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A noble's household is comprised of the noble's family, cohorts, followers, and servants. Anyone who lives in the house of a noble under his protection on a long term basis is a member of his household.
For most lords, the manor's purpose is to provide the largest and most pleasant household possible. For a noble, the benefits of a grand household are several. To maintain a large household is to display one's wealth, skill at management, and generosity. A large household also allows a noble to attract a large number of talented members to his court to help him administer his lands, manage his household, improve the stature of the manorial court with art or scholarship, and attract fighters seeking glory.
A minimal household includes a lord, his wife, children, a lady-in-waiting, a steward, a cook, an alewife (or cellarer) and a number of domestic servants equal to the number of nobles. As a household expands, it attracts other family members, craftsmen, administrators, soldiers, artists, and scholars.
Attracting other family members means more and more connections to the people in the circle of contacts for each additional family member. A son will have typically two fosterers, one who instructed him to be a page (aged 7-14), one who instructed him to be a squire (aged 15-21), as well as a wife an through them to her family. In the case of ecclesiastical, or guild education, the same practice holds, although a apprentice and journeyman are the terms of a guild, rather than page and squire.
Nobles also seek to attract squires, who become attached to them, and often remain friendly the rest of their lives.
Certain members of the household, such as herald or priest especially, might be younger children of other nobles, certain others, such as a factor or steward, might be younger children of a guilder.
There are several ways to calculate how much a household costs. Each tell you something worthwhile. One method is to to take the cost of a household as a percentage of the income of the lord's manors. A lord who holds one or two manors will generally live on 5% of the income of the manors. Such a lord is probably a knight. A lord who holds several to half a dozen manors will generally live on 10% of the income of his manors. Such a lord probably has the title of Lord or its equivalent. A lord who holds a dozen manors, a province, and is liege to other lords generally lives on 15% of his income. Such lord is a Count or the equivalent. A lord who has many manors, and is liege to several counts, may have a demesne province, lives on 20%. Such a lord is a Duke or its equivalent. Some Dukes, might have other regents as vassals, and live on 25% of their income.
This household expense is more than just having finer silks, more gems, and a bigger throne, although that it part of it. One of the functions of a household is to give gifts to friends, followers, and servants. The larger the household, the more people to reward. Feasts, balls, and ceremonies are put on for friends, allies, and to recognize the achievements of the household and its members.
Imagine a single manor with an annual spring and harvest feast, and occasional celebrations for marriages, births, and other milestones of the nobles and their household. Perhaps the fifteen members of household and manorial officers are included. Then imagine a Duke with feasts and celebrations several times a month for each birthday, wedding, achievement of every vassal, relation, and loyal official in a large duchy. Several score or even hundreds may attended such functions, for which new clothes are made, new chalices are cast to commemorate the occasion, art commissioned, and so on. It is by such things that medieval societies are bound together and loyalties cemented.

[top]Household Staff

The household staff follow the lord in his daily activities. They reside with the lord both at home and on his travels. There is both additional prestige for having a larger retinue as well as more that can be done with more servants and specialists.
  • Steward: The lord's financial and legal auditor who oversees the operations of all that the lord has. The steward is the lord's principal official. He travels to each of the lord's manors throughout the year, holds court, checks the accounting, reviews the fiscal and legal strategies of the lord's manors, and collects the taxes from the manors and brings them to the treasury of the lord, normally at his home castle. As the duties of the steward become too great for one man with the growth of a household, the duties are divided. Sometimes there are two stewards, one for the management of the manors and the other to manage domestic routine, called a Chamberlain. Beyond that the management of manors is handled by the staff of the steward.

Stewards are often nobles or knights performing their duties as their feudal service. Other times they are close relations such as a brother or uncle. The role is so important that loyalty is as important as auditing and legal skill. At least a good accountant and lawyer can be hired by the steward, loyalty is harder to insure.

  • Chamberlain: The lord's official responsible for running the household. In small households, the Chamberlain's duties are carried out by the steward. The chamberlain supervises all the household servants and supplies. The chamberlain may report to the lady of the household, to the steward, or to the lord himself depending on the interest and industry of the lady, and the lord.
  • Cook: The household requires a cook to prepare the meals. Domestic servants will assist the cook for meals, but very large households require a full time assistant cook. The kitchen normally has one full time servant for every ten nobles and the assistance of other domestics for the meal.
  • Butler: A servant which increases the prestige of a household, a butler is a cup bearer, a servant who is part of the kitchen staff, but whose duties are to keep the table supplied with food and drink, to manage the table service, and to pour the wine.
  • Baker: An assistant cook, specializing in baking breads, cakes, pastries, and pies.
  • Poulter: An assistant cook, responsible for the purchase and preparation of poultry. As a full time position in a kitchen, only found in the largest households.
  • Saucerer: An assistant cook, responsible for sauces. As a full time position in a kitchen, only found in the largest households.
  • Spicerer: An assistant cook, responsible for spices. As a full time position in a kitchen, only found in the largest households.

Note on assistant cooks - A proper kitchen can be managed for most households with three persons, a cook and the help of two domestics around meal time. Large households require second and sometimes a third cook who are assistants to the cook. The first of these is typically a baker, as bread is a staple food, and making it more enjoyable with fruits, glazes, frostings, and spices is an important function. Beyond this, nothing more than an assistant cook is required. However it more prestigious to have a specialist, and the food is probably better as well. A specialist costs 1 gp per month more than a standard assistant cook.

  • Keeper of the Wardrobe: Like the kitchen, the wardrobe is the other main office of the household. The keeper of the wardrobe is in charge of the lord's clothing and dresses the lord in the morning and undresses them at night. The lady has s domestic which functions the same way for her, but reports to the keeper of the wardrobe. The keeper of the wardrobe manages the domestic staff.
  • Domestics: This varied group cares for the clothes, spaces, and objects of the household. They make clothing, mend it, wash it, and so on. Domestics are responsible for these functions. They also clean, maintain, and repair the spaces, furniture, and items which are used by the household.
  • Nursemaid: This specialist domestic cares for the young children in the noble family. Some nursemaids specialize in young children and care for them when the house has any, others stay with their charges as they grow and become devoted domestics.
  • Clothier: This specialist domestic converts raw wool and flax into clothing and other special cloth goods. Noble women may often make clothing, but they do not wash it, nor do they make the cloth from raw materials.
  • Huntsman: This prestige specialist plans and runs hunting parties for the lord and his guests. He is familiar with the manor and its animals as well as the lord's method of hunting and the tools and animals used.
  • Falconer: This prestige specialist raises falcons and trains them for hunting. Falconry is a favorite sport of many nobles, and the falconer plans and organizes outings of this kind.
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: The commander of the household guard, he may command a hand-full of yeoman who perform their service policing the manor, or he may command a large body of veteran warriors, depending on the wealth and interests of the lord. This person might be a veteran who has fought many campaigns with his lord, or he may be a bachelor knight performing his feudal service.
  • Man-at-Arms: Soldiers of the household guard, equipped as elite infantry. Such men are common only in large households for great lords, or in households of a martial demeanor.

For lords who own many fiefs, there are more manors where the lord rarely visits, but each manor has its own manorial staff. The relationship between household staff and manorial staff involves people doing the same type of work. The household staff serves the lord, the manorial staff serves the manor for the lord. So each member of the manorial staff has an opposite number on the household staff. When the lord arrives each member of the manorial staff becomes the right hand of their opposite on the household staff.

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