How to become a squire


Chaucer’s squire

The first of my new series of books will be published shortly and posts for the next few weeks will relate to those books. The Soldiers of Fortune series is about four brothers whose lives are changed at the battle of Poitiers.

All four brothers were squires under their uncle William. It was perfectly normal for aristocratic boys to be sent to a relative or a friend of their parents to learn the skills necessary for adulthood.

In the twelfth century, when William Marshal was sent from his home in Wiltshire to live with his uncle in Normandy, there was little difference between squires and servants. Some went on to become knights and others remained servants. William clearly received a good education for he was close to four kings of England and served one as regent. In addition, he found fame and fortune as a competitor in tournaments.

Going away to another noble household to be taught how to be a squire was like a mixture of boarding school and an apprenticeship. The boys’ education was broad and learning how to fight, with the aim of becoming a knight, was only part of it.

They began as pages, waiting on their lord and looking after his horses and armour. These were not considered demeaning tasks, but an honour. The boys were also learning about how to put armour on, which parts of the body it protected and how to look after it. Horses were expensive and a knight was expected to have a few, so knowing how to look after them was vital.

The pages learned from the knights in the household. They listened to tales of past battles and learned to tell which coats of arms belonged to which knights. Although there were usually heralds on campaign who trained specifically to identify knights by their coats of arms, it was always useful if you could tell your friends from your enemies yourself.

The first part of their military training was probably wrestling. The boys had to learn how to move, how to balance and when to attack an opponent. This would all be very important when they moved on to training with weapons.

They learned to use a lance against a quintain, which might be no more than a target on a post, but might be a length of wood with a target at one end and a weight at the other. It would swivel when the target was hit and the rider had to keep going so that he wasn’t hit by the weight from behind.


Not at all medieval, but illustrates how a quintain worked.

They practised riding as well as using a lance and a sword, both on foot and on horseback. They learned to hunt and to use a bow and crossbow. Neither of these was a weapon really used by knights, except when hunting, but some nobles were very accomplished with them. Richard I was a very good shot with a crossbow.

Sometimes one team of boys would fight another as they learned to fight as part of a unit. They could also attend tournaments. Edward III was fond of tournaments and used them to celebrate important events.

The boys were supposed to learn to read, but not all did. There were usually clerics around who could read for them.

Once they were trained they were squires. Some squires never became knights, particularly towards the end of the fourteenth century, when there was increasingly little difference between the two.

A squire could go on campaign at a very young age. Edward III was 14 when he first led troops (unsuccessfully) against the Scots. His son, Edward of Woodstock, was 16 when he fought at Crécy.

One of the pilgrims on the way to Canterbury in The Canterbury Tales was a squire. Chaucer’s squire was about 20 years old and the son of the knight, the highest-ranking pilgrim in the group. The young man was well-dressed and was asked to tell a tale of love, about which he was supposed to know a great deal. His tale promised to be of epic proportions, but was interrupted by another pilgrim and never finished. Chaucer had been a page and a squire and might have used himself as the model for the knight’s son.



Filed under Fourteenth Century, Medieval Warfare

WIPW Guest Post

Meanwhile, over at Clockwork Clouds, I’m Shaun Kellett’s guest in a post about my work in progess. It’s a change for me to be writing about writing and I’m grateful to Shaun for giving me the opportunity to think about what I’ve learned over the last few years.

Please leave any comments on the original post.

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Filed under Writing

Medieval Tiles – A Review

Medieval tiles

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m interested in medieval floors in general and medieval tiles in particular. Tiles were very expensive, as they took a long time and a great deal of skill to make. They were mostly used in ecclesiastical buildings, although some people, like Laurence of Ludlow, were wealthy enough to be able to afford to have them in their houses.


Medieval floor tiles, Stokesay Castle

When I saw Van Lemmen’s book in the English Heritage shop at Stokesay Castle, there was never any doubt that I was going to buy it. There are only 40 pages, but those pages are glorious. Since most of the pages are full of colour photographs and drawings of medieval tiles, there is not much room for scholarly text.

The photographs in this post are not from the book, they’re mine. The ones in the book are much better.

