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10 Insane Fun Facts About Life in the Middle Ages

Check out these insanely fun facts about life in the Middle Ages!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  February 26th 2022

After the collapse of the Roman Empire and before the Battle of Bosworth, there was a period in time known as The Middle Ages, one of the craziest periods of human history! Peasants had to deal with the plague, the Black Death, terrible leadership from a whole range of awful monarchs, and - to make matters worse - Nintendo switches weren’t even invented! Life in the middle ages certainly wasn’t boring. Once you’ve studied these these insanely fun facts about life during the fascinating Middle Ages, take a peek at our 20 Interesting Facts About the Anglo Saxons and our The Ultimate Romans Quiz!

1. Viking warriors dyed their hair!

One thing you wouldn’t expect from the Middle Ages is that Vikings had an impressive haircare regime that would put the cast of Love Island to shame! Did you know these bloodthirsty pillagers used to lighten their hair using soap made with lye? Bloodthirsty? Don’t you mean Blonde-thirsty!

2. People lived with Cows!

Have you ever complained about having to share a room with a sibling? In the Middle Ages, most people lived in tiny one room homes. In the countryside, a family’s cow might also have lived inside! We wonder if they snored as much as most grown ups do? Sharing a room with a cow wasn’t all bad… If you went to bed on time you might get a pat on the head!

3.  Leeches were used by Doctors in the Middle Ages!

Doctors in the middle-ages practiced ”Bleeding.” They would place a bloodsucking leech on the patient and let it to do its thing. pretty gross but believed at the time to cure ailments such a madness, bloating and infections. It’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t happen nowadays… OR WOULD IT? The medicinal use of leeches re-started in the 1970s. In some countries, they’re used during the reattachment of severed fingers!

4. In the Middle Ages animals could be criminals!

During the middle ages many animals were put on trial. The worst offenders were usually pigs who were often accused and convicted of digging up corpses or - even worse - eating children! Very snaughty behaviour! The porkers punishment was usually to be burnt at the stake. Apparently during the 14th Century a convicted pig was dressed in a dainty waistcoat, mittens, and a human mask to prepare for its execution!

NB. There are no accounts of lambs being arrested for illegal gambolling.

5. People wore weirdly impractical shoes in the Middle Ages!

According to fashion historians, the longer the shoe, the greater the wealth of the wearer. To be frank, people in the Middle Ages were showing off! Some posh people’s shoes were so long they hard to be reinforced with cardboard or whalebone. Their shoes were so impractical that there are accounts of a Crusader cutting off the tips of his shoes to run away from their enemies! And if you think this is a crazy fashion you should read up on codpieces!

6. Football was a little bit rougher in the Middle Ages! 

Sport in the middle ages was incredibly violent. The rules of football even stated that “any means could be used to score apart from murder” Ouch! It wasn’t just the ball being kicked. We wonder how long Ronaldo would last? Football was played between entire villages - everyone could take part! Sadly, King Edward II banned the game for being too violent. Maybe if there’d been VAR in those days, history would have turned out differently!

7. English people could speak multiple languages!

In the Middle Ages, English people didn’t only speak English – they could also chat about their super violent football matches in Hebrew and Latin. Different languages were used for different things, for example, French was used for legal matters: “Le cochon est coupable d'un crime terrible!” It’s one of the many reasons why the English language has so many words. Lot’s of them have been taken from other languages.

8. People whipped themselves!

During during the Black Death epidemic, Flagellant sects (gangs of people who went around whipping themselves) sprung up around Europe. These ultra-religious groups saw the epidemic as a punishment from God. The sects would walk from town to town, form large circles and whip themselves in public. They believed that this would cleanse them of their sins and prevent them suffering from disease! It was quite a spectacle and - like football - was eventually banned for disrupting day-to-day life!

9. Richard III banned the slaughter of animals in London.

But not because he was a vegan or anything. Instead, it was because the remains of so many slaughtered beasts were being left on the streets and thrown into the Thames that the stink of dead animals was making living in the city almost unbearable!

10. Criminals were treated very harshly in the Middle Ages!

Some of the punishments were so awful we can’t bring ourselves to write about them. Lesser punishments that won’t give us nightmares included the criminal having to wear a scary animal mask and walking around in public. Sometimes they’d be made to wear badges (not badgers) detailing their crimes. People were also put in the stocks, where they might have rotten vegetables and similar filth thrown at them.

11. Bonus Fact: There was a dancing plague!

400 people died after seemingly contracting a dancing plague that meant they couldn’t stop dancing. The plague continued for ten days at which point many of the sufferers had already died from dehydration and exhaustion!