Talking about medieval times the other day, as you do, I was struck by how young everybody in power was then. Richard II himself, only ten when he became king, was only fourteen when he averted a massacre at Smithfield in 1381. At the beginning of the Hildegard series he’s already fifteen and married – to another fifteen year old, Anne. His arch rival and eventual nemesis, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, is the same age. Medford, Richard’s spy master, is only in his twenties. Even Richard’s barbaric and ambitious uncle, Thomas Woodstock, regarded as the old guard, is not much more than twenty five.
As Hildegard says, we are ruled by children.
It’s not surprsing that the Plantagents blew themselves apart, metaphorically. They were more like playground lads having a fisticuffs than elder statesmen – albeit with fatal results.
When Hildegard gets in on the act even she’s not much above thirty. Married at fifteen, two children by the time she’s eighteen, and, still a teenage mum, widowed when her husband gets inovolved in the 100 Years War, she’s younger than Cadfael but with the same authority. She’s also younger than Shardlake but then the Tudors always seem to be a bit long in the tooth.
I suppose we can account for this by the Plague which did for whole swathes of the populace. As unstoppable as Ebola seems today in those young African communities, it made a space for impetuous and essentially youthful ambition.