Knights Slept in their Armor – Fact or Fiction?!

Have you ever played video games like Kingdome Come? There, the character can take off his armor before going to sleep. But most players (myself included) don`t bother and just order the character to go to sleep in full armor. That got me thinking, would medieval knights actually sleep in their armor?

While sleeping in medieval armor is possible, it is also extremely uncomfortable. So medieval knights usually slept without their armor. That was possible since medieval armor could be put on pretty quickly and large-scale nighttime fighting was rare in the Middle Ages.

Do you want to find out how long it took a knight to put on his armor? Then check out my article here.

Let`s take a closer look.

Why medieval knights did usually not sleep in their armor?

Medieval armor is less restrictive than one might think, so not being able to lie down was not the reason why knights did not sleep in their armor. But medieval armor was made from metal. And that is where the problem starts.

Lying in a metal suit does not sound very comfortable. And especially plate armor being like a metal hull had the disadvantage that the metal dissipated heat from the body into the night. So not only would the knight who slept in his armor be uncomfortable, but he would also be cold.

Accepting these kinds of disadvantages by sleeping in armor was also simply not necessary since war camps in hostile territory were usually secured by surrounding them with a ditch and ideally also a palisade just like the Romans had done. The reason behind securing the war camps with ditches and palisades was to prevent surprise attacks. By the way, it is no coincidence that the medieval generals copied the Roman technique of securing the war camps. Medieval generals and army leaders studied ancient Roman books on warfare and used the knowledge in their wars and battles!

Speaking of medieval war camps, let`s briefly look at the accommodation of medieval knights and soldiers during wars.

Where did knights & medieval soldiers sleep?

Generally speaking, medieval army camps were set up in a way that made life in them as comfortable and secure as possible. And that did not only mean that the campsite was secured with a ditch and ideally also a palisade, it also meant that the location of the latrines had to be chosen wisely and had to be as far away from the water supply as possible.

Access to clean water was on top of the priority list when it came to finding a suitable campground for a medieval army on the march. The reason for that is that water was still the most important drink, despite the cliche of medieval people only drinking beer and wine. Here you can find out more about the consumption of alcohol and water in the Middle Ages.

When the campsite was found and the locations for the latrines were marked, then the individual knights and soldiers would set up their accommodations. Knights and medieval soldiers slept in pavilions or tents when they were at war. These tents & pavilions were brought along on the baggage train. Depending on the owner’s wealth a tent could be quite comfortable and include beds, tables, and commodes (seats with a chamber pot underneath).

Do you want to find out more about medieval beds and what people in the Middle Ages used to sleep upon? Then I would like to recommend you my article here.

The tents, as well as luxury items like beds and tables, but also arrows, weapons, siege materials, and everything else a medieval army needed were transported in the baggage train. Needless to say that especially large armies (here you can find out more about the size of medieval armies) needed a large baggage train with sophisticated logistics.

Here you can find out more about medieval baggage trains and the logistics of medieval warfare.

Especially important was the transportation of enough food since medieval soldiers were fed pretty well. Do you want to find out more about the daily diet of an average medieval soldier? Then I would like to recommend you my article here.

And here you can find out more about the diet of a medieval knight and what knights ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer

Sources

David S. Bachrach: Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany (Woodbridge 2012).

Malte Prietzel: Krieg im Mittelalter (Darmstadt 2006).