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Military historian Richard Holmes states castles to be households as well as fortresses.

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Life in a CastleProfessor Richard Holmes, a brothers military historian featured in the NOVA film "Medieval Siege," talks here around everyday life in a medieval English castle, offering a feeling of exactly how lords and also ladies, archers and also engineers, cooks and carpenters live their resides behind lock walls.NOVA: once we think that life inside a middle ages castle, what usually involves mind space lords, ladies, and also maybe knights. But it in reality was a much more diverse group than this, wasn"t it?Holmes: That"s true. The point to mental is that a lock was a residence and a exclusive fortress. Most of the time the lock operated as a small, large, or medium-sized household.Now, the number varied hugely depending on the size of the castle. During the civil wars of King John"s reign, Odiham was protected by a garrison of three knights and ten men-at-arms. And also that"s about as little as a garrison would get. However, Rochester castle at the exact same time was held versus King man by a garrison of a hundreds knights and also men-at-arms and a whole variety of lesser men. So we"re looking in ~ garrisons that went from a dozen or for this reason to several hundred, though several hundred would have actually been exceptional.Some the the human being in the garrison were paid, such as the crossbowmen. Medieval society was a type of interlocking network that relationships in between people based upon feudal obligations and on money and really often a little bit of both. Human being who did work in the castle were often paid. They could have been local world with a long-standing personal or family relationship v the lord and also his household as well.
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Knights had more status than many others in a castle"s hierarchy.
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What was the power structure inside the castle?Holmes: The lord and also lady were at the optimal of the tree. However, the solitary most essential figure in the daily life of a castle was the constable. His job was come look ~ the castle, since the lord was not commonly at home. In England, throughout the period we"re talking about, plenty of castles were imperial castles. Clearly, the king can only it is in at any type of one place at any type of one time. And also medieval English monarchs were constantly on the move. They moved from place to place. I live not far from Winchester Castle, where the king routinely showed up for Christmas. So the constable to be the person whose project it to be to look at after the castle in the lord"s absence. He had a variety of people who operated beneath him. There to be the garrison, who members differ in status, including knights, men-at-arms, archers, and also engineers. You also had grooms, watchmen, porters, cooks, and scullions, who did every the washing up in the kitchen.NOVA: speaking of washing, what to be the level of cleanliness in a common castle?Holmes: Well, by our standards, cleanliness in the Middle ages was nice poor. Clearly, a castle was slightly much better maintained than a peasant hovel, yet we would still find the location pretty shocking. We"d have discovered it really smoky, because that example. An extremely often in the an excellent hall there to be a main fire. Afterwards there were ideal fireplaces, yet a main fire v a hole in the roof was standard. Possibly some carpets held on the walls, but on the floors to be rushes through dogs rolling roughly with scraps of meat and bones and such. Therefore it was a quite primitive atmosphere.NOVA: Did personal hygiene actions match the all at once cleanliness level? Holmes: Well, toilets, or garderobes together they to be called, generally were located so the they opened up over the moat. If friend look at a middle ages castle, you can an extremely often see little stone extensions built out from the walls. The garbage matter dropped into the moat below. Also some several century after they to be last used, you still can see castle walls stained with the results.And middle ages men didn"t really bathe terribly often. World might have actually wiped your hands and also faces indigenous time come time. Clean water, remember, was tough to come by. So cleanliness to be pretty primitive. But clearly lords and also ladies would have been contempt cleaner and sweeter-smelling than many of your subordinates.
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Castle wall surfaces provided good protection from enemies - and also the elements.
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to be a lock assignment a plum one for medieval men or women?Holmes: provided the ups and downs of medieval life, it probably was. What you want if you were a medieval man was protection.

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It"s no unlike the Mafia today. You want a job, yes, you want money, yes, you wanted someplace to live. But you likewise wanted protection from a great man. And if you were working for the an excellent man or among his family—and the idea of household was an extremely important in middle ages England—it helped.So girlfriend were fine up the pecking order if friend were working for the an excellent man in the good man"s castle. The closer you were to one of the actual movers and shakers, the far better the security you had. And also the nearer you to be to a save of food, the much less liable you were to die throughout one that the endemic famines. And a stone building method you were more than likely warmer and drier.NOVA: What were sleeping arrangements favor for every these people? Did families in the castle have actually private rooms?Holmes: If you to be a lord or lady, if you were the constable or the constable"s lady, then you would certainly have had actually a private room. You would have had actually a quite suite of private rooms. Yet for many other people, life to be pretty communal. One awful many life in a castle went ~ above in the good hall. There to be a fire and also shelter in the hall. Human being ate and slept in the great hall. Very often, definitely in smaller castles, before advanced domestic species evolved, you would certainly have found the lord and lady resting at one finish of the great hall in a type of screened-off area. So middle ages men and women didn"t have much privacy.Continue: department of LaborMedieval Arms race | NOVA build a Trebuchet | Life in a CastleDestroy the lock |Resources | TranscriptMedieval Siege |Pharaoh"s pillar |Easter Island |Roman bathtub | China leg |Site MapEditor"s choose | Previous sites | join Us/E-mail | TV/Web ScheduleAbout NOVA | teachers | website Map | Shop | jobs | search | come printsirhenryjones-museums.org online | NOVA digital | WGBH© | update November 2000