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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Alternate history: what if Richard III had won at Bosworth?

Jonny Wilkes talks to Professor Emeritus Michael Hicks about how Richard III might have recovered his reputation, to some extent, and consigned the Tudors to historical obscurity.

Richard III had a clear advantage going into the battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. As king of England, he commanded an army two or three times the size of the ragtag Lancastrian force that sailed from France, he had brought more cannon, and he was a seasoned warrior. His enemy, a Lancastrian with a tenuous claim to the throne named Henry Tudor, had never seen battle. When Richard heard of Henry’s landing, he was overjoyed: he had a chance to crush this pretender once and for all.”

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The True Story of Roland the Farter, and How the Internet Killed Professional Flatulence

A plate originally from The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick, published in 1581. Note the flatulentists on the right side (h/t the Lavatory Reader). (Photo: Public domain)

Roland, court minstrel to 12th century English king Henry II, probably had many talents.

But history has recorded only one.

Referred to variously Rowland le Sarcere, Roland le Fartere, Roland le Petour, and Roland the Farter, Roland really had a single job in the court: Every Christmas, during the court’s riotous pageant, he performed a dance that ended with “one jump, one whistle, and one fart”, executed simultaneously.

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What We Get Wrong About Medieval Libraries

When we picture the libraries of the Middle Ages, we see heavy tomes chained to wooden benches, far away from an accessible open space. It is a place forbidden, guarded jealously by the hooded librarian of The Name of the Rose, Malachi of Hildesheim—a domain of men. No books can leave this prison.


St. Gregory offering his book to Bishop Leandro, miniature from Commentary on the Book of Job, from the Abbey of Citeaux. France, 12th century. De Agostini via Getty Images

How to cook a medieval feast: 11 recipes from the Middle Ages

Food has been central to the social life of humans for thousands of years and, in medieval Europe, food consumption ranged from everyday sustenance to extravagant feasts.

The diet of the rich and poor was very different. While the upper classes and their households enjoyed fresh and imported foods, the rest of the population had to live off what the local land could produce which, at the end of winter or in times of shortage, might be very little!

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Earthenware tile showing a feast, probably the wedding feast at Cana, Christ’s first miracle. One of a group of eight floor tiles at the British Museum associated with the church at Tring, Hertfordshire. 14th century.