Category Archives: MEDIEVAL HISTORY

William Marshal: The archetypal knight

William Marshal: The archetypal knight


A younger son of a minor nobleman who became a notable tourneyer and warrior, a comrade to princes and kings, a powerful landowner and, ultimately, the regent of England and preserver of the Plantagenet dynasty, William Marshal’s career perhaps best typifies the breadth of the world of the knight.

Becoming a knight

Becoming a knight

The three main strands of the chivalric ethos – warrior, courtier and Christian – might throw up some contradictions, but on the whole the knight was able to ignore these, adapting courtly behaviour and Christian teaching to fit with the martial ethic.

Mail-order queen

Mail-order queen

Well aware of this increase in realism, Henry VIII decided to choose his fourth wife from her portrait. Traditionally, dynastic marriages were arranged between (often teenage or even pre-teen) parties who may never even have seen one another before the ceremony – they were pawns in power plays, and personal preference did not have much to do with it. Henry, however, in middle age, felt free to be choosy; he sent an artist to paint pictures of Europe’s most eligible young ladies.

The death of King Edward VI of England

The death of King Edward VI of England

On 6th February 1553, Mary rode to court to see Edward who was still ill. By March, some observers believed that he was dying. It was possibly about this time that he drafted his ‘device for the succession’, which proposed arrangements that ran counter to Henry VIII’s 1544 Act of Succession. On 11th April, he left London by barge for Greenwich.

Guelphs and Ghibellines

Guelphs and Ghibellines

Aristocratic factionalism, popular rebellions and the relationship between Italian and German culture all combined to ensure the long-term use of the terms ‘Guelph’ and ‘Ghibelline’. Welf, the family name of Bavaria’s dukes, and Waiblingen, the Staufer family’s castle in Swabia, may have been used as rallying cries during the Battle of Weinsberg (1140) fought during the German civil war that broke out when these two great dynasties competed for the imperial title.