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Castles & knights


The besieging army storms into the castle.The besieging army storms into the castle. During a siege, a castle was surrounded by an enemy army. It prevented supplies from entering it and anyone inside from leaving it. Sooner or later, if the siege held, the castle inhabitants would be starved into surrender. Often, instead of waiting for the defenders to starve, the attackers set about forcing their way in to the castle by using a formidable array of siege weapons. They might also try a series of other tactics designed to weaken the castle's defences in some way, or even avoid the need for a costly and dangerous siege in the first place. 

Siege weapons in actionSiege weapons in actionA spy reveals vital information.A spy reveals vital information.


Besieging armies tried to recruit spies to help give them an advantage. Men posing as mercenaries (soldiers paid to fight) or local merchants or craftsmen who knew the castle well might be hired as spies. The besiegers were after information about how many people were inside the castle, where the weak spots in its defences were, how large its garrison was, how plentiful its supplies of food and water were, and how prepared the castle was for an attack.

Some castle walls were more than 4m (13 ft) thick, to prevent destruction by battering rams or rocks hurled at them by mangonels or trebuchets.

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