Medieval Times

Special edition: Social classes

Table of Contents

  • An introduction to Federalism
  • An overview of clothing in the Middle Ages
  • Gender differences
  • King and queen's responsibilities
  • Nobility's responsibilities
  • Knight's responsibilities
  • Merchant's, and craftsmen's responsibilities
  • Peasant's and surf's responsibilities
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An Introduction to Fuedalism

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Feudalism was a social system of rights and duties that was prevalent during the Middle Ages. Feudalism's social class system consisted of six or seven (seven if merchants and craftsmen are above farmers) layers [as seen above]. Whatever class or layer you were born into you would most likely stay in that same level. The layers at the bottom had the smallest power but largest population and the top layers had greater power shared among a smaller population of people. Overall, the Pope and the church had the most power, who sometimes even elected a king or promoted certain people who wanted to become king, giving them much more power. In feudalism, almost everyone was a vassal, or servant to the king. As long as the vassals fulfilled their duties they would be able to keep their land and social class.

An overview of clothing in the Middle Ages

In Medieval Europe clothing became more complicated and more concerned with distinguishing male from female, unlike Roman clothing. Men of this time period often wore loose tunics made of wool or linen. Men sometimes wore wool pants under their tunics, especially while riding horses or in winter. Older men and monks sometimes wore tunics that reached the ground. Some noblemen even wore wool tights. Almost all men wore leather shoes. On the other hand, all women during this period wore at least one tunic that reached their ankles and many wore a second under-tunic that was made of linen. Women also often wore a wool coat if they were going outside during colder weather. Women never wore pants, but usually wore sock-like linen tights. Noblewomen wore many of the same things, but often wore tall hats that sometimes had streamers coming off the back of them. Finally, kings wore many different, often extravagant, clothes that showed their power.

Clothing during the Middle Ages was more focused on distinguishing between social class and gender and took a leap forward after European women learned how to knit wool from the Egyptians.

Gender differences

During the Middle Ages, like many time periods until now, women and girls were not as respected as men. Girls did not go to school, but rather were taught by their mother's how behave in society; a society with a very strict code of conduct. When girls were ready to marry, usually at a young age, their father would chose their partner. Once married, a girl or women were property of their husbands and didn't have many rights. On the other hand, boys received a proper education and married at an older age. Men were the heads of the household and had authority of all of his family members. Overall, similar to many other societies, women and girls had less rights than boys and men in the Middle Ages.

King's and queen's responsibilities

A man who ruled an extensive piece of land with God's approval. He would give small pieces of his land to Nobles and in return, they would protect his kingdom and rule over a smaller group of people or manor so the king didn't have to. Finally, the king was in charge of protecting his land, a hefty task in the Middle Ages. The queen helped with these responsibilities and was married to the king. Both were responsible for creating heirs to ensure the kingdom didn't fall into a power struggle after the king's death.

Nobility's responsibilities

The governor or lord of land given to him or her by the king. In turn a noble must manage a manor and the people who live on it, represent the king, and create a military in order to protect the manor and the king's empire. They also protected the serfs when under attack. The manor's military would help, but the main defense was the castle walls in which all citizens of the manor could hide. Nobles would give some of their power and land to vassals in return for certain things, such as a noble giving land to a farmer and in return the noble gets half the farmer's harvest. Overall, nobles were in charge of maintaining the order of their land, enforcing laws, and protecting the serfs.

Knight's responsibilities

Knight's were specially trained warriors who were respected citizens in the feudal society. Only the offspring of nobles were allowed to train for knighthood. All knights needed to follow a code of conduct called chivalry. Knights would fight in battles and wars for the lord, wearing chain-mail armor and wielding shields, maces, lances, and swords. Their shields were decorated with symbols that represented who the Knight was. When not in battle knights would often compete in competitions and training, this included jousting, a sport were two knights ride horses at each other and attempt to de-horse the other player. The best knights often became role models and celebrities. Knighthood was a prestigious title that represented the best qualities of empires.

Below is a video of a modern day jousting event... (I couldn't watch it on my chrome, so I hope it's what I think it is)

Ironfest jousting BOOM! headshot

Merchant's and craftsmen's responsibilities

  • Merchants- Merchants set up shops and businesses and often sold traded goods from other manors, towns, and even empires. Merchant's were vital for getting goods from one place to another place that lacks that good. Not only did they trade rare goods, but they also kept the town or manor running by supplying people with a place to sell goods and buy the goods they need.
  • Craftsmen- Craftsmen made many different goods that were sold in markets, these include, but are not limited to, clothing, leather goods, furniture, and tools. All these products were essential to life in the Middle Ages.

Peasant's/serf's responsibilities

The lowest social class consisting of over 90% of Europe's population. Serfs were regular village citizens who farmed the land of the manor. Most serfs farmed, but some did other jobs requested by their lord, in return for the manor's protection and land to farm. They continued to pay for this deal, having to give most of their harvest to the lord, only allowed to take enough to keep their family fed. Although serfs could not be traded, bought, or sold, they couldn't leave the manor without their lords permission and were treated similarly to slaves.


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By Nicholas Polimeni