Some interesting medieval facts

While I was finishing up book two in the Blood of Kings series, I pulled out all my medieval research from book one to refresh my memory on the times. Here are some fun things I learned about the middle ages that I tried to use in my book.

-Medieval people did not eat with forks and spoons or plates. They ate food off the platters or pans with their fingers and sometimes used a small knife to cut or stab their bites and eat off the knife like a fork.  Oftentimes a man might offer a bite to a lady on the end of his knife so that she would not have to get her fingers dirty. Slices of bread were used as plates. Trenchers were slices of stale bread or toasted bread that were used as plates.

-Castles were cold, drafty, and dirty places. Tapestries were used to section off a large room into a smaller one, to keep the heat in. Hay or rushes (pleasant-smelling swatches of herbs such as lavender, chamomile, rose pedals, or fennel) were strewn over the stone floor to disguise the bad smell and keep people’s feet warm. But they attracted all kinds of bugs and bits of food or bones that had been thrown to the dogs. So even as fresh rushes were laid over the old ones, underneath were layers of grease, crusty food, spit, wine, and dog and cat excrement. Eww! The floors would be swept out every-so-often, but sometimes not until spring.

-Privy chambers or indoor outhouses were positioned on the outer walls of the castle, as far away from the interior chambers as they could be. They often had an antechamber or a small room before the actual bathroom, to further reduce the smell. These “toilets” had chutes that often led straight to the castle moats. During times of war, an opposing soldier might try to climb up the privy chutes to get inside the castle. Double eww!

And that’s enough of that for today. Maybe I’ll post some more cool/gross medieval facts of life later. 🙂

4 Responses to “Some interesting medieval facts”

  1. Rachel says:

    Nice Jill. 😀
    Medieval facts are always fun. I guess being a princess in a castle wouldn’t be as great as it’s cracked up to be, eh?
    I can’t wait to read book 2!!

    ~Rachel

  2. Don Hunt says:

    Jill ~ I’ve come back to your website a couple of times now, to read some facts about Medieval life. You should write a book: Medieval Life for Authors.

    • I’m glad you’ve found some helpful things on my side, Don. I’m curious which posts (besides this one) do you return to? Funnily enough, I am starting to work on a reference book for writers that is on several medieval settings. It probably won’t be complete until next year, though.

  3. Koios says:

    In fact, spoons were widely used in the medieval period. They are one of the oldest eating instruments, as the earliest ones are believed to have been from roughly 1000 BCE. Spoons were used to eat pottage, stew, custards, pies, soups, etc. Knives were used to skewer/cut meat and other tougher “hand-foods”.

    Some other additions to your first point about eating etiquette: it was regarded as bad manners to eat the trencher, one would hold their pinky finger aloft to keep it clean to use it to scoop salt or other spices onto their meal, and before supper, your hands would be washed with scented water by a servant over a bowl.

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