We are talking of an era without proper heathcare, with an economy mainly dedicated to survival. Acquisition of food was a daily struggle. Slaves expected to be fed after work. A wife expected food, clothes (about as decent as yours which depended on your social status). A wife gave you children. Children to feed. Children could and did die. Your wife could also die. Contraception did not exist or was highly fantastical. Most relied on the man; and coitus interruptus/reservatus was widely practised. With the failure rates we know. Wives allowed less frustration with the handicap of more children.
Wives were costly, prone to cost more with too many children to feed… if you were lucky to keep your wife and your children alive. If you were a warrior, your risk of a brutal death was higher; your risk to become a young widower was the same as the general population.
Women could have a succession of husbands, men could have a succession of wives. And we have kept quiet about the emotional cost it must have been to engage in a relationship and lose in a tragic moment your companion and your child. The Dark Ages could be very dark.
And you ended up with children of different mothers who were all eager to inherit something from Dad, who might resent Dad’s philandering, who might be at each other’s throat including Dad’s throat. So many combinations…
And you could be the king.
Like Chlothar the not-so-Great who married : I quote Gregory
Guntheuc/Gondioque, his brother Chlodomir’s widow. Despite having helped destiny by dispatching himself his nephews from Chlodomir. Curiously the marriage is reputed childdess
Ingund/Ingonde. Aregund/Arnegonde, sisters. Ingonda gave at least 7 children to her husband. 7 children … and Aregunda. Worried about her sister, Ingund asked her husband to find Aregund a husband of noble birth… Chlothar declared he could not give to his sister in law a husband of more noble birth but himself. Aregund gave him a son. Chilperic. Dagobert’s grand-dad. Maybe they got along?
Radegund/Radegonde. Whave met her before. She is the Saint Patroness of the wives who finally dump their sorry husbands. No children.
Waldrada/Vuldetrade, his great-nephew Theudebald ‘s widow (in these days, the Church was highly accomodating. Henry VIII must have been groaning reading how Rome granted marriages and repudiations in these benighted days of the enlightened Barbariian Ages). Theuderic was Chlothar’s half-brother, born to Clovis from a previous and to this day anonymous first wife/concubine. Theuderic being Clovis’s eldest and Chlothar his youngest, it is likely that Chlothar was closer in age to his nephew than his brother…
Chunsina. Giving Chramme. And probably many more as he may have have another bastard beside this interesting young man.
Guntheuc probably ended up in a convent once her use in getting his hand on his late brother’s kingdom. Sad Ingund died broken hearted. Aregund discovered soon enough that her charms could not keep her husband by her side.
Radegund would be Chlothar’s love. Hostage from age 11, she would be treated as a precious object; would be educated and given the best education the Frankish realm could muster. In an era where illiteracy is rife, she will speak and write in Latin. And she will turn his head by her beauty. Chlothar will learn that ‘money can’t buy me love’. She will end up willingly in a monastery surrounded by devoted nuns, bishops, poets and her husband’s sons filial affection.
Caribert, Gunthramm, Sighebert on one side,
Chilperic on the other side
and against the four (legitimate because their mothers rose from being concubine to the full status of regina/queen) Chramm. 4 young men who know they will inherit a kingdom each from their father against one who wants a kingdom as high as his ambitions…
Chramm will die like two of his half-brothers also born from Ingund and dad honorably on a battlefield fighting for their father or dying from illness. Chramm will be condemned to be burnt alive with his wife and children for high treason by his own father.
Leaving Caribert, Gunthramm and Sighebert plotting against Chilperic and the opposite around… and we have not yet introduced the ‘wives’ element of those dashing princes. May be they did not get along at all. This will be for another chapter…