Medieval Monday: The Philosopher

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. He talks about the medieval philosopher, which was really more of a scientist or alchemist, and also about the medieval physician. Were they really as backward thinking as we suppose? Or were the seeds that eventually grew into the age of Enlightenment planted during this era? There is some fascinating stuff in this episode, including why people in the Middle Ages were so preoccupied with the idea of changing other metals into gold–it’s not for the reason you might think!

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.


Medieval Monday: The Knight

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. He talks about the evolving role of knights in medieval society and the emergence of a code of chivalry. Sadly legend and reality are two very different things! There is also an interesting section on horses and how they were trained to be used as weapons on the battlefield. Additionally, he talks about coats of arms and learns what his own might look like. It’s actually pretty funny. So enjoy this episode of Medieval Lives.

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: Undergarments

This may seem like a strange little topic, but it came up this week as a curiosity question I wanted answered for my new work-in-progress. What was meant to be a quick search, for a quick and easy answer, turned out to be more interesting than I anticipated. Today I’ll be sharing a post instead of making my own because this site really did a good job of addressing the topic. I hope you’ll click and read the whole thing through–I was surprised at how much I didn’t know!

What Underwear Was Like in Medieval Times by Melissa Snell

What did medieval men wear under their clothes? Medieval women?

In imperial Rome, both men and women were known to wear simply wrapped loin-cloths, probably made from linen, under their outer garments. In addition, women might wear a breast band called a strophiumor mamillare, made from linen or leather. There was, of course, no universal rule in undergarments; people wore what was comfortable, available, or necessary for modesty — or nothing at all. Individuals competing in sports, like the women depicted in the mosaic shown here, would have benefited from confining garments.

It’s entirely possible that the use of these undergarments continued into medieval times (especially the strophium, or something similar), but there is little direct evidence to support this theory. People didn’t write much about their underwear, and natural (as opposed to synthetic) cloth doesn’t usually survive for more than a few hundred years. Therefore, most of what historians know about medieval undergarments has been pieced together from period artwork and the occasional archaeological find.

One such archaeological find took place in an Austrian castle in 2012. A cache of feminine delicates was preserved in a sealed-off vault, and the items included garments very similar to modern-day brassieres and underpants. This exciting find in medieval underwear revealed that such garments were in use as far back as the 15th century. The question remains as to whether they were used in earlier centuries, and if it was only the privileged few who could afford them.

In addition to loincloths, medieval men were known to wear an entirely different type of underpants.


Medieval men’s underpants were fairly loose drawers known as braies, breeks,or breeches. Varying in length from upper-thigh to below the knee, braies could be closed with a drawstring at the waist or cinched with a separate belt around which the top of the garment would be tucked. Braies were usually made of linen, most likely in its natural off-white color, but they could also be sewn from finely woven wool, especially in colder climes.

In the Middle Ages, braies were not only used as underwear, they were frequently worn by laborers with little else when doing hot work. Those depicted here fell well below the knees, but were tied to the wearer’s waist to keep them out of the way.

No one really knows whether or not medieval women wore underpants before the 15th century. Since the dresses medieval women wore were so long, it could be very inconvenient to remove underwear when answering nature’s call; on the other hand, some form of snug underpants could make life a little easier once a month. There’s no evidence one way or the other, so it’s entirely possible that, at times, medieval women wore loincloths or short braies. We just don’t know for sure.

Keep Reading Here:

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: Insults

I thought this week I’d amuse you with some medieval insults. Some were used for good-natured ribbing, whereas others might be more defamatory in nature. Reputation was important in the medieval world, and slandering the wrong person meant you could find yourself in court. Men typically based their reputations on social status, whereas the reputations of women were more based on their virtue and the way they conducted themselves. Depending on where you live, some of these insults (or versions of them) might still be in use today. If this is the case, please know that no real offense is intended—this is all in good fun!

Bespawler: Someone who spits when they talk.

Bobolyne: A fool.

Churl: Coarse and peasant-like. Its origin is the Old English “ceorl” which meant “one level above a slave.”

Cox-comb: A vain, narcissistic person.

Cumberworld: A useless person.

Dalcop: A very stupid person.

Doxy: A promiscuous woman. Also literally the wife or lover of an outlaw who robbed people on the road.

