Life in the Middle Ages was brutal and dirty. If you were a soldier, it was even rougher than you can probably imagine. Soldiers faced the prospect of being struck down by many crude weapons. If you didn’t perish immediately, you risked being carried off as a prisoner of war. If someone didn’t ransom you, you were as good as gone. You can forget Hollywood’s glamorous portrayals of honor and glory in movies like Braveheart because life as a soldier was hard.
For those who weren’t soldiers, there was always the risk of an invading army besieging the town and starving out the population. The fact is that soldiers often brought their families along for the ride, so wives, children, and even the elderly often faced the same hardships as the soldiers.
However, life as a soldier wasn’t all bad. You could use some pretty cool weapons that were downright Medieval, things like the holy water sprinkler, which was actually a mace that could take someone’s head off, or a battle ax. If you worked the trebuchet, you could launch a cow into an enemy’s castle, a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Also, if your side won a battle, you got to loot and pillage the surrounding villages in exchange for your services. Keep reading to learn more about life as a soldier in the Middle Ages, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright awesome.
16. There Was No Formal Military Training
Nowadays, entering the military is often the choice of people who have no training and no opportunity to attend school or find any formal training in life and employment skills. They obtain the skills that they need once they enter the military and complete processes like basic training and other specialized training. However, for soldiers hundreds of years ago, during the Middle Ages, they rarely received formal training. In fact, Crusading armies going from Europe to the Holy Lands were often ragtag bunches of peasants and farmers who may have not even had a military leader to guide them.
Most soldiers during the Middle Ages already had the necessary skills before being called to battle. Through hunting, they learned how to use weapons and ride a horse. Through tournaments and games, such as jousting, they learned more of the skills and competed with other people. None of that is to say that these ventures were safe; people were frequently thrown from their horses or died in hunting accidents. In 1194, Duke Leopold V of Austria was killed in a jousting tournament. One might say that training for battle was a way of life rather than a specialization reserved for a few.