Sandra's Reviews > Life in a Medieval Castle

Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph Gies
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's review
Dec 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: e-books, in-english, non-fiction, medieval, read-in-2012
Read on September 24, 2012

This book was interesting, a quick exposition of the history of the Medieval Castle and everything we know about it. The book promised to tell you how people lived back in the day, and it definitely tries to sell you that picture. But the problem is, we just know too little about every day life in this era, and therefore the information in the book was ultimately unsatisfying.

Through combining different sources however, it does try to give as full a picture as is possible, tackling issues that have become subject to misconceptions, for instance the role of the Lady of the Castle:

- It seems to have been bigger than generally believed, and it is believed that the Lady played a big part in the castle's politics once she was married, leading the estate and even armies when the husband was indisposed;
- Aka, some ladies also used to wear armour, yes!;
- Women are credited with having a bigger sexual libido than men, one that the men couldn't satisfy fully (compare that to today's notion of "men always have sex on their minds);
- Most marriages appear to have been happy;
- On education:

"The daughter of a great lord was typically brought up away from home, in the castle of another noble family, or in a convent, where she might spend her life if she did not marry. Education of girls evidently compared favorably with that of their brothers. The differences in the training of the two sexes were given a jocular exaggeration by the writers of romances, who pictured boys as learning “to feed a bird, to hawk, to know hunting dogs, to shoot bow and arrow, to play chess and backgammon,” or “fencing, horsemanship and jousting,” whereas girls learned “to work with needle and shuttle…read, write and speak Latin,” or to “sing songs, tell stories and embroider.” Ladies of rank were patrons of poets and wrote poetry themselves, and some devoted themselves to learning. Yet, like their husbands, ladies enjoyed hunting and hawking (on their seals they were often portrayed holding a falcon) and chess.";
- It implies peasant girls often picked their husbands themselves (marriage generally following pregnancy);
- "The bride brought a marriage portion and received in return a dower amounting to a third part of her husband’s estate", meaning ladies were not left without claim to wealth when their husbands passed;
- and more.

Every chapter is full of these little details, and though the book can't give us a complete picture of life in the Medieval castle, it has enough detail to keep you captivated, sometimes details that are quite funny too:

"The earliest English tournaments had been licensed by the king, but Henry III consistently opposed them. William Marshal forbade one in Henry’s name in 1217, and thereafter the prohibitions multiplied, but they were so ineffectual that according to the monastic chronicler of the Annals of Dunstable, 'tourneyers, their aiders and abettors, and those who carried merchandise or provisions to tournaments were ordered to be excommunicated, all together, regularly every Sunday.'"

It's a pleasantly written book that's easy to read, and therefore works quite brilliantly as either an introduction to Medieval (castle) life, or a quick reminder. Definitely recommended to people who want to understand the Middle Ages just that bit better.

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Reading Progress

09/24/2012 page 288

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jeshu (new)

Jeshu I'm jealous, you get to read the cool things while I'm stuck reading about assessment and evaluations! XD

Sandra Aww, sorry! I just hope this one will have some relevant info in it for my paper on court society in Tristan & Isolde.. so far it's interesting, but irrelevant!

Assessments and evaluations sound a little boring though ;(

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