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.

The Testament of St. Francis of Assisi

The Testament of St. Francis of Assisi by Michael Streich

Francis of Assisi left a legacy best summarized by poverty, compassion, and humility at a time the medieval Church desperately need reform and direction.

Few men impacted Church History or achieved the deep and sincere levels of spirituality as did St Francis of Assisi. Pope Pius XI called him the “second Christ” and in many non-Catholic faith traditions he is viewed as an example of the imitation of Christ. Francis was born at the end of the 12th Century, a time when Christianity was facing internal Church corruption, heretical movements, and the on-going struggle against Islam. In his Testament, Francis bequeathed his order the elements of faith most important to him at a time his own supporters were already altering the simplicity of the Christian experience that Francis preached and lived.

Read more at Suite101: The Testament of St Francis of Assisi |

Edgar the Etheling

Edgar the Etheling (1051 – 1126) was born in Hungary. His father, Edward the Exile, spent most of his life there after the Danish king Cnut conquered England and defeated Edward’s father King Edmund II Ironside. Edgar was the last member of the house of Cerdic of Wessex. After Edward the Confessor’s death in 1066, Edgar had a legitimate claim to the throne over Harold Godwineson and William the Conqueror, but he was never crowned King of England.

After Harold’s death, we find in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that there were prominent people in England who wanted Edgar to succeed Harold as king:

There was slain King Harold, and Leofwin his brother, and Earl Girth his brother, with many good men: and the Frenchmen gained the field of battle, as God granted them for the sins of the nation. Archbishop Aldred and the corporation of London were then desirous of having child Edgar to king, as he was quite natural to them; and Edwin and Morkar promised them that they would fight with them.

And later in that same section…

The monks then chose for abbot Provost Brand, because he was a very good man, and very wise; and sent him to Edgar Etheling, for that the land-folk supposed that he should be king: and the etheling received him gladly. When King William heard say that, he was very wroth, and said that the abbot had renounced him: but good men went between them, and reconciled them; because the abbot was a good man.

In 1067, Edgar along with his mother, Agatha, and two sisters, Margaret and Christina, and others fled to Scotland seeking protection at the court of King Malcolm III. Malcolm welcomed them, and in turn, he later married Margaret.

In 1068, it is noted in the Chronicle that King William gave Northumbria to Robert Comine. The people of Northumbria rebelled against Robert and killed him in the town of Durham, along with 900 other men. Edgar Etheling then came with all the Northumbrians to York, but William the Conqueror, learning of this, set out with a large army and routed Edgar’s army. Edgar then returned to Scotland.

The following year in 1069, King Sweyne of Denmark invaded England. According to the Chronicle:

Soon after this came from Denmark three of the sons of King Sweyne with two hundred and forty ships, together with Earl Esborn and Earl Thurkill, into the Humber; where they were met by the child Edgar, and Earl Waltheof, and Merle-Sweyne, and Earl Gospatric with the Northumbrians, and all the landsmen; riding and marching full merrily with an immense army: and so all unanimously advanced to York; where they stormed and demolished the castle, and won innumerable treasures therein; slew there many hundreds of Frenchmen, and led many with them to the ships; but, ere that the shipmen came thither, the Frenchmen had burned the city, and also the holy minster of St. Peter had they entirely plundered, and destroyed with fire. When the king heard this, then went he northward with all the force that he could collect, despoiling and laying waste the shire withal; whilst the fleet lay all the winter in the Humber, where the king could not come at them.

In 1074, Edgar had been in Flanders but returned to Scotland when William sailed across the channel to Normandy. King Malcolm and Margaret received Edgar fondly and gave him many gifts. Around that same time, King Philip of France sent a letter to Edgar promising to give him the castle of Montreuil, and so Edgar headed back to France, but on his way down the coast of England, a storm shipwrecked his crew, and Edgar had to return to Scotland. He lost most of the treasure Malcolm had given him, and some of his men were captured by the Normans.