14th century tiles

Fourteenth century tiles, St Bartholomew’s, Hyde

Such text as there is is very informative, although I would love to know more about how tiles were made. There is a wonderful drawing of a fourteenth century kiln, which highlights what a hit and miss affair tilemaking could be. An imperceptible flaw could destroy a tile and it would be several days before this would be known. It took about six days to load, fire and unload the kiln. A medieval kiln looked like an earthwork. Given the number of days it took to fire a tile, there was no point in making them small. It was sensible to make as many tiles as you could.


Medieval Tiles, St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry

Until I read the book, I wasn’t aware that mosaics were made in fourteenth century England. There are some lovely examples in the book from Rievaulx and Byland Abbeys. I can’t share the exact photos with you, but those links are to other photos of the mosaics in question.

It is the pictures which make the book worth buying. They include many examples of medieval tiles from all over England. My favourite photograph is one showing Diana Hall’s modern replacements of damaged tiles in Winchester Cathedral. Her tiles have the colour and vibrancy that all medieval tiles must have had when first laid.

Making tiles was incredibly labour intensive and here are two videos showing how much time it could take just to get the clay into the moulds.

The first is from Guédelon, where a castle is being built in Burgundy using thirteenth century techniques. The second is a  documentary about Diana Hall and her life as a tilemaker.


Filed under Book Review, Medieval Interiors

The Hall of a Medieval Manor House


Sokesay Castle

Last week I was on holiday and I visited Stokesay Castle in Shropshire. Despite its name, it isn’t a castle, but a fortified manor house. Eight miles north of Ludlow, the house is in the Marches, where fortifying everything against the Welsh was a good idea in the thirteenth century.

Despite this, it was built more for show than anything else. The house was not built by a wealthy noble, but by a merchant, Laurence of Ludlow, in the 1280s. I thought it would be interesting to compare his hall with that of the Southampton merchant, whose house I visited back in May. Both houses were built about the same time, one in the middle of a town, the other in the middle of the countryside. Their locations reflect the sources of their owners’ wealth. The Southampton merchant made his money from wine, mostly imported from Gascony. His house, with its shop, was located only a few yards from the quay where the ships bringing the wine from France moored. Lawrence of Ludlow was a wool merchant, making his money from the sheep on the Shropshire hills he could see from the windows of his country house. He was one of the richest men in England, even lending money to Edward I, and his house was built to demonstrate his wealth. Its decorative, rather than defensive, nature was to show that he was not a threat to the more powerful lords nearby, English and Welsh. All it had to do was protect his wealth from robbers. The house is on the road between Shrewsbury and Ludlow, which would have seen a lot of commercial traffic in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It would also have been travelled by outlaws and thieves.

The hall, Stokesay Castle 1

The hall, Stokesay Castle

Both houses are run by English Heritage, but they show two different approaches in how such properties can be presented to visitors. The merchant’s house in Southampton has been restored and its rooms filled with copies of fourteenth-century furnishings. Stokesay has not. With one exception, the walls are bare and the only furniture is a bench and a table in the solar. Even though it’s not in the hall, I thought you’d like to see the bit of wall which retains its fourteenth-century decoration.

Decorated wall, North Tower, Stokesay Castle

Decorated wall, Stokesay Castle

The most obvious difference between the hall at Stokesay and the hall at Southampton is size. I estimated that three or four Southampton halls could fit inside Stokesay.

In one thing they’re the same, both are open to the roof. Stokesay has a wonderful cruck roof.

Cruck beams, the hall, Stokesay Castle 2

Cruck roof, Stokesay Castle

Unlike the Medieval Merchant’s house, Stokesay Castle has a solar. It’s a first-floor room at the southern end of the hall. In this photograph you can see the small windows from which Laurence and his family could look down into the hall to see what the household was doing.

Windows at the rear of the hall, Stokesay Castle

Windows from the solar, Stokesay Castle

The hall at Stokesay Castle is also different in the size and number of its windows, the upper parts of which were glazed. There is plenty of light in this hall.

Windows of the hall, Stokesay Castle

Windows of the hall, Stokesay Castle

There was a fire in the middle of the hall, its location marked by an octagon of stones on the floor.

Location of the fire, the hall, Stokesay Castle

Location of the fire, the hall, Stokesay Castle

Everyone except Laurence, his family and visitors would have slept in the hall. Excluding servants, it’s estimated that his household numbered about 25 people, about the same as a knight’s household. Very few people slept in bedchambers and even fewer slept in beds. Most people slept on a mattress on the floor.

Laurence did not live to enjoy his new house for very long. He drowned at sea in 1294.


