I love history – and especially the medieval period, so lists like this are a real pleasure to put together. This is a selection of facts that I hope most people will be unfamiliar with. If you’re thinking that there are any interesting facts that have been left out, let us know in the comments.So, here is the 10 Most Fascinating Facts About Medieval England.
1. The famous Battle of Hastings didn’t take place in Hastings! It was actually waged at Senlac Hill – that is about 6 miles (10km) north-west of Hastings.
“The battle at Senlac Hill” certainly does not have the same ring to it as “The Battle of Hastings”!
2. One of the earliest versions of the London Bridge was destroyed in 1014 once the Saxons rowed up the Thames, tied ropes to it, and pulled it down! This helped regain London for the Anglo-Saxon king against the Danes.
It is possible that this event might have been the inspiration for the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.
3. Berengaria of Navarre was the Queen of England by her wedding to King Richard The Lionheart. Little is known of her life – however what is known is that she is the only Queen of England never to step foot in England!
The entire time that she was married to Richard, she lived in Europe. In fact, Richard himself solely spent about 6 months in England as he was so busy traveling on crusader business.
4. One bizarre recipe for a medicine to protect against the plague concerned drinking ale that has had crushed roasted egg shells, leaves and petals of marigold flowers, and treacle added to it.Needless to say this wasn’t particularly effective..
5. There is much proof to suggest that King Richard I (the Lionheart) was a homosexual. There is a possibility that he met his spouse Berenegaria whilst in a sexual relationship with her brother, the future King Sancho VII of Navarre.
It is also reported that he and King Philip II of France were involved. A historian of the time, Roger of Hoveden said they “ate from the same dish and at night slept in 1 bed” and had a “passionate love between them”.
6. Contrary to widespread belief, medieval English people bathed quite frequently in public baths designed for that purpose. This was due to the belief that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.
Public baths were eventually opposed by the Protestants in the sixteenth century because of prostitution being common there.
7. Trial by ordeal was common in England in the middle ages. during this trial, the accused would be subjected to a awfully painful task (such as being burnt by a hot iron) – if they survived the trial, or their wounds healed quickly, they they’d be found not guilty as it was believed that God had performed a miracle to help the accused.
The Catholic Church forbade participation in these trials and demanded the utilization of compurgation instead. Compurgation was the taking of an oath of innocence by the accused which twelve peers must believe.
8. The Barber’s pole symbolizes blood and bandages, as most barbers also performed the roles of surgeons and dentists in their cities.
Bandages stained with blood would be washed and adorned from a pole outside the barber’s shop – these would then twist in the wind to create the spiral pattern we are all familiar with today. Macabre but true.
9. Beforeto the introduction of surnames in England in 1066, everyone born had just one name.
When surnames were introduced they’d often include a nickname – such as Robert Red (symbolic of his hair color). If Robert went bald over time, his name may change to “Robert Ball” (ball meaning bald in Middle English).
In time, the system evolved to some extent where people would take the same name as their father – giving us the modern surname system.
10. Contrary to popular belief, gargoyles weren’t added to Churches and buildings to ward off evil spirits – they were drain pipes! True gargoyles project out of a wall (decorative monsters aren’t gargoyles) and rain water flows out their mouths far away from the building, rather than down the side of the building causing damage.
Their true purpose can be seen quite clearly in the photograph on top of St Mary’s Church in Adderbury. Gargoyles can be found all over Great Britain and are visible on virtually every Church built there during the middle ages.