After this incident, Edgar sent a request to William for a treaty, and William accepted. Edgar then traveled to William’s court in Normandy, where the King of England received him.

Due to the sake of time, I will skip forward to Edgar’s later life.

In 1106, King Henry I of England, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, defeated his older brother, Robert Curthose, and Edgar at the Battle of Tinchebray. Robert was imprisoned for the remainder of his life, while Edgar was released and pardoned. Edgar’s niece, Edith (or Matilda), the daughter of Malcolm and Margaret, married Henry in 1100, which might have had something to do with Henry’s pardoning of Edgar. It is generally believed Edgar died sometime in 1125, though the location of his grave is unknown. The last mention I could find of him in the Chronicles related to his defeat at the Battle of Tinchebray:

Edgar Etheling, who a little before had gone over from the king to the earl, was also there taken, whom the king afterwards let go unpunished. Then went the king over all that was in Normandy, and settled it according to his will and discretion. This year also were heavy and sinful conflicts between the Emperor of Saxony and his son, and in the midst of these conflicts the father fell, and the son succeeded to the empire.

*Main source: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Malcolm III of Scotland

King Malcolm III, King of Scotland, Medieval ScotlandMáel Coluim mac Donnchad, also known as Malcolm III or Canmore or Long-Neck, was King of the Scots from1058-1093. He was the eldest son of King Duncan I, and he ruled Scotland in the last years of Edward the Confessor’s reign of England and for the entire reign of William the Conqueror. The territory he ruled did not extend over the entirety of modern-day Scotland, as the north and west of the country at that time remained under Scandinavian, Norse-Gael control.

Malcolm’s father, Duncan, began his reign of Scotland in 1034, upon the death of Malcolm II. Duncan’s reign was short, and in August of 1040, Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaich, the Macbeth of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy) killed him. While Shakespeare depicts Duncan as an old man and Malcolm as an adult, it’s more likely that Duncan was still a young man at the time of his death, and Malcolm was just a child. Malcolm’s family did later attempt to overthrow Macbeth, but they were not successful, and so Malcolm and his younger brother were taken into hiding. It’s believed that Malcolm spent most of Macbeth’s reign under Edward the Confessor.

Some sources say Malcolm killed Macbeth in 1057, and then killed Macbeth’s son Lulach in 1058. Malcolm spent most of his reign maintaining the demarcation line between the kingdoms of England and Scotland. He fought successive wars against England, with some believing the goal of these campaigns was to capture the earldom of Northumbria.

In 1066, Malcolm gave sanctuary to Tostig, the brother of Harold Godwineson, but the king of Scotland did not have any direct role in invading England with Tostig and Harald Hardrada later that year, which ended at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

In 1068, Malcolm gave exile to Agatha, widow of Edward the Confessor’s nephew Edward the Exile, as well as her children, including Edgard Atheling, and also Gospatric, the Earl of Northumbria. The following year the exiles returned to England and caused trouble for King William yet again.

When a Danish army under the command of Sweyn Estridsson invaded England in that same year, Malcolm chose this opportunity of weakness to invade England himself. He marched south through Cumbria, and he met up with Edgar Atheling. Since little came of the Danish invasion, Malcolm quickly turned back for home, but William sent Gospatric, who had switched allegiances back to William, to raid Scotland. In response, Malcolm raided Gospatric’s lands in Northumbria. These small skirmishes between England and Scotland were common throughout Malcolm’s reign, even though Malcolm did submit to William at Abernathy in 1072.

I will not cover the relationship between Malcolm and William’s son, William Rufus, which was in the later part of Malcolm’s reign.

Skipping to the incident of Malcolm’s death, according to the chroniclers, Robert de Mowbray, the Earl of Northumbria, ambushed Malcolm’s army near Alnwick on November 13, 1093. Reportedly, the steward of Bamburgh Castle, Arkil Morel, killed Malcolm during the battle. Malcolm was taken for burial in Tynemouth Priory, but was later reburied at Dunfermline Abbey, or possibly Iona.

