The medieval castle was primarily a fortified structure which usually housed the lord owning it and his family. The overall nature of the castle was military, so affairs related to military formed one of the most important aspects of life within the castle.
Since the lord of the castle was often required to appear with his men-at-arms whenever his overlord or the King summoned him, the lord had to keep a large body of troops and train them in military combat.
Some of these directly served the lord in fighting, others were tasked with looking after the procurement and maintenance of horses, weapons and other battlefield equipment.
Medieval Military Quick List
Men at Arms – A professional Soldier, noble or Knight, fully armoured heavy cavalryman
Castle Guards – threw rocks over the battlements at the top of castles onto the enemy below
Castle Guards (Gatekeepers) poured boiling oil through murders holes at the castles entrance etc
Grandmaster – a person skilled in their field and head of the military order of knighthood
Archers, Longbowmen and Crossbowmen fired arrows from castle loops (slits) at the enemy
Foot soldiers is a term that included soldiers on foot such as Archers and Pikemen
Foot soldiers protected the castle and the Lord, they fought with daggers, Pikes (spears) and Bows etc
Knights protecting a castle used lances, axes, and vicious morning star weapons
Others who supported the Castle Military:
Page Boy – young noble (aged 7 -8 approx) training to be knights assisted squires
Squires – older nobles (aged 13 – 14 approx) assisted knights, training to become knights themselves
Knights horses were called chargers and were usually a strong stocky horse called a “Destrier”
Supporting roles – Blacksmith, Knife grinder, Herald, Heraldic officers and Standard Bearers etc.
Medieval Castle Military Outlook
During the early and high middle ages, the medieval castle was considered a military structure. As a result, most of the employees in the service of the castle were male men directly or indirectly related to military service. This also resulted in the lack of significant number of female workers in the castle, at least until the late medieval period.
In the late medieval period once the military aspect of the castle was rendered ineffective in the face of gunpowder weapons, the number of female workers began to increase.
The medieval knight swore to protect the castle and his lord in return for the rewards given to him in return such as monies and Fiefs (Lands)
Medieval Castle Knights and Esquires
The most important person related to military service in a medieval castle was the knight. Knights typically came from noble families and were employed by the lord who looked after their rigorous training and their battlefield experience. When the lord was required to fight at a battle, the knights directly served under him.
The knights were trained in battle on horseback but often fought dismounted contrary to popular beliefs, and in return for their service to the lord, were often given landholdings and other rewards.
Unlike most other workers in a medieval castle, the knight also had the prospect of rising in esteem and social standing over time if he proved his mettle in combat. In the castle, the knights were often accompanied by esquires who waited on them and were considered their apprentices.
Such esquires also came of noble or gentry families and had chances of rising in status over time.
Medieval Castle Gatekeepers
Apart from knights who directly participated in battlefield combat, the medieval castle also typically housed another body of troops. This body, called the gatekeepers, were of less noble origins and guarded different gates of the castle.
On such rare occasions when the castle came under attack or a siege was laid to it, the role of the gatekeepers was crucial as they formed a frontline defence against the attackers. For this purpose, the gatekeepers not only guarded the entrance but were also skilled in combat.
Diminishing Significance of Military Aspect
Towards the late medieval period, the military significance of a castle took a backseat due to the invention of gunpowder weapons. As a result, castles stopped to serve as military structures.
The outlook of the medieval castle which had been military since the beginning of the medieval period also changed during this period. Due to this change, the number of military personnel typically employed by a castle began to decrease and the ratio of female workers rose.
Medieval Castle Military Quick Facts:
Archers defenders of a medieval Castle would fire arrows from the Castle walls Battlements
Archers were also stationed in other parts of the Castle and would fire arrows from Castle Slits (loops)
Castle Arrow slits (Loops) were designed to protect the castles archers from enemy fire
A Crossbow/Longbow could be used by Archers from various Castle Loops (slits) around the Castle
Medieval foot soldiers were often stationed inside the Castle Gatehouse to defend the Castles Entrance
Castle guards would pour hot liquids and hurl stones through murder holes at the castles entrances
The knight was the most important military person in a medieval castle in both attack and defence
Castle Gatekeepers were very important castle personnel who protected the weak entrance points
Castle Gatekeepers protected later castles Gatehouse and entrance areas from attack
Gunpowder weapons brought an end to the medieval castles use as a fortification