Types of Servants in a Castle
Castles in the Middle Ages served as a fortification against enemies as well as social centers. Castles housed any number of servants who served the master and mistress. From priests and entertainers to cooks and mat weavers, castles provided work for a community of individuals and families, all of whom owed allegiance to the lord and lady.
The lord and lady of the castle considered entertainment of prime importance. A variety of servants served entertainment positions. Not all castles had servants in all entertainment capacities, but many had acrobats that entertained with feats of tumbling and agility. A jester, sometimes known as a fool, dressed in mismatched colors and patterns and served up bits of philosophy and acted as the castle comedian. Jugglers juggled and magicians performed tricks that amazed and delighted audiences. Minstrels sang, mimes acted out pantomimes and musicians played their instruments.
Castles had chaplains, priests or monks, in charge of the chapel. Many also served as secretaries to the master. Priests dealt with the spiritual needs of those who lived in the castle.
Food may not always have arrived at the table piping hot, but it did take many servants to prepare and serve meals. The brewster made the ale and cider while the butler purchased and stored supplies. The carver cut the meat. The patissier created cakes and other pasties. The kitchen clerk kept accounts and served meals while the chief cook created new recipes and presided over the other cooks and the cooking. The cupbearer made sure everyone's cup stayed filled and tasted drinks to make sure they were not rancid or poisoned. The dresser arranged the food on serving platters. Scullions washed dishes and otherwise assisted in the kitchens. The quistron turned the spit, the rotissier prepared roasted food and the servitor served. Mat weavers made mats that replaced soiled rushes.
4 Taking Care of the Castle
The castle required a lot of upkeep. A chamberlain was in charge of the master's living quarters, while a chamber maid cleaned. Gentlemen ushers introduced guests and took charge of the upstairs areas, while grooms assigned inside the castle did their bidding. The spinners spun wool and chandlers made candles. Pages performed general chores as needed. Nursery maids handled things in the nursery.
5 For the Lords and Ladies
The ladies of the castle had their ladies-in-waiting to attend them. Gentlemen-in-waiting assisted lords, who either lived in or visited the establishment. Wet nurses nursed the babies of the ladies in residence.
6 Administrative Duties
A bailiff oversaw the manor while the castellan governed the castle. A clerk wrote letters and kept records. The pantler was in charge of the pantry that included bread distribution and preparing the trenchers. The steward, or seneschal, was the overseer of the castle and property. The constable was charged with security.
- 1 “The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages”; Sherrilyn Kenyon; 1995
- 2 Historic Scotland: Working in a Castle