Who's who in Medieval Britain
Bacon, Roger (1220-1294)
Franciscan friar, Oxford scholar. At odds with church authorities. Early scientist, explored optics.
Ball, John (d.1381)
Follower of Wycliffe, preached social reform. One of the leaders of the Peasant's Revolt. Famous for the couplet "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman."
Beauchamp, Guy de, Earl of Warwick (1272-1315)
"The Black Dog of Arden", Lord Ordainer, capturer of Piers Gaveston.
Beauchamp, Richard de, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439)
Member of the Regency Council 1422, responsible for the education of Henry VI.
Beaufort, Henry (1377-1447)
Son of John of Gaunt, wealthy churchman, Bishop of Lincoln and, later, of Winchester, three times Lord Chancellor.
Becket, Thomas (1118-1170)
Archbishop of Canterbury, opposed Henry II on the question of legal jurisdiction over clergy accused of crimes. Murdered in the cathedral, his tomb became the most famous pilgrimage centre in medieval England.
Welsh prince. Tried and failed to hold Anglesey against the Normans.
Caxton, William (1422-1491)
Pioneer of printing, responsible for the first book printed in England in moveable type, 1477.
Chaucer, Geoffrey (1340-1400)
Court official and poet, the first great author in the English language. Wrote Canterbury Tales, 1387.
Chichele, Henry (1362-1443)
Archbishop of Canterbury, persecutor of the Lollards. Founded All Soul's College, Oxford.
Clarence, George, Duke of (1449-1478)
Brother of Edward IV and Richard III. Helped Warwick the Kingmaker depose Edward in 1470, then switched sides to help reinstate him a year later. Arrested and murdered, probably on orders of Edward. Tradition says he was drowned in a vat of wine, though this may be a later story.
Courtenay, William (1342-1396)
Archbishop of Canterbury and vigorous opponent of John Wycliffe.
DeSpenser, Henry le (1341-1406)
Bishop of Norwich, helped suppress the Peasant's Revolt.
Edward I (1239-1307)
Son of Henry III, king from 1272. "Hammer of Scots" also fought against the Welsh, where he established a new style of concentric castle.
Edward II (1284-1327)
Son of Edward I, first Prince of Wales. King from 1307. Ineffective and easily swayed by favorites Piers Gaveston and later Hugh le DeSpenser the Younger. Deposed and murdered by his wife Isabella and Roger de Mortimer.
Edward III (1312-1377)
Son of Edward II, king from 1327 under regency, ruled from 1330. Wars with Scotland and France (The Hundred Years War).
Edward IV (1442-1483)
Son of the Duke of York, defeated the Lancastrians (Wars of the Roses) and gained the throne in 1461. Briefly deposed by Warwick the Kingmaker, but quickly regained his throne.
Edward the Black Prince (1330-1376)
Son of Edward III, fought at Crecy and Poitiers. Respected as the ideal of medieval knighthood, in reality a harsh, oppressive administrator,
Edward of Norwich, Duke of York (1373-1376)
Grandson of Edward III. Killed at Agincourt.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1120-1204)
Wife of first Louis VIII of France, then of Henry II of England. Helped establish the romantic ideal of chivalry. Supported her sons ("The Devil's Brood") in rebellion against Henry.
Eleanor of Castile (1246-1290)
Queen to Edward I. On her death Edward built "Eleanor Crosses" at each stopping place of her funeral cortege from Norfolk to London. Three of these crosses still remain.
Eleanor of Provence (1223-1291)
Married to Henry III. Unpopular at court, exiled to France during struggle with the barons, she raised money and troops to support henry.
Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492)
Married Edward IV in a secret ceremony in 1464. Promoted her relatives to positions of power. Retired to a monastery on Edward's death
Flambard, Ranulf (d.1128)
Bishop of Durham from 1099, counsellor to William II.
Foxe, Richard (1448-1528) - Bishop of Durham and Winchester, counsellor to Henry VII and Henry VIII, ousted by Cardinal Wolsey.
Gaveston, Piers (d.1312)
Favourite of Edward II. Angered the barons, was eventually seized and killed.
Geoffrey Plantagenet (d.1212)
An illegitimate son of Henry II, joined his half-brothers in unsuccessful rebellion in 1173, later became Archbishop of York.
Giffard, Walter (d.1279)
Chancellor and Archbishop of York, regent to Edward I.
Glendower (Glyndwr), Owain (1359-c1416)
Welsh national hero, rebelled with reasonable success against the English in 1400, disappeared mysteriously in 1415).
