Key Castle Facts
For further learning- and to help with school history- here are some key facts about castles, the Normans and Medieval life & times.
Many of these facts are relevant to the British Key Stage 1, 2 & 3 (KS1, 2 & 3) school history syllabus for pupils years 1- 9.
Each key question is first followed by a short answer, and then some more information to improve understanding, and finally- in italics- a fun fact or two.
What is a Castle?
Ans. A castle is a strongly fortified residence of a lord.
The name ‘castle’ is often misused and misunderstood. All kinds of ancient fortifications are sometimes called ‘castles’, and- to complicate things further- the word chateau is still used in France for any large country house of social distinction with or without fortification. The castle proper however, is a Norman importation from France, dating (in England) from the Norman Invasion of 1066 up to the end of the Medieval era in the 15th century.
The above definition includes a few key points, so let’s look at each in turn.
All societies have fortifications or defences of some kind, and it is the dual nature of fortified residence (or residential fortress) that sets castles apart from 1) other forms of fortifications which weren’t private residences, and 2) palaces which weren’t designed for defence.
The strongly fortified nature of the castle helps distinguish the castle from the less-strongly defended manor house, which might otherwise be confused for a castle.
Castles were also exclusive to the residence of a lord, but not necessarily the king or prince. This important distinction tells us of the feudal society of the time- an institution dominated by the military & military aristocracy, with the king sat in majesty at the apex, but not unique in lordship. The private- as opposed to public or communal- nature, distinguishes the castle from the communal fortified town or city, and from the Tudor coastal forts which were not only exclusively military but also belonged to the state.
Amongst all it’s defences, a castle’s wall height could be key- as demonstrated in 1715, when a Jacobite plot to capture Edinburgh Castle failed because the rope ladders the attackers brought with them were six feet too short.
It wasn’t all hard work in a castle- the world’s oldest football was found at Stirling Castle. The ball is made from cow’s leather and a pig’s bladder, and dates from before 1540.
Kings & Queens Timeline
Timeline of William I- the Conqueror
William I (1028 – 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror, and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087.
A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy (as William II) from 1035 onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later.
The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands, and by difficulties with his eldest son.
Here are some of the major events in the life of William I and his conquest of England.