Medieval Mondays are back! And with (sort of) better illustrations. If you need a refresher:
What a Tedious Little Man
Prince John comes to the English throne in 1199 upon Richard the Lionheart’s death. And pretty much everything you’ve ever heard about him is true. He was so tyrannical and money-grubbing that his barons rebelled and he was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 to guarantee the rights of his subjects. However, he soon broke the agreement and a civil war broke out.
Even though Magna Carta ultimately failed to rein in John, it did serve as a template for all future laws in England limiting the king’s power (and was the basis for our Bill of Rights). The coalition of barons also introduced the idea of nobles having a say in the government which would later develop into Parliament.
Shocking Trivia! The King of France—supported by some of the rebellious barons—invaded England and ruled part of it for a year. But after John’s death in 1216, the barons united behind young Henry III and his regent, William the Marshal, and King Louis I was forced to sign a peace treaty and leave. Why do you never see him listed among the kings of England? The treaty included a provision stating that Louis had never actually been a king of England.
The Mongol Hordes
Trouble wasn’t just brewing in England during the 13th century. Eastern Europe was having to deal with the Mongol hordes for most of the century. In 1223, Genghis Kahn invaded Russia. From 1238 to 1241 Genghis’ son, Ogedei, invaded Russia (again), destroyed Kiev, defeated a European coalition force in (modern-day) Poland, and reached the gates of Vienna. Only Ogedei’s death forced the Mongols to retreat.
Mongke, grandson of Genghis, succeeds Ogedei and he spends his time harassing Muslims throughout the Middle East—much to the delight of Christians there. The famous Kublai Kahn, however, only operates in the Far East, and after his death in 1294, the Mongolian Empire begins to fall apart.
Around the World in 35 . . . Years
In 1260, 6-year-old Marco Polo sets out with his father and uncle on a trip to the other side of the known world. He won’t return until 1295. His accounts include real things that he saw (such as paper money in China) and fantastical stories that he heard along the way (with no real distinction between the two). He is credited with bringing the pasta noodle to Italy from China, and his voyage marks the beginning of Europe’s exploration of distant lands.
Useless Trivia: In 1284, an Italian creates wearable eyeglasses (for reading).
Hammer of the Scots . . . and the Welsh . . . and the Jews
In 1282, Prince Llewelyn, last of the Welsh princes, dies in an ambush and the following year, Edward I of England—known as “Longshanks” for his great height—conquerors all of Wales.
In 1290, Edward expels all the Jews in England. They will not be allowed to live in the country again until Oliver Cromwell invites them back in the 17th century.
In 1292, the Scottish nobility ask Edward to mediate rival claims to the throne of Scotland. Edward gladly assists, then turns around and declares that Scotland is his vassal state. This gives rise to William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and the wars for Scottish independence that last into the early 14th century.
Useless Trivia: Edward I has a fearsome reputation as an oppressor of everyone who wasn’t English, but he was very devoted to his wife. He appears to have never been unfaithful to her and after she died, he had crosses erected along the route of her funeral procession as a tribute to her.
Also note that Longshanks is known as Edward I, even though Edward the Confessor came before him. Apparently the Norman invasion reset the numbering system.
If you want to know the story behind the picture of Bannockburn, you can find it here on Scotland’s History. (What isn’t mentioned is that the Bruce and de Bohun had bad blood between them predating the battle; that’s why Henry charged the Bruce before the battle was even joined. Also, don’t let the word “river” fool you. Bannockburn is a ditch. Or, if you’re in a generous mood, it’s a creek. But it’s no river by any American standard. It is, of course, possible that it was wider and deeper during the middle ages; reclamation of swamps and narrowing of rivers to make more farmland is a very old practice.)