EelKat Wendy C Allen - Dark Fantasy Author

Writing Medieval Servants
in Historical Fiction

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Writing Medieval Servants: Their jobs and their place in historical fiction.

October 14, 2013

Question that was sent to me, on the topic of writing Medieval Servants: Their jobs and their place in historical fiction.

"My main female character is a personal servant to a princess in a somewhat medieval alternate universe.

I have absolutely not the slightest idea what her job would exactly entail.

I can think some of the obvious ones like helping her change or do her hair. I also thought perhaps laundry, cleaning, washing the floor....

But this is a full time sort of thing. And I didn't want her to have the exact same jobs every single day (I highly doubt a floor would need to be washed every day, even for a princess). I'm just looking for a little bit of variety.

Do you have any chores I could add to the list?"

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My Answer:
On the topic of writing Medieval Servants:
Their jobs and their place in historical fiction.

Oh my! Medieval history. One of my favourite subjects! This is a great question.

My first question to is is going to be this:

Are you SURE you mean Medieval?

Are you sure you do not mean Baroque?

MOST times when someone says "Medieval princess" or "Medieval castle" or "Medieval fantasy" what they ACTUALLY have in mind is "Baroque princess" or "Baroque castle" or "Baroque fantasy."

Now, because you SAID Medieval, I'm going to answer you with ACTUAL Medieval history facts.

However, should you realize while reading this that Medieval is nothing close to what you ACTUALLY had in mind, then I highly recommend you try researching Baroque and possibly Rococo history, as, more likely then not, what you had in mind was a Baroque or Rococo princess, living in a Baroque or Rococo castle.

The difference is over 1,000 years, with your Medieval princess, a 10 year child old being chained in the cow shed outside of the stone hut (castle) in the 600s were she is fucked multiple times a day by her father to ensure she gives him a son and will be flogged is she dares commit the sin of giving birth to her sister instead of her brother, while the Baroque princess a pampered pouty teenager, has a bevee of servants powdering her nose in her glamorous fairy tale princess style tower palace in the 1600s.

The average person today, if they had to live even a few hours in Medieval lifestyle would not survive. Medieval lifestyle, especially for a princess, was harsh, disgusting, degrading, and brutal.

There are several things to consider, the biggest of them being: When you say Medieval, do you actually mean real historically accurate Medieval? Or the quasi-fantasy Medieval as told in Robin Hood, King Arthur and his knights of the round table in Camelot, and Lord of the Rings? I ask this because there is a difference, a big difference, a huge difference. Very little of Robin Hood, King Arthur, or LOTR has any basis in reality, keeping in mind that the oldest of these books was written in the 1700s, nearly a 1,000 years after Medieval times had ended. Keep in mind too, that the movies based on these books are even less historically accurate than the books are. These stories are of the genre known as Medieval Fantasy. Note the word “fantasy” after “Medieval”. Medieval Fantasy is not based on anything even close to Medieval fact.

Also, what most people think of as "Medieval princess" is often based off of Disney's Cinderella, which is the Baroque or Rococo Period of the 1700s and is a far cry from being Medieval.

In nearly every case I've ever encountered of a "Medieval princess" in a "Medieval castle" in a novel, it's almost always the Baroque (1650 to 1700) or Rococo (1700 to 1780) time period that they are actually referring to, which is well over a 1,000 years AFTER the Medieval time period ended.

In Medieval fantasy you see servant dressing the princess daily, helping her change clothes for every meal. Real Medieval princesses did not change their clothes morning, noon, and night like you see in the movies, they didn’t even change their clothes daily, heck, they were not likely to have even changed their clothes weekly. In real Medieval times people had: a summer outfit, a winter outfit, and a church services outfit.

People did not change clothes daily, slept in their cloths, and wore many, many, many layers.

Let's think about bread for a minute.

Bread is a good way to show medieval life for what it was.

