The Tudor Society

Why were children set up in separate households?

Thank you to Dora for asking the question "Why were children set up in separate households?" Historian and author Gareth Russell, who has done extensive research on royal households, is answering this question...

The reasons for royal and aristocratic children being sent to their own establishments at very young ages were a mixture of pragmatism and tradition.

It's worth noting that many foreigner visitors to England did think it was odd that aristocratic children were habitually sent to other households to finish their education. In England, there was a school of thought that held parents would spoil their own children because they naturally loved them too much and that this would, literally, spoil the child's education. So, a host family was sometimes considered better for the child's long-term development and education. It also offered families, and the child, to establish a network of connections at an early age which would help them later in life.

For royal children, the motivation was slightly different. The main reason for royal infants having their own households was health-related. Contemporaries could easily see that so many children were felled by infant diseases, which they attributed to noxious smells. Since cities, where most major palaces were, carried more smells and more diseases, shipping royal children off to a separate household in the countryside was done, quite literally, for their survival. Meanwhile, their parents, of course, tended to remain in busier environments to fulfil their governmental or ceremonial duties.

There was also an element of practice needed, because one day royal children would be in charge of vast households of their own, so to expose them to that at an early age was considered beneficial for their adult lives.

If you're looking for an in depth discussion of this, I can recommend From Childhood to Chivalry: The Education of the English Kings and Aristocracy 1066-1530 by Nicholas Orme.

Claire did some Claire Chats videos on bringing up children in Tudor times and also education:

Historian and author Gareth Russell is the editor of Tudor Life, the monthly magazine of the Tudor Society. He studied History at Saint Peter's College, Oxford, and his masters at Queen's University, Belfast. He is the author of the 'Confessions of a Ci-Devant' historical blog and his modern novels and his historical research have both been profiled in THE SUNDAY TIMES, TATLER, THE IRISH NEWS, and THE HUFFINGTON POST. He has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, where he provided commentary on the birth of Prince George of Cambridge and was interviewed about royalty and the First World War for the 2014 centenary. He has published many books including A History of the English Monarchy and Young and damned and fair, a biography of Catherine Howard.

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