Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Family Life

Queen Elizabeth Ist

"Queen Elizabeth Ist"


Elizabethan Family Life

Elizabethan Family Life was extremely close-knit. Many of the major elements of Elizabethan family life were determined by whether the family was poor and belonging to the lower classes or whether the family was wealthy. The main exception to this was religion, whether rich or poor, young or old, everyone in the family was expected to attend a Protestant Church Service every Sunday.

Elizabethan family life was determined by the many laws of the land which dictated not only religion but also the types of clothes members of the family were allowed to wear.

Elizabethan Family Life for Women
The Elizabethan family life for women was dominated by the men in the family. Elizabethan women were seen as inferior to men. They were subservient to the men in the family all of their lives and expected to obey the men in all aspects of their life. Disobedience was seen as a crime against their religion. Marriages were arranged to suit the family. Elizabethan women were expected to marry to increase the wealth and position of the family and then to produce children - preferably male heirs. There were no careers for women - and women and there were no schools for girls, so the majority were illiterate. Family and Home life depended on the skills of the women in relation to good house keeping and the health of the family was determined by the ability of Elizabethan women to produce medicines from the herbs available to them.

Elizabethan Family Life for Men
The Elizabethan family life for men was one of power. The men made the decisions and the women were expected to obey them. The men were expected to support the family from a whole variety of occupations. And they were expected to improve the positions of all members of the family through influence and patronage from wealthier people and families than their own.

Elizabethan Family Life for Children
Children were subservient to the adults in the family. They were raised to respect and obey their parents. Infant mortality was high during the Elizabethan era so the children of the family were cherished. They were given toys to play with - dolls, toy soldiers, hobby horses and the like. Wealthy children were taught good manners and would be punished, boys and girls, for any forms of bad behaviour.

Elizabethan Family Life - the Home
The homes of the Elizabethan family were clearly dictated by wealth. The daily hours of Elizabethan families were dictated by daylight - very much early to bed and early to rise. The architecture and building of New Elizabethan homes were built in the distinct half-timbered, black and white styles. The interiors had separate rooms and levels. The flooring was still strewn with rushes in many houses. There were wooden floors but slate or marble floors were only for the very wealthy families. There was no running water (water was obtained from water pumps, this practice caused outbreaks of Typhoid), their heat was produced by fires and their lighting produced from rush lights, candles or torches. The thatched roofs made a good home for rats and mice (the Bubonic Plague was carried by fleas and transmitted normally by rodents). Elizabethan family life was brought comfort by their homes - but also death.

Elizabethan Family Life - Religion
The Religion of the Elizabethans was of huge importance to family life. The religion of the land was decreed by the reigning monarch. Mary Tudor ( Bloody Mary) was a staunch Catholic and so her people were expected to follow her religion - harsh penalties were inflicted on those who did not follow the Catholic religion in the reign of Mary. When Mary died and her sister Elizabeth succeeded to the throne the religion of England changed to the Protestant faith. The 1559 Act of Uniformity laws were passed in which attendance at church became compulsory and non-attendance was punishable by fine or imprisonment. 

Elizabethan Family Life - Education
It was only deemed necessary for boys to attend schools or Universities. Girls were not allowed in such places of education. Only the most wealthy families allowed their daughters to be taught at home. The Protestant Anglican Church and its teachings were an important part of the school curriculum.

Elizabethan Family Life - Marriage and Betrothal customs
Elizabethan Betrothal and Marriage customs were an important feature of Elizabethan family life. Elizabethan women were expected to marry to increase the wealth and position of the family and then to produce children - preferably male heirs. Elizabethan women were expected to bring a dowry to the marriage. A dowry was an amount of money, goods, and property that the bride would bring to the marriage.

Elizabethan Family Life - Health, Fitness, Illness and Medicines
The Elizabethan era was literally plagued by the Black Death, also known as the Bubonic plague. The Elizabethans had no idea what caused the spread of the plague ( it was carried by fleas and transmitted normally by rodents). The underlying cause of many of the Elizabethan illnesses was the lack of sanitation, especially in large towns or cities such as London. There were open sewers in the streets which were also filled with garbage. There was no running water. This was obtained from water pumps which helped to spread typhoid. Elizabethan doctors were Physicians, Surgeons, Barbers and Apothecaries. The best doctors were too expensive to employ, many would not attend cases of Typhoid or the plague. Home made potions and cures were often the only medicines available. It was the duty of an Elizabethan housewife to ensure that such medicinal recipes were available to her family. Elizabethan Food - fruit, root vegetables and many dairy products were viewed as unseemly to wealthy families. The family health of poorer families was sometimes better than wealthy families. There were no labour saving devices such as those enjoyed today so the fitness levels and strength of Elizabethan men and women were quite high.

Elizabethan Family Life - Clothing
Elizabethan women and men were not allowed to wear whatever they liked. It did not matter how wealthy they were - the color, fabric and material of their clothes were dictated by their rank, status or position and this was enforced by English Law.  English Sumptuary Laws were well known by all of the English people. The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life. It was a distinct probability that Elizabethan family life saw examples of the women to pushing their men into higher positions to enable them to wear higher class clothes.

Elizabethan Family Life - Food
A large amount of Elizabethan cooking was conducted over an open flame. Useful cooking utensils for this method of cooking Elizabethan food were pots, pans, kettles, skillets and cauldrons. Just as today, the smells and sounds of the kitchen played a large part in Elizabethan family life.

Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Family Life
Some interesting facts and information about Elizabethan Life and Elizabethan Family Life

Elizabethan Elizabethan Family Life
Comprehensive details, facts and information about the specific elements of Elizabethan Family Life can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap and the following links:

Elizabethan Daily life
Elizabethan Women
Elizabethan Village Life
Elizabethan Occupations and Jobs
Elizabethan Medicine and Illnesses
Elizabethan Entertainment
Elizabethan Customs & Festivals
Elizabethan Food
Elizabethan Marriages and Weddings
Elizabethan Life
Elizabethan Era Index

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