Life in a Medieval Castle

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch Jgst. 7 Life in a Medieval Castle M 3.1 (Group 1) Robert de Clifford My n...
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Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle M 3.1 (Group 1) Robert de Clifford My name is Robert de Clifford. I was born into the noble family of de Clifford. My family came over to England from France with King William in 1066. Since then we have served the English kings as loyal knights and officers. My family has helped the English kings to control the country. King Edward II granted me the title of Lord of Skipton and the land, too, - we call it a “fief” - because he is very satisfied with me. So I became the first Lord of Skipton. I am also Marshall of England. In 1295 I married Maud de Clare. Her family is very powerful in Wales and Ireland and Maud is quite rich. After our wedding we moved to Skipton Castle. People call me “master” or “Sire”. I am responsible for peace in about 20 villages and have to protect the peasants against possible attacks. My peasants bring part of their harvest and some animals to pay for the protection, we call this “feudal dues”. We make a list of what they bring every year. The castle chaplain, our priest, helps me because he knows how to read and write. The peasants and their families also have to help if there is some work to do, for example repairing roads or carrying the stones for the new castle. It is their “boon work”. At the moment the Scots are our worst enemies. Their most famous leader William Wallace was executed in 1305. It is my duty to help King Edward II to defeat the Scots and make England stronger. So our castle had to be modernised to withstand Scottish attacks. We paid a lot of money to Master Robert of York, the master mason, who made the plan for a really modern castle with all the things you want: round towers with arrow slits, a thicker outer wall, a dungeon, a great hall with a big fireplace, warm rooms for the ladies, a drawbridge etc. It took almost 8 years to finish it, but I think it is a very beautiful and strong castle now. As a lord I have to guarantee justice, too. So one of my duties is to be a judge if there are arguments, fights or even crimes. I take the criminals to court. Some of worst criminals are now in the castle dungeon. I have to train regularly because knights have to be fit. We ride our horses, fight with swords and use our lances. We have to be able to move in our heavy armour. The squires and the pages have to help me to put it on and they have to help me onto the horse. But once I am on my horse, I am a good fighter. The gatehouse of Skipton Castle

We have big tournaments in Skipton Castle. A lot of people come to the castle grounds to see our “show”. All the ladies come to watch, too. We have “melées” – they are almost like a real battle with many knights fighting against each other – or jousts – two knights fight against each other on horseback. After the tournament the winner gets a prize, usually the loser’s horse and armour. Sometimes the winner sells it back to the loser. There are knights who make quite a lot of money this way. At the end of the tournament we have a big feast in the castle. I pay for jesters and minstrels and all the food is prepared in the castle kitchen. The cook and his helpers make really special dishes with all the best ingredients. I love all the exotic spices they use and especially the oranges from Seville in Spain. Lady Maud manages to organise wonderful banquets for our guests and I can show everybody that I am one of the most powerful knights in the whole kingdom.

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle

Codex Manesse (14th century)

If there is time, we go hunting. I love going hunting with my birds. I have five really expensive birds. They cost as much as a good horse. Our falconer looks after them and they are very good hunting birds. Lady Maud also has some falcons and she sometimes joins me. I hope we won’t have to go to war for much longer because war is expensive and I have to pay for all my equipment: the armour, the swords, the lances, the squire’s equipment. But the most expensive things are the horses you need – you need excellent horses in war and they cost a lot of money. I lost my best horse in the last battle against the Scots. The next thing I have to buy is a new sword. I want one from London because they sell the best swords there. If I had a lot of money, I would get a sword from Damascus, but only really rich knights can buy them.

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle M 3.2 (Group 2) Lady Maud de Clare My name is Maud de Clare and I am the Lady in the castle. I was born as the daughter of Thomas de Clare, one of the richest lords in Ireland. When I was young, I was allowed to play a lot in our castle. But on my 6th birthday my mother started training me. I had to learn all the things a lady needs to learn. First of all I had to spin wool and make tapestries. Then I learnt how to dance and sing because there are lots of feasts in the castles and a woman needs to move elegantly.

