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European royalty vs. native tradition, I do not perceive one thing…

For years and years I’ve learn concerning the numerous intermarriages, dynasties, royal homes, and so forth. that dominated Europe. Based mostly on their actions, your entire continent primarily appeared like one huge property cut up amongst only a few households, with family going off to rule distant and fairly disparate lands- one uncle off to Spain, a daughter to Holland, a cousin to Austria, a brother to England, and so forth and so forth.

My confusion is that this: the cultures of those international locations range broadly from each other. Music, meals, language, traditions, local weather, and so forth. and so forth. and so forth. are all fairly totally different. It is arduous for me to think about so few bloodlines/households simply comfortably choosing up and transferring to run a rustic that is so totally different or, in the event that they did combine, remote family coming collectively from these lands and being culturally suitable. In essence, all of the thrones appeared to be concerned in an enormous recreation of musical chairs with only a few households enjoying, however mentioned thrones had been in such totally different cultural places. How did it work? There are three explanations I can give you…

1. The ruling elite didn’t, in reality, combine nicely with the native cultures. An Austrian princess despatched to Spain remained, in essence, an Austrian. The huge variations within the root cultures didn’t actually permeate the non-public tradition of the monarchs.
2. The royals had been a lot broader in training, publicity, and conduct than folks right this moment, such that mentioned Austrian princess might float comfortably between Andalusia and the courts of Vienna, or another variety of locations, with out showing or feeling misplaced. Linguistically I might see this, however culturally I am having a tough time shopping for it.
3. Considerably a mixture of 1. and a couple of., there was a special excessive basic tradition, a courtroom one I suppose, that was common throughout these lands and that is all that actually mattered. These households all adopted roughly a pan-continental tradition of the the Aristocracy, and with minor assist from translators and whatnot, might rule the totally different regional folks.

Mainly for those who’ve spent any time with folks from, say, England, Spain, and France, you’d see my confusion. Ideas? Thanks!

Comments ( 22 )

  1. I’m inclined to say a fair bit of 1, and a bit of 2, really, with the variation being dependant on era.
    to give examples, you have in the 18th C, “bonnie prince Charlie” of Scotland – Polish mother, English father, Raised in Rome, speaking Italian, French, and English. To his credit, is also alleged to have tried to learn some Gaelic during the rebellion.
    Someone like that, there’s a fairly broad education which covers some of the primary areas (Italian and French) in particular which were commonplace in courts.

    In the 11th-13th century, in contrast, you have anglo-norman monarchs in the British isles who in many cases lay claims to French territories, marrying French, Iberian, or similar families, whose main languages were most likely completely different to those of the populace – and whose nobility were most likely bilingual in terms of their need to be able to address the societies above and below them in station. In these cases, the royalty might well be best considered unintegrated into their national culture, and distinct from it.

    So my inclination is that if you were to graph it out, there is a spectrum of integration / disassociation with the subject culture, and a perpendicular axis spectrum of education and exposure, ranging from insular to universal integration into a broader courtly culture.
    would probably be fun to try to quantify those metrics, and graph out how various countries’ monarchies were more or less insular, and more or less connected to the courtly cultures over time, and see the steady shifts.

  2. Marie Antoinette would love to discuse 1) with you.

  3. >Based on their actions, the entire continent essentially seemed like one big property split amongst very few families

    This would describe accurately the feudal times, because government was pretty distant for most people so it didn’t really matter who was in that position. Hence most of the populace did not care whether their ruler and lord was a Plantagenet or a Capetian.

    Intermarriage is an exchange of women. So it was an issue for princesses, and that was their fate. They would be shipped off, in a neighboring or distant land, and they had to fulfill their role as part of their husband’s dynasty, or more precisely, their children’s dynasty, but usually these roles were minimal, although there’s been quite a few for whom it was not just minimal.

    In broad terms, until the 15th century then no regular Joe cared about where the Lord was coming from. The aristocrats were a different world. You can clearly see that in England where post 1066 there is a very different culture between the ruling class and the peasantry. But this happened elsewhere, at least since the Germanic invasions at the end of the Roman empire where the ruling class and the peasants did not share the same culture.

    I would say that it’s like employees of a Fortune 500 company not caring about who the stockholders are. They are probably impacted by it, but workers don’t really care if the stockholders are US pension funds or an Arab prince, because they all behave the same towards the workers.

    From the 15th century on, and the appearance of national conscience and of the modern state, this probably slowly started changing, but remember that national sentiment started at the top of the social order, NOT at the bottom, and then slowly diffused down the social ladder over a couple of centuries. The 100 years war is a pivotal moment: it starts as a feudal conflict and ends as a nationalist one.

