Prostitution in Medieval England

A Rough Life

“My sister’s child,” she’d tell them if they noticed me at all. Most didn’t notice or care. She might as well have claimed to be the Holy Virgin herself for all the credence they gave her claim of maidenhood. It wasn’t her supposed innocence they wanted. It was her beauty.

 

Perversely, God had given her a face worthy of angels’ envy while supplying no soul at all. Her eyes were large and luminous blue; her lips, the plump pink varietythat make men instinctively think of sin. Tiny compared to her visitors, she had slender arms and legs, well-shaped despite their subtle bow. But, she’d been better before I came along. She never ceased telling me. I’d ruined her form–stretched and sagged all the best parts of her so she changed almost overnight from a girl to a used-up woman.

 

She’d tried to stop me; tried to poison and break me before I had the chance to spoil her, but nothing worked. Spiteful shite that I was, I kept on growing until she swelled so big she lost her place at Joyfield’s Brothel. She was stuck eking out a living in a shanty planked onto the back of a tavern like some third-rate whore.

 

Excerpt from Tangled

Quin’s mother seems to have few admirable qualities other than her beauty. Considering her treatment of Quin, it’s hard to have feelings of empathy towards her. She seems cold-hearted. But, what hardened her? Certainly, there’s more to her than what Quin sees as a young boy.

During the medieval age, poverty was rampant

And so it must have been for many women living in Medieval England, for prostitution was a thriving business. In fact, most of what we know about this illicit trade is known today through English laws and court records. Prostitutes were often restricted to specific streets or neighborhoods. They were required to dress a particular way, as not to be easily confused with more ‘virtuous’ women. (Most of these laws came after the period in which my writing takes place.)

Some of these women may have been coerced into prostitution; need may have driven others to the trade. Prostitution flourished at the intersection of poverty and opportunity. Even under favorable economic conditions, it may have been difficult for such a single woman to find a job that would cover their living expenses.

Some women were known to have worked full-time in a brothel, while others seemed to have supplemented their wages earned from other work by prostituting themselves as needed. Whether their jobs paid too little to live off of, or needed to be supplemented as it was seasonal work, it would have been a hard life to live as a prostitute.

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