The south tower, Stokesay Castle


Filed under Fourteenth Century, Manor House

The Church Porch

Church Porch at Boxgrove Priory

Church Porch, Boxgrove Priory

Church porches are important in historical romances set in the Middle Ages. The church porch is often where the hero and heroine end up to get married.  Stupidly, for someone who grew up and lives in a country where there are plenty of medieval churches, I always assumed that this meant they were married outside the church, more or less in the open air, with only a small porch to cover them. It was only when I saw a photograph of a medieval church porch that I realised how wrong my image of it was.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Boxgrove Priory near Chichester. It was a lovely day and I took some photographs. The priory was built from the end of the eleventh century to the beginning of the twelfth century. The porch was built in the thirteenth century. It’s not on the same level as the rest of the church and there are six or seven steps down to the church door.

As you can see from the photograph, it’s certainly large enough to hold bride, groom and witnesses, even a priest, if necessary. Although a priest wasn’t, strictly speaking, required in order for a marriage to be binding, the church encouraged it.

Next time you read a novel in which the hero and heroine marry in the church porch, this is the kind of thing you should have in your mind’s eye.

Here’s a bonus photograph of the ruins on the other side of the church.

Boxgrove Priory

Boxgrove Priory




Filed under Church



Spindle and thread

In last week’s post I mentioned the woman at the medieval event I went to who was spinning. I was very interested in what she was doing and, after a short lesson from her, decided to buy a spindle so that I could have a go myself. I’ve been a knitter since my teens and the processes involved in getting wool from the back of a sheep onto my knitting needles has interested me for a while.

In the fourteenth century, as today, sheep were shorn in late spring and the fleeces were washed. If you’ve ever seen a sheep, you’ll know why the fleeces have to be washed. Everything sticks to them. The debris in the fleece is referred to as ‘vegetable matter’. Just remember that sheep eat grass and you’ll understand what some of that matter is. The fleeces were washed in lye, a very strong cleaning agent made by pouring water through ashes. Once they were clean, the fleeces would be carded and combed to remove any remaining debris and to make the fibres run in the same direction.  This makes it easier to spin.

Although fragments of knitted hats and gloves from the fourteenth century have been discovered, wool was mostly used to make cloth. This means that it was spun and then woven. It took about 19 women to keep a single loom going. Spun thread was also used to make braids and belts on much smaller looms. Wool wasn’t the only substance to be spun. Fibres were spun from flax to make linen.

Spinning required a spindle and a distaff.  The spindle was a short, thin stick with a whorl at the bottom. The whorl is the circular bit which weights the spindle. This was usually a stone or a piece of clay with a hole in the middle. The distaff is a pole or stick onto which the prepared fleece is attached. Unsurprisingly, since they were made of wood, very few spindles and distaffs have survived.


A non-medieval spinner with distaff

It doesn’t take long to learn how to spin. After three hours I was making a thread that didn’t snap, although it was on the thick side. With someone to teach her, rather than relying on an instruction sheet and YouTube videos, a young girl could probably learn quite quickly how to make a decent thread.  It would not take her long to make a consistently thin thread, which could then be plied and woven into bolts from which clothes could be made. Plying is the joining together of two or more strands of thread. This is done in the opposite direction to which the thread was spun. For instance, I spin in an anti-clockwise direction. When I come to ply the threads, I’ll spin them in a clockwise direction.

Women who span were called spinsters and this eventually became the word denoting unmarried women. Married women had many domestic tasks, so spent less time spinning. Unmarried women had fewer tasks and were able to give more time to spinning.

Making thread by hand is not as slow as you might expect (although it is slow) and you can do it anywhere. You could be sitting, standing or walking. When you’re standing or walking, the distaff can be put through your belt to hold it in place.

Whilst spinning was very much women’s work, some historians believe that men also span. Why wouldn’t a shepherd spin while he was watching his sheep, or a cowherd when he was taking the cows to and from the fields? The looms needed miles of thread and it seems sensible that anyone who didn’t literally have their hands full all day would spin at least part of the time.

The importance of spinning in the fourteenth century is illustrated by its use in the ditty attributed to John Ball, one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, as the activity representing womankind:

When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?

Here is a video of Kathalyne Aaradyn who has researched spinning in the fifteenth century and spins in that style.


Filed under Fourteenth Century

What can you learn at a medieval event?

