Today in Medieval History: Happy Leif Erikson Day!

Today is officially Leif Erikson Day. Commemorated as a national holiday by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the holiday is an observance of Leif Erikson and his companions as the first known Europeans to set foot in North America. The holiday gives the nation a chance to honor the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent and the overall spirit of exploration and discovery.

The date of October 9th is not the actual date Leif Erikson landed in North America, but it was chosen because the ship Restauration arrived in New York Harbor on October 9th, 1825, from Stavanger, Norway, which marked the beginnings of the first organized immigration from Norway to the U.S.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle - Bebbanburgh - Medieval Castles - Medieval History - Middle Ages HistoryTowering 150 feet above the northeast coastline of England, the castle of Bamburgh sits as a formidable defense, a testament to the once great glory of the Northumbrian kingdom. The first written reference to the castle is around 547 AD, when the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia established the castle as his royal stronghold. The site would, throughout the centuries, be a witness to bloody battles, rebellions, and legends.

In 607, Ida’s grandson, Aethelfrith, took control of the castle. Bede, the famous monk and English historian, described Aethelfrith as a ravening wolf. Aethelfrith later gives the castle to his wife Bebba, where the castle earned its name of Bebbanburgh, or Bamburgh, as it is called today.

In the year 993, an invading force of Norsemen attack and pillage the stronghold, in similar fashion to their attacks on Lindisfarne centuries earlier. Their attacks weaken the capital, and afterwards, the castle falls into disrepair.

During the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror takes control of Bamburgh and appoints his own men to rule the castle. Bamburgh becomes a launching point for William’s later invasions into Scotland. In the late 11th century, William’s son, Rufus, must put down a rebellion led by the Earl of Northumbria, Robert de Mowbray.

In the later middle ages, during the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh is besieged and destroyed by cannon fire, making it the first castle in English history to be destroyed by gunpowder.

Of the castle construction itself, the keep is the oldest surviving portion of the castle. Built around 1164, the walls are approximately three to four meters thick. Its doorway is large enough for men on horseback to enter without dismounting. The well, which is now enclosed by the keep, dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.

Additional reading:

  • http://www.bamburghcastle.com

Image source: Michael Hanselmann, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Today in Medieval History

August 31, 1422: Death of Henry V, King of England

On 10 June 1421, Henry sailed back to France for what would be his last military campaign. From July to August, Henry’s forces besieged and captured Dreux, thus relieving allied forces at Chartres. That October, his forces lay siege to Meaux, capturing it on 2 May 1422.

Henry V died suddenly on 31 August 1422 at the Château de Vincennes near Paris, apparently from dysentery which he had contracted during the siege of Meaux. He was almost 36 years old.

World Timelines

Worldtimelines.org.uk places 2,000 artifacts from museums around the British Isles in their geographical and chronological context. You can navigate using interactive maps and timelines by various regions. If you’re looking at the British Isles, for instance, it breaks that region down further into Northern England, Central England, Southern England, etc., and then each of those areas into the different time periods: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Bronze Age, Roman, Medieval, and so on.

Today in Medieval History

I didn’t get around to posting this over the weekend, but I wanted to go back to September 11 for a look at that day in history. One of the most well-known events (made popular by the movie Braveheart) was the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

The Battle of Stirling Bridge took place on September 11,  1297. The Scottish forces led by William Wallace defeated the English in a resounding victory, which went a long way in paving the path toward Scottish independence. Contrary to what is shown in Braveheart, there was a bridge at Stirling, which in fact played a key strategic role in the battle.

Additional Reading:

The Battle of Stirling Bridge Factsheet (BBC)

World-ology

World-ology is a site for interactive maps, timelines, and articles of world history. The interactive maps are especially interesting as they chart a region, period, or event in history along a specific timeline. As you change the dates on the timeline, the maps change correspondingly. Naturally, I find the Middle Ages map the most useful for my focus of study. As you highlight and change time frames, the boundaries of the kingdoms shift, and hovering over the various kingdoms will show you summary details of that kingdom for a certain period in time.