Middle Ages
Motte and Bailey Castles

Motte and Bailey Castles
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.68

     challenging words:    fief, motte, fans, disadvantage, observation, medieval, armory, design, palisade, bridges, govern, temporary, lord, history, lower, simple
     content words:    Middle Ages, Roman Empire

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Motte and Bailey Castles
By Sharon Fabian

1     When you think of the Middle Ages, what comes to mind? Probably castles, for one thing. The heroic deeds of knights, the tournaments, the romances of princes and princesses, the performances of jesters and troubadours - these often took place in a castle. The castle was home base for people of the Middle Ages.
2     There had been castles and other types of fortifications in Europe at least since the time of the Roman Empire, but it was William the Conqueror who really began building medieval castles in a big way. When he invaded and conquered England in 1066, he wanted to make sure that the lands he took over stayed his. So, he built castles all over the country. He also gave large pieces of land to his most loyal knights and lords. He allowed those knights and lords to build castles on their land. In return, they promised to govern their land for the king.
3     The first castles built by William the Conqueror were motte and bailey castles. A motte is a built-up mound of land, and a bailey is an enclosed courtyard.
4     The motte was usually round. It was built by digging a round ditch and piling up all of the dirt in the middle. A motte was usually built to the height of twenty feet or less, although some were much taller. The base of the motte was anywhere from 100 to several hundred feet in diameter.
5     The top of the motte was leveled off so that it was flat, and a tower was built on the top. A fence, called a palisade, surrounded the tower on top of the motte. Both the tower and the palisade were built of wood.

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