History of the World According to the Movies: Part 10- Life in Medieval Europe

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I couldn’t post anything about medieval France without posting a picture of Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc of 1928 by Danish director Theodore Dreyer. This is a very historically accurate film yet also a very emotionally intense one as well. Definitely one of the last masterpieces in silent film.

Finally, the Middle Ages, I’d like to devote this post to medieval life as well as to history in other medieval countries. Whenever medieval movies, don’t take place in England, they’re usually set in France, since England has history with it. However, unlike medieval Scotland, which is presented fairly inaccurately on the screen, movies on medieval France don’t have as many historical errors on screen. Of course, Joan of Arc is a popular subject who existed in the later Middle Ages (where the medieval outfits and weaponry are depicted more accurately) and that much of the script for Joan’s trial is usually taken from the actual transcripts. Still, there’s also a movie called The Advocate which recalls the story of pig being accused of murder during the 15th century, which actually happened. In Medieval Spain (which you wouldn’t call it yet), you have the subject of El Cid, one of the great Spanish heroes played by Charlton Heston. Also, in this post, I’ll talk about the historical errors in movies on medieval life, which have been shaped by popular perceptions in the media.

Medieval France:

King Philip II Augustus was hot. (Sorry, Lion in Winter fans, but he in no way resembled Timothy Dalton. He was hunchbacked and ugly. However, unlike his handsome but ineffectual dad, he was an admirable warrior and wily politician who annexed to France most of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine’s lands. In Lion in Winter, it’s correct to assume that Philip II is spending Christmas with the Plantagenet because he knows that once Henry II dies, his sons won’t measure up to him, making it the perfect time to take over their lands, which he did. Also shared a bed with Richard the Lionheart, but this doesn’t prove anything about their sexual orientation since bed sharing was a common historical occurrence.)

Giles de Rais was one of Joan of Arc’s companions, an all-around man’s man, and a successful soldier. (Yes, but he was also known as a serial rapist and killer of children which did him in at the end and was an inspiration for Bluebeard. However, some historians claim he was framed though.)

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a witch. (Officially she was burned at the stake for relapsed heresy like cross-dressing and even though she agreed to wear a dress, her captors stole her skirt and replaced it with pants as part of a set up. In reality, she was burned by the English {the English side, she was actually burned by the Burgundians} because she led the French to victory during the Hundred Years’ War, so the English were just looking for any excuse.)

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the English. (She was burned at the stake by the Burgundians. However, the heresy charges were very much trumped up.)

French King Philip Augustus tried to invade England. (Actually his goal was to retake French soil from the English. Thus, unless you count the French lands England occupied at the time, he didn’t. However, his son did when King John broke the terms of the Magna Carta.)

Notre Dame had a full flight of stairs from the square to the front entrance. (It has always been level with the square.)

Joan of Arc’s gender was her downfall. (Her downfall was political and would’ve happened whether she was male or female. Being a woman just made it easier for her enemies.)

Horseshoes were used in France in the 12th century. (They were first used in France a century later and shoeing horses didn’t become practice until the 17th century.)

Charles VII was a foppish prince who fought at Agincourt. (He actually didn’t fight in Agincourt and wasn’t really a fop or mocked by a constable of France behind his back. Also, he’s the one who enlisted Joan of Arc so he was probably doing something right.)

Joan of Arc actually fought in battle. (Yes, she served on the front lines to rally her troops to victory but she never killed anyone as well as functioned more like a mascot than anything else. Still, she did help reform the army by expelling prostitutes and mandating confession {probably the closest thing her troops will ever have to therapy} and Mass attendance, banning swearing, looting, and harassing. She also played a major role in her army’s tactical decisions as well.)

When Joan of Arc was 8, she saw English soldiers burn her village as well as raped and kill her sister. (This is in The Messenger but this incident has no basis in reality. However, Joan’s village was raided in 1425 and 1428. The raid in 1425 was carried primarily by Burgundian soldiers in which they burned a church and stole some cattle. The 1428 raid forced the d’Arc family to flee to another village. Yet, as far as we know, Joan’s family went unmolested in both incidents.)

Joan of Arc was a borderline psychotic. (Joan may have been a saint but she wasn’t known for being polite since she was known to be rude to clergy, royalty, and military commanders alike. She was a teenage peasant girl after all. Yet, unlike her depiction in The Messenger, Joan was also brave, quick-witted, and charismatic. Milla Jovovich’s portrayal doesn’t show these qualities. Still, no one in the 15th century thought she was nuts.)

Joan of Arc was a true saint. (Well, as lovely as she was Joan wasn’t above threatening her enemies with massacres and actually carried it out on one occasion with hundreds of civilians killed in the process. Also, she told at least one woman to stay in the kitchen. And one of her confidantes would later become a famous medieval serial killer. No Mr. Rogers, but Joan certainly would qualify as a living saint by 15th century standards.)

