On the way home from school, Indy asked about King Henry, and I said there had been several of them, from about 1200 to about 1550 (I was wrong, they started in 1100, but close enough). I said Henry VIII was the last one, and that after him his son Edward had been king, and then his daughter Mary had been queen, and then finally his daughter Elizabeth had been queen for a long time, and she’d never married or had any children.
Why not, queried my child, and I said well, she wanted to be queen, and back then if she’d gotten married her husband would have been considered more important than she was.
Indy, baffled, said, “What?! But she was QUEEN!”
I said yep, but back then, and even still in a lot of ways now, people considered men to be more important than women (Indy gaped disbelievingly), so if she’d gotten married, people would have thought her husband was more important, and listened to him instead of her, and she didn’t want that. I said she’d considered getting married a lot of times, and had pretended she might to build political alliances–
“Oh *no*! That wasn’t nice!”
“Oh,” I said airily, “no, that happened a lot. Most of the time people, especially kings and queens and other nobility, didn’t get married for love. They got married because it would give them more land or more money.”
“So they would share,” Indy said, satisfied.
“Well, no,” I said, “see, if I had a lot of land, and I’d gotten married back then, my land would all become my husband’s. Women were basically owned by their husbands.”
By this time Indy was horrified. “*SLAVERY*!?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” I said.
Indy, completely horrified: “BUT THAT’S *WRONG*!!!! Mommy, I’m going to say this, and you might not like it, but *people weren’t very nice back then*!”
I agreed that they weren’t, and that things were somewhat better now, and that we all had to keep working until everybody believed men and women were equal. And then we talked about Victoria and Elizabeth II and then we were home. :)