posted 08-27-2001 07:42 AM
That is difficult to answer. There are many factors which would influence this, such as the relative status of the nobleman and the peasant, the time period, local laws and so on.
A peasant could be a slave, a freeman with own land or working the lords land. Low ranking knights are said to have worked on the lords land also. I'm not too sure what happened to very poor noblemen, they must have existed.
Some generalizations can be made however.
-Nobles usually had land, including hunting grounds on which the peasants could not hunt. It is well known that meat was a common food for the nobles, whereas the peasants generally could not hunt and relied on growing meat such as chickens, sheep etc.
-The nobles, generally being much wealthier than the peasants, could afford bigger and/or better housing, with more furniture.
-Horses were expensive, so few peasants had them, but the nobles could ride everywhere on horseback.
-Nobles often married who they had to, for reasons of wealth and position. Peasants were probably more free to choose.
-During war a noble would go into battle well trained and with good armour, whereas peasant levies were less well trained, if at all, and had inferior weapons and little or no armour.
-Nobles often had servants and therfore did not need to do many day to day chores such as cooking, cleaning, working the fields, tending animals or repairing buildings etc.
-Many nobles would have spent their time dealing with affairs to do with land, war, money and controlling their interests in the area, including maintaining their priveledged position in society.
Contrasting a noble and a peasant of the middle ages is a bit like contrasting a CEO and a factory worker of today.
One fact that could console the peasants is that the nobles often bad teeth due to their ability to afford sweet foods, whereas the peasants could not afford such luxury but instead had very healthy teeth, better that most people today.
I'm sure there are plenty more differences, hopefully others will add to my contribution.