Joan of Arc was pretty. (I think the Maria Falconetti portrayal is probably the closest to what you’d expect a 15th century teenage peasant girl to look like. However, she certainly looked nothing like Ingrid Bergman for she was said to be quite short with dark hair.)

Medieval Spain:

Alfonso and Urraca were an incestuous couple. (Historians still debate that. However, their father King Ferdinand did manage to have five kids who fought each other, made Muslim allies, shagged Muslim princess, hatched world domination conspiracies, and assassinated each other. So their family life was like Game of Thrones.)

El Cid was selfless and hostile to Muslims. (The historical El Cid was said to be more self-seeking and less hostile to Muslims than his legend. Actually he was willing to work for Muslims if they paid them he enough and actually fought both sides equally. Still, he was a mercenary who was more interested in establishing his own fiefdom in Valencia as well as cared more about being paid than in anything relating to Christendom and war.)

Navarre was a poor kingdom. (It gave Richard the Lionheart an impressive dowry when he married Berengaria, which wouldn’t have happened if it was poor. Also, Richard could always use the money.)

Castile and Leon were a united kingdom in the 1180s. (They were united in the 1230s.)

El Cid called victory for Spain. (Spain didn’t exist until the 1400s, and El Cid lived in the 11th century.)

Emir Yusuf al-Mutamin of Zaragoza wanted to conquer Castile and Leon. (He didn’t attempt to because he was at war with his own half-brother. Also, he didn’t give Rodrigo Diaz the nickname of El Cid and they didn’t become close until Diaz joined Yusuf’s army as a mercenary.)

Dona Jimena hated Rodrigo Diaz for killing her father but she married him anyway. (This may not have happened but it’s in the poem about El Cid, so I’ll forgive the filmmakers for it.)

El Cid took Valencia by giving bread to its people. (Aw, that’s sweet but it’s bullshit. He actually ransacked the surrounding villages, starved the city, took it by assault, and seized all its riches. Still, he didn’t offer the crown to Alfonso but ruled the area himself.)

El Cid died in agony on the battlefield. (He died in 1099 during peacetime of some unknown cause.)

Yusuf ibn Tashufin was defeated at Valencia. (He managed to lead the Almoravids to victory at Valencia in 1102. Not bad for a 96 year old man.)

Medieval Scandinavia:

Flagellantism was prominent in Sweden during the Black Death. (It never made it there.)

Medieval Russia:

Gavrila Alexich participated in the Battle of Ice. (He was killed in 1241 while storming the fortress of Koporye.)

Alexander Nevsky refused to ally himself with Batu Khan of the Golden Horde. (He actually did enter into a controversial alliance with him, but only 10 years after the Battle of Ice. Of course, Sergei Eisenstein knew this and wanted to put it in, but the Soviet government wanted none of that.)

Alexander Nevsky clashed with the boyars over proletarian revolution and redistribution of wealth. (Yes, he did clash with the boyars but not over concepts that would be as authentic to them in the 13th century as electronics. Obviously, Soviet propaganda here.)

Holy Roman Empire:

Alberto da Giussano killed a boar just before it gored Frederick Barbarossa. (Alberto da Giussano was said to have been a great warrior of the Guelph faction leading the Lombard League to victory at the Battle of Legnano in 1176. That is, if he ever existed, which there’s no firm evidence for that.)

Frederick Barbarossa was an old man when he married his 13-year old wife. (Yes, he married a 13 year old girl but he was 34 at the time. However, in his biopic he’s played by a 65 year old man which makes the relationship much creepier than it really was.)

The Battle of Legano was a decisive battle. (It wasn’t. Frederick Barbarossa was considering a truce during it.)

During the siege of Milan Frederick Barbarossa strapped prisoners on the siege towers so the Milanese couldn’t attack him without killing their fellow citizens. (He actually did this but not at Milan. Rather it was at the siege of Crema in 1159. And he only did this because the Cremese were hacking imperial prisoners in front of his army.)

Medieval Life:

Medieval Europeans were dirty, smelly, and rarely bathed. (This is only true in towards the end of the Middle Ages when it was rumored that bathing mad e a person more susceptible to disease. Yet, for most of the Middle Ages, people usually washed their hands before and after dinner and took communal baths so they probably didn’t lead the most sanitary lifestyles but they didn’t smell like shit either.)

Life in the Middle Ages was nasty, brutish, and short and peasants worked nonstop for lords who cared nothing about them. (This only partly true considering the high child mortality, wars, and lack of medicine but if a person managed survive childhood and if other things didn’t kill him or her first, he or she could managed to live to his or her seventies. Also, peasants worked eight hour days and were off the third of the year including Sundays.)

Everyone except nobles and clergy wore rough brown clothing. (Actually, even ordinary people were skilled and knowledgeable in making clothes that some authorities had to ban certain dyes were only reserved for royalty and nobility. They were also well made, had buttons, and pockets.)

