Medieval Times Princess: A Glimpse into the Life of Royalty

Medieval Times Princess: A Glimpse into the Life of Royalty

The medieval era, stretching from the 5th to the late 15th century, was marked by sweeping cultural, political, and social changes. The royal family was at the epicenter of these changes, and among its esteemed members, the princesses held a unique position. But what was life like for a princess in medieval times? In this article, we delve into the duties, education, daily life, and clothing of medieval princesses to shed light on the nuances of their existence.

Duties of a Princess

Marriage and Diplomacy:

One of the primary duties of a princess was to secure alliances through marriage. These unions were rarely about love; instead, they were political maneuvers to ensure peace, forge alliances, or claim territories. Princesses were often betrothed at young ages, with the actual wedding taking place once they reached a certain age or maturity.


In the absence of the king and queen, princesses were sometimes expected to represent the monarchy. This could involve presiding over courts, attending state functions, or even addressing the subjects of the kingdom on important matters.

Religious and Charitable Duties:

Princesses were often patrons of religious institutions, and it was not uncommon for them to be involved in charitable acts, establishing monasteries, or supporting the construction of churches.

Education of a Princess

Literacy and Languages:

While education varied based on the kingdom and the period, most princesses were taught to read and write. Being multilingual was an asset, especially if they were to be married off to foreign royals. Latin, the language of the Church and scholarly texts, was particularly significant.

Arts and Culture:

Music, dance, and poetry were integral parts of court life. As such, princesses often received training in these arts. They might learn to play an instrument, like the harp or the lute, and be well-versed in the popular songs and dances of the time.

Religious Education:

Given the prominent role of the Church in medieval society, religious education was paramount. Princesses would be taught scriptures, the principles of Christianity, and the expected moral conduct.

Daily Life of a Princess

Morning Rituals:

A princess’s day would typically start with a religious prayer. This would be followed by personal grooming—assisted by maids—and dressing.

Administrative Duties:

Depending on her role in the kingdom, a princess might spend her mornings attending to administrative tasks, such as going through letters, signing documents, or meeting advisors.

Leisure and Pastimes:

Afternoons were often reserved for leisure activities. This could include embroidery, reading, or walking in the palace gardens. Social interactions, like receiving guests or visiting noblewomen, were also common.

Evening Feasts and Festivities:

Evenings in the castle often involved feasts, especially during special occasions. These grand meals, accompanied by music and dance, were an opportunity for nobles to socialize, celebrate, and demonstrate their wealth.

Clothing of a Princess

Materials and Embellishments:

The clothing of a princess was a direct reflection of her status. Luxurious materials like silk, velvet, and brocade were common. Outfits were often adorned with pearls, gemstones, and intricate embroidery to showcase the wealth and prestige of the royal family.

Dresses and Gowns:

The typical attire for a princess included long dresses or gowns, often with a tight-fitting bodice and a full skirt. The length and breadth of the train signified rank. The longer the train, the higher the status.

Headdresses and Accessories:

A significant aspect of a princess’s attire was the headdress. These could range from simple circlets or crowns to elaborate hennins (conical hats with veils). Jewelry, too, was a crucial accessory, with necklaces, brooches, and rings made of gold and precious stones.

Seasonal Variations:

Depending on the season, the clothing would be adapted. Clothes lined with fur would be added in winters for warmth, while summers would see lighter fabrics and colors.

Did Medieval Princesses Wear Crowns?

The image of a princess or queen adorned with a glittering crown is an iconic symbol that has been immortalized in art, literature, and popular culture. But did medieval princesses actually wear crowns?

In the medieval era, wearing a crown was a powerful visual signifier of authority, rank, and nobility. It was not just a decorative accessory but a symbol of sovereignty and divine right to rule. Therefore, crowns were generally reserved for reigning monarchs—kings and queens—and in some cases, emperors and empresses.

As members of the royal family but not rulers in their own right, princesses were unlikely to wear a crown in the sense that we might imagine today. Instead, they might wear other forms of headgear, such as circlets, diadems, or coronets, adorned with jewels, pearls, or gold. These headdresses were still luxurious and indicative of their royal status but distinct from the crowns worn by ruling monarchs.

Princesses might wear more elaborate headpieces during ceremonial events, such as coronations, weddings, or other significant state functions. However, these would have been carefully designed to reflect their position in the royal hierarchy, distinguishing them from the ruling monarch.

Therefore, while medieval princesses wore ornate and symbolic headgear, they did not typically wear crowns like kings and queens. Though less emblematic of sovereign power, their headdresses were no less significant in marking their royal lineage and social standing.

How Did Medieval Princesses Do Their Hair?

In medieval times, the hairstyles of princesses and noblewomen were not merely a matter of fashion but a symbol of status, virtue, and social identity. The manner in which a princess wore her hair could convey messages about her rank, marital status, and adherence to societal norms.

During the early medieval period, unmarried young princesses often wore loose and flowing hair, signifying purity and youth. Once married, however, a princess was expected to adopt more intricate and confined hairstyles. The reason behind this shift lay in the cultural association of loose hair with sensuality and, thus, the desire to maintain modesty.

For formal occasions, a princess’s hair might be braided or twisted into complex patterns, interwoven with ribbons, or adorned with jewels and pearls. The use of hairpieces, extensions, and even wigs made of human hair or silk threads was not uncommon. This allowed the creation of voluminous and elaborate styles that would have been impossible with natural hair alone.

The hair would often be partially or completely concealed beneath headdresses, veils, or wimples, especially during the later medieval period. This demonstrated modesty and provided a canvas for displaying wealth through rich fabrics and precious adornments.