  1. White bread was invented by the Wonder Bread company in the 1950s. At no point before the 1950s will anyone see white bread.
  2. Long skinny rectangular loaves of sliced bread also did not exist before the 1950s.
  3. Bread was a ball shape, baked on a board, not in a pan.
  4. Slices of bread used in making sandwiches, were 3 or 4 inches thick each slice.
  5. Sandwiches are a Victorian invention. They did not exist prior to the 1830s.
  6. They did not put butter on their bread in medieval times. 
  7. Butter was still rare in Victorian times. 
  8. Prior to the 1970s and the invention of Parkey, only the super wealthy had access to butter.
  9. Lard (bacon fat drippings) is what was spread on bread slices, often an inch or more thick.
  10. Bread was eaten with cheese and wine, not butter and juice or water.
  11. Cheese was not slices. It was large chunks and wedges.
  12. To eat bread and cheese, you put one very large hunk of bread in one hand and one very large wedge of cheese in the other, then alternated taking bites out of each.
  13. Wine was drunk by everyone, every meal, even by children, because wine was safer to drink then water.
  14. Juice was almost never drunk at all, because refrigeration did not exist until the 1920s and juice will start to ferment (turn into wine) with-in an hour of being made if it is not refrigerated.
  15. Flour to make bread was large grained and chunky. Thus bread was tough, chewy, and full of whole grains. A loaf was very heavy, like a brick and weighed several pounds.
  16. Before the 1950s, bread did not resemble the light, fluffy, airy item we think of as bread today.
  17. Because the average person did not have access to eating meat, it was common place to collect maggots, caterpillars, beetles, and grub (beetle larvae) to add to bread dough and cook into your bread. 
  18. Because hunger and malnutrition was common place, children often fought over who got the slice of bread that contained the most bugs, as this was the slice that provided the best meal.
  19. Meat was a very rare luxury, eaten only on Holy Days such as Easter and Christmas, in medieval times.
  20. The price of chicken (dead to cook) in medieval times, was the equivalent of buying a new car today.
  21. A man had to save money for as long as a year, to be able to afford to by a leg of lamb for his family for Easter dinner.
  22. Meat livestock was very rare.
  23. No farmer killed sheep for food, because wool was too valuable.
  24. No farmer killed chicken for food, because eggs were too valuable.
  25. No farmer killed cows or goats for food, because milk was too valuable.
  26. If they had meat on the table it was rats, rabbits, mice, crows, blackbirds, sparrows, squirrels, ermine, mink, turtles, and fish.
  27. Only Pagans ate pigs. Christians, Jews, and Muslims did not because they believed God would send them to Hell if they did.
  28. The Bible says not to eat pigs. Medieval people strictly adhered to Bible laws.
  29. If by chance a cow, sheep, goose, or chicken died, the family did not eat the meat, but sold it to nobels, as a single chicken averaged 300 silver coins (10 years income).
  30. The only parts of the animal the family kept to eat was the brain, tongue, and intestines  which were ground together to make sausage (aka haggis)
  31. The bulk of the medieval diet was bread, cheese, and root crops (potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, and onions.)
  32. How often in "medieval" novels and movies do you see people drinking apple cider?
  33. Apples were not discovered until the 1640s.
  34. How often in "medieval" novels and movies do you see people coking with, picking, or throwing tomatoes?
  35. How often are tomatoes described as "Italian" and Italian medieval people show making tomato sauce for pasta?
  36. Tomatoes were not discovered until the 1640s. Tomato sauce was invented in New York in the 1930s as a result of the invention of canned food.
  37. Ever seen medieval travellers in Fantasy roasting their corn or making cornbread on their open camp fire?
  38. How often do medieval travelers in Fantasy toss things like green string beans or peas into their stew?
  39. They did not have tomatoes, apples, corn, green string beans, or squash in Europe at all, as these were all items native to America which was still 500 years from being discovered.
  40. Ever seen a mediaval traveller in fantasy novel eating his baked beans?
  41. Baked beans were invented in Colonial Boston, around the time of the Boston Tea Party (late 1700s, just before 1776)
  42. Medieval times started at the year 1.A.D. with the birth of Jesus the Christ.
  43. Medieval times ended in the 1300s.
  44. What "Historical Fiction" and "Medieval Fantasy" novelists inaccurately call "medieval times" is nearly always the 1600s to 1700s. Once in a rare while they might use things from as early as the 1500s.
  45. How often are medieval people on ships? Big pirate ships? In Fantasy novels?
  46. Did you know in 1492, long after medieval times were over, that Chris Columbus had the largest sailing ship ever built and it was 21 feet long?
  47. Did you also know that the 1959 Cadillac is 23 feet long? 
  48. Or that The World's Most Haunted Car is 21 feet long, the exact same size as the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria?
  49. Did you know that Dutchman, the type of boat that is favored by pirates of pirate movies, was not invented until the 1740s?
  50. Boy did we get a long way from bread...

Male servants were often well paid. A female servant was usually nothing more than a lesser wife who was set charge over taking care of the favorite wives. The princess was likely a favorite wife of the king, even though the king was also her father, otherwise she would be a servant in the house and not a princess. The job of the queen and princesses were to have as many babies as possible in hopes that a male heir would survive to adulthood. (Keeping in mind that 9 out of every 10 babies died before they reached the age of 3 and babies were not named until after they had reached their 3rd birthday and proved they were hardy stock.) The primary job of a princess’ personal servant was to hold her down while the king raped her. Most princess’ died in childbirth before they reached the age of 14, most would have had 4 or 5 pregnancies by the time they reached 14. This is the way it was done in actual Medieval times.