In the Middle Ages there were only two classes that consisted of nobles and royals and peasants. (The Middle Ages also saw the formation of a middle class which consisted of traders, skilled tradesmen, performers, artists, and investors.)

Women were treated as second-class citizens whose place was in the home caring for household and children as well as making babies on demand. (Though women weren’t allowed fight in battle, run for office, or become a priest, this didn’t mean that women were just baby making machines since most women did almost the same thing their husbands and fathers did and even ran estates and businesses. There was even a woman who ran England’s entire beer industry. They also became nuns which allowed them access to education that even kings didn’t have. Not to mention, they didn’t wear chastity belts either. Also, read the Wife of Bath’s Tale. Yes, people in the Middle Ages were sexist but not to the degree that is depicted in movies. Still, there was much more discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, and social class than on sex.)

People in the Middle Ages were prudes. (Actually, these were the days when a whole family would sleep naked together in one room and even little children knew where babies came from for there wasn’t much privacy at the time. Not to mention, most people would assume any couple living together was married whether that was true or not. Also, even though priests were expected to be celibate, most people wouldn’t be shocked if their priest fathered an illegitimate child with his housekeeper which was not uncommon either. Then we have Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which isn’t the most family friendly literature out there. Oh, and fart jokes are some of the oldest ones in the book.)

Real Men Don’t Wear Dresses. Costume designers often fear that actual male medieval clothing looks like a dress and will confound the gender expectations of their audience. Medieval tunics and robes can end up morphed into short jackets, smoking jackets (Knight’s Tale) and dusters (Timeline). Hosen tends to turn into pants (Knight’s Tale) and trousers (Branagh Henry V) [From A Common Place Book]

Bad Hair. The modern filmmaker is really reluctant to put their characters, and particularly protagonists, in hairstyles they think their audience will find unflattering. (Thus the unmedieval bangs in Timeline and the ’30s mustaches in the Errol Flynn Robin Hood. Olivier’s Henry V and The Warlord show rare courage in putting their heroes in appropriate haircuts that look unflattering to many modern eyes.) [From A Commonplace Book]

The antagonists are Yucky. Cardboard Villains can be unattractive in other ways, to make them even less sympathetic. The Edward II in Braveheart is a weak and mincing effeminate. (The historical Edward II was physically strong, well-formed and vigorous, whatever his moral faults.)The Commodus in Gladiator was a dark, puffy faced dissolute. (His historical model was an athletic blond.) Alternatively, the Cardboard Villains can have bad teeth or other deformities. (The Messenger) [From A Commonplace Book]

Droit de Seigneur, the legal right to deflower unwilling virgins would have been a great way to be a Cardboard Villain if the institution had actually existed in the Middle Ages.  [From A Commonplace Book] (Well, if it did, it was called feudalism in which nobles and royals could do anything they wanted to the commoners. And no Lords wouldn’t claim any right to “rape” another man’s wife {saying this could mean excommunication and a peasant revolt}, they would just simply pressure the woman to have sex with them or he’d have her loved ones killed {which he could actually do}.)

The king had the right prima nocta which was the right to sleep with any man’s bride on her wedding night. (Actually, this may be true if it referred to his own right but he also had the right to screw any woman he wanted, regardless of the woman’s marital status. And women had no right to say no to him. Also, lords can do the same thing to their subjects.)

If you are a princess, you always have a favorite lady in waiting, and you always send her to warn the hero of the evil king’s intention just in time. [Movie Cliches List]

Corollary: the lady in waiting is never quite as beautiful as the princess; however, she still always catches the eye of the hero’s sidekick. [Movie Cliches List]

Horses never get winded, throw a shoe, etc., until the pursuing sheriff is right behind the hero. [Movie Cliches List]

Corollary: the wagon that breaks an axle or gets stuck in the creek is always the one carrying the king’s entire treasury, which he totes around with him every time he goes gallivanting through bandit-infested countryside. (Kings would never carry their entire treasury with them.) [Movie Cliches List]

Everyone in the Middle Ages lived in a lovely half-timbered house with two bedrooms and a stone fireplace.

Noblewomen were passive and were never taught how to fight. (Just because noblewomen were taught to stay at home didn’t mean that they were passive damsels in distress either. Noblewomen actually did learn the basics of combat and siege defense. You wouldn’t want the lady of the manor be unprepared in case the enemy attacked when the lord wasn’t around. So this means Merida and Fiona were more like real medieval princesses than Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Eowyn only deviates from the norm because she wants to fight with the boys in battle.)

Trial by ordeal was a common judicial practice in the late Middle Ages. (Since Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Council of the Lateran had banned clergy from participating in the practice, it had been in decline since 1215 as well as been used rarer and rare in the official capacity. Compurgation or “wager of law” was more often used in which an accused would swear an oath and get at least 12 people to swear that they believed them was more or less the standard practice in the Late Middle Ages.)