    But in general, for the population, the issue of the nationality of the rulers was only a question of perception of general interests: if Marie-Antoinette was decried as “the Austrian”, it was not because she was not French, the last French queen of France was Henri IV’s first wife 2 centuries prior, but because she was perceived as being an obstacle for the realization of the good of the population.

    The alignment of good governance with the nationality of the rulers is a contemporary proposition, one that was born from democratic principles of the Enlightment and treated as the “nationality issues” of the 19th century.

    And if we are looking at modern day Europe, with so many of the rules pushed out of EU institutions made by God knows which Eurocrat, we’re basically back to where we were in the 18th century where rules were made by a class of international aristocrats, and it did not cause a problem unless such rules do not aligned with the perceived general interests, and then suddenly, the nationality of the ruler becomes an issue.

    So if you can understand how a bunch of German and French eurocrats can make rules that will apply to Finland and Portugal, then you can understand how Europe worked prior the French revolution.

  4. I would say that there was a solid base level of common court culture over Europe that a new “transplant” could rely on. Then it was up to them how much they changed their environment or let the environment change them.
    A princess marrying a foreign king or crown prince was more likely to adapt to her husbands (and therefore local) culture. Foreigners becoming non-absolutetist rulers also tried to “fit in” and represent their new country, without that being a practical necessity. George I. spoke no English when he became king of England, he only learned it late in life. Both him and George II. were raised French first (in Hanover), then German and finally English when it became practical. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was not royalty at all when he became king of Sweden.
    But of course the next generation would be raised again with common court culture AND local culture.

  5. Many marriages were to forge unions between countries. Culturally I’ve read that they either traveled often to their mother country or had things brought to them from the former country.

  6. Court culture was different from everyday peasant/commoner culture. The divide was great, so it didn’t matter that the king maybe didn’t even speak the peasants’ language.

  7. First of all, European aristocracy was not just social class, it was caste above nationalities of the local people. Noble from France felt closer relation to noble from Spain then to French peasant. They often spoke same language (Latin in early to high middle ages) and sometimes claimed descent from different people then local lower classes. You can see examples in England (Normans ruling over Ango-Saxons) or Poland (Sarmatians ruling over Slavs).

    Second, political organization during middle ages was not based on ethnicity and culture, it was based on descent. Among political classes, who your parents were was more important then what your nationality is. Been descendant from aristocratic family meant that you have right to be part of ruling elite while not having such origins meant that you don’t. It went as far as soldiers refusing to follow commanders that were not of noble origin.

    And third, having ruler that is not local was seen by political class often as advantageous. Foreigner did not have local connection and was not part of any local faction, therefore he was seen as more impartial then if one of the local factions put their man on a throne (which would likely lead to opposition from other factions). Plus for the same reason he was expected to be weak and thus local elites were expecting to be able to extract more rights and power for themselves from him.

    Local culture and nationality begun to have influence on rulers only at the end on 19th century and beginning of 20st with the rise of nationalism in Europe. Exception was religion. Ruler was expected to change his religion to the local one, if state had official religion (which most of them did). This sometimes came with the adoption of a new name during baptism (you can see this practice in Russia).

  8. Cultural differences are exaggerated dramatically for political purposes.
    But we all know.
    That people are the same wherever you go.

  9. Honestly I think your confusion is down to one thing, and that’s the altering and usage of the word ‘integrate’ in modern right wing political discourse.


    >An Austrian princess sent to Spain remained, in essence, an Austrian.


    This doesn’t say she wasn’t integrated, it says she wasn’t assimilated. They absolutely were integrated, as they came from identical Christian systems.

  10. Until very recently they could all speak Latin and even after that they could pretty much all speak French… that was simply something educated people got so communication with the people around them at court would be easy enough, and outside that it tailed off….

  11. IIRC, from something I read long ago, any European royalty and the people around them would be expected to know French, so that even when German royalty traveled to Russia, there wouldn’t be too much of a language barrier. And most of the time, there would be no need to integrate into local culture. They lived in palaces on huge estates, surrounded by servants and other royalty.

  12. neither. There was strong atmosphere of conformism. People were relocating, learning local language and customs and completely assimilating. So an “Austrian” french king would happily burn austrian cities and “Flemish” Spanish king would destroy to oblivion his home place with no hesitation. The mere idea of holding on your “home habits” while abroad was considered to be incredibly strange. In other words people even didn’t think about such possibility.

    I remind that the day schedule of higher nobility (not only king families per se) was extremely prescribed and regulated by the corresponding court. There were cases when a royalty was relocating together with the court but they never were lasting and are extremely rare historical events.

  13. When your new king came from Germany to rule England because of a series of arranged marriages, you just sucked it up and we’re ruled by a German because to object would be treasonous revolt and the German has an army and a security apparatus on his side. Also his wife is theoretically British so maybe it’s ok?