In any case, from what you said in your question, it is unlikely that you are looking for historically accurate information on either your princess or her servants.

What if she's a princess and doesn't have much in the way of a kingdom/palace/wealth/etc? She doesn't want her people to know so she keeps up appearance by having a servant still, even though she can't really afford one, thus the servant, being the only servant, has to do EVERYTHING. As a general rule the more wealth they had the more servants they had, and a single personal servant would be highly unusual in Medieval times, which is why I suggested this.

Medieval servants were often indebted slaves, so they were working off a debt they owed, and often were poorly treated, because they were basically seen as deadbeats who couldn't be trusted to pay off a loan. Often, being a servant to a noble in Medieval times was not a good thing to be.

Not all servants were indebted slaves. In wealthy families servants were more likely to be paid staff, however you did not ask about wealthy families, you asked about a princess, specifically, and in a royal family there would have been a higher rate of indebted slaves than paid servants. Indebted servants would have been placed in the harder jobs however: tending the farms and washing clothing. House servants, especially those being asked to cook the meals or care for family members one-on-one would have been paid staff who were loyal and well trusted. So the servants working one-on-one with the princess would likely have been with the family many years, and be well paid.

There would be few historically accurate cases of a princess having a single servant doing her bidding. Perhaps if she is traveling and can only take one servant with her, again, the one servant must do everything.

You seem to be referring to a footman, who was a man hired to wait on the princess hand and foot and do whatever she asked, whenever she asked, all day and night. He would never leave her side, from the time she was born until the day she died, and if he outlived her he would tend her grave until he died. He would also be a Eunuch: a castrated male who dresses as a woman. This was done to ensure 2 things: #1 he'd never rape her or otherwise be tempted to take sexual advantage of her, and #2 being a male he'd never feel the need to compete with her (female servants had a history of being snooty and disobedient when placed on 24 hour duty for a princess). Thus when you see nurses like the one Maid Marion has in Robin Hood, in real life that nurse would have been a castrated man cross-dressing as a woman and not an actual woman. Again, do not trust the movies - in the movies Maid Marion's nurse is always played by a female actor, while a historically accurate movie would have had a male actor play the nurse.

In Medieval times no one washed floors. Of course most people did not have floors to wash, either. Not even a king's castle is going to have boards covering the dirt, though they might lay down hay and put tapestries and carpets over the hay, but this would likely only be done in bed chambers, and the bed chamber in most cases, was not a separate room, but rather a corner in the kitchen that was divided off by a curtain. In fact, it was unlikely the castle would have more then one big giant room.

And if you are thinking: But it's a castle. It'll be 5 stoeies tall, with 500 rooms, and with torrents and towers....

Wait... are you sure you know what the MEDIEVAL times are? They rarely had floorboards in a Medieval castle, because they were only small single story stone huts. No towers. No torrents. If there was a tower, it'd have been one of those wooden types that is basically a pole with a plank on top. Medieval times had a FEW big buildings, but they were owned by the Catholic church, not kings. The Templar Knights had mega sized mansion style castles. The Popes and Cardinals and Bishops had mega sized Castles.


Kings had no power save the power the Pope gave him. Kings rarely had a house any bigger than anyone else in his tribe. Keeping in mind that a city rarely had more the 10 or 12 families, unless it was a metropolis like Rome or Bethlehem. 10 or 12 families could often exceed 200 people as well, with each wife having 10 or more children and each man making sure each of his 10 or 12 daughters gave birth to 10 or 12 more children, and why stop with hi daughters? He'll be fucking his grand daughters soon as they are 10 years old to. Such is the life of a Medieval princess, whose only job was to give the king as many babies as possible in hopes a son would reach adulthood to take his place when he died at the ancient old age of 30.

For "civilized" folk, Medieval men were rather savage. And the Era was called the "Dark Ages" by folks looking back at them, because they were pretty dark.

Now every day family men were often not like this, but you asked about a royal family. Royal families were obsessed with remaining the royal family. Thus the obsession with kings fucking as many of his daughters as possible, as often as possible, in his obsessive panic to make sure he had a son and the family didn't lose it's title.

The common folk, didn't have sur names. Only royalty had those. So common folk were not doing the rape you daughter as often as possible thing. Thu it was not common practice for EVERYONE, just common practice among the aristocrats who were overly obsessed with their pure blue blood.

What was we last saying? 

Floor boards, and lack thereof...yes...

Yes, big castles and floor boards existed in Medieval times, but they were rare and not many kings had one. They were reserved to church men not noble men, in Medieval times. Renaissance times is when you saw kings with big castles.

You got to remember, in Medieval time, the belief was that the Pope "was God on Earth", and thus required a castle to live in, so God could live in the Pope on Earth, without being contaminated by vile disgusting Humans. It took a lot of slave several decades to build the mega sized castles that housed God's conduit on Earth.

