Medieval England

During the Roman Empire, England was one of the Roman Empire's provinces. However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire, England grew weak and the economy collapsed.

For many following centuries, Germanic tribes kept migrating into England which led to settlements and small kingdoms being formed. During this period, the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy emerged.

During the 8th and 9th centuries, England had to withstand many fierce attacks from the Vikings.

The Norman conquest of England came in the 11th century '1066' which radically reshaped the aristocratic hierarchy and economy of the country.

History of Henry VIII

Henry VIII was the son of the first Tudor monarch Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth of York Read more about the History of Henry VIII >>

King Henry II

King Henry II Portrait Image

Henry II reigned during the Plantagenet Period. King Henry II was also called Henry FitzEmpress. Read more about the King Henry II >>

What is Feudalism?

Medieval Knight and The Feudal system

Understanding Feudalism and the feudal system of Medieval times Read more about the What is Feudalism? >>

Medieval England Timeline

Fall of Rome *476

The history of medieval England began with the collapse of the Roman Empire towards the end of the 4th century. From the 5th century onward, Germanic tribes started migrating to England.

fall of rome

Anglo Saxon Rule c. 700 – 1066

By the 7th century, an Anglo-Saxon aristocratic class had come into being, numerous kingdoms in England were created and Christianity was accepted by the Anglo-Saxons, leading to its vast influence all over England.

Anglo Saxon Timeline

Viking Raids c. 800 Onward

Viking attacks ravaged England in the 8th and 9th centuries followed by Danish invasions in the 11th century.

Viking Longboats viking raids with sail 1

Vikings Conquer England for Brief Period before Norman Invasion in 1066 *Danelaw

Norman Conquest of England *Battle of Hastings 1066

In 1066, the Norman invasion of England put William the Conqueror on the English throne and the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy was effectively replaced by Norman-French nobility which also introduced feudalism to Medieval England.

Norman Conquest of England

Over the 12th and 13th centuries, England prospered economically despite repeated fights between the deposed Anglo-Saxons and the Norman-French rulers.

Anglo Saxon Wars

The House of Plantagenet 1154 – 1485 (Cadet Branches House of Lancaster 1399 – 1461 * House of York 1461 – 1485)

The Plantagenets were one of the richest and most influential families in the whole of Europe during the Middle Ages. They ruled most of France and all of England from 1154 to 1485.

Plantagenent 1

The House of Plantagenet ruled England after the reign of the Normans from 1154, their reign came to an end at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 in which the Yorkist king Richard III was killed, they were succeeded by the Tudor Dynasty.

Cadet Branches House of Lancaster 1399 – 1461 * House of York 1461 – 1485

  • From 1399 – 1461 a cadet breakaway branch of the Royal house of Planetagenent ruled England called the House of Lancaster. (Red Rose)
  • From 1461 – 1485 another breakaway cadet branch of the Royal house of Plantagents was formed called the House of York. (White Rose)
Wars of the roses emblems

White Rose York – Red Rose lancaster

The House of York and Lancaster became rivals and became involved in a power struggle with one another in the remaining years of plantagenent rule.

What Does Cadet Branch Mean?

This term is used to describe a rulers younger sons who were called (cadets) So basically these breakaway family members started a family fued over control of the plantagenent kingdom.

Who were the Plantagenets?

The Plantagenents were a very powerful family from the Anjou region of France.

Who was the First Plantagenet King?

Henry II was the First Plantagenet King on the English throne from 1154

KIng Henry II Platagenet King

King Henry II *First Plantagenet King

Who was the Last Plantagenet King?

Richard III was the last Plantagenet king (House of York) – he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth.

King Richard III of England

Richard III *Last Plantagenet King

Where The Plantagenets Good Rulers?

The Plantagenents were very powerful rulers and there were many major events during their rule, they had good and bad points during their 331 year reign.

Plantagenet Rule *Good

  • Creation and signing of the Magna Carta one the the most important documents in English history
  • Introduced a sophisticated justice system
  • Creation of a distinct English national identity
  • Creation of the English language as the primary language
Signing Magna Carta

King John Signs the Magna Carta

Plantagenet Rule *Bad

  • The Plantagenets Started the 100 years war with France
  • Plantagenets were defeated in the Hundred Years’ war with France
  • During their reign there were economic and political problems that led to social unrest and many Revolts
  • High taxation was introduced throughout the Kingdom
  • Freedom was restricted during their reign *This led to the creation of the Magna Carta

End of the Plantagenet Rule

The warring factions of the Plantagenet Cadet brances of the House of York and Lancaster for overall control led to a 10 year war called the War of the Roses in which there were many battles across England.

Why was it called the War of the Roses?

The House of York was represented by a white rose the House of Lancaster a red rose, this led to the term ‘war of the Roses’.


Battle of Tewkesbury War of the Roses

Who Won the War of the Roses

The War of the Roses led to the destruction of both houses and the plantagenent dyynasty, the last plantagenet ruler Richard III was killed during the battle of Bosworth in 1485.

What happened Next?

The end of the Plantagenet dynasty created a new dysnasty called the Tudors Henry VII (January 1457 – 1509) was King of England and Lord of Ireland and the first King of the Tudor Dynasty, his reign lasted from 1485 until his death in 1509.

Henry Tudor

First Tudor monarch –  Henry VII became King in 1485

The Tudors centralised their power which gave them more control, the English Renaissance followed, this was the creation of early modern Britain.

So what happened to the Plantagenets?

In reality the same families ruled but with more control as Henry VII the first Tudor King was from the House of Lancaster, he later married Elizabeth of York.

Elizabeth of York Medieval Queens

Elizabeth of York

Life in Medieval England

Life in medieval England centered around villages and later towns and cities became more prosperous and popular. Towns were few, however, and more than 90% of the populace lived in the countryside.

