Women in Medieval Scotland includes all aspects of the lives and status of women between the departure of the Romans from Northern Britain in the fifth century to the introduction of the Renaissance and Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Medieval Scotland was a patriarchal society, but how exactly patriarchy worked in practice is difficult to discern. A large proportion of the women for whom biographical details survive were members of the royal houses of Scotland. Some of these became important figures. There was only one reigning Scottish Queen in this period, the uncrowned and short-lived Margaret, Maid of Norway (r. 1286–90).

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  • Women in Medieval Scotland includes all aspects of the lives and status of women between the departure of the Romans from Northern Britain in the fifth century to the introduction of the Renaissance and Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Medieval Scotland was a patriarchal society, but how exactly patriarchy worked in practice is difficult to discern. A large proportion of the women for whom biographical details survive were members of the royal houses of Scotland. Some of these became important figures. There was only one reigning Scottish Queen in this period, the uncrowned and short-lived Margaret, Maid of Norway (r. 1286–90). Girls of noble families were taught in nunneries and by the end of the fifteenth century Edinburgh also had schools for girls, sometimes described as "sewing schools". Private tuition in the families of lords and wealthy burghers may have extended to women, but for most women educational opportunities remained extremely limited. Despite this there is evidence of female Gaelic poets. By the late Medieval era, Lowland society was probably part of the north-west European marriage model, of life-cycle service, with many young people, both male and female, leaving home to become domestic and agricultural servants, followed by relatively late marriage. Women retained their original surname at marriage and, while many girls from the social elite married in their teens, by the end of the period most in the Lowlands only married after a period of life-cycle service, in their twenties. There was no divorce, but separation from bed and board was allowed in exceptional circumstances. In the burghs there were probably high proportions of poor households headed by widows, who survived on casual earnings and the profits from selling foodstuffs or ale. Spinning was an expected part of the daily work of Medieval townswomen of all social classes. In crafts, women could sometimes be apprentices, but they could not join guilds in their own right. Scotland was relatively poorly supplied with nunneries, but prioresses were figures with considerable authority. There may have been small numbers of anchorites. The Virgin Mary, as the epitome of a wife and mother, was probably an important model for women. Some, usually wives, acting through relatives and husbands as benefactors or property owners connected with local altars and cults of devotion. New cults of devotion connected with Jesus and the Virgin Mary began to reach Scotland in the fifteenth century. (en)
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  • Women in Medieval Scotland includes all aspects of the lives and status of women between the departure of the Romans from Northern Britain in the fifth century to the introduction of the Renaissance and Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Medieval Scotland was a patriarchal society, but how exactly patriarchy worked in practice is difficult to discern. A large proportion of the women for whom biographical details survive were members of the royal houses of Scotland. Some of these became important figures. There was only one reigning Scottish Queen in this period, the uncrowned and short-lived Margaret, Maid of Norway (r. 1286–90). (en)
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  • Women in Medieval Scotland (en)
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