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How military was the medieval castle - Essay Example

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Donna Purcell Order 539817 23 May 2011 How Military was the Medieval Castle? Castles were very unique in medieval times. Most buildings were created to fulfill a specific purpose. Depending upon the status of the man who inhabited it, it had many purposes…
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Download file to see previous pages However, its main purpose was to house the private residence of its owner, family and dependents. The first castles were built around 1066 and were a product of medieval history during the Age of Feudalism. Feudalism refers to the military society that was created in Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The structure of feudalism resembled a pyramid. At the top was the king, who owned all the land in his kingdom. Immediately below the king was a group of major landholders that held their land directly from him, his tenants-in-chief.1 These were the lords and magnates of the kingdom. They swore to give the king military service in return for their land. They would fight for the king when and where he chose. The tenants-in-chief rented the land to their tenants, the barons and lords. This process repeated itself all the way down the pyramid to the knights, who were the local lords of the manor. The amount of land held was directly related to the amount of military service he could give the king. The first castles, called motte and bailey castles, were built of wood in the 10th and 11th centuries. They consisted of an enclosed yard called a “bailey.” Right next to that was a man made mound of dirt called a “motte.” A ditch protected the bailey and a wooden fence called a palisade.2 The palisade contained stables, workshops, and sometimes even a chapel. This was connected to the motte by a bridge. The motte was a 15 to 30 foot high structure and the main tower was built on top of it. The tower was the residence of the lord’s family, and served as a strong hold and lookout during an attack. Some early Norman castles had never been motte-and-baileys but were formidable stone castles from the start. The Tower of London and Colchester Castle are early examples, dating from the 1070s, which were conceived as defensive palaces. The Crown and the greater barons spent an enormous amount of money on castles during the third quarter of the 12th century.3 As well as being a defensive structure, castles were also offensive tools, which could be used as a base for military operations in enemy territory. Norman invaders of England established Castles for both purposes. Toward the end of the Middle Ages castles tended to lose their military significance due to modern innovations in medieval warfare. A castle could be seen as a stronghold and prison but it was also a place where the knights and lords could entertain their peers. The castles began to be designed to reflect the prestige and power of its occupants. Comfortable homes were established within the fortified walls. As time went on, castles were replaced with country houses as high status residences. However, castles were still used to provide low level protection in later periods. The first castles were constructed of timber and wood but they were very susceptible to fire, which came as a disadvantage when attacked. The main defense of a castle was its numerous walls. The walls were usually thick stone and very tall, depending on who and how it was built. The towers were built with slits so that archers could easily shoot arrows at the enemy. From the towers and alleys archers became the main defenders of the castles. Later on fire weapons were the most effective forms of castle defense. The height benefit and battlements allowed archers to fire up to 12 arrows per minute, and then take cover while the enemy fired back. Many castles also had other counter-offensive weapons such as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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