Agriculture was the backbone of countryside life and the yield was poor, so huge areas of land had to be cultivated.

Medieval Farming Medieval Fields 3 Field System

The only way to increase yield was to cultivate more land, which was done by removing forests and turning vast swathes of rough land into arable areas. Towns primarily served as commercial centers for agricultural produce.

Medieval French Towns Colmar

Medieval England *Feudalism

Feudalism in England began as a prevalent social hierarchical model with the Norman invasion and the in-statement of Norman-French nobility.

Under feudalism, slavery was abolished in most parts of England and replaced mostly with bonded laborers called serfs.

Medieval Vassals postion in the Feudal system

Feudal System

The king granted lands to noble who paid homage and promised loyalty. These nobles further gave land to landowners who, in turn, gave the land to the peasants.

Peasants had to provide labor in return for holding land. Peasants also paid 10% of their produce to the parish.

Reeve and Serfs - Medieval Farming

Medieval Reeve watching Serfs at work

Castles in England

Castles began to be constructed in England during the 1050s. When the Norman conquerors invaded England in 1066, there was a need for kings to guard their territories.

This led to the construction of many new castles during the 11th century. Initial castles constructed during this time were of the motte (mound of earth in the middle) and bailey (surrounding ring) and ring work category.

motte bailey wooden castles

These structures were usually built on top of old ancient roman ruins which provided a starting point for the castles.

Motte Bailey Medieval Castle

By the 12th century, Norman nobility began building castles to look over its vast estates, to guard itself against rivals, and often to serve as garrisons.

Normans in Normandy Flag of Normandy

Norman Flag

Royal castles were usually built near major towns. Among the notable castles built in medieval England are the Tower of London, Warwick Castle, Dover Castle, Alnwick Castle, Hedingham Castle, Orford Castle, and Berkley Castle.

Tower of London

Tower of London

English Knights

In medieval England, knights commonly came below nobility such as lords, although knights could be lords themselves in the feudal hierarchy.

Knights were selected by the lords, trained under their supervision, and eventually fought alongside the lords. By the 12th century, tournaments were being held for competitions between knights. In such tournaments, jousting contests were popular.

medieval knight ready for jousting tournament

Medieval England *Kings & Queens

From the 9th century to the Norman invasion in the 11th century, the kingship of England shifted between the House of Wessex, marked by Anglo-Saxon kings, and the House of Denmark, which started contesting Kingship successfully in intermittent periods at the beginning of the 11th century.

Medieval Housecarls in battle

Battle of Hastings

In the 11th century, William The Conqueror led a Norman invasion of England and became King. After him, both his sons William II and Henry I became kings, one after the other. Henry I was followed by Stephen of the House of Blois.

Medieval King William the Conqueror

William The Conqueror Family Tree

William The Conqueror Family Tree

Medieval England *Peasants & Slaves

Slavery in medieval England was abolished after the Norman invasion in 1066. However, the practice lingered on in the North of the country where it came to an end much later. Meanwhile, slaves were replaced by bonded labourers called serfs.

Serfdom - medieval Serfs


These ultimately led to a peasant class, no longer bonded but free and holding land, but still obliged to pay their respective lord with labour and tax.

Peasants had to pay taxes to the Church as well. This tax equated to 10% of the produce made and was called a tithe. Most peasants lived in cruck houses.

Serfs and Serfdom

Clothing of Medieval People

The dress of the male Anglo-Saxons in the early medieval period comprised of tunic, cloak, trousers, and leggings. Shoes made of leather were used for the feet. By the 11th century, cloaks had grown shorter and flat round caps gained traction among the males.

The Anglo Saxon People

In the same century, short boots were introduced. In the 12th century, the male tunic came to be worn with a skirt and all classes began wearing boots or shoes. In the 13th century, linen braies were worn which were eventually shortened to become drawers.

Hoods were also worn during the later medieval period. Female dress during the early medieval period comprised of a long, loose dress that was fastened using brooches. A kind of shift was used as underclothes.

medieval clothes

Changes occurred in the later medieval period when dresses became tighter with lower necklines. Corsets, surcoats, and skirts became a part of the dress. Other dressing items included scarves and bonnets.

Medieval Queen Medieval head

Music & Songs in Medieval England

Medieval music in England comprised both ecclesiastical music and secular music. Ecclesiastical music shifted from plainchant to Celtic chant in the 8th century and into Gregorian chant in the 11th century. Other religious music included votive antiphons.

Medieval Music calligraphy parchment scores

Non-religious tradition in England has very early origins and songs were often sung at feasts. The types of music which existed in medieval England include rotas, carols, and ballads.

Medieval Minstrels Music

Medieval Minstrels Musician

Medieval England Customs

Marriage customs in England were different from Europe at large in that there was no tradition of marrying adolescents. The marrying age in medieval England varied between the late teens and the twenties, depending upon the economic circumstances.

In aristocratic customs, the number of days offered as labor to the landowner by peasants depended upon local customs.

Gothic Architecture

Medieval England Summary

Medieval England assimilated the influences of a Roman legacy, Germanic tribalism through Anglo-Saxons, Christianity, and Norman culture.

Slavery came to be abolished with the beginning of feudalism and significant economic growth took place between the Norman invasion of the 11th century and the Black Plague and Great Famine in the 14th century.

Medieval England

800px thumbnail

Map of medieval England source Wikipedia

Read More about Medieval Europe

Medieval England Main Events

In the 14th century, the Black Death and widespread famine eliminated half of England’s population and caused social unrest and disorder.

The Black Plague and Rats

The Black Death *Rats

This Article is Being Updated and is not Yet Completed – thank you for your patience