Source: *Note: the wikipedia article is very detailed with many notes and citing many references. If anyone has any corrections to the material presented, please let me know.

Review of William the Conqueror by David C. Douglas

William the Conqueror by David C. DouglasWilliam the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England
By David C. Douglas

Paperback: 488 pages
Publisher: University of California Press (May 1, 1967)
ISBN-10: 0520003500

In this scholarly work, David C. Douglas takes an exhaustive look at the life of Duke William II of Normandy.  The book is broken out into four parts: The Young Duke, The Duke in His Duchy, The Establishment of the Anglo-Norman Kingdom, and The King in His Kingdom.

The first part tells of William’s birth and inheritance, his accession to his position as duke, and his war for survival in his duchy. From 1047-1060, William was in a constant state of warfare against those in and surrounding his duchy, including the King of France.

Part II underscores the rule of Duke William after he solidified his position as duke. While the duchy of Normandy was never entirely safe from outside threats–or inside threats for that matter, as can be seen in William’s own son’s rebellion later–there was a brief period where the state of his administration was more firmly established along with a strong group of noble supporters surrounding him. Most of these nobles would continue to support him for his entire reign as duke of Normandy and king of England.

Part III moves into the conquest of England and the defense of this kingdom after it had been conquered. Defending the kingdom was not an easy task for William, as he faced a series of rebellions within England, along with outside threats from Scandinavia and the continent.

The last part of the book deals with William’s royal administration and the end of his reign.

When I say this book is exhaustive, I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I felt Douglas spent too much time in certain areas, such as the Ecclesiastical Revival in Part II, which could have been told in a more concise fashion. The main takeaway from that chapter was that William was a supporter of the Church, and he helped establish a strong ecclesiastical presence within Normandy, which in turn helped him throughout his lifetime. For example, a common thread in many historical accounts of the invasion of England was the Pope’s support for William in this endeavor. While it is important to know the foundations of William’s relationship with the Church, the chapter is around 30 pages long, when Douglas probably could have related this information in half the space.

I don’t want to turn people off from reading this book, though, just because of its length. If you’re interested in the subject of the Norman invasion of England, Douglas’s account is essential in understanding the background to the person of Duke William II. It’s certainly a must-read; it will just take a while to read through it.

Also, one other point in which I felt Douglas could have made a stronger argument. Most historians I’ve read take the side of William the Conqueror in his invasion of England. The brief story is that King Edward the Confessor appointed William to be his successor long before his death. Harold Godwineson, the actual direct successor to Edward, supposedly swore fealty to William after a trip he made to the continent years earlier, but he claimed that on Edward’s deathbed, the dying king appointed him, not William, to succeed to the throne.

Historians, such as Ian Walker, author of the Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King, claim Harold likely swore fealty to William under duress, and that Edward never intended for William to be his successor. Both historians make good arguments, even though after reading both biographies, I felt Walker made a stronger case for Harold as the legitimate successor than Douglas did for William. Douglas, in my opinion, could have made a stronger case, though I have always found it peculiar that William would have risked so much to invade England had a promise of succession not been made to him earlier. On this point, I give credit to the historians who favor William as the legitimate successor. My recommendation would be to read both Douglas’s book and Walker’s book, and form your own opinion.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book Giveaway

Power of a Woman. Memoirs of a turbulent life: Eleanor of Aquitaine - Robert Fripp - Medieval Historical FictionI’m giving away two free copies of Robert Fripp’s Power of a Woman. Memoirs of a turbulent life: Eleanor of Aquitaine. If you’re interested in entering your name in the drawing, just leave a comment on this post. Friday will be the last day for new entries. I will select the winners at random and notify them by next week. Also, the author sent me some PDF timelines that go along with the book, and I can send those to the winners as well if you’re interested in having them.

