At home with the medieval aristocracy

Professor Louise Wilkinson, a medievalist at the University of Lincoln talks about her research into the household accounts of Eleanor de Montfort, a key figure in the mid-13th century civil war. The conversation particularly discusses what these accounts tell us about day-to-day life in an aristocratic household – what people ate and drank, what they wore, and what they did on a daily basis – as well as how they inform us about the ramifications of the political upheavals that occurred at the time.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about medieval queens, but were afraid to ask

Dr Elena Woodacre is an expert on medieval and early modern queens and queenship at the University of Winchester. In this podcast, she answers the most popular listener and internet search questions about medieval queens, in our ‘Everything you want to know’ series. Who was the most beautiful queen, how much power did queens have, and how did they balance motherhood and royal life, are just some of the questions posed.

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Explore the Whimsical Flora of a 15th-Century Italian Folio

Just because good science is meticulous doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. At least that’s what a northern Italian illustrator decided when he went about drawing and coloring nearly 200 botanical specimens on parchment paper back in the 15th century. AtlasObscura.com

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How the Black Death Gave Rise to British Pub Culture

“I’ll buy you a beer when this is all over,” declares Christo Tofalli, the landlord of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which lays claim to the contentious title of Britain’s oldest pub and is no stranger to pandemics. While closed, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the historic city of Saint Albans, has become a Community Supply Point, providing much-needed groceries and offering free delivery to the elderly. They are even delivering Sunday Roast dinners to residents in lockdown. The threat posed by coronavirus may feel unprecedented, but Tofalli, who manages the pub, says he has been looking to the past for inspiration. AtlasObscura.com

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The debate over which is Britain’s oldest pub is fueled by the impossibility of a definitive ruling. Courtesy of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

The Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved

Turns out it was hiding in plain sight by the side of a Portuguese road.

During hot, dry summers in southern Portugal, the key ingredient for medieval manuscripts grows by the roadside. It is called folium, or turnsole, and it’s derived from the fruit of Chrozophora tinctoria, a small plant that grows in the region. For centuries, folium was responsible for coloring everything from Bible scenes to, later, the rind of a popular Dutch cheese. AtlasObscura.com

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Folium
Medieval manuscripts were illuminated with folium, and one bore the instructions for recreating the ink. Courtesy Paula Nabais

The Ambitious Plan to Digitize 100,000 Historic Texts in Belgium

Come September, a fleet of secure vehicles will pull up to a 17th-century building in Antwerp, Belgium, receive cases full of heavily protected cargo, and then abscond with the goods to a confidential location. The booty? Five thousand rare, centuries-old books, on their way to a 21st-century treatment. AtlasObscura.com

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Antwerp
The Plantin-Moretus Museum was once Europe’s most active printing business. CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC BY-SA 3.0