Melford Hys Companie

Melford Hys Companie

Last weekend there was a medieval event not far from where I live. It was put on to celebrate the official launch of the Virtual Museum of the Grace Dieu. The Grace Dieu was a huge ship built for Henry V. It made only one voyage before it was hit by lightning and sank in the River Hamble, near Southampton. The medieval event took place in the River Hamble Country Park, close to where the ship sank.

Basket weavers

Basket weavers

There were two different groups of medieval re-enactors at the event. One group, the Medieval Free Company, represented a village where there was a leather worker, a fletcher, a woman who made herbal remedies, a scrivener and a basket weaver.  Their period is the Wars of the Roses.

The other group was Melford Hys Companie, a group of players. The players doubled up by demonstrating medieval crafts as well as acting. The crafts were woodturning, felting, spinning and basket weaving.



On the woodturning front I learned that greenwood was used to make household objects, such as bowls, rather than dry wood.  I’m sure the reason for this was explained, but I can’t remember it. I do remember that the wood warps as it dries, as you can see from the bowl on the end of the woodturner’s workbench.

One of the women in the group spins and I asked her some questions. I’ve never understood how spinning works and she was kind enough to explain it to me, whilst demonstrating. From her I learned that rich women did not spin. This was a bit of a blow, as I have a scene in my current work in progress where two very rich women sit down and spin together.

Another thing I learned was that, although medieval depictions of women spinning show them holding a spindle and a distaff at the same time, it’s perfectly possible to spin without a distaff.  After the demonstration, I was allowed to have a go and enjoyed it. Later in the day I realised that the basket full of fleece, carding implements and spare spindles was intended for children, but I was very grateful to have had the chance to try. I was so engrossed in what the spinner was doing that I forgot to take a photograph, but I was very inspired by my lesson and bought a spindle so that I can carry on practising.

Handspun thread

Handspun thread

To my great joy, pea pottage was on the menu for lunch for the players.  You can see the peas and carrot and rosemary in the pot. There’s also onion, garlic and a bit of bacon in there. They were aiming for something fairly substantial and  used marrowfat peas soaked overnight. Somebody had to sit and watch the pot all the time to make sure that the fire didn’t go out and that the pottage didn’t get too dry. It was quite windy, so there was a constant danger of the sparks setting fire to something.


Pea pottage

The pottage must have done the job, because it all disappeared and I saw the pot watcher doing the washing up in the pot after lunch. Another lesson learned – pots are expensive and can be dual purpose.

Two of the women were working on felting projects. One was for children. The other, most decidedly, was not.

Felted bubs

Felt bosoms for the actors

The bosoms are to enable the male actors to look the part when they have to play female roles.

I only saw part of the felting process, but a rough pattern was made from a piece of linen cloth and the fleece placed on both sides of it. The wool was made wet and soaped. It was placed on a board and the woman making the prop had to keep rubbing it so that the fibres stuck together and shrank. The finished object was quite a bit smaller than the pattern.

On the right of the photograph you can see the knife with which she shaved off pieces of soap into the mug of water.

In the other camp there was a scrivener, who explained about how ink was made with ground oak apples, coperas (ferrous sulphate) and gum. On his table you can see cuttlefish for drying the ink on the page; a triple baked loaf of bread for polishing parchment; and a wax tablet for a learner writer. You can also see a part of his bow, as all men were supposed to know how to shoot.

Scrivener's table

Scrivener’s Table

If you look carefully on his writing desk, you’ll see a printed pamphlet and he’s writing on paper. Paper was used in the fourteenth century, but printing had not been invented.

Leather worker

Leather worker’s tent

The leather worker made sheaths for swords and daggers, as well as belts, flasks and pouches. Whilst his leather and some of his goods were arranged tidily, you can see that he was rather careless with his armour.

There was also a fletcher in the Wars of the Roses village. He demonstrated how arrows could be made to fit individuals, but the majority of arrows which went to France with archers were not made to order. They were made in what were essentially factories, churning out arrows for the English armies. As the fletcher explained, you did not have to be a particularly good archer, or have made-to-measure arrows, to succeed in a battle. An enemy army provided quite a large target and any arrow fired in its general direction would probably hit something. He also said that, in his younger days, he could let off a further two arrows before his first had landed, which goes some way to explaining why Welsh and English archers were so successful and so feared.