    Under feudalism who your lord was could have life and death consequences but 99.9% of the population had zero power to change that. You just got what you got.

  14. My impression is that it was any or all of those. There was some sort of cross-Europe ruling class that intermarried a lot. So there were some automatic family ties. Linguas francas such as French or Latin helped. Classical and/or church education were common ground.

    There seem to have been regular frictions, like resentment of local nobles toward a princess who sticks too much to her birth customs. Or she might become very popular by successfully assimilating. In England, German-sourced Hanover changed its name to Windsor to fit in better.

    Keep in mind that until relatively recently, many rulers didn’t do that much outside the military domain. They had little ability or desire to manage the daily lives of commoners. And there was more rule by force involved. So the frictions were mostly within the aristocracy until later on. Once the printing press came in, more commoners could get involved, and the reformations generated a lot of religious conflict, ushering in the modern era of mass culture conflicts.

  15. 1) In general (but not always), the ruler was a “local”, it was usually the women that travel to get married to someone in another Kingdom. The rule was usually the son of the rule that came before him, meaning that for a good part of his life he grew up where he ruled. Now that’s not always the case. Some people could receive a region to rule over as a reward from their Monarch and conquest happened on a regular basis. But even after a change in power, the new lord would rule for all his life and his son would be born and grew up in this new region before eventually becoming the ruler himself.

    2) Feudal Europe was very decentralized. From the King, to the Peers (Counts, Dukes, etc), to the different lords, to the knight. Even if some lords in the chain would come from another culture, a lot of the people under him would be locals. There is a lot of example of foreign ruler having to deal with local nobility.

    3) Local people simply didn’t matter, like at all. 90% of people were farmer, they lived all their lives in their village or hamlet, very rarely travelling. They didn’t really have much contract with the nobles in position of authority. Collection of taxes and involvement with the justice were done with the local noble, or a representative.

    Around 10% of people were in town, but town were relatively independent. They were not serf like most peasant. They were usually freemen and ferociously defended their local authority against those of the nobles. It was a mutually beneficial relationship as town having the rights to make their own markets, walls and governance were much more economically profitable for nobles than rural regions.

    So for the vast majority of people, either serf or burgess (living in towns), what mattered was the local situation. As long as the nobles were not being too much of a pain and provided justice and security, it didn’t really matter who they were or where they were coming from.

    It was more so the local nobility and clergy that mattered. It was in the interest of any foreign ruler to know at least enough of the local culture to not make enemies the local nobility or the clergy. For example, William the Conqueror was French and after conquering England he gave most of the land to his French follower. This meant that even if English was the local language, the nobility remained French for centuries.

    The invasion took place in 1066 and it was not until 1362 that a law stipulated that all courts of justice would be done in English instead of French. Because most common people didn’t known French and so they couldn’t understand what was said for or against them in court. And it’s not until early 15th century that English became the official language of the government. It took a lot of centuries because most of the local nobility and clergy was French, so there was not a lot of pressure on the King to give more place for English until a larger portion of the nobles were also speaking English.

  16. A lot of the noble and royal women sent to far off-lands to marry off did not integrate well to life in their new husband’s courts and it’s clear from later sources (from the Early Modern period on) that a number of them found the experience rather traumatic.

    While the new bride would often be educated on the future husband’s court’s customs and so on, some royal and noble brides arrived not even speaking the same language as their future husband or his courtiers. Isabeau of Bavaria, the wife of Charles VI of France, was one such.

    The fact that queens consort tended to be foreigners was often a mark against them and they were often portrayed as importing suspicious foreign customs, having dual loyalties, and bringing masses of foreigners to court to suck up all the favors. This is such a common trope that it was rare for a Queen consort to not be portrayed in this way.

    Speaking the same language and having family in the new place was no guarantee than the adjustment would be easy. Empress Sisi, for instance, spoke German, had been raised in Bavaria, and was the first cousin of her husband, so you’d think the adjustment to court life in Austria would be pretty easy, right? Wrong, the Habsburg court in Vienna was extremely rigid and formal and nothing in her life had prepared her for that. She never really adjusted to court life and had a very tense relationship with her mother-in-law, though Sophie was also her maternal aunt.

  17. These are great questions! I recommend picking up biographies on Catherine the Great (“German” to Russian) and Charles V Holy Roman Emperor (“German” to “Spanish”). Not only will you see how these two remarkable people adapted or failed to adapt to the elite and common cultures of their new homes, you’ll see how other transplants around them adapted and viewed the unique environments of European courts.

    Catherine might be the best example of a European monarch wholly embracing a vastly different culture than the one she was brought up in.