Yes, these castles were BIG... the biggest one, was so big that the building itself was declared a city. We know that mega sized castle today as "The Vatigan". It's the current Pope's house. Yes, His house is so big, it was declared a city.

So yes, Medieval castles could be monstrous, but any king who dared have a castle bigger then the local church leader, risked being beheaded by said church leader so said church leader could confiscate his house.

As a general rule, Medieval kings were nothing but puppets of the Church and had no say in law making, no rights, no freedom, and were simply expected to collect taxes from the people to give to the Church.

Do not confuse Medieval with Renaissance. Most so called “Medieval” movie settings are actually Renaissance settings. Most “Medieval” castles and manor houses seen in movies are actually Renaissance castles and manor houses.

A common thing in Medieval times was to lay down reeds or hay or grass on the floor, and change that every few days as needed. As needed often meaning, when it began to stink from the goats or dogs having peed in it too many times. Goats and dogs often being kept in the house.

Servants would be changing slop buckets (pans of piss and poo that sat beside the bed), and this job often meant simple dumping the bucket out the bedroom window onto the ground below (this is why moats were built - a moat was trench around the building which caught rain water and washed the sewerage away from the building.) Any house could have a moat, it didn't have to be the king's castle to have a moat, of course most kings didn't have castles either, most just had the biggest hut in the village - often with walls made of stones instead of sticks, and a thicker straw roof to keep out rain better than in the other huts.

Poorer families, who did not have a moat, had to carry their slop buckets out of the house and to the town/city slop pile, which often could be smelt from the house, even if they did not live in sight of it and had to walk some distance to get to it.

Castles were rarely as big as what you see in movies. One only has to visit a few castles in Ireland and Scotland today, to realize that the average castle was only 20 feet to 30 feet square. Most bedrooms in today's houses are larger then the entire footprint of a castle. The only reason a castle was "a castle" was because of how it was built. Castles were made of stone and had 2 walls... basically a stone wall around a stone house. Anyone could have a castle. It did not require being a king. It simply required living on land with enough stones and owning enough slaves to do the labor. Freemen, Lords, Dukes, Chiefs, Bishops, Merchants, and other men of some importance or wealth could easily afford to buy/rent/etc land and build a castle. Bondsmen, Knights, etc, could also do so granted their Lord's permission.

Heck, a poor family in an especially rocky area, off the beaten path, out of sight of the ruling lords, could build themselves a small castle. A man and 2 or 3 sons could build one in under a month's time. Depending on where they lived (country, region, and time period) they could do so without ever getting caught or get caught and end up facing huge penalties for doing so without permission if the Lord of the region discovered them there or be granted to stay in exchange for service and taxes. A mean Lord might send them to prison for "stealing" his land. It depends on the ruler himself and the region he's in. Different places had different ways of dealing with it.

Typically stone houses (castles) were reserved for the most important families in the region, the one who it was deemed being most worthy of being in need of protecting should enemies invade.

In any case, castles were not reserved only for kings and rarely was a castle any bigger then the average 2 bedroom house of today's time period. Few had towers. Few housed more then one family. Few were more then 1 storey. Few were more then 30 feet square.

What type of house she lives in depends on what type, place, and time with-in the vast Medieval era you are thinking about. But washing floors would be a no-no because pouring water of dirt = mud and who wants to walk in that all day? They wouldn't be sweeping floors either, because a broom + dirt = dust in the air and as most Medieval houses did not have ventilation, you'd be coughing all day if you tried to sweep the floor.

Keep in mind that what most movies show as "Medieval" times is often actually the Renaissance. Medieval is pre-1300, and basic architecture hadn't even been invented yet. There were no such thing as glass windows, chimneys, or floor boards yet, not outside of a Catholic Church at least. Rooms were dark, musty, and cold.

Don’t have your chambermaids or scullery maids going room to room lighting fireplaces either. Why? Well, if they didn’t have chimney’s can you guess why they didn’t have chimneys? Yep. It would be because they didn’t have fireplaces for chimney’s to be sprouting up out of!

They didn't often bake their own food. There existed bakers who did that. Servants in Medieval times would go to the market to buy food each day. Most people did not have their own cows, goats, or chickens, and bought those already cooked from the local butcher. 

If they had a stove at all, it was a big walk in brick "pizza oven fireplace" style affair off the side of the house/castle so that it didn't let smoke in the building. Or it was a giant abode style "kiln" like thing that resembled a house sized bee hive in the courtyard.

While there existed fireplaces in some houses, they did not have chimneys and instead were just a round pile of stones sitting in the center of a room, with a hole cut in the ceiling, in the vague hopes that the smoke, might, possibly, maybe, go up and out instead of filling up the house. You would have seen these in poorer serf and peasant homes.

