William Chester Jordan’s study of one of medieval Europe’s great monastic rivalries suggests that social mobility may have been more common in the Middle Ages than historians previously thought.
Englishmen of the Middle Ages born into privilege frequently complained about upward social mobility. They spoke of administrators who were ‘raised from the dust’ to positions of governmental authority and power. They denounced lovers, female and male, of inferior though not necessarily lowly status who insinuated themselves into the beds of princes and received gifts and preferment as a consequence. In 1215 Magna Carta condemned what was perceived to be King John’s deliberate practice of forcing heiresses of great property to dishonour themselves by marrying men of lesser rank whom the monarch wanted to reward and to elevate in the eyes of the traditional political and military elite.