Grosseteste, Robert (1175-1253)
Scholar, Bishop of Lincoln, upheld church against secular authority, but also preached against abuses by the clergy.
Gruffudd ap Cynan (1055-1157)
King of Gwynedd, forced to submit to the Normans.
Hamon, Robert Fitz (d.1107)
Norman lord of Glamorgan, built Cardiff Castle.
Henry II (1133-1189)
Son of Matilda, married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Came to the throne on the death of King Stephen in 1154. Terrible temper; when he quarreled with Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, his knights murdered Becket. Reformed the legal system. His sons rebelled against him.
Henry the Young King (1155-1183)
Son of Henry II, optimistically crowned in 1170. Rebelled against his father in 1173.
Henry III (1207-1272)
Son of King John, king from 1216. Unpopular, barons under Simon de Montfort rebelled and captured him in 1264. Restored by his son, Edward.
Henry IV (1367-1413)
"Bolingbroke", son of John of Gaunt. Exiled 1398, he invaded in 1399 and seized the crown from Richard II. Put down rebellions in Wales.
Henry V (1387-1422)
Son of Henry IV, won the Battle of Agincourt, forced King Charles to acknowledge him as heir. Married Charles' daughter Catherine.
Henry VI (1421-1471)
Son of Henry V. Bouts of insanity rendered his reign ineffective. Constant conflicts with his barons. Deposed by Edward IV, reinstated by Warwick the Kingmaker, eventually murdered in the Tower of London after the Battle of Tewkesbury.
Henry VII (1457-1509)
Son of Edmund Tudor, invaded England and defeated Richard III at Bosworth in 1485. United the houses of Lancaster and York by marrying Elizabeth of York, effectively ending the Wars of the Roses. A strong administrator, he restored stability and the authority of the crown.
Henry of Grosmont (1300-1361)
Counselor and friend of Edward III.
Herbert, William, Earl of Pembroke (1423-1469)
Counselor to Edward IV, later executed.
Hereward the Wake (lived late 11th century)
English leader, rebelled against William I in 1070. His stronghold was at Ely in the Fens. Perhaps bought off by William.
Isabella of France (1292-1358)
Queen to Edward II, estranged from her husband, she led a revolt with her lover, Roger de Mortimer, deposing Edward in 1327, and (probably) instigating his murder. Isabella ruled as regent with Mortimer until 1330. She was pensioned off by her son, Edward III, when he seized power in that year.
Isabella of France (1389-1409)
Daughter of Charles VI of France. Married Richard II in 1396.
John I )1166-1216)
Son of Henry II, king from 1199. Lost most of the English possessions in France. John was forced to sign the Magna Carta 1215 after conflict with his barons.
John of Salisbury (1115-1180)
Ally of Thomas a Becket, writer and scholar.
Archbishop of Canterbury, supported William I in his struggle with the pope. One of the most learned men of his age.
Langland, William (1330-1400)
Author of "The Vision of Piers Plowman", critical of the worldly nature of clergy.
Langton, Stephen (d.1228)
Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the pope, but King John refused his nomination. Helped draw up the Magna Carta.
Lovell, Viscount Francis (1454-1487)
Supporter of Richard III, rebelled against Henry VII. Disappeared, probably killed in the Battle of Stoke.
Margaret of France (1282-1318)
Queen to Edward I.
Marshall, William, Earl of Pembroke (d.1219)
One of the most powerful and respected knights of the Middle Ages. Made his fortune at tournament jousting. A crusader, Marshall served under four kings.
Matilda (Maud), Queen (1102-1167)
Daughter of Henry I. She was named Henry's heir, but the throne was seized by her cousin Stephen when Henry died. She invaded England, precipitating years of ruinous civil war. To settle the war her son Henry was named Stephen's successor.
Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester (1208-1265)
Leader of the barons against Henry III, defeated Henry at Lewes (1264), captured the king. Held peculiar notions for his time about democracy and the rights of the individual. Called the first Parliament to include representatives from the newly important towns. Defeated and killed by Prince Edward at Evesham (1265).
Mortimer, Roger de, Earl of March (1287-1330)
Military advisor and lover to Isabella of France, estranged wife of Edward II. Together they invaded England, deposed Edward, and were probably responsible for his brutal murder. Ruled as co-regent with Isabella until 1330, when Edward III seized power in his own name and had Mortimer executed for treason.
