What was everyday life like for medieval royals in Europe? Like anyone else, their days followed routines, but they also enjoyed the perks, privileges, and luxuries that came with their high status in medieval society.
Royal experiences varied depending on time, location, and position within the royal family. What was typical in the 900s was not necessarily common in the 1300s, and vice versa; cultures differed between royal courts across Europe; and princes and princesses didn't complete the same duties as their parents, though these duties sometimes overlapped.
That being said, some things were true no matter where, when, or who the royal was. Nearly everything about a medieval royal's life was political, from the cultural life of the court to the marriage bed. Religion also connected medieval royals - king and princess, Plantagenet and Capetian alike regularly performed acts of piety.
King Charles V of France typically began his day a little after 6 am by donning sumptuous clothes. Since medieval fashion communicated status, royals wore the best - and costliest - silks, furs, and embroidery.
Royal households were hierarchical. Chamberlains and wardrobe keepers - and anyone who had direct contact with a royal body - were relatively high-ranking members of the staff. By the late Middle Ages, English kings appointed esquires of the body - personal attendants - to directly serve and wait on them.
Performances of piety were part of a medieval royal's daily routine. King Charles V of France would attend mass at 8 am every morning. Likewise, William the Conqueror attended daily mass, along with morning and evening prayers.
France's King Louis IX demonstrated so much piety and religious devotion in his daily rituals that he was revered for them. He was eventually canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church for healing miracles he was said to have performed, attributed to his particular holiness and relationship to God.
Medieval monarchs - whether personally or through a council - spent at least part of their day addressing concerns from commoners, though some kings and queens welcomed this contact more than others.
King Samuel Aba of Hungary, for example, actually socialized with his subjects. According to medieval biographer Christine de Pizan, King Charles V of France would be approached by commoners who hoped to put their concerns before him. His predecessor, King Louis IX, would sit beneath a tree in a park after mass and listen to complaints from commoners.
Many medieval kings, however, did not directly hear grievances in person. King Edward I of England, for example, preferred that his subjects submit petitions in the form of written documents, something that poor, illiterate subjects couldn't do. From records kept of the petition process, the majority were submitted by people of considerable status.
Medieval monarchs may have been endowed with political authority, but they relied on a council of advisors to make sound decisions. Charles V of France liked to meet with his royal council in the morning.
Kings could choose members of the council. These councilors - usually high-ranking officials - advised the king or queen and helped shape policy.