The Black Death first came to Europe in the 1300s. (Actually there were plague was behind many major epidemics in ancient times. So, there probably was a plague around the time of King Arthur.)

Almost every medieval state was a monarchy. (Venice was a republic while a good chunk of Italy was ruled by the Pope.)

Everyone in the Middle Ages was an uneducated moron. (Actually the reason for the lack of education was because most people in that time were peasants and books were expensive for they were copied by hand {making universal education almost impossible}. They didn’t have extensive trade and travel infrastructure either. Also, most people during the Middle Ages were just as smart as anyone else in any other time period of history.)

The Iron Maiden was a medieval torture device. (It was invented after the Middle Ages, and there’s no record on whether it was used even though Uday Hussein had one.)

No one ever had sex outside of marriage or before marriage. Also, that all marriage ceremonies — even of peasants in small outland communities– were performed by priests in a church. (Cohabitation was common in the Middle Ages that some couples got married in a church before middle age. Also, most women didn’t have any right to refuse sex from their resident lord if he wanted it regardless of the moral standards of the time.)

The drapery not only kept the draft out of the castle but was often used for people to hide behind while eavesdropping on a conversation which was usually about them.

Medieval outlaws were generous Robin Hoods who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. (They were more or less self-serving rogues who caused a lot of trouble in their local towns and skipped trial. Still, many outlaws in England did manage to become knights. Yet, they usually came from all walks of life.)

Medieval people had no table manners. (From Medievalist: “While food was eaten with hands, spoons, and knives (forks weren’t popular in most of Europe until the seventeenth century – they were considered “too Italian” and effete), then, as now, eating was a communal activity, and (since people most often shared plates and cups) was not enjoyable if your companion had no manners. Entire treatises were written on correct etiquette, and encouraged things such as offering the best of the food on your plate to the lady, wiping your fingers on cloth, and wiping your mouth before taking a sip from your shared cup, so that you did not leave a slick of oil on top of the wine.”)

Men tried to control their women with chastity belts. (There’s no evidence chastity belts were ever made or used in the Middle Ages. Rather there’s no evidence of chastity belts until the 18th century.)

People used spices to cover up the taste of rotten food. (From Medievalist: “I suppose this might have been useful when there was very little food to be had (although, in that case, why would you have expensive spices hanging around?), but it was by no means the norm. Most people at this time were involved in agriculture – they knew when food was good and when it wasn’t. There was little point in eating food that had gone bad, since it was risking making yourself dangerously sick, or worse. It is much more likely that spices, if used for camouflage, were used to make staple foods more interesting (much like ketchup).”)

Druidism still existed in Western Europe during the 11th century. (Paganism had largely been eradicated by the 8th century there while druidism died out in Pre-Christian Imperial Rome.)

Paper was a standard medieval correspondence material in the 12th century. (It was invented in China in the 2nd century and didn’t make it to Europe until the 13th century.)

Syphillis existed during the Middle Ages. (Didn’t make its first appearance in Europe until 1494 and wasn’t coined until 1530.)

People in the Ages could accurately tell time. (Mechanical clocks weren’t around until much later.)

Condemned criminals had tomatoes thrown at them. (They didn’t exist in Europe until after Columbus.)

Some people in the Middle Ages wore glasses. (They were invented in the 16th century.)

Torches were used a lot in the Dark Ages. (From Policy Mic.com: “Torches were certainly used now and then, no doubt about that, but they were not used anywhere near as liberally as Hollywood would have you believe. First of all, most torches would not be able to be lit for more than an hour, ruling out having them lining the walls of castles to provide light. Secondly, having torches inside would be a terrible idea given the small issue of smoke.

“Most importantly, torches do not really provide much light. Movies are full of mobs carrying torches as they run through the darkness looking for someone, or people using torches to light their way. While a torch can certainly help you see the area immediately around you and cast light on large objects, it is not all that great for seeing more than a few feet ahead. If you were looking for someone outside in the dark, you would be better off ditching the torch, using the moonlight, and letting your eyes adjust to the darkness. If trying to get around your castle at night, a simple candle would suffice.”)

Medicine was mostly best on superstition. (Yes and no. Sure it was bunk, dangerous, as well as depended on humoral theory and astrology. But you also had some effective treatments and some of the first medical colleges.)

Executions were used for almost every offense imaginable. (From Policy Mic.com: “In reality, the Middle Ages typically saw the death penalty reserved for only serious offenders who committed the crimes of murder, treason, or arson. Torture was not really widespread. The most common forms of punishment included public humiliation and fines. Repeat offenders were usually exiled. The Middle Ages also maintained trials for those accused of crimes; verdicts were not strictly the decisions of kings and noblemen.”)

