The Napoleonic Wars were a series of major global conflicts putting the French Empire – led by Napoleon I – and its allies against a ton of European states formed into various coalitions. For a time, Europe was dominated by France, the result of which had stemmed largely from the disputes associated with the French Revolution.
The Napoleonic wars are seen as five major conflicts; termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon.
From the battles of Leipzig to the concluding showdown at Waterloo, this was certaintly a series of world wars if there ever was one. It involved not only European powers, but continents such as Africa, South America and Asia.
I’ll be covering this series of battles just as I am writing about Medieval England (sorry I haven’t added to that in a while!)
The series will simply be called Napoleonic Wars and will look at the rise and fall of a massive empire, how it influenced society today and some awesome battles tactics, formations and even some war gaming! Stay tuned!
Welcome to episode 5 of the Medieval England History series. You can access all the episodes by going to this link here. I hope you are enjoying this nostalgic adventure into the heart of what England was during the time of the black death. If you do like what you read then be sure to follow because new episodes are posted regularly. Today this episode is about medieval castles!
Castles in medieval England served a very important purpose, they were designed and built primarily as the homes and fortresses of a monarch or noble. Early castles would have been built from earth and wood, but as the times moved on, by the 12th century most castles were built from stone.
The roof of the castles were built or covered with slates, clay tiles or wooden shingles. The castle had to be well guarded and defended both by men and in terms of the position and structure, because a poorly built castle meant almost certain doom for the occupants. That is why they built castles on steep hills or at the top of rock cliffs, sometimes beside the sea. The positions meant that the castle automatically had an advantage from attack, as potential invaders had to get up the hills or cliffs before getting into the castle. It was still possible though, and the use of other weapons like catapults certainly helped this.
If the castle was not built to house a monarch or noble then it could have secondary uses or purposes. Notable is the use of castles as barracks to house soldiers (spearmen, militia, swordsmen, archers, crossbow men, knights, billmen etc). They could serve as prisons, armories, treasure houses, and the center for local government… yes, they still had a government in medieval ages, albeit under the rule of the monarch. Other less violent uses included using castles as brew houses, laundry, workshops, dovecotes, and stables. It was not uncommon to have a few of these things mixed together in a castle grounds, along with a barracks for example.
The castle would be surrounded by a huge wall which would be many meters high and dense. They were not just walls, they were 3 layers thick consisting of; a rough stone inner shell, a thick solid filling of flint and rubble, and an outer layer of stone called ashlars. The wall would have a flat walkway which would allow guards to keep watch and to notify the other guards should an intruder be noticed. The archers if there were any would be able to use a embrasure, which would allow them to shoot whilst protected by the wall. And, don’t forget the medieval ages was brutal, so the openings in the wall allowed boiling water or stones or even waste at times to be thrown down onto any attacking enemy. Most castles had a moat too, which was an added level of protection, a stream of deep water that surrounded the castles. Castles built near lakes or rivers could use that water by digging or channeling water to the moat. A drawbridge would allow access across the moat and would be raised if an enemy approached.
Stokesay is the most well preserved castle sites in England. Worth a journey to spend a day looking around.
Inside a castle was a little different to outside. They did not have what we have today, but did have quite a lot of things that we might be surprised at. They didn’t have central heating of course, they had alternative more costs effective means of keeping warm (that is a joke, it didn’t cost anything to light a fire back then). Only the Lord and Lady of the castle had used a main fireplace, along with thick, heavy blankets, mattresses made of feathers, fur covers etc. So the Lord and the Lady (nobles) or the Monarch (I suspect a lot more than just blankets, including women for kings). The workers, or anyone not a noble had to sleep in the towers which were cold and damp, and you can imagine the winter. In summer though, the castle would still remain cold for the workers.
A castle hall was the biggest, grandest room in the entire fortress. The middle ages saw it common place to sleep in the hall. It was the place to dine and to drink and socialise. Lords of the castle would host social gatherings and people gathered in the hall for a massive feast and listened to music (yes, the played musical instruments, played by minstrels, or wandering singers). Occasionally the Lords might also host a jousting event in a field outside. There were laundry too, and bedding and clothes were washed, and everything was maintained. Everyone in the castle had a job, even if it was to provide entertainment and this resulted in castles being loud and busy.
