Medieval society was defined by structures and everything was predetermined for medieval people even before birth. Medieval People in medieval times remained in the class they were born and raised in.
Out of the need to preserve Noble bloodlines and maintain the wealth and social standing of elite families, a set of strict succession and inheritance rules were imposed on and governed medieval nobility.
Medieval People *Royalty
The King was the most powerful and important person in medieval society, at the pinnacle of the feudal system, early kings controlled much smaller kingdoms than later kings who could control an entire country.
The Queenwas usually second in command and could even act as a regent to the King if he was unable to rule because of illness or if he was fighting some battle in a foreign land.
Prince and Princess
The Prince and Princess could be next in line to the throne, they were well educated and taught all the skills needed to run a medieval castle and kingdom from an early age.
The Clergy was very influential in medieval times as medieval people thought them to be mediators between man and God. Medieval Clergy were exempt from paying any taxes and were highly efficient at raising money from medieval people, they were also very wealthy which gave them lots of power, even political power over the rest of the medieval people in society.
In early medieval times, the Pope was very powerful, and medieval people looked towards the Pope for inspiration and redemption from their sins, during the medieval period the Catholic Church became one of the most powerful institutions in the world.
The medieval Pope was a legislator, he could make laws, rule over disputes and could even annul marriages, this gave him a lot of power over most medieval people.
Due to the great wealth that the catholic church generated in medieval times it became more and more powerful and just like medieval lords, members of the clergy especially people such as the Pope lived very lavish lifestyles, they wore expensive clothes and ate only the best foods.
Men and women born into nobility were called noblemen and noblewomen. They were more privileged and esteemed compared to other members of society. Nobles in medieval times were considered to be of a lower level than royalty but higher than almost everyone else except maybe high-ranking clergy such as the Pope.
While nobility was generally hereditary, there were instances in the medieval period where commoners became nobles through royal favour, military achievements, or acquiring wealth and power.
The peerage of England differed greatly from that of other countries. England stuck to the five classes
Heavily armed cavalry soldiers have existed since ancient times, however, none have captured the imagination as much as the gallant medieval knight in shining armour of the medieval period.
The knight gained in popularity and became much more established and defined during the high and late medieval times. All noblemen would also be knights.
It wasn’t until later in the medieval period when knighthood became more of a social rank providing a distinction between non-noble cavalrymen (milites gregarii) and the true knights (milites nobiles) In the later medieval period, knighthood was commonly associated with a code of conduct and chivalry.
In medieval knights’ history, it was during the high medieval times that knighthood attained the higher social status of note.
Medieval merchants bought products cheaply from abroad in large merchant ships and sold them at a higher price in medieval towns and cities, merchants became very wealthy and powerful as the medieval period progressed.
Merchant Caravel Ship
Many developments during the high and late medieval period created the perfect environment for the medieval merchant to thrive such as
The development of towns and cities with larger populations
The movement of people to cities and towns from the countryside
Banking *Creation of new banking systems *easily availability of money anywhere in the world
Guilds *Merchants created Guilds to control the price and standard of goods traded
Population increase *Improvements in living conditions led to an increase in the population
Merchants realised that a better infrastructure brought more people to visit and live in the villages and towns, more people meant they could sell more of their goods! Medieval merchants became very important people to the economy of towns and villages in these medieval times.
Medieval Craftsmen who made products such as Blacksmiths, Carpenters, and Stonemasons became members of guilds that were introduced to set high standards of work and fix the prices of products made by medieval craftsmen.
There were many types of soldiers during the medieval period, each served a specific purpose on the battlefield. Medieval soldiers were often supplied by noblemen for a king under obligations required by the feudal system in which land was given to noblemen in exchange for the provision of future military services.
Soldiers were also commonly employed as mercenaries in which they were paid a fee for their service, this became more common during the latter part of the medieval period. English Longbowmen and Genoese Crossbowmen were in high demand throughout Europe and were handsomely paid mercenaries.
The White Company (Great Company) was a 14th-century English mercenary Company that was led by famous warriors including the knight and Englishman John Hawkwood.
John Hawkwood *The White Company
Important Medieval Foot Soldiers (Infantry)
Large Pravise Shield used by Crossbowmen
Pikemen Form a Pike Square Formation
Heavy Cavalry ‘Men at Arms’
A man-at-arms was a heavily armoured mounted soldier (Cavalry) during the high to late medieval period. A man-at-arms could be a knight, nobleman, part of their entourage or a mercenary in a company serving under a captain such as the famous ‘White Company’.
The terms knight and man-at-arms are often used interchangeably, however not all men-at-arms were knights, but both would be heavily armoured and armed.
At the bottom of the feudal system was the lowly medieval Serf who commonly toiled in the fields of a manor estate in the countryside from dawn to dusk. Most of the population in medieval times would have been in the peasantry class, and the most common peasant was called a Serf.
The medieval serf worked to the three-field system which was adopted from China in which a field is planted with a different crop in the 2nd year and left fallow in the third year, this led to a greater yield and increased food production.
The Serf would also protect the crops, Plough the fields in autumn, and sow the fields in the following spring to produce the food for harvesting later in the year usually around the month of August or September.
Serfs Under the Command of a Reeve
Homes *Wattle & Daub
Serfs lived in small homes that were made using a technique called ‘Wattle & Daub’. The Interior was usually very basic and a fire in the center of the room provided warmth.
Wattle & Daub House of a Medieval Serf
What Did Serfs Eat?
The type of food commonly eaten by medieval peasants was called pottage or potage, It was a large pot of grains and vegetables cooked over a fire, anything that was at hand could be thrown into the pot, such as potatoes, fish, and meat added as and when required.