Portal:Medieval Britain

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The Medieval Britain Portal

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Early Medieval Scotland

Great Britain during the Middle Ages (from the 5th century withdrawal of Roman forces from the province of Britannia and the Germanic invasions, until the Early modern period) was fragmented into a number of independent kingdoms. By the High Middle Ages, after the end of the Viking Age and the Norman Conquest, the kingdoms of England and Scotland emerge as the main poles of political power.

The medieval period in England can be dated from the arrival in Kent of Anglo-Saxon troops led by the legendary Hengest and Horsa. Subsequently the Brythonic, Celtic powers were conquered by Jutes, Angles and Saxons Germanic tribes, from the contemporary Angeln and Jutland areas of northern Germany and mainland Denmark. Political takeover of other areas of England proceeded piecemeal and was not completed until the tenth century. Similarly, the end of the medieval period is usually dated by the rise of what is often referred to as the "English Renaissance" in the reign of Henry VIII of England, and the Reformation in Scotland, or else to the establishment of a centralized, bureaucratic monarchy by Henry VII of England. From a political point of view, the Norman Conquest of England divides medieval Britain in two distinct phases of cultural and political history, from a linguistic point of view the Norman Conquest had only a limited effect, Old English evolving into Middle English, although the Anglo Norman language would remain the language of those that ruled for two centuries at least, before mingling with Middle English.

At the height of pre-Norman medieval English power, a single English king ruled from the border with Scotland to the border with Wales to the border with Cornwall, after the Norman Conquest, English power intruded into Wales with increasing vigour, but the process of consolidation was continuous and is not just a medieval feature. The other problem with suggesting such a unity is that the various states had relations with Scandinavia and Continental Europe which are excluded by the concept. For example, northern Scotland often had closer ties with Norway and France (see Auld Alliance) than England or Wales in the medieval period, with Orkney and Shetland only becoming part of Scotland in 1471. Southern England, due to its proximity to Normandy, Flanders and Brittany, had closer relations with them than the other regions. (read more . . . )

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Dunnottar Castle in the Mearns occupies one of the best defensive locations in Great Britain. The site was in use throughout the High Middle Ages, and the castle itself dates to the thirteenth century.

The history of Scotland in the High Middle Ages covers Scotland in the era between the death of Domnall II in 900 AD and the death of king Alexander III in 1286, which led indirectly to the Scottish Wars of Independence. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, northern Great Britain was increasingly dominated by Gaelic culture, and by a Gaelic regal lordship known in Gaelic as "Alba", in Latin as either "Albania" or "Scotia", and in English as "Scotland". From a base in eastern Scotland north of the River Forth, the kingdom acquired control of the lands lying to the south, it had a flourishing culture, comprising part of the larger Gaelic-speaking world.

After the twelfth-century reign of King David I, the Scottish monarchs are better described as Scoto-Norman than Gaelic, preferring French culture to native Scottish culture. They fostered and attached themselves to a kind of Scottish "Norman Conquest", the consequence was the spread of French institutions and social values. Moreover, the first towns, called burghs, began in the same era, and as these burghs spread, so did the Middle English language. To a certain degree these developments were offset by the acquisition of the Norse-Gaelic west, and the Gaelicization of many of the great families of French and Anglo-French origin, so that the period closes with what has been called a "Gaelic revival", and an integrated Scottish national identity. Although there remained a great deal of continuity with the past, by 1286 these economic, institutional, cultural, religious and legal developments had brought Scotland closer to its neighbours in England and the Continent. By 1286 the Kingdom of Scotland had political boundaries that closely resemble those of modern Scotland. (Read more...)

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Murder of Thomas Becket

Saint Thomas Becket, St. Thomas of Canterbury, (c. 1118 – December 29, 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. He engaged in conflict with King Henry II over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. He is also commonly known as Thomas à Becket, although this form may not have been contemporaneous.

Thomas Becket was born around 1118 in Cheapside, London, to Gilbert Beket of Thierville and Matilda (with a familiar name of Roheise or Rosea) of Mondeville near Caen. His parents, of the Rouen upper-middle class, were buried in Old St. Paul's Cathedral. One of Thomas's father's rich friends, Richer de L'Aigle, was attracted to Thomas's sisters, he often invited Thomas to his estates in Sussex. There, Thomas learned to ride a horse, hunt, behave like a gentleman, and engage in popular sports such as jousting. Beginning when he was 10, Becket received an excellent education in civil and canon law at Merton Priory in England, and then overseas at Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre. Richer was later a signatory at the Constitutions of Clarendon against Thomas.

Upon returning to the Kingdom of England, he attracted the notice of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who entrusted him with several important missions to Rome and finally made him Archdeacon of Canterbury and Provost of Beverley. He so distinguished himself by his zeal and efficiency that Theobald recommended him to King Henry II when the important office of Lord Chancellor was vacant. (Read more...)

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Battle of Poitiers (1356)

Credit: unknown
Miniature depicting the Battle of Poitiers (1356) fought between the Kingdoms of England and France. The battle resulted in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War. (read more . . . )

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Henry IV

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Iona location of Iona Abbey a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland during the middle ages.
Credit: Torsten Henning
Iona location of Iona Abbey a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland during the middle ages. (Read more...)


Early Middle Ages (7th to 11th centuries): England in the Early Middle AgesScotland in the Early Middle Ages, Wales in the Early Middle AgesAnglo-Saxon EnglandViking Age

High Middle Ages (11th to 15th centuries): England in the High Middle AgesScotland in the High Middle AgesWales in the High Middle AgesNorman England (1066-1154) • House of PlantagenetHouse of Dunkeld (1058–1286)House of Balliol (1292–1338)History of the Jews in Medieval England

Late Middle Ages (14th and 15th centuries): England in the Late Middle AgesScotland in the Late Middle AgesWales in the Late Middle AgesHouse of Lancaster (13991471) • House of York (14611485) • House of Bruce (1306–1371) • Transition to Early Modern Britain

Arts: English historians in the Middle AgesMedieval Welsh literatureAnglo-Saxon literatureAnglo-Norman literatureMiddle EnglishMedieval Scottish literatureAnglo-Saxon artViking Art

Conflict: Norman ConquestHundred Year WarWars of Scottish Independence


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