It seems to me that if a ruler let in too few ppl, s/he wouldn't have much to rule after the siege, and if s/he let in too many s/he wouldn't have much chance of outlasting it.

What happened to people who lived outside a castle when the castle was under siege? How many of them would retreat to the castle? What would happened to the people who were not permitted entry to the castle? If they were usually killed, have there been rulers who outlasted a siege but were left with only themselves and the inhabitants of their castle to rule over?

closed as too broad by Steve Bird, Mark C. Wallace, KillingTime, John Dallman, Rathony Dec 18 '16 at 11:02

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  • 4
    What period are you asking about? Where in the world? Castles varied greatly in size from being a single keep right up to being small towns. The nature of the warfare and the warring parties would also have a great influence over what happened to those outside. So your question is a little too broad at the moment. – Steve Bird Dec 17 '16 at 21:16

The area of Europe is given as 3,931,000 square miles. If between one half and one quarter of that was divided into manors in medieval times, that gives about 982,750 to 1,965,500 square miles of manorial land.

One site says that the average (English) manor was about 1,200 to 1,800 acres. With 640 aces to a square mile the average the average (English) manor was about 1.875 to 2.8125 square miles. Thus manorial Europe might have had as many as 349,422.22 to 1,048,266.6 manors.

The site on medieval manors says that England after the Norman Conquest in 1066 had over nine thousand manorial estates. Medieval England had an area of about 50,346 Square miles, so the total area of manorial Europe should have been about 19.519 to 39.038 times as large as the Kingdom of England and thus should have had about 175,679 to 351,358 manors. http://www.lordsandladies.org/medieval-manors.htm[1]

So there should have been hundreds of thousands of manors in medieval Europe.

Most manors had a manor house where the lord of the manor and his family lived full time if it was his only manor or part time if he owned a bunch of manors.

The total number of castles in medieval Europe is unknown but must have been in the tens of thousands. Each castle was supported by the neighboring population of one or more manors. A castle might have tens of persons defending it and/or taking refuge in it during a siege, or sometimes hundreds, or in a few cases thousands.

If a lord of only one manor was besieged in his only castle, the besiegers might do enough damage to his peasants and his property to ruin him financially.

The original question asks about a ruler, and that seems more important than the lord of only one manor. If "ruler" means an important feudal ruler like a count, Duke, Margrave, etc., there were only a few hundred or a few thousand of them at any one time in medieval Europe, so an average one might have at least tens of castles and at least hundreds of manors in the territory he ruled, though most would be owned by his subordinate lords.

And if:

have there been rulers who outlasted a siege but were left with only themselves and the inhabitants of their castle to rule over?

refers to kings, there were only about twenty or fewer kingdoms at a time in castle building parts of Europe from 1000 to 1500 AD, so the average kingdom included hundreds and thousands of castles and manors. So if invaders besieged a king in a castle and slaughtered all the peasants in a few nearby manors, the King would likely have the vast majority of his tax paying subjects left after the invaders gave up.


I suppose you are asking about people who lived in the immediate vicinity and who were subjects of the castle owners. Normally they would be admitted and hide in the castle, with their movable belongings. (After all, these people were providing income for the castle owner). The villages around the castle were normally burned by the besieger, or by the castle owner (to prevent the besieger from using them). Those who did not hide in the castle would either escape and hide somewhere, or stay. Those who stay were not necessarily killed, instead they could be forced to work for the besieger, or just taxed.

For example, Mongols, in their many sieges forced the local population not only to work but also to fight for them, take part in the siege. Others could be captured and enslaved. But in general their policy was to kill those inside the castle who resisted when the castle was taken, rather than villagers outside. Villagers can be robbed, taxed or otherwise exploited, why to kill them?

A ruler who survived a siege would certainly be deprived at least of some of his subjects.

I mean all kinds of things happened. Your question is too general.

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