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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Advance in domesticity


Advance in domesticity.]

[Sidenote: Other social customs.]

As a result of the greater economic wealth, the comparative peace back from the frontier, and the development of the towns the manner of life underwent a rapid change, which may be summed up by saying that people began to live inside the house instead of out, giving more active play to the domestic instinct of the woman, which in its turn had a much needed softening effect upon the man. Houses now had hearths, although not always a chimney and as late as the twelfth century no panes of glass in the windows. Furniture reached a degree of luxury and comfort far in advance of what it had been since the Roman era. It was heavy and very sober in decoration at first, but increased in adornment later on. Beds were an object of luxury in the eleventh century; people slept on benches or on the floor. By the thirteenth century artisans and laborers usually had a bed, as also a table, two chairs, and a chest. Chairs, throughout the period, were low, and rarely had backs; those with both arms and a back were reserved for the master of the house. Floors, even in palaces, were usually bare of cover. Habits of cleanliness were not yet very much in evidence. Clothing was customarily worn until worn out, without being changed or washed. At table it was rare for the diners to have individual plates or napkins, and the fork was not yet known. Bones and refuse were left

on the table, or thrown on the floor, and the use of water for any purpose other than for drinking was unusual. The custom of public baths had some vogue in the cities, however. Men still lived much in the open, but women habitually withdrew from public view. Crimes against women, from those which were more serious down to the comparatively mild offence of pulling a woman's hair, were punished with extreme severity,--not that women enjoyed high esteem or even an equal consideration with men, for the supposed gallantry of the medieval period did not in fact exist. Men wore their hair long, and a long beard was considered as an indication of dignity,--so much so, that a heavy penalty was imposed on anybody who pulled or cut another's beard. Amusement was provided by jugglers or by dancing and singing, especially on days of religious festivals, or holidays, and during the holding of fairs. Among the great people the French sport of the tourney was much in favor. From France, too, came feudal chivalry, imposing the ideals of valor, loyalty, and dignity (to the extent that nobody should doubt another's nobility, his word, or his courage) on those professing it. This exaggerated sense of honor led to duelling, and comported ill with the real conduct of the nobles. Epidemics of leprosy and plagues (bubonic?) were frequent, resulting in the founding of hospitals and institutions of charity.

[Sidenote: Political and administrative changes.]

Fundamentally, Le?n and Castile had much the same political organization as before, but the popular element, as represented in the _villas_ and the _Cortes_, began to be a real political force, and the kings increased their strength at the expense of the nobles, although their struggle with the nobility as a class was not to result in complete royal victory for more than two centuries yet. The throne continued elective in theory, but the tendency was for it to become hereditary, although the question was not definitely settled at this time. The right of women to reign became recognized with the crowning of Berenguela. In administration many governmental districts were enlarged to include various counties, the whole being ruled by a governor appointed directly by the king, assisted by functionaries called _merinos mayores_,[20] who had charge of civil and criminal jurisdiction. An important reform was effected by removing the nobles from the post of the king's representative in the counties and substituting officials called _adelantados_, whose authority at this time was more civil than military, and therefore less dangerous.[21] Still others exercised respectively political and military authority.

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