Those castle with the big brick fireplaces, seen in movies? Those are almost always a French Rococo or Baroque castle that the film crew thought would look better in the movie then an actually  Medieval castle that was nothing more then 1 room dingy they couldn't even stand up straight in.

For the invention of both cast iron stoves and chimneys as we know them today, you want to head to the 1700s. They were both invented by Benjamin Franklin, in America.

Keep in mind too the height of most rooms in Medieval times. They had no indoor heat. Heat rises. Most ceilings were under 6 feet tall. Most doors were under 4 feet tall. If you want to describe a man entering a Medieval house/castle, it would be correct to say "he stooped to enter", which explains too the name of the board around the door, which is of course "the stoop".

More often then not the front door was a large skin (deer or bear) hung over the opening. Wooden doors were not yet common place. If your princess is in Scotland it would be a large woolen blanket known as a kilt. (No, the kilt was NOT a type of skirt in Medieval times, and the kilt skirt is also NOT Scottish. It was a British invention made in the 1800s by British fox hunters traveling to Scotland. The actual Scottish people never wore such a garment. The Kilt skirt was based off the Great Kilt, which was a 8 yard blanket, worn like a cape, and tied at the waist to keep it from falling off.)

(There was a section here, in the original draft, that got deleted from the published edition. You can read that HERE.)

Are you looking at Lord of the Rings as inspiration for Medieval life? Most authors use LOTR as their inspiration, but let me tell you something about LOTR: It is set in the Middle Ages, a time period AFTER Medieval and BEFORE Renaissance.

Middle Ages are not Medieval, nor were Dark Ages. You want a movie that ACCURATELY portrays a Medieval setting? Try Conan the Barbarian. Conan the Barbarian is set in Medieval times, as is Xena Warrior Princess, Ben Hur, and King of Kings. Medieval starts at the crucifixion of Christ in the Bible. This is something to think about when it comes to writing a Medieval setting.

Also common error seen in Medieval fiction is to have servants drawing baths for the princess/lady/queen. In European Medieval times, servants wouldn't be "drawing baths", people didn't bathe. It was believed to be a sin to bathe and there were laws that made bathing punishable by death, because it was believed that only witches bathed. So depends on how historically accurate you want to be. Once a year people would gather at ponds/lakes/rivers and bathe fully clothed, while a priest would oversee it and be walking around pouring oil on people's heads and blessing them (to ensure that no water demons entered their bodied devoured their souls and turned them into witches.).

Sometimes royalty believed it was okay to bathe if they did not bathe in water, so they would bathe in milk instead, but milk was hard to get in large amounts and fairly expensive to buy, so only nobility did this, and they would only have done it once or twice a year..

Peasant families often didn't care about the witch superstition and would bath at night in secret a few times a year, rarely more often than once every 3 or 4 months.

Keep in mind too, that daily baths were an invention of 1970s medical research, so at no time period before the 1970s should you ever have a character taking baths more than once a week. Weekly baths were not seen prior to the early 1800s when folks began to believe it a sin to enter church unclean and thus entire families would bath together every Saturday night, in order to be clean on Sunday. Prior to this baths were seen as a seasonal thing, something you did in the fall after harvest. In the late 1700s through the 1800s servants would have been drawing baths for a princess, but not at any time period before 1750s would this be used believably in a historical novel.

This is only European culture though. Native American, Asian, and Mediterranean cultures bathed frequently even in Medieval times, and it was their constant weekly baths that caused many Europeans to label them as "primitive savage heathen pagans". Which is rather ironic when you think about it.

This is something to keep in mind if you want your story believable in historical accuracy. I once read a book, set in the 1600s where the main character was a woman who took daily baths and bathed her baby boy daily as well. As I was reading it I couldn't stop laughing. It was so ridiculous! Daily baths in the 1600s! That is so funny. Boy the author of that book, must be a lot younger than me, because I am old enough to remember when daily baths was considered not exactly a good thing.

I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s and there used to be those "public service awareness ads" on, you know when some famous actor like Vincent Price or a famous singer like Johnny Cash, would come on and tell kids not to get in a car with strangers, or to avoid eating eggs because people died from eating eggs (anyone remember THAT ad?) and there was one ad that frequently played which told kids of the "recent scientific discovery" that we should take a bath AS OFTEN AS ONCE PER WEEK!

In the 1970s it had just been discovered that it was OKAY and safe to bath weekly, not daily - weekly. Did you know, that if you tried to take a bath DAILY in the 1970s, you were considered weird, mentally ill, sent to a psychiatrists, and diagnosed as having "EXTREME OCD".


Not 1870s, not a hundred years ago, but less than 40 years ago science was discovering the benefits of washing WEEKLY, not daily - weekly - got it?