Attackers could use moveable towers to climb over the walls, could tunnel under the walls, and of course use catapults, which were employed later on. Attackers could stop the supply of food and water and other resources and even kill assisting soldiers coming to the castle.
Waste disposal in castles was not as good as the personal hygiene. Castles did not have plumbing which means the waste would remain in one place until it was cleaned by chamber maids (they still did it, and for a pittance), although a poor sanitary waste system was a lot better than a lower class citizen. People in medieval ages had regard to personal hygiene and washed their hands, took baths and brushed their teeth! They brushed their teeth using something called a miswak, brushing or scrubbing the teeth until they ‘felt’ clean. Others could use a cloth or their fingers. Personal hygiene was advocated for as early as the Vikings, who encouraged use of combs and act of washing. People would get their hair cut by a barber, who also performed minor surgeries to the teeth and pulled out rotten teeth, talk about a worthwhile visit.
Thank you for reading episode 5 castles in the Medieval England History series. If you enjoyed this then stay tuned by liking, commenting, reblogging, following and more! The next in the series will be a little more about the life in castles, particularly focusing on the roles within it, starting with the cooks! Cooks are a very important roles in the castle of medieval times.
Welcome to the second post in the medieval series. Keep checking into the blog on a daily basis for more posts and entries to the series. The series will cover various medieval topics like mythology, knights, castles, dragons, wizards and so much more!
Knight are synonymous with dragons and castles. Once upon a time knights were the most feared and best protected warriors of the medieval ages. They were fashionable and well mannered. Naturally the knights started to diminish over the centuries as the elite fought to protect their exclusive status’.
If you wanted to become a knight you needed to be born from aristocracy. You had to undertake training from childhood, the age of 7 years old. You also needed to posses a knowledge of the rules of chivalry. Courting the most fine of ladies was not too uncommon. From 7, the child would become a ‘page’ at which point he learned how to handle horses, hunt and use mock weapons while serving a knight proper.
At age 14 they move on to become a ‘squire.’ The child would take on increasing responsibility, a type of grooming, to prepare them for knighthood. At this stage they learned how to use real weapons and began an education system, focusing on learning chivalry. Squires still assisted knights, they would hold extra lances or the shields, clean all the armour and look after several horses of the knight. By the time they reach 18, if they had done well they would be put through ‘dubbing’, a type of ceremony to make the youngster a knight. The soon-to-be knight would have to keep a church vigil overnight.
When knighted, the squire would be dressed by two knights with a white tunic and white belt to symbolise purity, black or brown stockings to represent the earth and a scarlet cloak for the blood he is now ready to spill for his baron, sovereign and church. His sword was given to him blessed by a priest with the condition that he always protect the poor and weak. The sword was unique in that it had two cutting edges, one to represent justice and the other loyalty and chivalry. The knighting knight might kiss the new knight on the cheek and then tap on the shoulder or neck with the sword or hand. After he would be given his horse and shield and banner.
Knights could partake in jousting and tournaments when not on active duty. This allowed them to maintain their horse riding skills. Jousting is where a single ride with a lance charged at the opponent who also had a lance. The goal was to knock the other opponent of their horses. The ‘melee’ was the mock cavalry battle where knights would have to capture one another for a ransom. Knights had the chance to impress those aristocratic ladies again by displaying those chivalrous skills and tournaments became ‘prestigious’ with professional tournament players. Knights could also read poetry or recite it if they wish but must have been at all times following their chivalric code.
A knight would receive a special type of burial too. Some knights joined military orders so to ensure a spot in the cemetery or church. Such examples are joining the Knight Templar. Knights would be remembered frequently though ‘effigies’. An effigy would allow a knight to be portrayed in full armour and bearing a shield, through a wooden carving onto their burial place. Temple Church in London, the base of Inner Temple, is where knights of the Knight Templar were buried, since it was their church.
