Medieval english history

Good man, bad king: a portrait of Henry III

Henry III sat on the English throne for 57 years. Among English monarchs, only George III, Victoria and the late Queen reigned for longer. But they only reigned. Henry’s problem was that he was expected to rule. In medieval England, the role of the king was critical. Public order collapsed without a functioning court system founded on the impartial authority of an active ruler. The scramble for office and influence at the centre quickly turned to civil war when the monarch allowed his vast patronage to be monopolised by a cabal. Contemporaries were satisfied that Henry III was a bad king. But what kind of bad king was he? Some

The real Dick Whittington and the folklore legend

In that dark world the air pulsed with the melancholy clangour of bells. If, as legend has it, the chimes of St Mary-le-Bow told Dick Whittington to turn again, then what were they saying to all the other medieval Londoners, dwelling in houses so crowded on fouled streets that the sun could not break through? In the shadow of implacable plague, even London’s super rich were piercingly aware of life’s fragility. Their homes were scented with lily, lavender and the smoke of applewood. They had to be. The city was a close maze of abattoirs and tanneries and streams sluggish with excrement. Yet here, too, were brightly ornamented religious houses