Romancing in Medieval Times: Knights, Love Potions & More!

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Was love so bad in the middle ages, I mean, compared to today? Castles, knights in shining armor, love ballads sung by troubadours… I recently happened upon a fascinating and revealing exhibit on love in medieval times at the historic tower Jean Sans Peur in Paris, which has helped inform and illustrate these 12 advantages of being wooed back in the day.

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Towers were built for maidens

As children many of us dream of castles and princes I’d like a castle decorated with heart flags too, but it’s a little confusing which maiden the suitor is actually after.

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Love was a friendly sport

I guess this image is akin to modern day online dating, hedging your bets and see who actually falls into the net. She certainly had a lot of possible suitors to pick from.

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Regular presents were expected during courtship

These small gifts, such as belts, crowns or even ivory boxes, were given in the hopes of securing the young woman’s love, were often inscribed with the word “amour.” This hasn’t changed too much, perhaps merely the quality, I don’t know if flowers and chocolates are quite the same as ivory boxes.

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Love was served on tap

Sounds good in principle, yet I’m not sure I’d like the “cepage” flowing from this particular tap. Hopefully there were other “barrels” around to suit all tastes (and… where exactly is he pointing to?).

There were also love potions and lovendrin

“Love drinks” and other aphrodisiac beverages made of wine and special flowers and herbs meant to “liberate desire.” Well, there are a few modern solutions of a similar sort mostly taken in the pill form. If neither of the above worked, you could create a love talisman composed of fur from the right paw of one’s dog, the tip of a cats tail or “plume de chapon.” The Adam and Eve like characters in the image mustn’t have consumed their love elixir yet.

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It was apparently okay to have a menage à trois

… as long as the third participant stayed clothed? Or is he a date crasher?

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Want a baby? No problem

God would send one down. There was no need for IVF or other expensive fertility treatments.

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There was a Heartbreakers Court

Nasty villains or villainesses could be accused and tried from their unkind actions, clearly displayed in this image with this tormented bedridden victim. I wonder what the punishment was? I wish this court still existed, I have a long list of potential convicts.

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Hearts were served up for dinner

Yikes! I think that this might have been the punishment for those convicted heartbreakers. It gives “eat your heart out” a whole new meaning. I wonder what sauce was served with coeur à l’ancienne?

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There were cures to love sickness

Fear not ill-at-heart, especially if you were “dying” of heartbreak, there was the right remedy for you. These included cold baths, eating lettuce and having a passionate fling. Sounds like a rebound to me.

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The wrath of the god(s) wreaked havoc on cheating lovers

As you can see in this image with the fateful message being delivered and the flames of hell approaching. I’m not sure this was a component in the whole to be a chivalric knight handbook, but it should have been.

There were awards for “love pilgrims”

On the contrary to those punishments for heartbreakers, love pilgrims, received “love badges” for seeking out their love far and wide. That’s more like it.

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I guess it wasn’t all chivalry and roses, there do seem to be some inconveniences included being expected to being dinner “entertainment,” but nevertheless, there are a few of these traditions that I wouldn’t mind being reinstated!  Let’s bring back those love potions and heart-breakers court 🙂

The exhibit is on through November 9th, 2014 in case you want to delve deeper into the subject. I decided to leave out prostitution and sex toys so there are more tantalizing topics on display. The tower is also well-worth a visit after the exhibit. It helps visualize the stranded maiden being rescued and whisked off by prince charming.

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