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William Byrd Ii The Typical Virginian Gentleman Q: How Did William Byrd Ii Embody The Mindset And Traditions Of An Early Virginian Gentleman?

1569 words - 7 pages

Note: the word "gentleman" had a much different meaning in the old South, not necessarily a good oneWhile it usually conveys only a general meaning, the word "gentlemen," may be understood in a much more precise manner when applied to the Old South, especially Virginia. The word represents men of a specific mold, men of high birth and matching education - nobles, rich and powerful - and brings with it countless but often-accurate stereotypes. Grounded at the center of this swirling mist of labels and preconceptions was a man named William Byrd II. Byrd transcended the simple title of Noble and became the Virginian gentlemen. He was the embodiment of all the word represents, a perfect example ...view middle of the document...

He attended one of London's most renowned grammar schools where he was taught several languages including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Architectural design was also part of his classical education, and he learned the esoteric doctrine of cabalistic numbers. Good judgment regarding business matters was imbued in Byrd by a year in Holland, and his thorough education, befitting the highest of gentlemen, was completed by training in law. Byrd's education, taken as whole, was a large part of what allowed him to be considered a gentleman. While property, lifestyle, and attitudes may have been more important in making one a gentleman, without an education such as Byrd's, these further pursuits would not be possible.Byrd entered the world of politics in 1696. To uphold his necessary position as an aristocrat, our hero of genteel culture sought election to the Virginia House of Burgesses, the equivalent of the Virginian Parliament. Byrd's elevated position in a hierarchical society was further evidenced by the fact that he did not need to complete any local service- traditionally a prerequisite of higher office- before being elected; his last name was sufficient. Byrd's political career was hindered by frequent disagreements with individuals who would later hold positions of power. Yet it was the very assertion of these controversial opinions that showed in Byrd another aspect of a gentlemen; a strong will. In true Virginian fashion Byrd's will had been fostered from his youth, he was headstrong, stubborn, and determined. He quarreled with James Blair, the Board of Trade, and other political figures, often ending up on the losing side. In accord with classic Virginian values, however, when he came upon someone he respected; someone vastly superior, his will was tempered, or, "severely bent against itself."Continuing to be the perfect model of Virginian society, Byrd was not particular in his relationship choices, nor was he expected to be. His will had been encouraged from childhood, and not just regarding politics; his sexual will was just as strong. Byrd was a sexual predator, he was a high gentleman, independent, strong, and when it came to women, status did not matter. He simply got around. His choice of a wife, on the other hand, was anything but casual. Personality was not one of his conditions, nor was affection; however, Byrd's was a love of land, and so he sought a partner that could enhance his wealth, a woman of high social standing with beauty to match.Lucy Parke, a wealthy Virginian woman who's father was the governor of the Leeward Islands, turned out to be the perfect choice. While some men were jealous of their wives' possessions, Byrd was only too happy to increase his wealth. He had not married for love, but rather because marriage was viewed as a social condition, one which any gentleman must attain. It was a Virginian belief that women carried the bloodline, so Byrd had chosen a woman of high birth. Now that he had found a wife, the...

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