I was surprised by the different types of points I saw on the arrows. One looked like a fork and another like a knife. One had a very vicious-looking barb on it.



I had a very enjoyable day out with the re-enactors. It is one thing to read about how something is done, and another to see it being done. Best of all, I’ve got an inkling of an idea about a novel from it.


Filed under Hundred Years War



Sugar was an expensive foodstuff. Like cinnamon, cloves and saffron it was considered, and used, as a spice, but it did not travel quite as far as they did to reach England.

Sugar first came into Europe from Egypt and Syria. Crusaders brought it with them when they returned home. This was the beginning of Europe’s addiction to sugar. In the thirteenth century the Venetians and Genoese were able to set up cane plantations on Mediterranean islands, which enabled them to control the whole process of sugar production and distribution.

Once refined, sugar was formed into cone-shaped loaves. It is still sold in this way in some parts of Europe. Sugar loaves were white and brown. If the sugar was refined and pure, it was white. If it was unrefined, it was brown.

Sugar was used in sauces for what we would consider savoury food, but it was also used to make sweet confections to follow it.

Sugar was very versatile and soon came to be preferred to honey by those who could afford it. Honey could be produced anywhere in England by anyone who had a skep and the necessary skills to manage the bees. For those who had to buy their sweeteners, a pound of sugar would have cost a skilled labourer a day’s wages, four times more than a pound of honey.

In the fourteenth century some large towns in Europe had sweet shops selling expensive sweets made from melted and crystallised sugar. These were sold by weight. Again, they were something only the wealthy could afford.

Venice, as it did with spices, controlled the refining and distribution of sugar across Europe for centuries. Sugar only became affordable for the masses in the eighteenth century, when sugar cane started to be grown in the West Indies, using slave labour. In the sixteenth century it was possible to extract sugar from beetroot, but this was not done on a commercial scale until the nineteenth century.


Filed under Fourteenth Century




Having diverted into experiments with pottage, twice, it’s time to get back to spices. A couple of weeks ago we established that only the very wealthy could afford spices. Spices were expensive because they had to travel vast distances to reach England.

It was not just the spices themselves which were expensive, but also the equipment needed to grind them. Depending on how finely they had to be ground, this could be a pestle, made out of a hard metal, and a stone or a hand-mill.

In the mid-twelfth century, when there was a reform movement in the church, spices were held by some, including Bernard of Clairvaux, to be against nature and God, since they changed the natural flavour of food into something else. For most people this made no difference, since they couldn’t afford to buy spices.

It was only after the Black Death that the less well-off bought spices more often. By the second half of the fourteenth century, it was becoming easier to transport spices to Europe and those who survived the Black Death were slightly better off economically than their parents and grandparents had been.

By the 1390s those who could afford to eat meat most often were able to eat it very heavily spiced. The amount of spices used may reflect the time it took for them to arrive from Asia rather than a taste for spicy food. As we saw with pepper, a pound of ginger in England would not have as much flavour as it had when it left Asia, due to the length of the journey.

Much of the fish and meat eaten in the fourteenth century was salted or dried and spices were prized because they could disguise the tastes caused by these methods of preservation. Forget the idea that their function was to make tainted meat more palatable.  No matter how much care you took to wash it out, salted fish and meat tasted salty.

Most spices travelled by sea to Europe, where they were deposited in Venice for onward transport. At this time the trade in spices was in the hands of Arabs, Indians and Chinese until the spices reached Venice.  Spices were not imported directly into England from their point of origin, but had to be purchased from merchants who had purchased them from other merchants and so on back to Venice.

How expensive were spices? At the beginning of the fifteenth century a pound of cinnamon or ginger cost 3 to 5 days’ wages of a craftsman. A pound of cardamom was about 4 ½ days’ wages. A pound of cloves was 6 days’ wages. Prices were not stable and could vary considerably from one year to another.

Since they were so expensive,  no one wanted to waste them. In the 1390s an elderly Parisian wrote some guidance about household management for his young wife. His book contains recipes and instructions about how to ensure that money spent on spices is not wasted. If spices and bread were to be ground, he wrote, the spices should be ground first and then the bread, so that any spices left behind would be incorporated into the breadcrumbs.

