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No medieval child was ever asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That question reveals how we Americans value our individualism. From a very young age, we’re taught that we determine our fate.

No so in the Middle Ages. That decision was in the hands of the parents, everything from whom their child would marry to whether they’d join the clergy.

Charlemagne and Byzantine Empress Irene, for example, arranged a betrothal between his 6-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son in 781. Seven years later, each monarch took credit for breaking off the agreement, even though the teenage bridegroom was upset. (We don’t know how the bride felt.)

That same concept applied when parents gave a young child to the Church. This comes to mind as I write another post about medieval parents who did just that. In fact, if we are to believe the source, it’s the very reason the father got married in the first place. See my post about Saint Wilgils at English Historical Fiction Authors for more.

St. Willibrord Sculpture

Wilgils’s son, Willibrord (photo by Ytzen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)