Tag Archives: Medieval history

Hastings: The Battle that Changed the Western Europe

Hastings: The Battle that Changed the Western Europe


The year 1066 is the most celebrated in English history. To every English schoolchild it evokes a Saxon hero, Harold, and a French villain, William, who met and fought at the battle of Hastings. The outcome was decided by an arrow in Harold’s eye. But history is seldom as commonly related. Harold, son of Godwin, was no Saxon and had no claim to the throne beyond Edward’s deathbed blessing. William was no Frenchman but descended from the Norse warrior Rollo, granted Normandy by the French king Charles the Simple in 911. He too had no claim beyond Edward’s apparent, but earlier, blessing. Both Harold and William were of the direct Viking descent.

A Day in Shakespeare’s London

A Day in Shakespeare’s London

If you can’t settle to sleep as usual and find yourself up before the break of day, you may care to venture outside the city where the dust on the roads is already been stirred up by country higglers, burdened with baskets of eggs, herbs, flowers, butter and beans. As they pass by, the unlicensed beggars from the hedgerows are gathering their tatters and trying to bear themselves like honest men as they think how to slip through the city gates, past weary watchmen, to ply their trade on the streets of the capital.

Medieval horse armour

Medieval horse armour

Such investments needed to be protected, and it is unsurprising that there should be a development in horse armour that parallels that of armour for the knight. It was by no means a total innovation; the late Roman army had used horses wholly covered in mail or lamellar armour for the catapbracti (literally ‘completely enclosed’) or klibanophoroi (meaning ‘camp oven’; a humorous reference to how quickly these fully armoured men and horses would heat up!), both of which were adopted from their Sassanid Persian neighbours who spanned the Middle East between second and seventh centuries. Whilst such armour continued to be used in small numbers in the Byzantine Empire, this practice had died out in Western Europe long before.

The entertainment in Tudor England

The entertainment in Tudor England

Apart from eating and drinking (and smoking), the Tudors were enthusiastic merrymakers: they liked to entertain and to be entertained. Henry VIII loved not only sport and food, but also music. He played several instruments, including bagpipes, recorders and flutes, and the virginals. His Chapel Royal included dozens of musicians, many of whom used to accompany him wherever he went.  Church music was generally written to be sung unaccompanied, but Henry liked to have trombones to accompany the plainsong of the choir.

Organised crime in Medieval England

Organised crime in Medieval England

A large sum of money – £4,000 in gold, to be precise – is due to be transferred from London to the king at Leicester, a distance of ninety miles. How many men do you think will be guarding it? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred? You might be surprised to hear that this massive treasure is to be guarded by just five archers. Your thoughts on this might not differ greatly from those of many criminals in England at the time.