The definition of the word mistress is “a relatively long term female lover and companion who is not married to her partner. Especially when her partner is himself married.”
While this was a position many young women in Medieval times would have been honored to receive young Ida De Tosney was not among them. As a well born but orphaned child she was greatly privileged upon becoming the ward of King Henry the 2nd of England. But such privilege came with a heavy price in her early teens when she caught the attention of the King and thereby became his latest mistress.
In order to attain the King’s favor Ida had no choice but to surrender her own will and conscience. Her only true joy from this union came with the birth of her son William. But even so she was acutely aware of the challenges her son would face because of his illegitimate birth. As a young woman who knew that she could be a discarded mistress at any moment Ida took a chance at a new life by bravely arranging her own marriage with the King’s approval.
Ida wisely saw beyond the trappings of the royal court and was content with a more humble lifestyle upon her marriage to Roger Bigod the future Earl of Norfolk. But Ida would always bear the emotional scars of this decision because leaving her son William behind was the price she had to pay to be a respectable married woman. No matter how many children she would have with Roger she would always inwardly mourn the loss of her firstborn. Nevertheless, Ida and Roger’s union was one of mutual love and respect that flourished despite the demands of his being in the King’s service.
The life story of Ida De Tosney is eye opening and insightful regarding the grim reality of being a royal mistress. But it also highlights how one woman could still make a life for herself despite her vulnerable circumstances. Naturally every woman wants to be a Queen over being a royal mistress. However, one could still argue that the final outcome of the life of Ida De Tosney was more satisfying and content than that even of the actual Queen of England Eleanor of Aquitaine!
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