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Kings and Court
Middle Ages for Kids
The King's Court
The king's court is a term that describes the king's council and household. The court travelled with the king wherever he went. The king would seek advice from the wise (hopefully) men of his court which would include relatives, barons, lords, and members of the church such as bishops.
The name "court" comes from the fact that most kings held court and made judgments. They would hear certain complaints and issues, especially issues between the most powerful barons and lords. Then they would make decisions with the help of their council.
Alfonso X of Castile
from the Libro des Juegas
Visiting His Subjects
The king's court often traveled around the kingdom so the king could see first hand what was going on in his realm. When the king showed up, the local subjects were expected to provide food, entertainment, and accommodations. This could be very expensive and not all kings were welcome.
How was a king chosen?
Kings came into power a number of different ways. In many cultures, the right to rule was considered part of the king's blood. When a king died, his eldest son would become king. This is called hereditary succession. If the king didn't have an eldest son, then his brother or another male relative may be appointed king. Sometimes kings came into power through assassination or by conquering lands in war.
Of course, no king could rule without the support of his nobles and lords. In many ways, the king was elected by these powerful men. In some countries there was a council that chose the king such as the Witan council in Anglo-Saxon England.
New kings were crowned in a special ceremony called a coronation. During the Middle Ages the coronation was a religious ceremony where a leader from the church, such as the pope or a bishop, crowned the king. Kings were often anointed with holy oil to demonstrate their divine right to rule.
During the Middle Ages, queens were generally not allowed to be the sole monarch. There were a few exceptions including Empress Matilda of England and Isabella I of Spain. However, many queens held power and influence over the land such as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and Margaret of Anjou.
How did kings make money?
Some kings were wealthier than others, but all kings needed money to rule. They had to pay for their daily living needs as well as for armies and wars. Kings collected money in a number of ways. One way was to go to war and pillage other lands. Other ways included fees charged to their lords and taxes levied on the people. Some lords paid the king "shield money" instead of going to war. This way the king could hire his own soldiers for war. Kings had to be careful not to overtax the people or the peasants would revolt.
Once a person was crowned king, they spent a lot of their time trying to stay king. It wasn't that easy. Often times there were close relatives and powerful nobles who felt that they should be king. It was especially difficult to manage large empires because it took so long for messages to travel throughout the kingdom. Kings spent a lot of time making sure that their lords remained loyal and didn't become too powerful.
Interesting Facts about Kings and Court in the Middle Ages
Take a ten question quiz about this page.
- Taxes were often levied only when the king ran out of money or needed to raise an army for war.
- Many kings during the first part of the Middle Ages couldn't read or write.
- The kings had a special seal they would use to stamp official documents. The seal proved that the document was genuine and acted like the king's signature.
- During the Middle Ages kings were expected to lead their men into battle.
- In order to maintain control, kings often claimed they were given the right to rule by God. This made the approval of the church and the pope very important.
More subjects on the Middle Ages:
Middle Ages for Kids