  18. Your three explanations are all correct, but it also all varied with the time period and the countries. For instance, the Russian Imperial dynasty became more Russian after Napoleon’s invasion made speaking French less fashionable and Russian patriotism much more popular.

    In the 1600s, it was the peak of French influence and power in the continent. Everyone wanted to be like Louis XIV the Sun King. Speaking French, dressing French, copying his morning rituals (seriously), copying his extravagant palace, etc. It was all the rage and what every European monarch wanted to be like. Even his enemies copied him. Everyone would have been speaking French to each other, much like how many world leaders today often can speak English with each other. Even so, some kings were less enthused with Louismania, Protestant monarchs were (somewhat) less ostentatious than their Catholic counterpart. In the case of Orthodox Russia, in the days before Peter the Great, they didn’t even look to the French king at all and instead stuck to their own traditional Russian dresses, Russian Orthodox Church rituals, Russian architecture, and Russian language. It was only with Peter I that things began to change, and Peter himself was more of a Dutch fanboy than French one.

    By the 1700s, you have changing attitudes, but still a lot of that Baroque splendor carrying over. Fredrick the Great of Prussia still preferred speaking in French (and even named his palace, *Sansoucci*, in French) and so did the Russian Tsars. However, more local pride began to become fashionable as well, and this is when we can see Mozart writing the first German operas to be performed for the Austrian Emperor and nobility (all operas before were in Italian and French). The British King George III, the infamous one in America, also had learned English as his first language and was much loved by his people in Britain, who nicknamed him “Farmer George” for his seemingly less extravagant personality and (slightly) more down to earth relationship to the British people. At this time we also had artists and writers making national pride trendy, for instance Goethe choosing to write German novels about Germany, so these artistic trends inevitably seeped into the Royal Courts.

    By the 1800s, the French revolution and Napoleon solidify the monarchs as being Nationalist beacons. The French revolution ignites Nationalism as we think of it today, and the monarchies have to adapt to it. As mentioned before, the Russian Tsars here would become “more Russian” because the French were the enemy and speaking their language was not a good move for popularity with the people. The Prussian Kings would have to become fully *Germans* because the German people were beginning to identify as one nation and becoming more proud of their own culture (and of course, hostile to the French). In France itself, Napoleon would create a “popular” monarchy, by having his ascension as Emperor be confirmed by voters in a national referendum. His legitimacy as Emperor of the French would rest on his ability to lead France, the nation-state, to new heights of glory, it would not rest on any divine right to rule or in inheritance from the ancient dynasties of before.

    In Britain, Queen Victoria really cements the Crown as the ultimate symbol of Britishness and what the British family should look like (a lot of our “family values” of today stem from Queen Victoria’s ideals of how mum and dad should act, having a close and loving nuclear family, instead of the stern and authoritarian Patriarch ruling over a large clan like before). Her English was proper English, her behaviour was proper British behavior, and she was the symbol of the British Empire and all its Britishness. Although she could speak French by virtue of education, the court would be in English because French was the language of the nation’s old enemies after all. And now here we are today, with Monarchs serving as National Mascots, rather than the sovereign warlords of the past.

  19. The ruling class were educated specifically for this reason. Many spoke French as a lingua franca and often Latin and Greek to communicate. This was especially true for women who were sent off to wed foreign rulers. You didn’t know where they may end up, so you prepared them for as many circumstances as you could.

    It was common for royals to marry into foreign dynasties, especially among the Holy Roman Empire that had a glut of royals. These people would end up ruling lands where they had little in common with the peasants and lower class, and often didn’t speak the language. That wasn’t a problem a majority of the time, though, as courts were able to work as an intermediary between the new king and the nobles.

    There was always the fear that a new ruler would feel foreign and not be in sync with the peasantry, which often lead to revolts. This was especially common in Spain where they rejected German royals.

  20. Court and Elite culture was highly homogenous if you look at things like Opera, Ballet, Museums, High Art and Classical Music. But the locals generally dont care who is their king, it makes a very small difference to the average peasant, this coupled with the fact that it wasnt common for rulers to go out and interact with the peasantry means that they never really saw eachother or had anything to share.

  21. It seems like basic societal structures (at least for the nobility) were very similar at their core. Much like if you’re a billionaire today, you could live a very comfortable life in wildly different places/cultures. Money has a way of making life easier… Now as then.

    And it does seem that once married and shipped off to a different country, efforts were made to integrate into that new country’s culture. An example that illustrates this would be how the names of the children born into royal families maintained the style of the country they’re in. I’m thinking here of say, the Danish royal family names (Henrik, Christian) vs the Russians (Anastasia, Olga, Alexei) vs the English (George, Henry) etc. Doesn’t seem the origin of the spouse who married in got much of a look in re: baby names.

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