Tag Archives: England

Matilda: A Queen in King’s World

Matilda: A Queen in King’s World


Power was inherently and inescapably male in the Middle Ages. The images displayed on the Great Seal of England encapsulated expectations of a medieval monarch: on one side the king sat in state to administer justice to his people, a sceptre in his hand; on the other he rode a towering warhorse with his sword unsheathed, ready to defend his kingdom. But a woman couldn’t sit as a judge or lead an army into battle. A woman, therefore, could not rule.

The Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede

Bede was a Northumbrian, born in 673 on the lands of the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. At the age of seven, his parents sent him to St Peter’s to begin his education. And there he remained, first as student and then as master, either at Wearmouth or at the twin monastery of St Paul at Jarrow on the river Tyne, till his death in 735 at the then ripe age of 62. 

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.

Oldest children rarely succeed

Oldest children rarely succeed

Monarchy is very much a family business. According to the law of primogeniture, the eldest son should follow his father on to the throne. The statistics are surprising, however. I include some forgotten figures among the forty-eight who have been proclaimed King or Queen of England.

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.