Which spices were used and where did they come from? Cinnamon came from Ceylon. Cloves were from Indonesia. A well as flavouring food and wine, they were used by apothecaries. They have a long history of being useful for people with toothache. Cubebs came from Java. Ginger originated in China.  It came to England in a dried form or preserved in sugar. As well as flavouring food, it was used in wine. Nutmeg came from a single island in Indonesia. In the seventeenth century the Dutch almost wiped out the inhabitants of the island because they were desperate to control the production, and sales, of nutmeg. Mace is the outer skin of nutmeg.  Saffron originally came from Asia, but it was grown in Catalonia from the thirteenth century. In the fourteenth century saffron was grown in England, in Cornwall and Essex, where it’s mostly associated with Walden, later renamed Saffron Walden. Saffron was used for colouring and flavouring food and for dying fabric and in medicines. It was, and is, fabulously expensive. At the beginning of the fifteenth century it cost between 8 and 11 times more than pepper.





Filed under Fourteenth Century

Pottage – Again

Barley and pea pottage

Barley and pea pottage

Last week I wrote about my first experiment with pottage. Now that I have ripe peas in the garden I wanted to make pottage with them. The intention was to make two – a thicker one and a thinner one. As with last week’s pottage, I would not use salt or pepper, but only a stock with herbs for seasoning. This time I left the celery out of the stock, as I wasn’t sure that the celery from the supermarket was very much like the celery available in the fourteenth century.

For the thicker fresh pea pottage I had to find something to thicken it. In the fourteenth century this would have been a grain or bread. In poorer households it was more likely to have been grain, as using it for pottage rather than for bread was a way of making it go further.

Fresh peas

Fresh peas

I used pearl barley as the thickener. A couple of years ago I accidentally and unwillingly grew barley in the garden when seeds from the barley straw I put round the strawberries germinated. I dug up the barley sprouts, but, on the principle that I could have grown barley if I hadn’t considered it a weed, barley was what I used. The pearl barley from the supermarket is a lot more refined than anything eaten in the Middle Ages, so the taste and texture would be different. This meant that I didn’t have to soak it to soften it, which would have been necessary for a fourteenth-century housewife. She would also have had to make grain stretch from one year’s harvest to the next, so she probably would not have used the same generous quantity for one person as I did.

Pearl barley

Pearl barley

Around this time of year I usually make a few pea risottos, so I was expecting the pottage to taste a bit like that, but without the oil and salt. To some extent it did, although the barley was chewier than rice.

The recipe:

I rinsed the pearl barley and boiled it on its own for 10 minutes, then I let it simmer for 30 minutes. While the barley was simmering, I chopped the onion and garlic and boiled them. I drained the barley and added it to the stock. Finally I added the peas and herbs and let them simmer for a couple of minutes.

There weren’t as many peas as I had hoped, but there must have been days when the fourteenth-century housewife had to make her fresh vegetables go further than expected.

It was definitely filling. That was down to the barley. It was not terribly tasty, but I think that might have been because there were too few peas to hold their own against the barley and the onion. I also think it’s the boiled onion which causes the odd aftertaste.  Drinking a mug of ale would probably have helped with that. This is not a version of pottage that I would particularly want to eat again.

pea pottage

Pea pottage

Yesterday I finally had enough peas to make a thin pottage with them. I boiled the onion and garlic for 20 minutes, then added the peas, chives and marjoram. They simmered for a very short time. I had expected that this pottage would be the least interesting, but it was very tasty. It wasn’t terribly filling, but it was enough to stave off hunger pangs for the afternoon. I think it would be most useful as a summer dish on a day when little work was required to be done in the fields.

Trying to make something that resembles a medieval pottage has raised many questions.

The process of cooking it on my gas hob was, of course, much faster than it would have been on an open fire in the fourteenth century. This raised two questions. The first was whether or not this would make any difference to the taste. The second was to wonder how an army on the move would have coped. In my novel Beloved Besieged an army crosses Aquitaine. There are too many men to stay in inns, so they would have slept in tents or in the open air, making camp each night. It would have taken a long time to cook for an army of thousands of men over open fires. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out anything on this subject. The Black Prince’s armies were renowned for covering great distances in a day, which would have meant even less cooking time.

Quantities is another problem. My helpings were fairly large, as I was not afraid of the barley running out, nor was I trying to make dried herbs last until spring. Would a poor person in the fourteenth century have been able to eat the same amount? I don’t know.

What I have learned is that pottage did not have to be bland, even without salt and pepper.


Filed under Fourteenth Century