see it clearly
Learn more

Children of the Middle Ages

Children of the Middle Ages experienced a rough upbringing, nothing like the way in which children are reared and raised today. While a child's life during the Middle Age's or medieval period would be greatly impacted depending on who he was born to, children of both peasants and lords faced their own unique struggles, challenges, and dangers.

Children of the Middle Ages

Dangers for Children of the Middle Ages

The biggest danger for children of the Middle Ages was death. Medical care was not advanced during this time period and conditions were often extremely unsanitary -- especially for the poor and the peasants during the Middle Ages. Infant and childhood mortality rates were very high and there were a whole host of contagious and other diseases to worry about, not the least of which was the bubonic plague (one of the worst epidemics of all time).

There was, of course, little children could do to protect themselves from the ravages of disease during this time period since there was either no way to practice appropriate sanitary measures or people were simply unaware of the need to do so.

Lifestyles of Children during the Middle Ages

Life as a Middle Ages child, for those who were lucky enough to escape the infant and childhood mortality statistics, was not easy. Children of peasants lived in very simple homes with their families, a home that sometimes had only one room. Many children had parents who were part of the feudal system and who worked for a lord or a landowner who took almost all of what was earned.

Children of peasants often had to begin helping their parents when they were as young as seven or eight years old, if not younger. Children might be asked to help with basic tasks until they became old enough and strong enough to work at more labor intensive jobs.

Even the children of lords didn't have it easy during the Middle Ages. Children of the Middle Ages who were born to lords were often largely raised by nurses and rarely saw their parents when they were growing up. Many of the boys had to become pages and were set away as young as age 7 to wait on the lords and ladies of another noble family, while the girls born to lords and ladies learned the techniques and skills necessary to manage a home.

When Did Childhood End?

Childhood also was not a long period of time for children of the Middle Ages. Generally, kids during this time period were considered to be adults at a relatively young age. For example, boys who were born to lords learned to fight when they were very young, became squires at 14, and became knights at 21.

It was not uncommon for a boy of 14, whether born to a peasant or born to a lord, to marry. Girls could marry when they were even younger during the Middle Ages, sometimes as young as 12. Of course, given that life spans during the Middle Ages were much shorter than they are today, it makes some degree of sense that children during this time were expected to grow up and become adults faster. It is, however, interesting to note children generally didn't get to pick their own spouse when they married during the Middle Ages -- the parents normally arranged the marriage for their offspring.

Famous Medieval Children

There were a few famous medieval children who demonstrated the principle of how quickly children grew up during this time period. For example, Joan of Arc, who has gone down in history as a woman who led 5,000 men into battle because she believed she had been given a mission from God to save her country from the English, did all this before she was 19 years of age. Unfortunately, also at 19, she was burned at the stake.