Neville, Richard, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury ("The Kingmaker") (1428-1471)
Fabulously wealthy baron, defeated Henry VI, putting Edward IV on the throne. Fell out with Edward, and joined the Lancastrian side. Defeated and killed at the Battle of Barnet by Edward.
Oldcastle, Sir John (d.1417)
An ardent Lollard, he was convicted of heresy, escaped and launched a revolt. Captured and executed.
Owain Gwynedd (1110-1170)
Ruler of Gwynedd, acknowledged Henry II as his lord but later helped defend southern Wales against henry's invasion.
Percy, Henry, Earl of Northumberland (1342-1408)
A supporter of Richard II, switched sides to support Bolingbroke. Rebelled in 1403, was pardoned, rebelled again, fled the country. Rebelled yet again, and was killed.
Percy, Sir Henry ("Hotspur") (1364-1403)
Son of Earl Henry, fought in Scotland, and later joined his father in 1403 rebellion and was killed in battle.
Perrers, Alice (d.1400)
Mistress of Edward III, a schemer by all accounts. Exercised enormous influence in Edward's last days. Said to have stripped the rings from Edward's fingers as he died.
Richard I (1157-1199)
"The Lion Heart", son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A great warrior, not a great king. Spent most of his reign crusading, killed in France by an arrow when he removed his helmet to better study a castle he was besieging.
Richard II (1367-1400)
A weak ruler, actual government was handled largely by John of Gaunt. Showed great personal courage in conciliating the rebel army in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381. Extravagant, he had to accept a commission to run his household affairs. Defeated by Bolingbroke, he died in captivity at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire.
Richard III (1452-1485)
Duke of Gloucester, a successful warrior on behalf of his brother Edward IV at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Protector for his nephew, Edward V. The prince and his younger brother disappeared from the Tower of London while under Richard's care. This turned public opinion against Richard, and provided the excuse for the invasion of Henry Tudor. Richard lost the Battle of Bosworth, his crown, and his life to Henry.
Robert, Duke of Normandy (1054-1134)
"Curthose", eldest son of William I, received Normandy when William died, claimed England (rightfully) when William II died. Defeated and captured at Tinchbrai in 1106, he was kept a prisoner for the rest of his life.
Robert, Earl of Gloucester (d.1147)
The bastard son of Henry I, and the military leader for Queen Maud when she invaded England in 1139. Defeated Stephen twice, capturing him once, but Robert's death led to Maud's retreat to France and an eventual end to hostilities.
Scrope, Richard le (1350-1405)
Archbishop of York, supported Duke of Northumberland's 1405 rebellion. He was captured and executed, but his tomb at York Minster became a popular pilgrimage centre.
Simnel, Lambert (1475-1525)
Either a clever impostor or Edward V, depending on your allegiance. Appeared after Edward had disappeared from the Tower of London, he gained support for an invasion of England. Was defeated and captured at Stoke in 1487.
Stephen I (1097-1154)
Grandson of William I, he seized the throne in 1135. His struggle with Matilda, Henry I's official heir, plunged the country into civil war. When his only son died, Stephen recognized Maud's son Henry as his heir. His reign was remarkable for the amount of church building which took place.
Tyler, Wat (d.1381)
Leader of the 1381 Peasant's Revolt, he was killed by the Lord Mayor of London while negotiating with Richard II at Mile End, just outside London.
Warbeck, Perkin (1474-1499)
Impersonator (probably) of Richard, the younger of the "Princes in the Tower". Invaded in 1497, was defeated and executed by Henry VII.
Whittington, Richard (d.1423)
Rich merchant, philanthropist, and three times Lord Mayor of London. The tale of Dick Whittington and his cat was probably a pleasant fiction invented long after his death.
William I (1027-1087)
"The Conqueror", Duke of Normandy. May have been promised the throne of England, he invaded and took it anyway, defeating Harold at Hastings in 1066. Brought Norman influence and custom to England. Responsible for the great Domesday Book of 1086, a very thorough tax record of the entire realm.
William II (1060-1100)
"Rufus". Son of William I, king from 1087. Unpopular, he was killed in a hunting accident, or was it murder?
Woodville, Elizabeth (1437-1492)
Wife of Edward IV, mother of 'The Princes in the Tower' and of Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII.
Wykeham, William of (1324-1404)
Bishop of Winchester, founder of Winchester School and New College, Oxford.
York, Richard, Duke of (1411-1460)
Protector during Henry VI's insanity, he rebelled twice, actually had his claim to the throne accepted, but he was killed at Wakefield before he could be crowned.