The middle of the 14th century is a time of great change…. a world that gave lip service to the ideals of chivalry, while indiscriminately pillaging and murdering. It was a world where women took lovers at will and plotted assassination and rebellion. It was a world of shifting boundaries, shifting allegiances and constant warfare.”
Michael Crichton’s description is a sweeping generalisation but founded in fact. The structure of feudal society is being challenged. The age of chivalry is coming to an end. The concept of nationhood slowly replaces the feudal order. This change alone affects the way people think and live. Like all change, it brings tension and conflict in its wake.The new order provides greater social flexibility and opportunity for those who wish to take advantage of it.
A new breed of Champion
A new breed of champion emerges, threatening the very fabric of feudal society. These new champions are from all levels of society and are generally unconcerned with concepts of chivalry.
Their sole objective is personal gain, and they have no scruples about the means to that end. They will support whichever state that provides the greatest opportunity.
Old style HerosThe Essence of Chivalry. Loyalty to god and sovereign. Live by the rules.Protect womenHowever, the core of the old feudal structure still exists. Heroes still hold true to the concepts of chivalry and fight against injustice.
The clash between heroes and champions becomes a new battleground between good and evil.
The role of WomenMarriage And Domesticity- but not for all women.Women are expected to accept whatever lot fathers, mothers, brothers, guardians, lords or kings assign to them.
Power and InfluenceNot all women are confined to a minor role . In Occitan they can inherit land and titles.This does not prevent some women who have access to great wealth, are sexually attractive and who are prepared to utilise these advantages, to come to positions of power and influence.
The Church of RomeThe inquisition, under the guidance of Dominic de Guzman, began in Occitan not Spain.Everyone is affected by the continuing struggle between the Roman Church and the other versions of Christianity deemed to be heretical.The Church’s use of torture, imprisonment without trial, and burning at the stake–loosely described as the ‘Holy Inquisition’–is gathering momentum. Those totally without scruples use the Inquisition as a tool to manipulate or eliminate opposition.
The cost of FailureThe punishment forb treason was hanging drawing and quartering.The 14th century is a world rich in contrasts, an amalgam of romance, danger and adventure. It is a world of great opportunity for those with courage and vision but where the cost of failure is often a brutally violent death.
This is the world in which Ximene must live. She has no choice. She must learn the skills needed to survive, surrounded by violence, treachery and discrimination.