|Guide to the Middle Ages||
The Black Death Plague
The Black Death is the name for a terrible disease that spread throughout Europe from 1347 to 1350. There was no cure for the disease and it was highly contagious.
How did it start?
The plague likely started in Asia and traveled westward along the Silk Road. The disease was carried by fleas that lived on rats. Historians think that black rats living on European merchant ships caught the disease, eventually bringing it to Europe.
How bad was it?
It's hard to imagine how scary life was in the Middle Ages during the Black Death. By the time the disease ran its course, it had killed at least one third of the people in Europe and probably more. In Paris, France it's estimated that around 800 people died a day. There were so many dead that they couldn't bury them. They had to carry them to massive pits.
Unfortunately, the people in the Middle Ages didn't know that the disease was carried by rats. This made larger cities and towns, which were very dirty during the Middle Ages, especially dangerous as there were lots of rats there. Sometimes entire towns or villages were wiped out by the plague.
What did the people do?
As you might expect, there was panic. Many people were sure it was the end of the world. People locked their doors and tried to hide in their houses. However, this did little good in cities where rats, and therefore fleas, were everywhere. They also burned down houses and even entire villages to try and stop the disease.
The Bubonic Plague
Today we call this disease the bubonic plague. Very few people get the disease today and most of those that do recover fine. When people got the disease in the Middle Ages, they almost always died. People would get really sick including black and blue blotches all over their body.
Rebuilding After the Black Death
Much of the infrastructure of Europe was gone when the Black Death finally subsided. It's estimated that it took around 150 years for Europe to rebuild.
War of the Roses
Who were the Normans?
The Normans were Vikings who had settled along the coast of France. The local people called them the Norsemen from Norway. They eventually became known as the Normans and the land they lived in became known as Normandy. Through a truce with the King of France, Normandy became a Duchy of France and their leader was called the Duke of Normandy.
The Three Kings
In 1066 the King of England, Edward the Confessor, died. Unfortunately, Edward did not have any children and there wasn't a logical choice for the next king of England. Three men all claimed to be the rightful heir to the crown for different reasons.
The first of the three men to act was Earl Harold Godwinson. He was the obvious choice for the English nobles and they crowned him King Harold II immediately after the death of King Edward. However, neither King Hardrada nor William of Normandy were going to let Harold have the crown without a fight.
Norway Invades (Battle of Stamford Bridge)
King Hardrada of Norway gathered his forces and invaded England from the north in September of 1066. The English marshaled their own army and King Harold II met the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. The fighting was fierce with both sides losing over 5,000 soldiers. However, King Harold II came out victorious. He defeated the Norwegians and King Hardrada was killed in the battle.
The Normans Invade (Battle of Hastings)
Harold and the English had little time to celebrate their victory as William of Normandy led his army across the English Channel only a few days after the Battle of Stamford. He set up his army at the city of Hastings, where he built a wooden castle.
King Harold marched his army south to meet the Normans. The two forces met at the top of Senlac Hill on October 14, 1066. The two sides fought all day. Both sides had about the same number of soldiers, but William had the advantage of having more archers and cavalry. Eventually William's army won the battle when King Harold was killed by an arrow.
William Crowned King
William continued to march towards London. The English were still resisting his rule. They even elected another man, Edgar, as king. William would not be denied, however. He fought and won a few more battles along the way and reached London in late December. The English leaders finally admitted defeat and crowned William King of England on December 25, 1066.
Norman rule had a lasting affect on England. Many English nobles left the country fleeing to Ireland, Scotland, and the Scandinavian countries. The Normans instituted many new laws and brought the French culture with them.
William instituted the Domesday book which kept track of who owned what areas of land. Whatever was written in the book was final. There were no appeals. William used the book in order to tax the people.
William also built many castles and cathedrals throughout England. These included Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, Colchester Castle, and the Rochester Cathedral.
The Wars of the Roses was a civil war fought in England. It lasted for just over 30 years from 1455 to 1485, however, the battles were mostly small and sometimes were years apart.
Who fought in the Wars of the Roses?
The Wars of the Roses was fought between two rival families who both laid claim to the throne of England: the House of Lancaster and the House of York.
What did Roses have to do with it?
The "War of the Roses" comes from the symbols, or badges, of the two warring houses: the House of Lancaster was represented by a red rose and the House of York by a white rose.
What started the war?
The reasons behind the wars were complex. Both houses claimed to have a right to the English throne as descendents of King Edward III. It didn't help that the current king, Henry VI, was mentally ill and was being advised by corrupt and unpopular nobles.
People from the Wars of the Roses
House of Lancaster
The Hundred Years War
The Hundred Years War was fought between England and France and lasted from 1337 to 1453. The war was a series of battles with long periods of peace in between.
How did it start?
Small disputes and battles had been going on between the French and the English for years. However, in 1337, King Edward III of England claimed that he was the rightful king of France. This began the long battle between the two countries.
Other disputes kept the fighting going for over one hundred years. These included the control of the valuable wool trade, disputes over certain areas of land, and the support for Scotland by the French.
King Edward III believed that he was the rightful heir to the French crown through his mother Isabella. He first laid claim to the throne when he was fifteen years old and King Charles IV of France died without a male heir. Instead of Edward, the French chose Philip to be their king.
When King Philip VI of France took control of Aquitaine from the English in 1337, King Edward III decided to fight back. He decided to invade France and reassert his right to the French throne.
Edward did not attempt to conquer and control the land of the French. Instead he led raids into the land called chevauchées. He would strike deep into the land of the French burning crops, plundering cities, and causing havoc.
The Black Prince
In the 1350s, the army of King Edward III was led by his son, the valiant Edward the "Black Prince". The Black Prince became a famous hero to the English and was known for his chivalry. The Black Prince led the English to major victories over the French. At the battle of Poitiers, the Black Prince captured King John II, the current King of France.
King Edward agreed to release King John II for a ransom of three million crowns and some additional land. When King Edward died, the son of the Black Prince, Richard II became King. He was only 10 years old. There was a period of relative peace between England and France.
Battle of Agincourt
When King Henry V became king of England in 1413, he once again laid claim to the throne of France. He invaded France and won a decisive battle at Agincourt where with only around 6,000 soldiers he defeated a much larger French force of around 25,000. Eventually, the French gave in and King Charles VI named Henry as the heir to the throne.
Joan of Arc
Many of the people in southern France did not accept English rule. In 1428 the English began to invade southern France. They began a siege of the city of Orleans. However, a young peasant girl by the name of Joan of Arc took leadership of the French army. She claimed to have seen a vision from God. She led the French to a victory at Orleans in 1429. She led the French to several more victories before she was captured by the English and burned at the stake.
End of the War
The French were inspired by Joan of Arc's leadership and sacrifice. They continued to fight back. They pushed the English army out of France taking Bordeaux in 1453 signaling the end of the Hundred Years War.