I also learnt how to read and write from my mother. Some of the men cannot read, but most ladies in the castles read books and poems. Sometimes travelling knights come to the castle and bring new stories or songs. I like that very much. The priest told us all about the Christian religion so that we will be good Christians. We have a small chapel in our castle with beautiful windows and a very nice altar. Every Sunday the chaplain holds a service there and all the people in the castle and their guests go there. When I was 9, my parents started looking for a husband. They talked to all the good families they know and finally found Robert de Clifford whose family is very important and powerful. King Edward II granted him Skipton Castle because he is a loyal knights and the King needs him in his fight against the Scots. The Cliffords have other castles, too, but we live in Skipton Castle. When I was 12, I married Lord Robert. I had not met him before our wedding day. He is older than I am, but I am lucky because he is a good lord. All my lands and rights went to my husband, but I keep one third of the land when he dies. My older sister isn’t married, she lives as a nun because she didn’t want to marry the man my parents had chosen for her. Now I have to look after the household and the servants in Skipton Castle. Our kitchen has to be full of food and our cellar full of wine. In autumn I have to make sure that there is enough food for winter so the people working in the kitchen are very busy. They salt and smoke fish and meat, dry vegetables and fruit and store things in our cellars. I carry all the keys because this shows that I am the Lady. When Lord Robert has to do his duty and follow the King, I am in charge and organise and keep my eyes on life in the castle. Sometimes I am left alone for several months so I need to know how a castle works.

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle

I have four maids who come from poorer noble families. There are another eight (sometimes even ten) maids and helpers in the kitchen and in the castle. They have to do the household. They are the daughters of our peasants. There are also spinners who make the cloth for all the people in the castle. The most important job in the castle is to keep the fire going because our castle can be very cold. My withdrawing room is warm because we have got a fireplace in it. But most of the other rooms are not heated in winter. We do not have glass windows in all the rooms because glass is very expensive. There are only shutters there which we shut in winter to keep the warmth in. I also have to teach manners to the pages and squires who live with us. They learn how to behave properly, how to speak to a lady, how to sing and dance from me. Knights always show a lot of respect when they meet a lady and it is their duty to protect us. My daughters have to learn all the things I learnt. My oldest daughter will watch a tournament for the first time next week and choose a knight who will fight for her. I can remember that this was a very exciting day for me.

Codex Manesse (14th century)

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle M 3.3 (Group 3) Master Robert of York, the master mason My name is Robert. I learnt my trade from a very good master in York. My father paid money to him so that he would accept me as an apprentice in his guild. I started training when I was 9 years old. It is very difficult to become a good mason. There is so much to learn about building castles and cathedrals and you are responsible for everything. After years of training I had to go to an examination and had to show all the masons there that I was good enough. After that I got my own mark which I put on all the work I do so that everybody knows who is responsible. This is my mark:



Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc, Dictionnaire Raisonné de l'architecture Française du XIe au XVIe siècle, 1856.

Master masons are highly respected people. At the moment King Edward II and his knights are building and modernising a lot of castles. The old castles need thicker walls and better towers to withstand the attacks of possible enemies. Robert de Clifford, who is a powerful Lord in Yorkshire, wanted to make his castle stronger because of all the attacks by the Scots in the last few years. He also wanted to show that he is the most powerful lord in the north of England. So he asked me to plan it and build it. Building a stone castle is very expensive, but as a knight you need to live in a modern castle. The organisation was the worst job because we needed a lot of material, people and money. For a stone castle you cannot just use the peasants for the work, you also need good craftsmen. We had to pay some of these workers. Sir Robert’s peasants had to do some work, too, because this is part of their feudal dues. But they have not been trained so I couldn’t use them for difficult jobs. Specialists – for example smiths, woodcutters and masons – want quite a lot of money for their work. I know that for the King’s castle Beaumaris in Wales they needed 2000 workmen and 400 masons. We did not need that many, but still Skipton Castle is quite big. We had to get the stone from nearby because the really nice stone from Wales was too expensive. There are different types of mason who work with the stone: the hewers cut the big stones, the roughmasons make the stones for the walls and the freemasons work with the smaller blocks of stone and decorate them.

Materialien für den bilingualen Sachfachunterricht GESCHICHTE auf Englisch

Jgst. 7

Life in a Medieval Castle 1

We also needed a lot of wood (or as we say timber) for the scaffolding , the ceilings and the floors. Timber is very expensive at the moment because a lot of woods were cleared to make space for new villages. Everything was brought to the building site by horsecart or was carried by the peasants. I made a wonderful plan for the castle. In the end we needed almost 8 years to build it. You can only work from April to November. There were a lot of problems because of the terrible weather last year and we lost some workers because of accidents when they were building the castle. The most difficult parts were the round towers. But round towers are very good protection if the castle is under attack.

Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc, Dictionnaire Raisonné de l'architecture Française du XIe au XVIe siècle, 1856.

We also built a new outer wall (we call it curtain wall) with a big gatehouse. I planned a wonderful banqueting hall (the Cliffords call it the Great Hall) with a big fireplace. Lady de Clifford has a warm withdrawing room now, too. I am really glad that the castle is finished now and I think it looks very impressive. I got quite a lot of money for my all my work and now I can live comfortably in a stone house in the nearest market town. Next year I will start building another castle near Canterbury – an even bigger one! But I have to move there and leave my house and family behind.

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scaffolding: Gerüst

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