The Unthinkable Horror Of Becoming a Prisoner in the Middle Ages

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you became a prisoner in the middle ages period? There are limited possibilities here and the outcome of them depended on your social and financial structure.

Noble Birth or Financial Strength

Firstly we are going to talk about the nobles. People who were born into royal families with a good financial background. Being born like this in the middle ages was what everyone would have wanted.




While the common people had to endure a lot of physical work, and were exploited for many things. Their rights were in one word “weak”.

If a noble was being held prisoner the outcome would have been the following.

If the noble was by any chance a threat to the person holding him prisoner he would have been eliminated. For example, if he had the same claim to him, the threat would have been long gone. But if he wasn’t of any value like the one previous stated he would probably be held for leverage.

They could either bribe his family for political power, or he could be sold back for a good portion of money like in most cases.

There are plenty of examples like this, even a king like Richard I was sold out of prison for a huge amount of money.

Low Born

Being low-born was a really bad thing in the middle ages. It’s really hard to change your status, almost impossible, and you were stuck where you were born.

There were some ways where you might have a chance to escape your dynastic hell and achieve more, for example, the crusades.

It’s also pretty interesting that people were hiding in towns from their lords to get their freedom. Even though the law at first was 25 years and later was only 1 year to become a free man and escape from your lord, breathing the free city air.




If you were a low-born and you didn’t have the money to purchase the best armor in order to protect yourself. As a human being, you don’t want to fight for what has no meaning to you, like an invasion to another country or one lord against another. But by the law, you had to be drafted and fight for someone who is above you.

You are on the battlefield under a command of a general who if needed could use your death in order to gain leverage on some tactic or plan. As a low-born you aren’t much needed and weren’t much of use as well. You were just collateral damadge.

If you didn’t die for a tactical sacrifice, got killed because of the low armor or run away, you could be takenĀ for a prisoner.

But what happened to most prisoners who were low born and not individually wealthy. They didn’t have backgrounds and families to pay for them. The crown was the only one that could have had the possibility to pay for them in order for them to return home safely.

But what did the crown had to lose if they didn’t purchase back the prisoners?

Losing a grown man was always a minus for the crown because he could work his land and produce for the country.

If the crown didn’t want to pay for those many either they were killed, released as a show of mercy, respect or chivalry. In most cases, they were exploited or sent to prison.

Prisons were a very bad thing in the middle ages because humanity wasn’t much noticed back there and if you got stuck there it was probably a good guess that you would stay in there for a long time.

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