Life in the Medieval Castle

Learn how life was like for servants, knights, nobles, and the royals, of course! Discover what their roles were and what they ate, too.  

Life in the castle was sometimes a bit harsh, especially for servants. However, they were way better off with their lives than the lives of the people outside of the castle.

The day began at sunrise with a guard blowing a trumpet. The servants were already awake and they made sure that the fires were lit in the kitchen and great hall. They also made sure that a a small breakfast was prepared for lower orders. The first of the two main meals of the day for the nobles was not served until around noon.

Each morning, the floors must've been swept cleared of any impurities, and basins also should've been washed out. Once the lord and his lady were up and dressed, chambermaids entered their bed chambers and swept the floor. They also emptied chamber pots and wash basins. After that, laundresses began the day's wash.

If a lord and his family were devout, they were allowed to enter the castle's private chapel for morning mass. Once the mass was complete, the lord started the day's business. He was the castle's chief administrator when he was in residence, and leader in his own domain, having absolute authority over his castle, estates, and subjects.

Under the feudal system, the lord would need to carry out administrative functions, manage desmenes, accept homage, carry out ceremonies of commendation,and collect rents, fees and medieval taxes. A lord might be granted possession of more than one manor, so he had to divide his time among all of his properties. His powers were political, judicial, fiscal, and included the policing and defence of his territory. Like his king, he dealt with justice, gave punishments, collected dues from his subjects, and in some cases manufactured his own coins.

A great lord would need a vast array of officers & servants to run a medieval castle when he had priorites that had to be attended to away from the castle. His main representative was the steward, and the steward took charge. He had substantial power of his own, because he had to know virtually everything that went on at the castle and in the surrounding estates. He had to be skilled at accounting and legal matters, as well as personnel management. Other key members of the household staff included the chamberlain, who was in charge of the great chamber/hall, the chaplain, the keeper of the wardrobe, the butler, the cook, the chandler, the marshal , and a chief-gardener to take care of the castle's Medieval Gardens. Each of these individuals had their own, often large, staff to manage.

The lady of the castle was served by ladies-in-waiting and chambermaids. She spent most of her day supervising their work, as well as observing the activities in the kitchen staff. The lady also kept an eye on her large group of spinners, weavers, and embroiderers who continually produced a range of more or less fashionable medieval clothing.

Ladies and sometimes clerics were responsible for educating young pages who, at the age of 7, came to the castle to learn religion, music, dance, hunting, reading, and writing before moving into knight's service as squires.

At the age of 14, young boys became squires, and the lord placed them under the guidance of a knight who would teach them about chivalry, how to wield a sword, how to ride a horse into battle, etc. A squire's goal was knighthood, which could be attained at the age of 21 when boys officially became men.

The last most important people were the soliders. Soldiers were needed to provide castle protection. They were stationed in gatehouses and guardrooms. Individual members included the knights, squires, a porter (to tend the main door), guards, watchmen, and men-at-arms. They might need to defend their lord and his household in an instant. Each soldier had his own place in an attack and his own skill to rely upon.

Food Eaten at the Castle

The food served in the castle was healthy and organic. The food was prepared in large kitchens, often in a separate building in order to reduce the fire risk. Foods included cereals, vegetables, fish and other seafood , and plenty of meat and bread. Away from the kithchen were special areas for storing and preserving food, including pantries, larders & butteries. There were also storerooms, undercrofts & cellars.

Herbs and spices were used extensively. Dairy products were popular, but fruits weren't as much because they were often smaller, tougher and less sweet. Puddings and other sweets and desserts, on the other hand were always popular. Common medieval drinks included wine, mead, beer and spirits.

Food production also had  be managed. For example, forests for hunting, farms for meat, vegetable and fruit, rice houses for year-round ice, dovecotes for young pigeons and pigeon eggs. And rivers & fishponds provided fish.

So as you can all see, medieval castle life was busy, but it was also very productive and organized. Everyone did their part.

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