DOI link for Constructing Families
Constructing Families book
Family (expressed as ‘lin’, or lineage, and ‘sang’, or blood) isone of the concepts closest to the heart of the idea of aristocracy. Indeed, you might even say-considering its association with blood – that it is the heart of aristocracy. Aristocrats inherited their power and position. Every generation of aristocrats included newcomers, it is true. But these newcomers generally married into a powerful group of families, which already existed. The family was the heart that pumped blue blood around society. No study of aristocracy is possible without coming to terms with what family meant to claims to social eminence. If we use the modern English word ‘lineage’ for ‘family’, the concept takes on a seductive aura of glamour and history. Lineage is what aristocrats have. Peasants and smallholders did not have a lineage. The line that connected them to past generations brought them nothing except obligation and servitude. No-one was interested in their forbears, unless, that is, peasants were trying to argue that their forbears were free and so escape their servitude. For nobles, of course, it was different. They were well aware that past generations of their family brought them an inheritance of prestige and aspiration, as much as land. As we will see in the next chapter, nobles were well aware of the importance of their forbears. They were perfectly capable of rationalising for their contemporaries what it was that made them different from and superior to others in their society, and family was at the core of their explanation. Manners might have given the semblance of nobility to a man; his blood gave him an unanswerable reason why his nobility demanded deference and respect.