Medieval Period – 1000 years of Intriguing History!

The Medieval period began in the 5th century to the late 15th century. It started with the downfall of the Western Roman Empire and fused into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Medieval period is divided into the Early, High and Late Middle Ages. This period was characterised by depopulation, invasions and movement of people which began in the Late Antiquity and proceeded to the Early Middle Ages.

Why Was Feudalism Needed?

Learn about feudalism on the feudal system of Medieval times

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Dark Ages *Fall of Rome

The Dark Ages refers to the early medieval period in western Europe. This was the period between c.476 and c.800 when the Roman empire was collapsing and there was no Roman emperor in the west.

fall of rome 2

However, some scholars refer to this period to be between c.500 and c.1000, which is associated with frequent fighting and practically desertion of urban life.

Currently, it is not often used by historians due to the value judgment it entails. though it is believed to derive its meaning from the fact that not so much was known about that period, and that it was a period of barbarity and intellectual darkness.

Dark Ages History

Anglo Saxon Period

The Anglo-Saxon medieval period is associated with the Anglo-Saxons who migrated to England before and after the fall of Rome.

They include Germanic tribes who migrated from continental Europe, as well as indigenous British groups who adopted aspects of Anglo-Saxon language and culture.

Anglo Saxon Timeline

The Anglo-Saxon era represents the period of British history between c.450 and 1066 the period before the Ango-Saxons were conquered by the Normans and the Anglo-Saxon nobility was replaced with Norman nobility.

Anglo Saxon Warfare

Anglo Saxon Warfare

The achievements of the Anglo Saxons are profound, they created the formation of the English nation, with most of the features that still survive today, represented in language and literature, they restored Christianity, created a regional government of the shires, and the establishment of important laws and charters.

Anglo Saxons *Rise of Mercia

The Kingdom of Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarch. The name was a result of altering the old English word Myrce or Mierce to Latin, which meant the border people.

The Mercia kingdom was located in the valley of the River Trend, in the region currently known as the English Midlands.

Anglo Saxon Settlements Map

Anglo Saxon settlements in England in the early period of 400-500

Its capital was Tamworth, which was the headquarters of the Mercian kings from around AD 584 this was after king Creoda built a fortress surrounding the town.

Mercia dominated England for 300 years, from AD 600 to 900.

This was a result of concurring five of the other six kingdoms of the Heptarchy

  • Kent
  • Wessex
  • East Anglia
  • Sussex
  • Essex

This period is referred to as the Mercian Supremacy.

Viking Abroad Period c.800 – c.1100

Vikings were Germanic Norse seafarers, who spoke the Old Norse language, they were known for raiding and trading from their Scandinavian region across central and northern Europe, as well as European Russia from the late 8th century to the 11th century.

Viking Longboats viking raids with sail 1

The Viking medieval period was also commonly extended in modern English to the occupants of Viking home communities.

viking gods 1

This time was also commonly referred to as the Viking Age. Viking activities extended to North Africa, the Mediterranean littoral, Central Asia, and the Middle East, this was facilitated by advanced sailing skills that they had perfected.

Their activities led to extended periods of exploration, settlement, and expansion of their communities.

Viking Longboats viking raids near land 2

The Danes ruled a large part of Northern and Eastern England from the 9th to the 11th-century until the Normans conquered these areas, this was known as Danelaw.

The Normans were in fact also descendants of the Vikings.

Norman Conquest Ruled *c. 1066 – 1154

The Norman conquest of England which refers to the invasion of England by the Norman, French, and Breton soldiers was led by Duke William of Normandy widely known as William the Conqueror.

King William The Conqueror Medieval KIngs

William the Conqueror

William’s claim to the English throne as a result of his family ties with the Anglo-Saxon King Edward.

King Edward was childless which encouraged Williams to claim that he was fit for the throne. In January 1066, Edward died and was succeeded by Harold Godwinson who was his brother-in-law.

Bayeux Tapestry - Scene 57 - Death of KIng Harold

The Norwegian king Harald Hardrada attacked England at the ‘Battle of Fulford’ in September 1066 and was victorious, however, Harold later defeated and killed him at the ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’.

Battle of Hastings

Battle of Hastings

Within days after Harold’s victory, William arrived in Southern England. Harold marched to confront William’s army at the town of Battle in East Sussex in October 1066 in what became known as ‘the Battle of Hastings.

Harold the Anglo-Saxon king was defeated and killed in the engagement. This led to a period of dominant Norman rule and a period of extensive castle building by the Norman Nobility.

William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in 1066 on Christmas day.

William The Conqueror Medieval Kings Norman King Portrait Painting

Norman Castles Tower of London

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 was a family that was initially from the former French county of Anjou, they held the English throne from 1154 after the succession of Henry II to 1485 after the death of Richard III.

During the Plantagenet Period England was changed from a colony that was often ruled from abroad and considered to be of lesser significance among European monarchies, into a complex, independent, and politically engaged kingdom.

Famous Plantagenet Kings

  • Henry III (1216-1272)
  • Edward I ‘Longshanks’ ( 1272-1307)
  • Edward II ( 1307-1327)
  • Edward III ( 1327-1377
  • Richard II ( 1377-1399)

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

The Crusades

The Crusades was a sequence of Holy Wars propelled by the Christian nations in Europe the wars were against Muslims, particularly the Saracens.

The Crusades began in 1095 when Pope Claremont gave a sermon about the First Crusade during the meeting of the Council of Clermont.

First Crusades Baldwin of Boulogne entering Edessa 1098

There were nine crusades, however, the first four crusades are considered the most important, and very little reference was made to the other crusades, except for the children’s crusade which led to the eventual decline of the crusades.

Europe was engaged in constant warfare for two hundred years due to the medieval crusades.

  1. 1st Crusade – Led to the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
  2. 2nd Crusade – During this period the religious military orders (the Templars and the Hospitallers) were formed
  3. 3rd Crusade – Resulted in the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin.
  4. 4th Crusade – The crusaders seized Constantinople instead of Jerusalem.

Battle of Hattin 1187 Knights Templar in the Crusades

Medieval Warm Period

The Medieval Warm Period also referred to as the Medieval Climatic Anomaly or Medieval Climate Optimum, was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, it was related to other climatic events at that time in different parts of the world including China.

It occurred from c. 950 to 1250. It was seceded by a cooler period termed the little ice age.