My question is about milestone birthdays. Were birthdays, (in a child or adult's life) such as 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 30th; etc,.. considered as important back then, as they are now? Did people celebrate these ages the same way we do now? Were there any traditions that people had for those who finally turned a certain age? Lastly, did people see getting older as a good thing or a bad thing?
Related previous thread:
At least in some circumstances an 18th birthday would be important, such as a when a child becomes monarch and has a regent or council ruling with them (or for them in the case of a very young child) until they came of age.
The concept of “milestone” ages were there, back then, but it was still different, back then. For example, 10 might’ve been the age, (if not sooner) when a child was considered old enough to go to work like an adult, 13 would’ve been old enough to be considered at least a “young adult”, (the concept of teenage hood didn’t exist, then), 16 would’ve been completely an “adult”, and by someone’s 18th birthday, you might’ve even been considered old enough (if female) to have gotten married, gotten pregnant, and given birth to a child, and 21st birthday would’ve been when a knight was no longer a squire, and could officially start being a knight. And as for the birthdays after that, I can’t really say, for sure, but contrary to popular myth, most people DID actually live to be at least OVER 30, 40, or even 50. And women’s birthdays, (only the menfolks’ birthdays were celebrated), weren’t even celebrated until starting in the 12th century!
With all due respect to John, some of the information that he has provided in his response is not entirely accurate. Depending on the socio-economic standing of the family, children might start doing actual "work" well before the age of ten, for example. That was particularly true in low-status laboring families and agricultural families. Recall that low status children did not attend school and so were available to perform various kinds of work suited to their size and ability, even if it was nothing more than turning a spit in the kitchen of a large household. Children of a very young age might also be employed in mines, for example, and other similar occupations. And according to church doctrine, 14 was the age of accountability rather than 13. Thus, at age 14, a child was supposed to know the difference between right and wrong and to put away childish wrongful behavior. And just as the concept of "teenage hood" did not exist, neither did the concept of "young adult" exist. One was an adult, or one was not an adult. Regarding the age at which women were thought marriageable, that also depended on socio-economic status as well as the specific time period in which the person lived. Church doctrine allowed marriage at age 14, but that was rare. And the notion that a "squire ... could officially start being a knight" at age 21 is the product of modern fantasy literature. Knighthoods in Tudor England were earned by actions, not by reaching a certain age. No one became a knight based solely on his age, even if he wanted to do so. Knighthood was conferred by a superior and usually based on military service and accomplishment. And knighthoods very often did not come until much later in life. Lastly, regarding birthday observances, I think it is instructive to look at the diary of King Edward VI. He makes no mention whatsoever of his birthdays in 1549, 1550, 1551, or 1552. In more than two decades of primary source research in the Tudor era, I cannot recall ever having seen documentation of any birthday observance for any person, high-born or low. And while it is true that a small percentage of the population did live into their 40s, 50s, and beyond, the *average* life expectancy for men of the Tudor period was between 35 and 40 while that of women was somewhat lower. Recall that Henry VII died at age 52, his wife Elizabeth at 37, their son Arthur at 15, daughter Margaret at 52, and daughter Mary at 37. Henry VIII died at age 55, Katherine of Aragon at age 50, Jane Seymour at age 28, Anne of Cleves at 41, Katherine Parr at 36. Henry VIII's son Edward VI died at age 15 years and 8 months, Henry of Cornwall at age 7 weeks, Henry Fitzroy at age 17, daughter Mary at age 42, and daughter Elizabeth at age 69. So while one royal Tudor did live "to a ripe old age" (Elizabeth), the rest all died before age 55, and many others before or near age 40.
With all due respect to everyone, here, I think there are both some accuracies and inaccuracies in your research(es), I’m just going to kindly name a few. E.g., in medieval times, it clearly says online, that a boy was a page from 7-13, a squire from age 14-20, and then finally a knight once he’d turned 21, as long as he’d obeyed and followed both his educational and knighthood requirements, set by his elders. Last time I checked, it didn’t say just any old boy/young man would just be literally picked off the streets and made a knight! Of course, I could be mistaken, since you said Tudor, not Medieval, maybe things were different further up in history, I need to go and do some more research, I guess. Also, regarding the birthday subject, actually some people did celebrate, yes, they did it in a different way than we do now, but it’s not as though they treated birthdays completely as a nothing. One last thing, some people did live to be older, too, the “life expectancy” thing is a myth! If someone survived their early childhood, he/she could expect to live to even be past their 50s or 60s, of course, considering nothing killed them, they didn’t get sick, and/or (if a woman) survived through her pregnancies and childbirths.
Well, if it "clearly says it online," then it must be true!
Yes, "things were different further up in history." Knighthood and its qualifications in the Tudor period were quite different from knighthood in the "medieval" period several hundred years earlier, just as knighthoods and its qualifications today are very different from those of the Tudor (and "medieval" period). History is change.
"The 'life expectancy' thing is a myth!" Good to know! But I am pretty sure that a large number of trained professional historians and modern demographers would strongly disagree with that characterization.
Re: Life expectancy - coincidentally, I had just been looking up something related to that topic, prompted by a funny version of a popular meme posted by Fake History Hunter on Twitter - https://twitter.com/fakehistoryhunt/status/1564737076393918464 and some of the discussion under it.
I think the statistical terms get a little muddled and that is what causes some of the confusion and misconceptions. This BBC article has a nice summary of the topic for several historical eras and has links to some other articles and sources if anyone wants to fall down that rabbit hole (like I started to even though I really didn't have the time!) - https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181002-how-long-did-ancient-people-live-life-span-versus-longevity
Ack - sorry, I meant to make those links clickable! This should be an active link to the article: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181002-how-long-did-ancient-people-live-life-span-versus-longevity
Either way, this may be off-topic, but in either era, I think the process of becoming a knight would’ve sucked! (For lack of a better word). Being a page and squire basically meant you were at the mercy of your elders; including, the lord, the other knights, and even the middle-aged, or elderly retired knights. Until you were knighted at 21, you were to be “seen, but not heard.” I guess some of the young boys and teenage boys had it better, than others, depending on whether their elders were good and kind, or cruel and abusive. I even heard one of my history teachers tell a story, (whether it’s true or not) that sometime back in medieval times, a knight had gotten food poisoning and vomited all over the castle, got diarrhea, and the 12-year-old page was forced to clean up after him! That doesn’t sound like fun to me! Lol!🤣☹️🤢
Omg! Lol! As a historian, myself, I just have to say, (maybe I shouldn’t have, but) I found myself laughing so hard my ribs hurt, about the part you typed about the knight who got sick and puked and had diarrhea through the whole castle! Even if that story was just all made-up, boloney, in a way, unfortunately, it also kind of sums up life, back then, more, in an era with no proper refrigeration of the foods/courses at these feasts!
P.S., btw, looking back, I feel really sorry for the pages and squires (if some actually were) that were made to clean up after the knights’ bodily functions, whether the knights were sick, at the time, or not.
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