Driggle-Draggle: A messy or untidy woman.

Fopdoodle: A stupid, idiotic person.

Fustilugs: A large, clumsy slob.

Glos Pautonnier: An Old French word for a gluttonous scoundrel.

Hedge-born: Of base birth, or illegitimate

Levereter: Corrupt (“Liver-eater”)

Mandrake Mymmerkin: Childlike. A puppet, or little man.

Muck-sprout: Someone who is overly talkative and curses a lot.

Mumblecrust: A toothless beggar.

Puterelle: A woman of ill-repute.

Raggabrash: A grubby, disorganized person.

Rakefire: A guest who has outstayed their welcome.

Ronyon: An old, mangy, scabby woman

Saddle-goose: A very stupid person.

Scobberlotcher: A lazy person who never works hard.

Skamelar: A scrounge, or parasite.

Snoutband: Someone who constantly interrupts a conversation to correct or contradict the speaker.

Sot: A drunkard.

Stampcrab: A clumsy person.

Trencherman: Someone who overeats and attends social events just for the food.

Wandought: A weak, ineffectual man.

Whiffle-whaffle: An indecisive person who wastes others’ time.

Yaldson: The son of a prostitute.

Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.


Medieval Monday: The Minstrel

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. I was actually surprised at the number of things I didn’t know about minstrels and their place in history. And Terry Jones, as always, has a certain flare for telling it! 🙂

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: Making Barrels and Wooden Vessels

Medieval coopers were important craftsmen in the Middle Ages. Many different types of goods were kept in barrels, such as alcohol and salted meats. But barrels were not the only things coopers made. A variety of wooden vessels were needed for daily use by the average person as well as many other medieval craft and tradesmen. Buckets were needed to draw and transport water, and pails collected milk from cows, sheep, and goats. Wooden churns helped to preserve that milk by turning it into various types of butter and cheese. Tub like containers would have been used for jobs such as mixing flour into dough, pickling vegetables and fruits, salting meat, or making beer, ale, and cider. Larger tubs would have been used for fulling (processing wool), dying fabric, tanning, washing clothes, bathing, and crushing grapes for winemaking. Serving pitchers might also be made out of wood. Their sides were curved for pouring, just like vessels made out of glass or ceramic would have been. When barrels and large tubs had out-lived their usefulness, they were either taken apart and the wood re-purposed, or they were used to line wells and pits.

Oak, which was strong and durable, was the favored choice for wooden vessels, but beech, pine, and silver fir were also sometimes used. The wood grain needed to be straight. The tools of the trade were simple ones, with coopers using mallets, axes and shaving tools to shape the staves. These could be fit together to make the vessels water tight, though not all barrels were. Some were used for dry storage and water tightness was not required. Surprisingly, metal hoops were not used for large barrels until well after the Middle Ages. They were reserved for use on some buckets and expensive drinking vessels. Barrel hoops were made of wood, primarily willow, ash, hazel, and chestnut. Hoop making was a specialized craft of its own.

I tried to find a video of someone using medieval methods to make wooden vessels, and this is the closest I got. George Smithwick is a 6th generation cooper and has been doing this for over 30 years, so I’d say he’s a great authority on the subject! The video is a bit long, and he does occasionally use modern day power tools, but his methods are rooted in tradition and he goes a bit into the history of his trade, which is very interesting. If you have time, I hope you’ll watch this one, even if you need to fast forward through parts of it. Nothing compares to actually watching how things were made–it gives you a real appreciation for the work involved in making simple, every day objects we take for granted in our post-industrialized world.

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: The Damsel

It has been a while since I made a Medieval Monday post, but I’ll get back to it now that my book is finished. I’ll resume with this BBC episode of Medieval Lives, which is all about women’s roles in medieval society. A very interesting take which somewhat debunks current views of how women were expected to behave and were treated during the Middle Ages.

WARNING: This is probably NSFW, as it does deal in part with how women’s sexuality was viewed from medieval times through the Victorian era. There is some “nudity” as taken from medieval artwork, so maybe not something you want to watch with kids hanging over your shoulder, either. I considered not posting this one at all, but the purpose of my Medieval Monday series is to show what daily medieval life was really like, and this was a significant part of life, particularly in a society where having children was critical to survival and marriage was often more about politics/social maneuvering than love.

Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.