The most frequent form of execution was beheading. (From Policy Mic.com: “Beheadings were usually reserved for the noble classes and done in the privacy of courtyards rather than in the town square. Also, it was very rarely one swing and done; the typical beheading took 4 or 5 swings to decapitate the head. If the executioner was unable to kill the convicted by that point, the person usually just ended up bleeding to death.

“The most common form of execution in the Middle Ages was hanging. It was easy, it did not cost much, and you could let the bodies hang out for a bit as a warning to others. If a criminal was particularly hated, he would be hanged, drawn, and quartered, a very unpleasant form of punishment that popped up in 14th-century England as a penalty for high treason.”)

Turkey legs were a favored medieval dish. (People in the Middle Ages would know nothing about turkeys since they lived in North America. Diets usually consisted of eggs, bread, fish, cheese, oats, vegetables like cabbage and turnips, and ale.)

People in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat. (No one in Medieval Europe ever believed this.)

People ate off of pewter plates and threw bones to the floor. (Peasants ate from wooden plates while nobles usually ate from silver and locked since it was a good way to carry if one needed to make a hasty departure. Also, no they didn’t throw bones to the floor for the dogs to eat.)

Blacksmiths made horseshoes and swords. (Most of the time, they’d be making farming implements.)

Most people didn’t eat rats in the Middle Ages. (This was a common meat among poor people.)

Noblewomen were sent as diplomats in the 14th century. (Royal women had little privacy even under the best circumstances and would certainly not be left alone with an enemy {unless they were her relatives, but still}. Of course, they were sent as diplomats {well, as marriage partners in political alliances} usually in circumstances where they’d be related to the family. As for noblewomen, they were more or less needed to take care of the home like protecting it from invaders.)

Nobles raised their own children during their school years. (The kids would normally be sent to somewhere else for their education like another noble’s home, convent, or monastery. Fostering was very common back then.)

Courtly love was a popular theme in the Middle Ages. (Yes, but so were stories of war, religious stories, and ones that may not be suitable for children. Also, medieval women also loved their filth, too.)

Feudalism was a hierarchical and harmonious way of living. (It was anything but because royal power was rather decentralized and the nobles usually fought amongst themselves. Also, it’s not unusual to put feudalism as another reason for the Crusades.)

Skilled craftsmen can end up impoverished if unemployed. (Skilled craftsmen had guilds to help them out and usually didn’t face much poverty. And if a master craftsman died, his wife may run his business for him or one of his journeymen might marry her.)

Primogeniture was the rule in medieval society. (Only in the later Middle Ages.)

Kidnapped women were often damsels in distress. (Sometimes women would arrange their own kidnappings to get out of an arranged marriage. Sometimes they may even do the kidnapping, which is how Robert Bruce’s parents ended up together.)

All servants were peasants. (High ranking nobles had high ranking servants, especially when primogeniture was the main inheritance rule. Many of these were younger sons of nobles. Also, they were overwhelmingly male.)

People ate with forks since the 12th century. (Only for a few Italy and in the Byzantine Empire, they were teased mercilessly for it. They didn’t become more in style until the 16th century.)

Medieval men wore practical and functional clothing. (Aristocratic men’s fashion of the era could get pretty ridiculous in the later years).

Cremation was a common practice in medieval Europe. (It wasn’t and in some place it wasn’t even legal.)

Inns were public houses with big common rooms below and rooms above. (It’s more complicated than that. Some inns had bars. Some didn’t. Some had only a single room with several beds that could fit 3 people each. Only upscale places had rooms with one or two beds. You also had alehouses where you can have some drink as well but no rooms. Yet, they can function less like the fantasy inns you see and more like the Mos Eisley Cantina. But a tavern can also be someone else’s home. People can even stay at other people’s houses or at a hospital.)

Medieval castles had bare stone walls inside. (A lot of castles had murals inside since nobles wanted to impress visitors with their wealth.)

Most people stayed home during the Middle Ages. (This is true for a lot of Medieval people. However, some did go on pilgrimages and participated in war. So that counts.)

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History of the World According to the Movies: Part 9- Medieval England

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Of course, no post about medieval England is complete without a picture of Laurence Olivier who’s very much identified with such films of this time and place. This is him playing Richard III in his adaptation of the eponymous and highly historically inaccurate play by William Shakespeare. Sure he may look evil but he doesn’t seem to a good job being grotesque since he still looks pretty hot. Nevertheless, he may actually look closer to the real Richard III than in other portrayals though he was much older than the late king could’ve been.

