The greatest luxury a noble family enjoys may well be privacy.
A salon or suite of rooms (a kind of private apartment attached
to the great hall) is where they may withdraw from their servants
and guests to do as they please. For
everyone else who lives or works at the castle (knights, men-at-arms,
servants and friends), privacy is impossible. In these times,
all poor people live their lives in full view of their neighbors,
friends and family. They live in the same houses, eat together,
wash together, and do almost everything else in public. No one has
a bedroom to himself. Most people sleep on pallets - mattresses
stuffed with straw or feathers. At dawn these can be rolled
up and tucked away.
The baron's man-servant guards him at night and sometimes sleeps
in the same room on a small bed. Sometimes he spends the night dozing
on a straw mat outside the baron's bedroom door. The dogs and children
of the noble family also share the same room with the baron.
After his horses and armor, the baron's bed may be his most
valuable possession. It is certainly the most valuable piece of
furniture in the castle. The
bed is a wooden frame filled with straw. A mattress or feather-bed
sits on top of the straw. There are heavy curtains all around, to
make it snug and private. The windows are shuttered
at night, so the room is as dark as a cave and a huge candle burns all
night. The air is so cold night caps are worn to keep people's heads warm.
Sir Richard's servants wake up very early to light the fires in
the various rooms. They bring breakfast to Sir Richard and Lady
Elena's private salon. There is no coffee or tea, few people like
milk, and plain water carries illnesses, so even children have ale with
the day's first meal.
effort of drawing water from the well and heating it means a bath
is a rare treat. Taken mostly for fun - or before a feast,
even John the 13th century King of England bathed only once every
three weeks or so. Servants fill buckets of water from the
well within the bailey, heat it outside, in a huge cauldron, bring
in a wooden tub and fill it with the hot water. It takes a
long time to heat enough buckets of water to fill a tub. Because
of this several people often share a bath. Soap is made of
mutton fat, wood ash and soda. It is soft and foul smelling.
Bath water is sprinkled with herbs and flowers to improve the experience.
A Meal in the Great Hall
It is midday, and in the great hall, the tables are laid for a grand
Sir Richard will invite everyone - minstrels, tourists and wandering
knights - to join the company. Only the baron, Lady Elena and a
few of the more important guests will have chairs. They will preside
over the meal from a special raised table - the "high table".
The other tables in the hall are just boards resting on trestles.
Now, in early summer the food is splendid. There
will be four courses today, each with soup, fish, meat and sweets.
must wash your hands before you eat since you will be eating with
your fingers. A squire will bring basins and pitchers to the
noble family and their special guests. Everyone else will
use basins near the door. Very few people will use plates
- one of the squires serving at table will cut a slice of stale
bread to put the food on.
Later the bread will be given to the poor. You will use your
own knife to cut up your meat. A platter of food is usually
shared by two people. You make friends quickly this way.