King John – the Tyrannical Ruler


King John of England

King John was the fourth and youngest legitimate son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was born on Christmas Eve 1167 at Beaumont Palace in Oxford, and was soon moved to the Abbey of Fontevrault in Anjou, to lead a life in the church. Even at this young age, John was petulant, unstable, spoilt and cruel. His red hair matched his red-faced fury, when he flew into a classic Plantagenet rage.

King John was known as Lackland, which was a nick-name jokingly given to him by his father. John did not receive any lands in his inheritance, which fuelled the nick-name. However, he did receive the title Lord of Ireland, in 1177. This epithet would later be reinforced during his reign, as King John would lose all his father’s lands in France.

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The Last Days of King John

King John died on October 18 in 1216. Here’s my account of his final days, taken from my recent book.
[For context: John was at this point engaged in a desperate war against his own barons, and their ally, Louis, the son of the king of France, who had invaded England earlier in the year.]

Precisely what John’s next move would have been is uncertain. The rebels who had been pursuing him had given up the chase after his flight from Cambridge and gone to join Louis, who was still besieging Dover. Although the king was heading south, he appears to have been planning a northern campaign. On 9 October he left Lincolnshire and went to King’s Lynn in Norfolk, then one of the most prosperous ports in England, to arrange for supplies to be sent to several of his northern castles.

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From Dog Bites to Amputations: 14th century Surgery

Henri de Mondeville (c. 1260 – 1316) was the surgeon to two kings of France – Philip IV and Louis X. In 1312 he wrote Cyrurgia (Surgery), one of the first works of its kind from the Middle Ages. Based on his years of training, in both France and Italy, this work offers a wide scope of medical treatments, ranging from brain surgery to dog bites. Here are a few sections from the Cyrurgia.

15th century copy of Henri de Mondevilles Chirurgia

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Vegetables in the Middle Ages

Vegetables: A Biography, by Evelyne Bloch-Dano, offer the stories of eleven different vegetables – artichokes, beans, chard, cabbage, cardoons, carrots, chili peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, peas, pumpkins, and tomatoes – offering tidbits from science and agriculture to history, culture, and, of course, cooking. Here are a few excerpts from the book that detail their history during the Middle Ages:

Carrot farming in the Tacuinum sanitatis

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Five Ways to get Noticed by Historians

Of the millions of people who’ve lived on Earth, we know barely a fraction of their names. Even in periods in which thorough records were kept, time, the elements, and human actions have eroded our stockpile of documents, leaving us with just a few remembered names from the past. There are a few things that medieval people did that increased their odds of their names surviving, and they happen to be things moderns can do if they want to be remembered, too.

Charles VII meets Joan of Arc

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Why Did Elizabeth Woodville Leave Sanctuary?

On March 1, 1484, Richard III swore an extraordinary oath. In front of “lords spiritual and temporal” and the mayor and aldermen of London, he promised that if Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters came out of sanctuary at Westminster, he would see that they were in surety of their lives, that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or elsewhere, that the girls would be married to “gentlemen born” and given marriage portions, and that Elizabeth would be given an annuity of seven hundred marks a year. Elizabeth would be attended by John Nesfield, one of Richard’s squires.

Elizabeth accepted the offer, much to the shock of some historians. Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, writing from the comfort of his study in mid-twentieth-century America, thunders, “That she came to terms with the man who had bastardized and deposed the Princes, driven her son the Marquess into exile, and executed her other son Grey and her brother Rivers is difficult enough to understand; but that she came to terms knowing also that he had murdered the Princes well-nigh passes belief, or is at least incomprehensible.”

But is it?

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Unravelling a medieval murder mystery

In the ultimate cold case an Aberdeen historian has re-examined a 600 year old murder, fitting of a plot for Game of Thrones.

Setting the scene

On the evening of Friday 23 March 1375, the young nobleman William Cantilupe was attacked and murdered by his cook and squire at his manor in Scotton, Lincolnshire.  His body was then cleaned, put into a sack and taken seven miles away on horseback where the scene was staged to look like a highway robbery.

Roger Cook and Richard Gyse, William’s cook and squire, were convicted of the crime and became the first people be tried and then hung under the 1351 Treason Act,

But rumours were rife that the pair had acted under the direction of William’s wife, together with his chambermaid. So thick was the plot that some 15 members of William’s household were initially indicted for the murder.

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