Have you ever wondered what prison during the middle ages was like?
The outcome of crimes during the middle ages were dependent on one’s social and financial class.
In this article we will breakdown each social status and their subsequent punishment for crime during the middle ages.
Noble Birth or Financial Strength
At the time, the noble status was one everyone aspired to have.
In contrast to the nobles, the common people had to endure a lot of physical work and had very little rights.
Imprisoned nobles who posed a threat to the person holding them captive would have been executed.
In the case a noble held any wealth to his name, he could then buy himself out.
If the nobel was not of any value, he would be held for leverage instead.
The captors would either bribe the Nobel prisoners’ family for political power or a sum of money like in most cases.
There are plenty of examples like this. Even king Richard I was sold out of prison for a huge amount of wealth.
A “low-born” was at the bottom of the hierarchy during the middle ages.
It was really hard to change your status as a low-born, almost impossible.
There were very few exemptions where you might have had a chance to escape your dynastic hell, especially during the crusades.
It is also interesting to state that people were hiding in towns from their lords to achieve freedom.
Initially, low borns needed 25 years in order to free themselves from the law, but that was later changed to 1 year.
Low-borns also did not have the money to purchase durable armor to protect themselves.
They would have to obey their superiors if they asked them to fight and were easily sacrificed by their owners in order to gain leverage on some tactic or plan.
If a lowborn did not die for a tactical sacrifice, they would inevitably die due to their weak armor or be taken for a prisoner.
Low born prisoners who had no wealth nor families who could bail them out were often saved by the Crown.
The monarchy was the only way a low born could be paid out and have the possibility of returning home safely.
But why would this benefit the monarchy?
It would provide extra labor in the country. This meant the monarchy could buy out grown men who could help develop, provide, and serve their country.
In the case that the monarchy did not want to pay, the low born would be either killed or released as a show of mercy.
Prisons had horrible living conditions during in the middle ages. If one ended up in prison, chances are they would stay there for a considerbly long time.
Rebels, Killers & Heretics
Rebellions were very common during the medieval period. People rebelled for many different reasons.
What if the rebels were caught by those whom they rebelled against? What would their fate be?
Well, we can see in most cases that they would have been murdered.
Their heads would be placed on a spike at the entrance of towns, castles to humiliate them, etc.
The same goes for prisoners who were accused of killing people and heretics. They were hung and the heretics would be burned.