In the 1970s so few people bathed more than once a month that ads were being played on TV on Saturday mornings to teach kids they should remember to bath at least as often as once a week! And you were sent to a psychiatrist if you were crazy enough to bath daily.

Have you ever watched shows of the 1950s, like I love Lucy or George Burns and Gracie Allen? Pay attention to episodes when women take about washing their hair. Common are phrases like: "I'm due to wash my hair next week." In the 1950s, women bathed more often then men, and usually women only bathes once per month. Thus phrases like that were typical in 1950s TV shows.

Daily baths were not commonplace in the 1970s and weekly baths were so uncommon that kids had to be reminded by TV actors to take a weekly bath and to make sure they told their parents about the benefits of weekly bathing too. And then here I was reading this book which was supposed to be the genre of Historical Fiction and the main character is taking daily baths in the 1600s. Daily baths in the 1600s - in a historical fiction novel? WOW that author didn't even use common sense let alone do any historical research!

But yeah, I say this because if you are leaning in a historical accuracy slant, than don't have your princess demanding her servant be drawing baths, without the townsfolks pointing the finger of witchcraft at her.

Of course if it's fantasy, sci-fi, or other alternate world, than none of this matters and you could easily have your princess bathing daily no problems. So it's all a matter of how far outside of historical accuracy you want to take it, whether or not you decide to include a servant drawing baths in a Medieval (or any other pre-1800) setting.

So by this time you are wondering, well what did a Medieval servant do? Everything. Literally, absolutely everything. Till the land (by hand, with a hook ended stick or a stick with a flat stone or clam shell tied to it’s end, no shovels were not invented yet, these clams on sticks would lead to shovels being invented though and no, don’t try to say they had horses plowing their fields, horse or ox drawn plows were not common use prior to the 1800s), plant the seeds (which they had harvested and dried by hand last harvest), tend the crops, chased out crows/blackbirds, harvested crops, hunted for game and flesh (the word meat was not yet being used to mean food), sewed clothes, repaired worn clothes, washed cloths (by boiling them in caustic lye, which often resulted in the deaths of many servants and was a job reserved only for servant you really hated and didn't care if they dropped dead), cooking food was an all day core: involving stoking the fire, grinding the grain into flour, mixing the flour with other foodstuffs, boiling the water, and then carefully stirring and turning and turning and stirring for 5 or 6 hours over a fire pit (only those few nobles wealthy enough for a big castle had a stone oven).

If they lived in an "advanced" town (which were relatively rare before the 1500s, unless it was a super sized place like Rome), there might be a mill to send the grain to be ground, or if they had no mill but another town did they might send the servant there to have the grain ground (and it was often several days travel between towns) or if they were wealthy enough and had no near by mill to go to, when the merchant from the nearest port was in town they might give him the grain to take with him on his next trip, to have ground and brought back 8 or 9 months later. If they had no mill or no access to a mill, the servant ground the grain by hand, or did not grind it at all and thus cooked nothing using flour. It all depends on the location and wealth of the town whether or not your princess gets her daily bread.

Most towns were 1 to 2 days walk apart. Which meant about 10 to 15 miles from each other, separated by either mountains, fields, desert, or forest, depending on the region in question.

Each region would have many towns and one larger town that may or may not have been a city. The larger town could be 2 or 3 months travel to get to (200 to 300 miles away), or it could be just the next town 1 day away, depending on which town you lived in.

Also keep in mind that white bread was not invented til the 1950s, and in Medieval times people would fight over who got to have the bread that was filled with the most weevils (bugs). Frying maggots and adding bugs, maggots, flies, cockroaches, caterpillars, worms, etc to the cooking pot was common place, and eating bugs was something people in Medieval times looked forward to and enjoyed. So keep that in mind when you are tempted to have your princess squeamishly going "eeeew gross! there's a bug in my bread!" (a sad and common error authors write in pre-1700 historic fiction). They also eat frogs, slugs, snails, turtles, song birds, cats, dogs, horses, rats, mice, bats, and other things people today would not consider eating.

Medieval castles with elephant tusks and lion skins on the walls, were not just wasted decorations from poaching - the flesh of those animals would have been eaten. Medieval hunters were far less wasteful than hunters of other time periods, because much of the world was plagued with a serious lack of rain, thus a serious lack of food. Starvation was a widespread global problem in Medieval times and that is why you see diets including bugs and maggots, cats and dogs.

And a side note: all those portraits you see of women holding dogs in their laps? They were NOT pets! It was common practice in Medieval times for ladies to carry around stuffed (dead) dogs, thus why they were called "toy dogs" - they literally were toys and it had nothing to do with their size.

