in the court itself.
    Ah! I knew I was forgetting some things. Thanks for the list. I have the gossip, but I hadn't thought of poetry... paper wasn't really invented, but they still wrote, so it's likely there was some of that activity...

    Thank you. ^^;; Though my next post will be about a plot hole.

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    9th century Carolingian Empress Judith hosted banquets and entertainments, hunted with Louis the Pious, accompanied him on his royal progresses and to war. She played both cithar and organ and was literate in Latin and Greek.

    In Spain, Philip IV's first wife Isabel while still a teen liked to sponsor and pay for frivolous plays and played pranks such as turning loose rats or snakes during performances.





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    Quote Originally Posted by donroc View Post
    9th century Carolingian Empress Judith hosted banquets and entertainments, hunted with Louis the Pious, accompanied him on his royal progresses and to war. She played both cithar and organ and was literate in Latin and Greek.

    In Spain, Philip IV's first wife Isabel while still a teen liked to sponsor and pay for frivolous plays and played pranks such as turning loose rats or snakes during performances.
    Haha, I like the second one. I didn't know that. Thanks for the real life examples.

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