Saturday, October 15, 2022

Medieval Knights, Short or Tall?


Have you ever wondered why we've always heard that we're taller than our predecessors? I've read and heard that our ancestors were short and just assumed that meant every generation before us, but that just isn't the case.

According to The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger, one of the first things noticed about people living in or around the year 1000 is they were tall--very much like we are today. The truth is we are taller than most of our more recent ancestors (1700-1900). Georgian and Victorian England residents, who were malnourished and overcrowded, did not have the good health nor the stature by the end of the twentieth century that we share today with our access to food and medicine.

So when we picture those knights in shining armor as tall and muscular,
good news, you are correct! According to Lacy & Danzinger, nine out of ten people lived in the country. A lush green and unpolluted land that provided plentiful food and nourishment, allowing the medieval man to grow strong limbs and very healthy teeth. That knight who is the hero, guess what? He really does have a full set of white teeth! 

If these people were so healthy one would think they'd live as long as we do, but here the differences are drastic. Life was short. A simple cut or wound could take a person's life. In the medieval time period, an illness or childhood disease that today we can stop with a visit to the doctor, could spread like fire and wipe out a whole village. 

Because of this, a boy of twelve years of age was considered old enough to swear an oath to the king. Young girls were married off in their early teens to much older men. Life expectancy was almost half of what it is today. Most people died in their forties, and for a person to reach into their fifties was quite impressive and they were revered. 

Life for the average person was hard, but pretty simple. There obviously wasn't the local grocery or clothing stores for running down to get the needed item as we have today. That being said, television often depicts the medieval man like he only wore brown clothes and lived in a drab world. But that couldn't be further from the truth. They may not have had the rich dyes that produce the vibrant colors we have today, but that didn't keep them from having colored clothes. They used vegetation to dye fabric and with those dyes they were able to produce bright yellows, greens, and reds.

What do you think might be a valuable food commodity in the year 1000? This food was considered so valuable it was even used to pay taxes. The food was honey. The 11th century man was known to say, It is a lucky day when a swarm of bees settled in your 
By user:Abalg Own work, Public Domain,
thatch. Thatch of course being what the medieval person used as a roof. For those who were lucky enough to have a swarm in their roof, not only received honey, but propolis, a building material, that is a reddish resin used by the worker bees. Propolis was a great healing balm used for treating wounds and was highly valued. But those bees nesting in the homeowner's thatch, not only gave the owner honey and propolis, but the beeswax brought an even higher price than an equal amount of honey. 

I love the medieval time period, although I don't believe I'd like to have lived during that time. Life was hard. But it is a fun time period to write about. Most medieval authors take writer liberties such as, our heroes and heroines take regular baths, life isn't depicted quite as hard as it most likely was, and our heroines are not twelve years old marrying thirty-year-old men. So, what do you think? Would you rather have writers take a few liberties and make their hero and heroine an exception to the rule or would you prefer to see history portrayed exactly as it was?

Deirdre Mackenzie has spent her life hiding from her father and hating the English. However, when she is caught stealing from an English laird, his unexpected kindness begins to melt away her hatred and strums lonely heartstrings longing for love. Bryce Warwick discovers the “boy” caught with his livestock is actually a young woman. After several attempts to lure the truth from her, he determines she is as deceitful as his late fiancée who nearly cost him his life. But the woman is the least of his worries with the turbulence brought on by threats of another border war and by King Richard's distrust of the nobles. 

With old wounds in need of healing and adversaries who would ruin their chances at true love, both must learn to trust in a way they never knew possible.

The stakes are high, secrets prevail, and treason is just a kiss away.

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She writes in the medieval/renaissance period as well as 19th century. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 3 dogs, 4 horses, miniature donkey, and 8 ducks. Life is good!                                                                                               

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting, and you put forth an interesting question. I think I am a bit in both sides of your question. There is a place for making life easier than it was in certain ways, but I think I'd appreciate the author clearly stating that he/she took those liberties. And there's nothing wrong with a novel that puts forth the actual living conditions and way of life. I so appreciate the amount of research that my favorite authors put into writing their novels to make them authentic.