Also servants had “odd” jobs in Medieval times, jobs modern folk don’t often think of, like being a wet nurse. There were superstitions that caused wealthy women to believe that breast feeding their babies was wicked or sinful, and so they would hire peasant women to do it for them. Every queen or princess would have a wet nurse for each of their children. (Keep in mind too that all children were breastfed at least until they were 4 or 5 years old and often until they were 8, 9, or 10 years old, in Medieval times.)

Another “odd job” in Medieval times is a servant would have "plucked the princess". It was the fashion in Medieval times for nobility to be seen as totally hairless - so every hair: arms, legs, eyebrows, eyelashes, underarms, chin, and about the first 2 to 4 inches of hair line would be plucked clean (the wealthier the woman, the farther back the hairline would be plucked, and a queen or princess would likely be totally bald), the goal would have been to remove them by the roots so they wouldn't grow back either. Men would often have their entire head plucks, and so did some women.

Movies that show actors sporting beards and long hair are HUGELY inaccurate for Medieval times. You want accuracy in this, look to paintings and tapestries to get an idea of what people looked like 900 to 1300s - unless they were peasants, they were usually bald and lacking eyebrows and eyelashes. To be historically accurate her servant would be checking her daily to ensure no new hairs had grown. This was done as a way to show they did not have lice or fleas. IF she had any hair remaining on the top of her head (which was unlikely for a princess) it would be covered with a veil.

Lice was a HUGE issue in medieval times and plucking every hair off every inch of your body was the only way to get rid of lice and the only way to prevent lice.

Peasants who could not afford to have a servant pluck them, either coated their bodies with honey than after it hardened scraped it (and their hair) off with a knife or razor. Generally peasants would only shave their legs under the theory that they would not get lice if there was no hair on their legs to attract lice to crawl up them. Saving their legs was a way to say "Hey! I don't have lice!" (this is why women of the modern era shave their legs - because men got used to seeing hairless and liceless legs)

Did you know that shaving your legs is proof "I don't have lice!" and that's why women did it? 

Shaving your legs meant either you had lice and shaved your legs to get rid of them, or you are paranoid of getting lice so shave your legs to prevent them.

Now this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of more medieval servants jobs, and there is certainly a lot more detail for each one then what I've mentioned here. This list is not intended as a full history, but rather to give you a jumping off point to help you with your research, by listing a few of the more common servant jobs in medieval times. There is not a lot of information on the internet about castle servants in medieval times, but if you do your digging you can find enough to help you with your novel. You might have to go a few hundred pages deep into Google search results to find what you are after though, as Google tends to promote he who sells the most products over he who has the most content.

If you are only looking to add bits of flavour to your story, what limited info I've put here about castle servants in medieval times may suit your needs. If you are looking to get into some really big details of historical accuracy with     then your best bet is not the internet, but rather inter-library loan. Head to your local college library and start looking for reference manuals and textbooks on Medieval history. You'll get charts and maps, dates and names, and will end up with far better research than anything you'll ever find online. Life in medieval times is a fascinating subject to study, life in a medieval castle, which is very, very, drastically different then what the average person thinks it is.

Castles in medieval times were far smaller then people expect as most people thing of something built in the 1500's when they think of a castle, whereas the Medieval castles were built in the 800s nearly a 1,000 years before the mega sized "fairy tale princess" style castles began to be built. And most of the "typical" fairy tale princess style castles were actually built in the 1700s.

Interestingly, what most people think of as "Medieval princess" is often based off of Disney's Cinderella, which is the Baroque or Rococo Period of the 1700s and is a far cry from being Medieval.

In nearly every case I've ever encountered of a "Medieval princess" in a "Medieval castle" in a novel, it's almost always the Baroque (1650 to 1700) or Rococo (1700 to 1780) time period that they are actually referring to, which is well over a 1,000 years AFTER the Medieval time period ended.

And if you think life in the Medieval castle is interesting, you might want to look into life in a medieval peasant house as well, which is often times far more fascinating. Medieval times history in general is an amazing thing to research. I love doing so, and I don't know, people do seem to ask me questions about life in Medieval times more often then other topics, probably because I tend to write about Fantasy about wizards in a quasi-Medieval setting, which features more historically accurate details than is typically normal in a Fantasy world. Perhaps I should expand this page into a series of pages about Medieval life? It's certainly something to think about.

One topic I'm thinking of doing is food in medieval times, because so many people write a medieval setting and then show a group of travellers stopping for the night and eating stew and bread! LOL! It takes 3 to 4 days(48 or more hours) of slow simmering to make a stew, and fresh bread without modern day preservatives lasts 2 or 3 days at best before it turns into penicillin.

No. If you got Medieval travellers, they'll be eating jerky, apples, hard tac, and hard cheese, along side whatever rabbits, squirrels, fish, birds, beetles, dragonflies, worms, or caterpillars they caught along side the campsite.

Well, in any case, this page has gotten very, very long. I should end this here. I'll probably write another one to go with it sooner or later.

