The Master of Edward IV

The Psalter includes eight large finely painted initials that are hitherto unknown examples of the work of an artist known as the Master of Edward IV. The Master of Edward IV was first identified by art historian Friedrich Winkler in 1915 and named by him after two volumes of a Bible historiale produced for Edward IV in 1479, now in the British Library (Royal MS 18 D ix and Royal MS 18 D x). Subsequently, the Master of Edward IV was credited with the illustration of many other manuscripts ranging in date from the 1470s to 1500. A study by Bodo Brinkmann in 1997 attributed forty-seven manuscripts and twenty separate leaves to him.

A hymn from the Lucas Psalter with the arms of Thomas Houchon Lucas: Add MS 89428, f. 12r

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Lincoln: the battle that gave birth to medieval England

As dawn broke on Saturday 20 May 1217, a small force of 900 troops marched to war, hoping to save England from ruination. Their commander, William Marshal – a man feted as the “greatest knight in all the world” – sought to stiffen their resolve on that sun-lit morning, exhorting them to seize this “chance to free our land” and thereby earn “eternal glory”.

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‘Frenssh’ as it was ‘spak’ in medieval England

In the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s prioress is accused of speaking an inferior version of French learned in Stratford rather than in Paris:

Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford att Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowne.

“And she spoke French fluently and elegantly,
After the school of Stratford-at-Bow,
For French of Paris was her her unknown.)

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An elegantly dressed nun playing a musical instrument in the Queen Mary Psalter, London or East Anglia, 1310–1320: Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 177r

Suicide in Medieval England was not simply a crime or sin

People in medieval England struggled with suicide just like people do today, and they also imagined and enacted practices of care and compassion to support the vulnerable. In the last decades of the 13th century, King Edward I extended compassionate action to a number of English subjects whose family members had died by suicide. A century later, a story in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales shows friends and neighbours responding with care to a woman on the verge of suicide.

From Giovanni Boccaccio’s book De Mulieribus Claris (‘concerning famous women’). Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

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Richard III: your guide to the last Yorkist king of England

Richard III (1452–85) was the last Yorkist king of England, whose death at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 signified the end of the Wars of the Roses and marked the start of the Tudor age. Many myths persist about the last Plantagenet king, whose remains were discovered beneath a Leicester car park in 2012; three years later he was reburied in Leicester Cathedral. We share a comprehensive guide to the much maligned English king…


The (not so) stinky Middle Ages: why medieval people were cleaner than we think

Did people in the Middle Ages take baths? Did they wash their clothes and hands – or have a general awareness of hygiene practices? If there’s one thing we think we know about our medieval ancestors, it’s that they were mud-spattered, lice-infested and smelt like rotting veg. Yet the reality appears to have been far less pungent. Here, Katherine Harvey digs the dirt on the medieval passion for cleanliness.


Pancake Racing

What better way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday than to run with a pancake-laden skillet?

Every year, in late February in England, the last hurrah before the 40 days of Lent comes in the form of pancakes.

Historically, eggs and milk that wouldn’t keep over Lent had to be used up, so pancakes became the traditional food of the day. According to lore, back in 1445, a baker had to rush to church while her frying pan was still on the stove. She had no choice but to run there, juggling the hot pan and flipping the pancake as she went. This whimsical sprint is now recreated every Shrove Tuesday across England.

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Grey Maier {Atlas Obscura User}

Medieval Minims – the hidden meaning of a medieval pen-twister

mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt

While admittedly bizarre, this medieval Latin sentence is nevertheless perfectly comprehensible. It has been translated as:

The very short mimes of the gods of snow do not at all wish that during their lifetime the very great burden of (distributing) the wine of the walls to be lightened.

A page from the florilegium containing the minim sentence at bottom right, 13th century, France. MS IV 524 Bl. 3r © Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library/Lower Saxony National Library/Hannover.

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