Crime and Punishment

In the Middle Ages


Punishments were very harsh during the Middle Ages because powerful people believed that it was the only way to keep order if people were scared of punishments given for crimes.

Common forms of punishment:

  • fines.
  • public shaming.
  • mutilation.

These laws were enforced by members of the community.

Medieval Courts

The Manorial Court

The Manorial Court held meetings several times during the year to solve all but the most serious crimes. It was a compulsory event for all members of the community and if one did not attend, a fine would be sent to them.

King's Court

The King's Court heard the most serious crimes. The accused had to face the trial by ordeal to decide whether they were guilty or not.

Trial by Ordeal

The Trial by Ordeal was a system in the Middle Ages where the accused would fulfill several steps to prove their innocence. Trial by Ordeal was replaced by Trial by Jury in 1215.

Ordeal by Fire

The accused were to hold a red hot iron bar as they walked three of four paces. The hands were then bandaged for three or four days. On the final day the accused would come back and their bandage would be taken off. If the wound had started to heal, the accused would be innocent but if it hadn't started to heal, they would be guilty.

Ordeal by Water

The accused had all limbs tied together and if they the floated they were guilty and if they sunk they would be innocent.

Ordeal by Combat

Noblemen would fight the accused. Whoever won was in the right.