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Castles and knights

Attacking forces storm a castle. The Middle Ages, also known as medieval times, lasted from around 600 to 1500. In those days, the most powerful person in the kingdom was, of course, the king. But even he had to rely on barons, the most important noblemen, to help him fight wars against his enemies. In the Middle Ages, power and wealth came from the ownership of land. So, in return for the promise of an army of knights and footsoldiers to fight for him, the king granted the barons land. To control their lands, the barons built castles on them. Most castles had a moat or ditch, a strong outer wall and a gatehouse with a drawbridge and portcullis. For extra protection, the outer wall had jagged tops, called battlements or crenellations.


A castle under siegeWars could break out between barons, often over control of land, and especially when the king was weak. The castle, the home of the lord, his family and his followers, was a base from which he and his army could launch attacks on his enemies—or a stronghold to which he could retreat if he himself came under attack. Castles needed to be strong enough to withstand the weapons likely to pitted against them, anything from arrows or crossbow bolts to boulders hurled by giant catapults.

A castle is the fortified residence of a noble lord. A palace is a residence of a nobleman, but which is not fortified. A fortress is fortified, but not the private residence for a nobleman.

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