If you ever see a movie set in the Middle Ages, chances are it will take place in England mostly because it will focus on Robin Hood, King Arthur, or something by William Shakespeare. Then sometimes there are movies based in the Middle Ages produced in Great Britain and most of the time, they’d like to do their own history. Yet, since Hollywood is situated in a place where there was no medieval history, then England usually has to do. Of course, there’s a lot history covered in medieval England, especially when it pertains to the royal family. There’s Henry II with his mom Empress Matilda who tried to take the throne from her cousin. Then he has a wife named Eleanor of Acquitaine who’s very much a formidable woman like himself who incited a rebellion among her sons and ended up in prison (only to be released when she outlived him but she also outlived most of her kids, too). Then you have Henry II’s sons Richard and John who were as different as night and day as well as at each other’s throats. Oh, what great family soap opera that would be. Then you got Henry II’s relationship with Thomas Becket which would later lead to his murder in Canterbury Cathedral and Philip Augustus who’s bitter about Henry stealing lands under his dad (and Eleanor’s ex-husband). After that is the post-Magna Carta era usually consisting of kings Henry III, Richard II, and the first three Edwards (many movies errors from this category will also be from Braveheart). After that, is the Wars of the Roses when England becomes engaged in civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York after Richard II is deposed. You get kings like Henry IV, Henry V (“We happy few, we band of brothers.”), Henry VI, and Richard III (who wasn’t as evil as Shakespeare depicted him, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”). Nevertheless, historical errors will still abound in these movies, which I shall list here.

English was spoken in the same way as it is today despite the fact that you had to get version of Canterbury Tales with a translation for you didn’t understand what the hell Chaucer was saying in its original form.

English commoners were still resisting their Norman overlords at least a century or two after the Norman Conquest. (This was started by Henry V during the Hundred Years’ War as Anti-French propaganda and it was also picked up during the Reformation. Also, William the Conqueror and his fellow Normans didn’t really invade England since he had been promised the throne by the previous King Edward the Confessor who was his cousin but was passed on in favor of the late king’s brother-in-law.)

English nobles and royalty spoke English. (Between 1066 to 1453, English was considered a language for peasants. Most English nobles during that time spoke French.)

Lady Godiva rode naked through Coventry in order to get her husband Leofric to lower taxes. (Godiva was a real noblewoman but she never did this.)

Sons and daughters could inherit at the same time. (Daughters were forbidden to inherit anything unless they didn’t have legitimate brothers living.)

English marriage ceremonies were set to the Book of Common Prayer. (It would’ve been conducted in Latin.)

English kings were addressed as “Your Majesty.” (That title wouldn’t be used until the 1390s. So this is part right.)

There was an actual King Arthur of England. (Well, if you count Geoffrey of Brittany’s son Arthur as Richard’s successor maybe {who King John later had killed}, but that’s as close to an actual English King Arthur as you’re going to get. As for the Arthur of Camelot, very much a mythological figure.)

The English had no reason to start the Hundred Years’ War. (Read your history books. Many of the early English kings since 1066 were French of some sort of another. Also, The Lion in Winter would’ve been more historically accurate if you have the English royal family speaking in French. Heck, you could’ve easily called Henry II as the real king of France during his kingship because he ruled almost all of it. Not to mention, it even takes place in France.)

English civilians could freely hunt in the forests. (Hunting game in the English forests later in the Middle Ages might carry a harsh punishment.)

Henry II and Co:

Richard the Lionheart was a good king and John was a bad king. (Actually Richard was anything but a good king at least in peacetime, hated England, and saw it was only good for financing his coffers so he can go on Crusade and fight the French. John, by contrast, probably wasn’t the best king England ever had and wasn’t a nice guy but at least his interests were in running England even though he managed to piss off everyone that he ended up putting his seal on the Magna Carta. He also did good things as write many books on law and was considered a legal expert before his kingship. Oh, and he treated the Jews better than his brother. But since Richard the Lionheart was often away, the nobles had free rein, which put up resistance when King John tried to take control. Not to mention, Richard the Lionheart had a better personality and he wasn’t stupid either. Nevertheless, their dad Henry II was a far better king than either of them put together who’s remembered as England’s greatest Medieval King {as well as his portrayal by Peter O’Toole.})

Thomas Becket and Henry II had a platonic homosexual relationship prior to Becket’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury. (There’s no historical data that they were more than just friends. Besides, Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine out of love {and her lands that consisted of half of France} as well as had a succession of mistresses {though Eleanor was probably the love of his life}. Also, Becket was said to be celibate.)

Henry II slept with Richard the Lionheart’s fiancee. (There’s no definitive evidence of this though Richard later resisted marrying his fiancee on the basis of the claim.)

Thomas Becket was a Saxon and Henry II was Norman. (Becket was a Norman and Henry II was Angevin on his father’s side. However, his mother was Norman.)

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket didn’t desire special legal privileges for the clergy. (Many people said he did, especially if clergy members committed secular crimes, which was one of the things he and Henry II disagreed on. And Henry II was quite justified and has been known for replacing trials by combat with jury trials.)

Empress Matilda was an annoyance to Henry II. (Actually she was instrumental for shaping her son, Henry II into the fierce warrior and skilled administrator he was and was the sole parent for much of his childhood. Also, Henry II adored his mother and relied heavily on her guidance and advice until her death in 1167. Not to mention, she was the reason why Henry II was able to get the throne and is best known for her war against King Stephen after she was passed over when her father Henry I died.)

