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Why were castles built?

An illustration of a 13th-century castleCastles were built by kings and lords in the Middle Ages to defend their lands. These massive buildings had thick, high walls with battlements. Most castles had a moat or ditch, a strong outer wall and a gatehouse with a drawbridge and portcullis. For extra protection, the outer walls had jagged tops, called battlements or crenellations. The main building of the castle was called a keep.

An illustration of a 13th-century castle. Some of the walls have been cut away by the illustrator so we can see inside.

A lord speaks to his castle servants.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages, also known as medieval times, lasted from around 600 to 1500. In those days, the king had to rely on barons, the most important noblemen in the land, to provide soldiers to help him fight wars against his enemies. In return, the king gave the barons land. The barons built castles on their new lands. They, along with their family and followers, lived inside the thick, high walls of their castle homes.

The lady of the castle was in charge of the castle whenever the lord was away—including its defences. Even when he was present, she managed the castle's food supplies and organized sleeping arrangements for guests.

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