Famous is the knights of the round table. The followers of King Arthur, a story told countless times through the centuries. The story of Arthur, briefly goes like this. Merlin had place a sword into a stone and stated that the first to draw the sword would become king. Arthur did pull the sword from the stone and Merlin crowned him king of Britain. A rebellion ensued, in which Arthur got rid of 11 rulers. Upon marrying Guinevere, her father gave him the round table. Those who sat at the table were all equals, and the mystical knights came from various lands. Arthur later died in a battle between himself and his nephew, Mordred.
The legends of knights are still told to this day. The story of Arthur and the sword in the stone, the sword is called Excalibur, is still revered.
Thank you for reading the second post in the medieval series. This is the second in a series about medieval England. If you liked this, please like and comment below or share, which is always welcomed. The next episode will be on wizards!
Welcome to my new blog post series which will have a medieval theme. The first post is called alchemy, looking at a little bit of the history and what alchemy actually is. Keep checking my blog on a daily basis to find new posts about various medieval topics which will cover things like medieval mythology, knights, castles, dragons, wizards and so much more!
Alchemy – ‘The medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.’
Philosophers stone – A mythical substance purported to transform metals into gold. Also called the elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and achieving immortality. It was for many centuries the most sought after goal in alchemy. The Philosophers stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolising perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the stone were know as the Magnum Opus.
In 1666, the English mathematician, astronomer and natural philosopher, Sir Isaac newton made a great discovery about light and colour. He observed that when light passed through a prism it produced an array of colours, a rainbow of colours. He was fascinated and believed that it had a close relationship to the concept known as the ‘vegetable spirit.’ Through his life, and research into alchemy and nature, he hoped to uncover the secrets of this vegetable spirit, a spirit of life.
The main goal or mission of medieval alchemists was to find a way to create gold and the elixir of life. Alchemy is traceable back to the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks. At one point there was a huge issue with fake gold, said to have been created using mere alloys, which led to the Roman Empire Emporor Diocletian ordering for the destruction of every single text that covered the making of gold or other metal work.
In 1317 Pope John XXII issued the Bull “Spondent quas non exhibent” banning alchemy. In 1403 the English King Henry IV had banned the practice of alchemy without a license, granting licenses to those trustworthy enough to attempt to actually make gold.
John Dee, one of the more recognisable names in alchemical history, was an English mathematician, alchemist, astrologer, teacher and occultist. He was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth the 1st. Most of his time was devoted to the art of alchemy and in particular divination.
Above, he is performing an experiment for Queen Elizabeth I. His personal life: he married Jane Fromond in 1558, at 51 whilst she was 23. Together they had 8 children. His wife passed when the bubonic plague swept through Manchester, taking 2 of their children as well.
In 1553 he had been arrested and charged with casting the horoscope of Queen Mary Tudor. He was accused of trying to kill her with sorcery. He was imprisoned in Hampton Court that same year, but released just 2 years later, in 1555. In 1556 Queen Mary gave him a full pardon. He later went on to become one of the more trusted advisors to the Queen Elizabeth. Dee was too intrigued by the philosophers stone.
He later met Edward Kelley, an occultist and medium. The two men worked together using ‘spiritual conferences’ involving prayer, fasting and eventual communication with the angels. Kelley informed Dee that the angel Uriel had instructed them to share everything, including their wives. They parted and Dee returned to the Queen to petition for a role in the court. She appointed him warden of Christ’s College in Manchester. During his role there, several priests had contacted him regarding demonic possession of children.
Dee retired after the death of the Queen, returning to his home on the River Thames. He died in 1608 at 82 in poverty under the care of his daughter, Katherine. The massive collection of books and manuscripts, notebooks and others which detailed those ‘spiritual conferences’ between Dee, Kelley and the angels were discovered. It chronicled the life of Tudor England, which was closely connected to magic and metaphysics, despite the anti-occult sentiment at the time.
Alchemy, still used today to advance medicine and our understanding of the world and of life, albeit called chemistry.
Thanks for taking the time to read todays post. This is the first in a series of posts about medieval England. If you liked this, then please like and comment below or share, which is always welcomed. The next episode will be on Knights.