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Much of the information you just read here was used in writing the Quaraun series.

The Quaraun series is neither Medieval or Historically accurate. It is time travel Fantasy largely set in the 1400s, but frequently tosses characters into the 1970s, and once in a while into dates of 2,000B.C. to 2525. So, you definitely wouldn't read the Quaraun series looking for any sort of "Medieval History", however, vast amounts of research does in fact go into the creation of every element of the series, thus how I came to be researching Medieval, Middle Ages, and Renaissance.

In 1996, I graduated with a 2 year degree in Theatrical Fashion Design, Dressmaking, and History, and had focused my time period of choice on the study of the 1300s to the 1600s, thus much of my books end up set in this era, with people dressing and acting typical of that period.

I simply love history, love cloths, and am utterly fascinated by the overall fashion history of pretty much every place, time, and culture.

I grew up in the 1970s, thus why you see many of my books set in the 1970s, rather then current era.

In any case, I love finding all sorts of weird little known facts about history, like the ones I've listed on this page here and I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it for you.

Thank you for sending me this absolutely wonderful question. It has been by far one of my favorites of all time to sit down and write the answer too. Hopefully I have been able to answer your question. Good luck with you story and have a wonderful day!

More articles like this one, and more then 300 video interviews on writing, can be found in the following links to other articles in this series:



The Quaraun Series On Amazon:

I am wondering why has Amazon moved the Quaraun books to the category "Transgender Romance" and also "Gay Erotica"? The base story is a deeply depressed, suicidal, drug addict Elf who's lover commit suicide and he's trying not to do the same. It's an old Elf in a tavern, monologuing a lot of flashbacks and back story scenes of his youth. These stories are dark, bloody, angsty, full of drug use, murder, rape, Medieval torture, mental/physical/emotional abuse, and references to depression and suicide - no romance in it, unless you count the occasional (and usually brutally violent) rape scenes that show up in nearly every volume - sorry - no clue what Amazon is thinking or why they moved these to Romance and Erotica, but these books are NOT even close to being Romance or Erotica on any level at all. When I published these books I put them in "Dark Fantasy" and "Yaoi". If they show up in any category other then "Dark Fantasy" and "Yaoi", it's because Amazon put them there without my authorization or approval.


Author Interviews
On Writing The Quaraun Series:

  1. Question Everything Before Putting It In Your World 

Author Interviews
On CosPlaying The Quaraun Characters:

Author Interviews
Reacting To Old Orchard Beach's
White Power Gay Hating Over Reaction Ban
Of The Quaraun Series:

  1. Question Everything Before Putting It In Your World 

The 4 door white truck continues to sit at the end of my drive way (146 Portland Ave, Old Orchard Beach, Maine) near every night around sunset, reeving it's engine and squealing it's tires, with the driver yelling anti-gay threats and obscenities out the window. He continues to do the same thing at my dad's apartment building (Biddeford Maine) a few times a week, usually in mid to late afternoon time. He continues to follow me to shopping to various stores in various towns throughout the states.

Phrases he yells from the truck include:

"Kill or be killed remember Saco Shaws all transsexuals are alike"

"I keep a gun under the seat of my truck, I'm gonna use it to shoot you in the head, you transvestite freak"

if cars are going by he yells to them: "that thing is Ken's son, look at how's it's dressed; it's insane, it has autism, we can't allow that thing and it's gay cars in our family friend town of Old Orchard Beach"

He often babbles deranged ramblings about something he calls "the gay-pocalypse", raving lunacy about how "all the gays are gathering" on his doorstep. He raves some crazy nonsense about how Armageddon is coming and the war to end all wars will be "the gays against the Christians" and Christians have to be ready to "kill the gays"

My car is the Autism Awareness Car and had 2.5million marbles glued to it (I have Autism - savant - Kanner's syndrome) he claims tat my car "is gay" because of what it looks like. My car has been vandalized several dozen times, including to have the tires slashed 7 times in 6 months.

After dark often around 10PM, he stands at the end of the logging road across the street from me and shoots at my motohome (in February 2014 he shot holes in my neighbour's barn while doing this). I have video footage of 3 of his shootings at me here: and here:

This has gone on since August 2013 now, in addition to all the vandalism, hate crimes, pet beheadings, etc that has happened, including the bomb that blew up our house in 2006.

As you know, that whole time I had not been able to get a plate number on the truck. He as just here again, and I just realized why I could not get a plate number... there are no plates on the truck, either on the front or on the back. However, as he was driving away today... I noticed, there is a plate, stuck up in the back window of the truck, where it can barely be seen, deliberately obscured from view behind a silver tool box.

If You Like The Quaraun Series You Might Also Like:

Writing Resources I Use When Writing The Quaraun Books:

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