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A castle is a type of
fortified A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, w ...

fortified
structure built during the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
predominantly by the
nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word ''castle'', but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a
palace A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to eit ...

palace
, which is not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for royalty or nobility; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities among these types of construction. Usage of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as
hill fort A hillfort is a type of earthwork used as a fortified A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically ...
s and country houses. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built, they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as
curtain wall Curtain wall may refer to: * Curtain wall (architecture), the outer skin of a modern building * Curtain wall (fortification), the outer wall of a castle or defensive wall between two bastions Medieval defences Masonry