*Note: I can only ship within the United States, so I apologize if you are not located within the U.S.

The book is a fictionalized autobiography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, told as if Eleanor were actually recounting her life to a young lady in her household.

While she dictates, Eleanor lives her roles again: duchess of Aquitaine, queen of France and warring courtier, patron of troubadours, crusader, queen and regent of England, empire builder, femme fatale and the subject of romantic verse, mother of too many sons, founder of her Court of Ladies in Poitiers, instigator and arbiter of family strife, scorned wife, banished exile, regent of England again, tax collector, ransom gatherer, peacemaker, matchmaker, and perpetual negotiator. At eighty-one years of age this magnificent lady dictates the royal progress of her life.

Earl Godwin of Wessex

Godwin of Wessex was the father of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, defeated by Duke William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. Godwin was likely the son of Wulfnoth Cild, a thegn of Sussex. He first appears in documents during the reign of Cnut, one of the last major Danish rulers of England. Cnut married Godwin to his brother-in-law’s sister, and he also appointed him as Earl of Wessex. This appointment would eventually make the Godwin family the most powerful family in England.

In 1042, when Edward the Confessor took the throne, Godwin cemented his power by arranging for the king to marry his daughter, Edith. The two men, Edward and Godwin, always had a rift between them, for Edward believed Godwin had taken part in the murder of his brother Alfred. With the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumieges, Edward banished his wife to a nunnery at Wherwell and exiled Godwin and his sons. Godwin eventually returned, and Edward reinstated him and his family. Godwin died at Winchester on April 15, 1053.

Additional Reading:


Kingmakers – The Story of the House of Godwin

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle


The Last Anglo-Saxon King by Ian Walker

Edward the Confessor by Frank Barlow

Edmund II Ironside

Edmund Ironside - Coat of Arms - Heraldry - Medieval England - Middle Ages History - Medieval History - Canute - Cnut - KnuteEdmund II, the son of King Ethelred the Unready, ruled over Wessex for a short period of time. His reign lasted all of seven months, from April 23 to November 30 of the year 1016. During that time, Edmund managed to hold off Canute (or Cnut or Knute) from invading and capturing Wessex. Edmund fought major battles at Penselwood (Pen near Gillingham), Sherston, London, Brentford, and Assingdon (or Ashingdon or Assandun).

Edmund gained a victory at London, driving the enemy to their ships, but at Ashingdon, on the 18th of October 1016, Canute utterly defeated Edmund and his army. The Mercians, led by the Alderman Edric, betrayed their West Saxon neighbors and fought with Canute. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reads:

When the king understood that the army was up, then collected he the fifth time all the English nation, and went behind them, and overtook them in Essex, on the down called Assingdon; where they fiercely came together. Then did Alderman Edric as he often did before — he first began the flight with the Maisevethians, and so betrayed his natural lord and all the people of England. There had Knute the victory, though all England fought against him!

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not remember Edric fondly, here or in many other places throughout the text. After this battle, Canute and Edmund met at Olney, south of Deerhurst, where they negotiated a truce. Edmund retained control of Wessex, and Canute took everything north of that.

After this fight went King Knute up with his army into Glocestershire, where he heard say that King Edmund was. Then advised Alderman Edric, and the counsellors that were there assembled, that the kings should make peace with each other, and produce hostages. Then both the kings met together at Olney, south of Deerhurst, and became allies and sworn brothers. There they confirmed their friendship both with pledges and with oaths, and settled the pay of the army. With this covenant they parted: King Edmund took to Wessex, and Knute to Mercia and the northern district.

On November 30, 1016, King Edmund died under strange circumstances. Some claimed he died of disease; others say he was assassinated. He was buried with his grandfather Edgar at Glastonbury.

For the next twenty years, Canute would rule all of England under Danish control. Seven years after Canute, Edward the Confessor (half-brother of Edmund II) would take the throne and reign until the year 1066.


Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Grossman, Mark. “Edmund II Ironside.” World Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE49&iPin=WML0073&SingleRecord=True (accessed September 10, 2009).

*image shows the coat of arms of Edmund II

Additional Reading:

Hunt, William, “Edmund or Eadmund, called Ironside,” in The Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols., edited by Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee, et al. (London: Oxford University Press, 1921–22), VI:403–405.

Hilliam, David, “Edmund II (Ironside),” in Kings, Queens, Bones and Bastards: Who’s Who in the English Monarchy from Egbert to Elizabeth II (Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998), 20–21.

Boswell, E., ed., Edmond Ironside; or, War Hath made All Friends (London: Oxford University Press, 1928).

The History of the Anglo-Saxons from the Earliest Period to the Norman Conquest By Sharon Turner

Edward the Confessor (c. 1003 – 1066)

He was the pious king, the saintly king, one of the last Anglo-Saxon rulers to sit the English throne. He was St. Edward the Confessor, the son of King Ethelred II and Emma, the daughter of Richard II of Normandy. Exiled due to Danish invasions and unrest among the English nobility, Ethelred’s family took refuge at the court of Richard II in 1013. Three years later, Ethelred died, leaving his son Edmund (“Ironside”) as King of England. Later that year, Edmund also died, and the Danes took back complete control of England under the leadership of Canute. Emma and her other two sons remained in exile for the next two decades.

In 1041, Harthacnut (son of Canute) named Edward as his successor, and the following year he was crowned king with widespread support. The majority of Edward’s reign was peaceful. He did face opposition from the likes of King Magnus I of Norway, who threatened to invade England, claiming he was the rightful successor to the throne based on an agreement with Harthacnut; and also, rivalries abounded among some of England’s great earls such as Godewine and Leofric. Edward further complicated matters by inviting some of his Norman friends to court.

In truth, through the early years of Edward’s reign, the real ruler of England was the powerful noble Godewine. Edward had married Godewine’s daughter, Edith, in 1045, by whom he never had any children. This lack of children would cause even greater problems after Edward’s death, culminating in a final clash for the English throne between the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, and his rival Duke William of Normandy, the distant cousin of Edward.

By 1049, relations had soured between Edward and Godewine, and two years later, with the support of Leofric of Mercia, Edward  exiled Godewine. A year later, Godewine returned, and the two men were reconciled in order to deal with the threat of another Norse invasion. In 1053, Godewine died, and his son Harold (Godwinson) became Earl of Wessex and one of Edward’s most trusted advisors.

For the last half of his reign, Edward allowed Harold and other powerful nobles to prosecute wars against Wales and also handle many of the domestic affairs. One of Edward’s most crowning achievements was the consecration of a church to St. Peter built at Westminster Abbey, which is where Edward was buried following his death on the 4th of January 1066. In the wake of his death, both Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy claimed Edward had promised them the throne, which would ultimately lead to its final conclusion at the Battle of Hastings.


BBC. “Edward the Confessor, (c. 1003 – 1066).” The BBC Online. (accessed August 12, 2009).

English, Edward D. “Edward the Confessor, Saint.” Encyclopedia of the Medieval World, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE49&iPin=EMW0463&SingleRecord=True (accessed August 12, 2009).

Additional Reading:

Frank Barlow, ed., The Life of Edward the Confessor Who Rests at Westminster, (London: Thomas Nelson, 1962); Frank Barlow, Edward the Confessor (London: Eyre Methuen, 1979); Peter A. Clarke, The English Nobility under Edward the Confessor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). Eyre Methuen, 1979); Peter A. Clarke, The English Nobility under Edward the Confessor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

Steven Muhlberger. “Edward the Confessor and His Earls.”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Part 4: A.D. 1015 – 1051 and Part 5: A.D. 1052 – 1069.

Catholic Encyclopedia. St. Edward the Confessor.