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Do Westerosi Queens marry and/or give birth younger than their real life medieval counterparts?


Lady_Qohor
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Intro - Every now and then I come across the same argument on ASOIAF forums - that royal/noble women in Westeros are marry and/or give birth at unrealistically young ages.

 

This statement is then  countered by someone saying this just reflects the young marriage/pregnancy ages that were present in real life middle ages. Weirdly the example almost always given for this Margaret Beaufort who famously gave birth to Henry VII, despite contemporaries at the time registering shock that she had given birth so young.

 

Because I had too much time on my hands this weekend, I decided to conduct some very rough research on Westerosi and European medieval queens to see if statistics could provide any further insight into this debate.

 

Method - I didn't want to spend months researching marital and pregnancy ages across all of medieval European nobility, so I restricted myself to only looking at the women who had been named Queens of England, Scotland and France between the 11th mid century to the mid 16th century as these seem to be the settings and time period that inspire GRRM the most.

 

I used that famously accurate research source Wikipedia, to determine these the ages these women were when they were first married and their first known childbirth (including known stillbirths).

 

I then compared this data with the ages that Queens of Westeros were first married as well as their first known pregnancy, which I got from A Wiki of Ice and Fire. My Westerosi queens included disputed queens Daenerys, Rhaenrya and Selyse because I needed more data points (there are loads of French Queens during this period)

 

Caveat  - As with anything on this forum, obviously this is not to be taken too seriously. My sample for Westeros isn't huge and this comparison is just the best I can do using wikipedia. In some cases it uses estimated ages while in others it doesn't include the real or fictional queens for whom even estimates are much harder to establish e.g. Aelinor Penrose, Myriah Martell, Ethelreda of Northumbria. For some earlier queens, its also possible that there were first childbirths that were not well recorded (e.g. in the case of stillbirth or where the child did not live long)

 

Results

When you look at average ages for first marriages & childbirth, Westeros performs fairly well next to medieval Europe with real and fictional queens marrying around the age of 15/16 and giving birth for the first time around 20/21

 

 

Westeros

England

Scotland

France

Average age for first marriage

14.9 years

16.6 years

15.8 years

16 years

Average age for first known childbirth

19.6 years

21.9 years

21.3 years

20.1 years

 

However, the results for childbirth are somewhat skewed by a few late first time mothers such Visenya, Rhaenys, Adeliza of Louvain and Catherine Parr. As such I compared the % of Queens going through these life events when they were under 16.

 

This showed a very different picture:

 

 

Westeros

England

Scotland

France

% of first marriages made under the age of 16

61%

50%

50%

54%

% of first known childbirths under the age of 16

28%

4%

8%

9%

 

 Conclusions (aka TLDR)

  • While medieval European queens do have a few very young childbirths among them (e.g. Eleanor of Castille aged 13.5 years), Westeros has a much higher proportion of queens/future queens giving birth very young (e.g. Aemma Arryn, Rhaella, Daenerys)
  • It should also be noted that in cases of real life Queens giving birth at a very young age, the child did not often survive
  • Westerosi Queens are also more likely to get married at a younger age when compared to their European counterparts (although the difference is less stark)
  • However there are still cases in medieval Europe of royal women marrying ridiculously young (e.g. Isabella of Valois, Joan of the Tower, Charlotte of Savoy) as there is in Westeros (e.g. Jaehaera Targaryen, Daenaera Velaryon)
Edited by Lady_Qohor
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Yeah the marriage/birth ages might be SLIGHTLY turned up to 11 on Planetos, compared to the real world....but like you found...not by much.  When people die young and infant mortality is high, starting reproduction as soon after puberty as possible is almost required to maintain a population.....but even in the past, people knew that a 13 year old girl had a much higher chance of dying (or the child dying) and often things weren't consummated until she was a little older and developed.

Icky to think about but understandable given the realities of the time.

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