In his lecture on the Early Middle Ages, Philip Daileader refers to the nobility as Those Who Fought. Very interesting take, I thought, because even though we may visualize the medieval nobility as knights in armor, shining or no, I don't think the designation Those Who Fought would spring immediately to mind.
Those Who Were In Charge, perhaps. Those Who Ran Roughshod Over Peasants, maybe. Those Who Had All The Best Stuff, certainly. Fighting, as in jousting, crusading, and the like, would figure into the image, but fighting - as in that's what they did most days after breakfast, like a job or something - well, that kind of besmirches the image a bit.
But according to Daileader, that's what they did. And reading, as I currently am, Alison Weir's , I'm convinced he is right. The nobility, from earliest times, got what they got by fighting - not the infidel or an opponent in the lists - but each other. It was all about power, about who got what and how much. And nobody was ever satisfied.
Substitute Exxon and Monsanto, Walmart and General Motors for Caput and Orleans, Plantagenet and Montague, and you'll see where I'm going with this.
Those Who Were In Charge (via lobbying)? Check. Those Who Ran Roughshod Over Peasants (more or less)? Check. Those Who Had All The Best Stuff (more and more)? Check. Those Who Fight? Every Single Day. They fight for market share, they fight for profits, and they fight against any and all regulations.
The medieval church tried to intervene with edicts like the Peace and Truce of God, which provided some measure of temporary relief, but only here and there, now and then. It can be argued (I think Daileader does, but I'm not going to quote him on it) that the crusades were as much a measure to get the nobles out of Europe, to pick on someone their own size, as they were to slaughter hearts and minds.
Today's attempts to regulate our own noble houses, our own versions of Lancaster and York, meet with similar resistance. Reading an account of the Wars of the Roses is exhausting. Don't these people ever quit? What's so bad about not being king? You still get a roof over your head. The peasants will still bring an allotment of meat and mead to your door.
But no. They don't quit. If you look at the big picture, they never really have.