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s father was alive when she was married to Henry II. (Her dad died when she was 15 years old, which made her Duchess of Aquitaine as well as the most eligible bride of the 12th century.)

Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had four children all boys. (They had eight children that included five sons and three daughters. Also, Eleanor had two daughters while married to King Louis VII and Henry II had at least eight illegitimate children to several long term mistresses.)

Richard the Lionheart died immediately from a crossbow wound from a cook. (He lived for more than a week and died from gangrene. Also, the guy responsible for shooting him was a boy with a crossbow and a frying pan whom he ordered to be set free, forgiven, and rewarded 100 shillings for a lucky shot. However, the pardon was retracted when he died by a mercenary captain and the boy was flayed alive. Jesus Christ!)

Richard the Lionheart was very fond of England. (He had no attachment to the place and only spent six months of his reign there. Most of his ten year reign was spent in either on Crusade or in France fighting Philip Augustus. Also, he forgave John for running England for him.)

Richard the Lionheart was a wise old king. (He was only 41 when he died.)

King John signed the Magna Carta early in his reign. (It was actually near the end.)

Isabella of Angoulmene was a young woman when she married King John. (She was twelve. Don’t worry; it’s very likely that he waited until she was sixteen to have sex with her which was normal in such marriages.)

King John had a title called Defender of the Holy Sepulcher.  (He was offered the title but his dad turned it down for him and sent the boy to Ireland.Also, it was the title of Godfrey de Boullion, a Christian ruler of Jerusalem who had nothing to do with England at all.)

Henry II referred to himself as Plantagenet. (The name didn’t come to use until close to the end of the dynasty and was first used by the father of Edward IV and Richard III.)

King John had brown hair. (He was a flaming redhead like his dad and brothers.)

King Henry was ten years older than the pope in 1183. (The actual pope at the time was 36 years older than him.)

Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre for love. (He more likely married her for money and lands. It was more of a political marriage. Though they went on Crusade together and she tried to raise money for his ransom, we’re not sure whether the marriage was ever consummated. Also, Richard spent so much time away from her that the Pope had to tell him spend time with her, which he did by taking her to church. Not to mention, she was very much overlooked as Queen of England and Cyprus during Richard’s reign.)

Richard the Lionheart had an affair with Philip Augustus. (There’s little evidence supporting this though Richard might’ve went both ways. Also, he had at least one illegitimate son as well as had a reputation as a womanizer while Philip had two. Either way, he was certainly not faithful to his wife. Historians are divided over his sexuality and the gay allegations began in the 1960s. As for Philip Augustus, well, he was much closer to Geoffrey than Richard {he was bawling in Geoffrey’s funeral after he got trampled by a horse}. Not to mention, he was absolutely furious with Richard when he broke his engagement with his sister.)

King John was middle aged during Richard the Lionheart’s reign. (These two kings have been played by middle aged men in the Robin Hood films but both died in their forties {Richard died at 41 while John died at 49} and John ascended the throne at 33. At least The Lion in Winter gets their ages mostly right.)

King John and the Knights Templar were bitter rivals. (They were buddies. He exempted the Templars from all taxation and gave them extraordinary protection of property. In return, the Templars let John use their New Temple in London headquarters as a treasury.)

King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was young. (She was 30 at the time.)

Post-Magna Carta:

King Edward I was a brutal conquer who oppressed his subjects and was a pagan. (King Edward I was a Christian {who had been on a Crusade} and didn’t oppress his English subjects nor did he kill his son’s lover by throwing him out the window {he was said to be a great husband and father as well as a charitable man}. Edward I also set up Parliament as a permanent institution, set up a working tax system, and ushered in a more progressive system seemed radical in most European circles. Even today he’s seen as one of England’s best kings and even well thought of by Dante. Still, he was a brutal conqueror {which is why the Scots and Welsh don’t like him}, ruthless with his enemies{killed his noble prisoners at the Battle of Evesham which was taboo at the time}, and hated the Jews.)

Edward II was sickly looking and gay. (He probably went both ways {had at least one illegitimate child as well as four kids with Isabella} but he was said to be rather athletic and handsome {not a walking stereotype}. Also, during the time of William Wallace {at least at his death}, he was most likely a teenager.)

Edward I planned to cause the racial death of Scotland. (He didn’t. He just wanted to control Scotland. Also, his getting control of Scotland was partly the Scottish people’s fault since they agreed to relinquish their independence until a new king could be appointed after their designated child queen died on the way there from Norway. Yet, the divisive Scottish noble families made it difficult to select a satisfactory candidate as every option seemed to lead to civil war. And when an appropriate candidate was selected by the name of John Balliol who proved to be a weak king {as well as wouldn’t cooperate with Edward I}. He was later captured during a war with the English in 1296 as well as forced to abdicate. The Scots just didn’t bet on Edward Longshanks backstabbing them since he probably felt sick over the business end and thought the only competent candidate Scotland had available was himself though he never claimed the crown.)

