Early Kings commonly ruled smaller territories and were not absolute rulers Read more about the Early Medieval Kings >>
Discover the most famous Kings of Medieval History such as William the Conqueror... Read more about the Famous Medieval Kings >>
Discover how the Norman conquerors of England removed the old class system and introduced feudalism Read more about the Norman Kings >>
Famous Plantagenet Kings such as Richard the Lionheart and Henry II made their mark on medieval history. Read more about the Plantagenet Kings >>
Top 10 Kings of Medieval Times such as Richard I of England *Alfred the Great *William the Conqueror Read more about the Top 10 Medieval Kings >>
Medieval England was ruled by several monarchs and dynasties. Some kings were popular and reigned with immense success. Others would go down in history for their notorious failures. Here is a look at some of the most notable medieval kings of England.
Richard the Lionheart was one of the most iconic monarchs of medieval England. Also known as Richard I, his in-person rule over England spanned only six months. He fought wars in distant lands through most of his reign. He is most notably known for a leading role in the Third Crusade.
During the Third Crusade, Richard fought the forces of the Muslim commander, Sultan Saladin. He achieved success in several of his engagements and earned a reputation for being a fearless warrior and an able commander. Although he couldn’t bag a decisive victory against Saladin, his exploits enabled him to secure a favorable truce with the Sultan.
After his eventful return from the Crusade, Richard went to mainland Europe to secure English holdings in Normandy and neighboring regions. He died of a wound sustained during a siege in 1199.
William the Conqueror famously led the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It effectively ended Anglo-Saxon rule in England. Originally born and raised in Normandy, William laid claim to the English throne. In the Battle of Hastings, William and his forces decisively routed the Anglo-Saxon army and killed the king.
William would go on to establish an elaborate system of castles. This system enabled him to secure a tight grip over England and install his loyal administration in place. His reign marked a new era in the history of England. It also made England one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe.
King John was the younger brother of Richard the Lionheart. On his way back from the Crusades, Richard was imprisoned in Germany. King John tried to usurp the royal seat in Richard’s absence. His efforts failed, and he became an unpopular figure among the masses and nobles alike.
He was crowned the king after Richard’s death in 1199. However, he proved a poor ruler. His continued warring in France forced him to levy heavier taxes on nobles and the masses. This created discontent against him. At the same time, his war efforts failed, and he lost vast English territories in northern France.
This ultimately led to a civil war in which John’s forces were defeated. He signed a peace treaty with the rebel barons. It became known as the Magna Carta, a founding document of the legal system in England.
Henry VIII was the most iconic ruler of the Tudor dynasty. He ascended the throne after the death of his father, Henry VII. His reign would radically change England for good.
Henry VIII is notoriously known for his six marriages. He beheaded two of his wives over charges of infidelity. When his first marriage didn’t result in a male heir, he sought to divorce his wife. The Pope refused to allow that upon which Henry VIII sought a break from the Papacy. This led England to a more independent religious policy, laying the foundations for a Protestant England.
During his time, trade, arts, and other areas greatly flourished. He enjoyed good popularity among the masses, although he became paranoid towards his last years.
Edward IV was a notable monarch of England during the time of the ‘War of the Roses.’ This was a feud between two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty, both laying claim to the English throne. Edward IV came from the Yorkist branch of the dynasty.
He was able to defeat the reigning king Henry VI and became king himself in 1461. However, he then married a woman from the Lancastrian branch which alienated his most important allies. After suffering defeats and setbacks, Edward IV fled England in 1470 to save his life. He later returned in 1471, crushed all enemies, and went on to resume his rule of England.
Richard III was the last king of the House of York. His defeat and death at the hands of the Lancastrian Henry VII marked the end of the ‘War of the Roses.’ Richard was the brother of King Edward IV. After Edward died in 1483, he was made the Lord Protector of the Realm. However, he became king himself and imprisoned the sons of Edward IV.
Richard III’s reign was brief as Henry Tudor launched an invasion of England in 1485. The invasion culminated in the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard III was killed. Henry Tudor then became the king of England as Henry VII, laying the foundations of the Tudor dynasty.
Henry VII was the first king of the Tudor dynasty. He defeated and killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This victory brought an end to the ‘War of the Roses’ between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions.
Henry’s reign brought long-sought stability and peace to England. He was able to increase the revenues of the government, improve the wool industry, and maintain peaceful alliances with other European nations. He also married Elizabeth of York, which helped him put an end to the civil war within England.
Edward I was known for unifying the British Isles and cementing the union of Wales with other English territories. He extensively warred in Wales and Scotland, securing important victories in both regions. His Welsh victories helped him make the region a permanent part of England. However, his victories in Scotland weren’t as fruitful.
Known as ‘Longshanks’ for being exceptionally tall, Edward I also ushered in administrative and legal forms in England. These reforms helped him stem financial corruption, improve the tax collection system, and fund his war efforts. However, Edward I was notorious for the persecution of the Jewish population during his reign.
In Medieval Europe, the king was the highest-ranking person as stipulated by the rules of the feudal system *Feudalism *The Greatest Lords in Europe
Alfred the Great was King of the Anglo Saxons from around the year c.886. Alfred the Great is considered by some historians to be the first true king of England as he was able to unify large parts of the country.
However many historians believe that it was actually ‘Edward the Elder’s son ‘Æthelstan‘ c.894 – 939 that was the first true king of England as he was able to unify parts of the country still controlled by the Danes and under Danelaw *Danelagh.
A Prince would become a king, usually, it was the eldest male who inherited the crown, however, there were many times in history when Princes of a very young age became King due to circumstance.
The education of a medieval prince usually started with tutors. Young boys from noble and royal families learned the fundamentals of Latin and Liberal Arts. Young kings were also taught about court life, manners, and other teachings, including military tactics and combat techniques.
A future king’s education included games being played at an early age, allowing them to learn how to use a sword, ride, joust, and fight. Some young kings would go hunting and hawking for royal pursuits. Studying the Bible as well as studying their history, native language and other languages also became part of a medieval kings education.
The medieval Princes’ education was strict and rigid. Lessons started at sunrise and ended at sunset. Spring months education lasted longer than winter months as they could spend more time studying during the spring or summer.
Castles were built as a means of protection for the king. A Medieval king’s life in a castle was mostly comfortable. Kings had their own private chambers in the Castle Keep. Most castles had great halls where the medieval king used to hold events in the castle such as celebrations, feasts, banquets, and meetings.
Medieval King’s activities at the castle included attending to business and political matters concerning him and his people. Some kings summoned lords to participate in these activities as well.
Part of the medieval king’s life in a castle is a court. This was a term used to describe the kings household and the council. Kings sought advice from the wise men of his court and these men consisted mostly of barons, lords, bishops, members of the church, and sometimes, relatives.
Medieval kings did not really stay in castles all the time. A common pastime for kings and noblemen was hunting. Other forms of entertainment were also embraced.
Board games were a common and essential part of medieval kings’ life in castles to help fight boredom. Musicians, and entertainers such as jugglers were also hired and invited to perform at the kings court.
The kitchen was one of the most important parts of the castle. Whenever the king was around, banquets were usually held. The food of a medieval king was almost always extravagant. Most of the menus for banquets were very extensive. More often than not, social etiquette had an influence on the choice of food prepared during the feast.
Good food was always part of each feast. This included colored jellies, different kinds of meat and livestock, swans, and peacocks. A variety of dishes were also served to the kings and noblemen. The food for a medieval king was mostly meat or fish and was served with spicy sauces and spices that were very popular during the medieval era.