Maintaining such hairstyles required the efforts of skilled maids and hairdressers, who would use a variety of tools, such as combs, pins, and fillets, to shape the hair. Oils, ointments, and perfumes were applied to keep the hair glossy and fragrant.

In essence, the hair of a medieval princess was more than a mere aspect of personal grooming; it was an intricate tapestry of social and cultural expressions woven with the threads of status, morality, and artistry. The time, effort, and skill invested in creating these coiffures stand as a testament to their profound significance in medieval aristocratic society.

Famous Medieval Princesses

The medieval era was marked by the rise and fall of powerful kingdoms and dynasties, and at the center of these historical changes were often key royal figures, including princesses. These women played significant roles in shaping their realms, forging alliances, and even ruling in their own right. Here, we’ll look at a few famous medieval princesses who left an indelible mark on history.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204):

One of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages, Eleanor was initially the Duchess of Aquitaine and later became the queen consort of both France and England. Her marriage to Henry II of England produced eight children, including Richard the Lionheart and King John. Eleanor played an active role in the politics of her time, even supporting her sons in rebellion against their father.

Isabella of France (1295-1358):

Also known as the “She-Wolf of France,” Isabella was the daughter of King Philip IV of France and married Edward II of England. Unhappy with Edward’s rule, she played a crucial role in the deposition of her husband and the subsequent rise of her son, Edward III, to the throne.

Joan of Navarre (1370-1437):

Joan, queen consort of Henry IV of England, was known for her political acumen and administrative abilities. After her husband’s death, she was falsely accused of witchcraft by her stepson, Henry V, a move many historians believe was politically motivated.

Margaret of Denmark (1353-1412):

As Queen of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Margaret’s rule marked the Kalmar Union’s beginning, uniting the three kingdoms under a single monarch. Her leadership and diplomatic skills earned her the nickname “Semiramis of the North.”

Blanche of Castile (1188-1252):

Queen of France as the wife of Louis VIII, Blanche acted as regent during her husband’s absences and later for her son, Louis IX. Her wise administration, strong character, and devotion to the kingdom have left a lasting legacy.

Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231):

The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth is celebrated for her deep piety and charitable acts. Married to Louis IV of Thuringia, she became known for her dedication to the poor and sick. After being widowed at a young age, she continued her charitable work until her death. She was canonized by the Catholic Church.

Matilda of Tuscany (1046-1115):

A strong supporter of the Papacy during the Investiture Controversy, Matilda controlled vast lands in northern and central Italy. Her military and political prowess significantly influenced Italian politics during her lifetime.

These princesses and queens not only shaped the history of their respective territories but also influenced broader European political landscapes. Their roles in diplomacy, governance, war, and peace exemplify the dynamic nature of medieval royalty and the critical roles that women could play even in a male-dominated era. Their legacies continue to be studied and celebrated, providing insight into the complex tapestry of medieval life and politics.

The Enduring Legacy of Medieval Princesses

The enduring legacy of medieval princesses reaches far beyond the period in which they lived, leaving an indelible imprint on our collective cultural, political, and historical consciousness. The influence and impact of these princesses span several significant areas:

Political Legacy:

Medieval princesses were often key players in political intrigues, alliances, and power struggles. Through marriages, they facilitated alliances between powerful houses and kingdoms. Some, like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France, were even instrumental in shaping the political landscapes of entire regions, influencing governance and law.

Cultural Influence:

The patronage of art, literature, music, and religious institutions by medieval princesses played a vital role in nurturing and preserving cultural heritage. Their support for troubadours, musicians, and religious institutions left a lasting impact on European art and culture.

Social Contributions:

Many princesses were known for their charitable work and support for the less fortunate. The compassion and philanthropy of figures like Elizabeth of Hungary continue to inspire modern humanitarian efforts. Their dedication to welfare and social reforms has shaped our understanding of leadership and responsibility.

Gender Roles and Feminism:

The strong and assertive roles played by some medieval princesses challenge the traditional gender stereotypes of their time. They were rulers, warriors, diplomats, and scholars, demonstrating that women could hold power and influence in a predominantly male-dominated society. Their lives and actions continue to inspire discussions on women’s rights and gender equality.

Literary and Cinematic Portrayals:

The lives of medieval princesses have captured the imagination of writers, filmmakers, and artists for centuries. Their stories are retold in novels, plays, films, and even video games. Whether depicted as romantic heroines or as powerful, independent figures, their legacies live in contemporary culture.

Historical Research and Scholarship:

The stories and historical contributions of medieval princesses have become rich subjects for academic study and historical research. They offer insights into medieval politics, social structures, family dynamics, fashion, and more, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of a complex era.

Tourism and Heritage Sites:

The castles, palaces, and landscapes associated with medieval princesses draw visitors from around the world. These sites are preserved and celebrated as part of our shared human heritage, connecting us to a past that continues to fascinate us.

Symbols of National Identity:

In some countries, medieval princesses are integral to national myths and identities. They are celebrated in national holidays, monuments, and traditions, embodying values and ideals that resonate with modern sensibilities.

In conclusion, the enduring legacy of medieval princesses is multifaceted, encompassing political, cultural, social, and even economic domains. Their lives and deeds resonate across time, serving as symbols of power, wisdom, compassion, and complexity. Far from being mere historical figures, they remain relevant, inspiring contemporary thought and imagination and shaping our understanding of leadership, femininity, and human potential.


The life of a medieval princess, while marked by privilege, was also bound by duty. From political marriages to representing the monarchy, from an education tailored to her status to the daily rituals that governed her life, and from the opulent gowns she wore to the intricate accessories that adorned her—every aspect was a delicate blend of privilege and responsibility. This nuanced existence offers a captivating glimpse into the multifaceted world of medieval royalty.