Life in the Middle Ages could be very challenging and difficult. But there were many stretches of time when warfare was at a minimum, crops were plentiful, and castles were the homes of Lords, Ladies and large staffs of administrators and servants. Here is look at a typical day in the life of a Medieval Castle during these times of prosperity.
A castle was a large organization with a lot of people and a lot of things that needed to be done. This was accomplished with a well figured out system and hierarchy of power and responsibility. At the top of this hierarchy was the Lord of the Castle and his Lady. Under them the responsibilities were broken down into two general groups, the military group and the administrative/domestic group. The military group was in charge of all the day to day training of militia and the daily responsibility of security. The administrative/domestic half of the castle was in charge of the business of the castle and the running of the castle in as far as food, clothing, pay, cooking, hunting, serving, cleaning, and all the other things that go into running a community of people.
The typical day in a castle began with sunrise when everyone would get up from bed and begin their daily routine. The militia would rise and replace the night watch at the castle doors, towers, and walls. And the staff would begin preparation for the day’s meals and chores. Religion was very important to castle life and the first order of business for the day would be a mass in the chapel. Then there would be breakfast; which was usually very light and often just bread and wine. After breakfast the castle inhabitants would begin their daily assigned functions. The Lord would take meetings regarding diplomacy, trade, warfare, or legal and financial matters. And the Lady would often meet with her guests or pursue her personal projects such as needlepoint. Knights and squires would have lessons in fencing and other martial arts. Children would be given lessons in various subjects including religion. Many other people would be performing their normal morning functions. The grooms would be caring for the horses, the cooks would be preparing the days meals, and the tradesmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters, and masons would all be performing their normal daily work.
Between the hours of ten am and noon dinner would be served. Dinnertime for the residents of a castle was very important and if they had honored guests it could be a very long and festive event. It always begun with a saying of grace then the serving of a variety of foods from pork to beef and different types of vegetables including beans and peas. There would also be fruits like apples and pears. And if the castle was prosperous there could also be rare and exotic foods such as sugar, rice, almonds, raisins, or even pomegranates. During the dinner party, particularly if there were important guests, they would often be entertained by jokes, stories, and music by minstrels and harp players.
After dinner many would return to their daily work but the royalty, guests, and residents of rank would often pursue interesting recreation such as horse riding, archery, hunting, falconry, or the playing of chess and backgammon. This would continue until supper.
Supper would be served in the late afternoon and it usually consisted of a light meal with one or two courses then a sampling of cheese. After this meal the residents of the castle would relax and enjoy conversations or the pursuit of their personal hobbies. In the late evening there was often one last light supper after which everyone would retire to bed early in order to be ready for rising with the sun on the next day.
Life in a Medieval Castle was rich with a lot of different experiences from the doing of daily work, the learning of skills and crafts, the administration of duties to the enjoyment of meals and recreation. When times were good, the community productive and prosperous, it was an interesting, varied and good life.
By Will Kalif
Learn more about Medieval subjects, weapons, and castles at the authors website: The Medieval Armory
To learn more about medieval knights, their weapons and how they lived visit his site at: The Knight Medieval website