Royal menarche: a state affair

Royal menarche: a state affair
Ca. 1575/1550. Farmers calendar without text. Since the movable festivals are missing, the calendar was apparently not intended for a specific year. Xylogr. 42 a © Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich (Germany)

Royal menarche: a state affair

I Procreation

 

The health and wellbeing of the members of royal families had always been a matter of State. But the news regarding their reproductive development were of particular importance. In fact, the menarche or the first period of royal women was of great relevance and political significance. Its appearance indicated that it was possible to arrange a politically convenient marriage that could be consummated in a near future, while an excessive delay in its apparition could raise dangerous doubts regarding the potential fertility of a princess. At the same time, if a marriage has already been negotiated for a princess, the apparition of the menarche was usually recognized as a milestone in the negotiations for its conclusion and the beginning of her journey to the territories of her future husband, a voyage that was usually delayed until the intended bride was old enough, or close, to consummate the marriage. This last consideration was tremendously important, as arranged, dynastical marriages could be annulled until their consummation, even in those cases when the marriage contract had already been signed and some of the religious rituals had taken place. The consummation of a marriage happened only when both the bride and the groom were considered old enough to do so, and sometime after the intended wife had had her first period. Thus, its apparition could make the difference between the consolidation of a political alliance between two kingdoms, and its premature end. It also indicated that they would be able to have children in a somewhat near future, something enormously important in moments of dynastic crises, both for her dynasty of marriage and for her family of origin, especially if the latter allowed female succession or, at the very least, transmission of rights through a female line. 

Thus, royal women’s menarche was constantly commented, controlled, and waited for by the members of the court, the government, and international diplomats, from the king to the last of the ambassadors. [Rocío Martínez]