Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nobility in Medieval Times

Today is the 14th day of the A to Z April Challenge. This means two weeks of blogging the alphabet every day except Sundays. For those who would like to visit other participants listed on the main web page, click HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme and today I'm looking at the Nobility in Medieval Times. I use the medieval social structure in some of my fantasy stories.

In medieval times, most of the people were peasants, farmers who worked all the time just to grow food.  They were protected by the Nobles.  But who made up the nobility? The Nobility included the landowners, the King, Lords and Ladies, and Knights of the kingdom.  
The King: The King was the highest noble of the land.  In theory, the king owned all the land.  The King gave out fiefs to his followers, which put them in charge of a portion of the land.  The fief holder had to pay the king rent, taxes, and provide soldiers whenever the king needed them.  
A Lord: A Lord was given a fief by the king.  The lord was expected to pay taxes to the king and provide soldiers when needed.  To do that, the lord was given absolute power over his fief.  Within it, a lord's word was the law.  Whatever the lord said, the people had to do.    
A Lady: A Lord also needed a wife who was called a Lady.  Her job was to take care of the manor, run the house, and most importantly to have children.  Women in medieval times had no rights.  They were property.  They belonged to their father, husband or even eldest son.  This is not to say some women didn't take charge, but the law said they were property.  
Children: A boy learned how to be a Knight starting at about seven years old.  Sometimes they were even taught how to read and write.  Girls were not.  They were instead expected to learn from their mother all the skills of being a good wife.  

I imagine that it was hard for the nobility to live in a time when the upper class was continually grappling for who would come out on top. There was constant treachery, kidnapping and even murder of the royals, forcing the nobles family to live with body guards, food tasters and soldiers surrounding them. This meant a host of lower class servants that would be loyal to the family. How did they find these servants? Perhaps some Lords treated their subjects with enough kindness to earn respect and devotion, but others ruled with an iron fist and used fear as a way of controlling their underlings, with punishment and death as rewards for disobedience.

Have you used this social structure in your stories? How did it work for you?


  1. I used it in my fairy story and have used the power of men over women in a 'property' type manner. I think that still exists to some degree. Good post :)

    1. Juliette: Yes, in some parts of the world women are still second class.

  2. I haven't yet. Perhaps one of these days. I love reading stories set in the Middle Ages, though.

    1. I've thought about making a story with the protagonist a woman and set it in the Middle Ages. She would be a strong character to go against society's mores. Like Joan of Arc.