In Medieval Europe, what would happen to children if their parents were executed for crime?

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They were moved into a foundling home or orphanage, if some citizen cared. Before orphaned kids were usually brought into slavery, but with the middle ages starting from Italy this custom was brought north, esp. in christian societies. The first in the north was in Köln 1341, it spread from there. first for foundlings, then for orphans.


Additional question: Couldn’t the eldest son become the head of the household and look after the others? Would there be a cutoff age for that where they wouldn’t be taken as foundlings? If I had to guess I’d say around 14?


First and foremost, medieval Europeans did not view autism medically. At best, it was a quirk in someone’s personality and at worst it was an affliction of the devil. (Before you crucify me, I have a Masters in late antiquity and early medieval history and I have a child on the autism spectrum). Kids with down syndrome went untreated and often died young. This does explain why the condition went unresearched until the 19th and 20th century. But parents weren’t monsters, stories of exposing their disabled kids to the elements to die can only be found in in extreme cases during a war or famine. Most simply died in childhood, which was commonplace in general. Now back to your question; what happened if the parents died? Well, it depends on the status of the parents. For Kings, dukes and Barons, if the child was the heir, a minority was established and a regent named to rule until the child came of age. For lesser nobles, a member of the household, like an uncle or cousin would act as regent. Needless to say many children “went missing” or “died mysteriously” under these conditions. On some occasions, a chamberlain could also be named as regent. For peasants the story was a bit different. The church did operate orphanages as well as hospitals that did care for orphaned children, many of whom later would become members of the clergy or would work for the church as laborers or craftsmen. In more remote communities, the children would sometimes be adopted by neighbors and cared for until age 12, when they were married off, entered into an apprenticeship or sent to work the fields. Child morality was common and if someone could “adopt” an orphan, it would be a benefit to the family. As mentioned before, only on rare occasions were children left to die. Usually during war, famine, or later during the black death. It was only during the 16th and 17th century during the reformation and enclosure movement do we see hordes of orphans wandering the streets of London and Paris.


Did women actually get executed for practicing witchcraft during the middle ages? Because I thought this whole witch thing only came in fashion at the end of the 15th century. I’m sorry, I’m not answering your question, but this question just popped up in my head and I thought I might as well ask it


Slavery of christians and selling christian to non christians was technically banned in Europe at that time. The pages and servants of kings were of noble blood, not plebeians. If you had no other member of family to take care of you (ie. older sibling, aunt/uncle etc), you could end up in a orphanage (if it existed), a monastery, or if you were lucky some good soul might pick you up. Otherwise a life of a beggar/prostitution it is for you. This of course only applies to town dwellers/bourgeoisie, village life was different.