Matthias lived in the latter part of what we know as the Middle Ages. Henry VI was on the throne. When this series opens, the King is still a teenager, relying heavily on his adult advisers. He is also not a Warrior king like his father, being more interested in religion and education.
Kings were all powerful. Weak kings, such as Henry VI, caused corruption in high places to flourish, and the nobility of the country were able to scrabble for position and power. The affairs of the king and the state have no part in the direct world of Matthias. The world of Sherborne in particular and Dorset in general certainly do. Although Henry VI did grant the licence for the Almshouses in Sherborne, there is no evidence that the king visited Sherborne. His laws and his will was passed down to the ordinary men and women by the Sheriff and his officers, one of whom would have been the Coroner. Most shires were entitled to elect two coroners but in Matthias’ world I have chosen to make it one.
Matthias lives in Milborne Port, a large village just over the border in Somerset but has an affiliation with Sherborne as he was educated there. Milborne Port was a good sized village boasting an ancient church, several ale houses, a bake house, a guildhall, several fulling mills and a well. It was a sheep farming area but also supported commercial trading.
Education and work
Education at this time was mainly for the wealthy and certainly mainly for boys.. Abbeys and monasteries were one of the chief educators, taking often second sons who would not inherit.
Two main universities were Oxford and Cambridge, and scholars followed a set agenda, often starting as young as fifteen....as Matthias did. Fees were high, which excluded any without some kind of wealth or sponsorship.
Poorer people had little chance of doing much more than work, although they were by now mostly free men, working for coin rather than owing fealty to a lord. The power of feudal England had undergone a great change since the devastating effects of the Black Death.