Would you rather be a King or Peasant?

Shorty and I have been having these conversations lately. You see, Shorty is really into English medieval history. She loves reading novels and history about how England was in the 1000s-1500s. All the kings, queens, castles, civil wars… the french. Etc etc.

When we were in London last year, when we were not going around making bad imitations of posters on the street,
we visited some historical sites like the The Tower of London which turned out to be her favourite attraction.


Because in all the history and novels, the Tower of London was often mentioned as the place for the King to stay, and a prison for noble prisoners. It seems like those were difficult times to be an average commoner then.

I mean in modern times, the average “commoner” or citizen like you and me, gets to:
1) Buy clothes, cars, gadgets

2) Go for holidays

3) Go to work but as much as some of us might not like our jobs, it’s not like planting paddy in the field all day.

4) Watch movies, go on holidays…

5) Get married… have kids…

and you know… have a good life.

The commoner in those medieval times has to:


1) Plant and grow their own food. Or starve.

2) Get drafted to fight wars not necessarily for your country but just to help your warlord/king overthrow another warlord/king. (Shorty: but they get rewarded quite handsomely! or even knighted)

3) Risk getting wrongly accused of treason and get beheaded without trial or even necessary evidence.

4) You can get married at any time but if the King likes your wife he can take her away from you any time and make her one of his many mistresses.

5) There weren’t restaurants to eat out at the time. Just taverns maybe to go drink but not everyone even gets to go for that.

Sounds like a really crap time to be a citizen of the Earth if you ask me. Of course perhaps for the people then it was a way of life. It’s not like they experienced how lucky our modern lives here are and then go back in time to live in those times. They don’t really have anything to compare it to.

So at the Tower of London I was telling Shorty that if I ever lived in those times, I hoped to be King or something.

ss2882217_-_photograph_of_patrick_mcgoohan_as_longshanks_king_edward_i_from_braveheart_available_in_4_sizes_framed_or_unframed_buy_now_at_starstills__16025_zoom She looked at me though and said “Are you sure?”

She explained that the English Kings of those times live a good life… yes but they often lived a life of paranoia. Paranoia that someone is trying to overthrow them and wrest their power from them, be it their cousin or even their own brother or sister. And when another King overthrows you, they don’t normally just overthrow you and say “Yo ex-King, here’s some money, go live your life elsewhere”. Like in the movies, they throw you in a dungeon somewhere to live the rest of your life… or more often than not, they just go “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!”.

So living the life as a King is like living a life where every day you have to worry about someone trying to poison your food, or wage war on you to overthrow you. It’s like living a life knowing that people are trying to kill you, but you don’t know who and you don’t know when. Suddenly being a King doesn’t sound so cool after all.

So… in Medieval England would you guys rather be King? Or a Peasant?


PS: If you’d like to know more about life as a peasant in those times, read this article.

Pay special attention to this part.

“Peasants lived in cruck houses. These had a wooden frame onto which was plastered wattle and daub. This was a mixture of mud, straw and manure. The straw added insulation to the wall while the manure was considered good for binding the whole mixture together and giving it strength. The mixture was left to dry in the sun and formed what was a strong building material.”

Basically if you were a peasant, you would be living in a house that is made of shit. Animal shit to be specific. Peasants can’t seem to catch a break here!

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