Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you became a prisoner in the middle ages? 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 Having a high social status and being part of the aristocracy in the middle ages was what everyone wanted.
As a contrast, 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 previously stated, he would probably be held for leverage.
They could either bribe his family for political power or the noble prisioner 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.
Being low-born was a really bad thing in the middle ages. It’s really hard to change your status, almost impossible. It meant you were stuck with your origin. There were some ways where you might have had a chance to escape your dynastic hell and achieve more, like in the crusades.
It’s also pretty interesting that people were hiding in towns from their lords to get freedom. Initially, you needed 25 years in order to free yourself from the law, but that was later changed into only 1 year before becoming a free man and getting away from your lord, breathing the free city air.
If you were a low-born, it also meant that you didn’t have the money to purchase the best armor and 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 you had to fight for someone who was 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 you aren’t much of use as well. You were just a collateral damage.
If you didn’t die for a tactical sacrifice, got killed because of low armor or ran away, you could be taken 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 have 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 people, they were either 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.
REBELS, KILLERS AND HERETICS
Rebellions were a daily thing in the medieval period. People rebelled for many different reasons. What if the rebels were caught by those whom they rebeledagainst? What would their faith be?
Well, we can see in most cases that they would have been murdered but after that, their heads would be placed on a spike at the entrance of towns, castles, etc.
The same goes for prisoners who were accused of killing people and heretics. They were hanged and heretics were burned.
The medieval period was a serious thing where the ethics were much lower than they are today and things looked normal to an extent.
This image isn’t in the medieval period but shows a public hanging of rebels, outlaws, etc.