The elaborate castles of the Middle Ages were a showing of strength and power, but they also served as the first line of defense against incoming invasions.
Castles were originally made of timber and wood, but were later replaced with stone, which is more durable.
Many castles were built on hills, and included similar features, such as:
These features were primarily for defense purposes, but castles during this era also included bed chambers, dining halls and great rooms that kept the lords and ladies comfortable.
There were hundreds of castles built during the Middle Ages, but four of the most famous ones include:
1. Windsor Castle
Windor Castle has the unique distinction of being the oldest castle still in occupation. The castle has been occupied for more than 900 years. Today, the Royal Family of England consider Windsor Castle their home.
The site of the castle was chosen by William the Conqueror. The castle’s dungeons were once home to some very famous prisoners. In fact, the castle was used as a prison throughout the English Wars.
2. Leeds Castle
Built by William the Conqueror, Leeds Castle was built by Anglo-Saxon slave labor, and was originally constructed with wooden materials. The castle would eventually be replaced by a stone fortified castle in 1119.
Leeds Castle provides access to River Len, which was an important feature when choosing a site for the castle. The castle occupies three islands and is surrounded by a manmade lake.
Leeds Castle was made into a Royal Palace by King Henry VIII, but maintained its defenses to protect against an invasion from France or Spain.
3. Warwick Castle
Warwick is another castle originally built by William the Conqueror. The structure started out as a wooden motte and bailey, but was eventually replaced by a stone castle and fortress.
One of the most famous castles in the world, Warwick has a dark and mysterious history. From the War of the Roses to the Civil War, Lady Jane Grey and the Knights, Warwick has witnessed some major events throughout its long history.
4. Caernarvon Castle
King Edward I began building Caernarvon Castle in 1283 with the help of Master Hames of St. George.
Caernarvon is closely tied to magic. The legend of the Merlin, the Druid Wizard, is associated with the castle. Merlin was believed to have been born in cave just outside the castle. The castle’s name is believed to have been derived from “Caer Myrddin,'” which means Merlin’s tower or fortress.