Edward I was the first king to name his son Prince of Wales. (First record of this comes from the 16th century.)

Isabella of France was the first Princess of Wales. (She married Edward II when he was already king and she never met her father-in-law.)

Edward I treacherously hanged Scottish noblemen. (Never happened.)

Edward I wanted to sleep with Princess Isabella. (This would never have happened. Also, he opposed the marriage between her and the future Edward II, explaining why they tied the knot after he was dead {granted the marriage was a disaster}. Still, her conspiring to kill her husband did help bring Scottish independence.)

Edward II was unable to impregnate his wife. (Apparently he was at least able to impregnate somebody and she was able to have kids so you may figure it out {though she had a lover named John Mortimer}.)

Queen Isabella of England was ashamed of the English cruelty toward the Scots. (She had her husband King Edward II imprisoned and murdered for refusing to advocate in favor of their son and launched her own invasion of Scotland.)

Queen Isabella of England was a sweet and kindly princess. (She was called the She Wolf of France and plotted to kill her husband as well as considered invading Scotland as a nice mother and son activity.)

Edward I reinstated prima noctis in Scotland. (He never did this.)

Edmund Mortimer was Richard II’s true heir. (It’s very likely Henry IV was but he and and Richard had a massive falling out resulting in Richard being deposed and imprisoned.)

Edward the Black Prince was married to Lady Joan Holland who was kidnapped by the French. (Actually his wife’s name was Lady Joan Holland but she was also the Countess of Kent and a widow. However, she was never kidnapped by the French, and no, Edward never had to rescue her. Interestingly, he was known as Edward of Woodstock. However, he and Lady Joan did love each other for his parents opposed the match since she was once their ward.)

William Wallace killed the Duke of York. (It wasn’t a title for a younger son at the time of King Edward I.)

Edward II abdicated the throne. (He was more likely imprisoned and killed.)

Edward II was disemboweled with a red hot poker. (He more likely died from being smothered in his bed.)

The Wars of the Roses:

King Richard III was a terrible king who imprisoned and killed his nephews in the Tower of London, had his brother drowned in a vat of wine, poisoned his wife and bumped off her father and first husband, bumped off two cousins and planned to marry a third, had a crippled arm and a hunchback. And his last words were, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (He actually wasn’t grotesque looking and didn’t do anything that I just mentioned {with the possible exception of imprisoning his nephews in the tower}, which was cooked up by the Tudors. The only physical deformity he had was real bad scoliosis which isn’t as recognizable. Though Prince George did drown in a vat of wine {allegedly, but it’s more likely he starved}, it was on King Edward IV’s insistence not Richard’s. And as how Richard III became king, he simply said that his nephews were illegitimate because Edward IV married his wife while engaged to another woman which was very much like being married {and since King Edward IV was such a horndog and everybody hated the Woodvilles, he could get away with it easily and Parliament would just give the crown to him}. The English were also no fans of child kings at this point as well and the prospect of having another one terrified the country. And he was already running the country anyway so he might as well take the throne while at it. Any king would’ve done the same thing. He also had George’s kids declared illegitimate as well. Also, he was said to be a rather reasonable and competent king with a reputation of bravery justified by his death in battle in which he went down fighting at thirty-two. He was probably not much cruel or ruthless than most kings of his day and was well thought of by his contemporaries. Rather, he was said to be loved by the lower orders and improved conditions in Northern England {especially York} though he didn’t make many friends among the nobility. Oh, and he liked to use an ax. Shakespeare may be one of the best writers who ever lived but he’s about as good of a historian as Mel Gibson.)

King Richard III was an unpopular king. (Not only did he have one of the best attended coronations in years, he had quite a following in York where the people mourned his death. Still, what did him in is that he was king during a civil war, reigned 2 years, and died with no surviving legitimate children).

King Henry V was a wild vagabond when he was heir to the English throne. (He was always the same, duty bound, serious man his whole life. Also, had a nasty scar on his face which explains why his portrait is usually in profile.)

King Henry V was a badass warrior king and a great hero. (He also captured enemy knights {but had some good excuse since it was Agincourt, he was heavily outnumbered, and could’ve opened the battle on two fronts resulting in a massacre of his own men}, burned proto-Protestant heretics alive {including the inspiration for Falstaff but this was done to unite Catholicism under one pope after a series of antipopes as was the case in Europe}, doomed both sides into fighting a pointless war {which was an age old war he could’ve won if he hadn’t died so early}, and had a nasty scar across his face. Still, like any medieval king, he was ruthless when he needed to be and didn’t tax his subjects to the highest bitter to pay for his conflicts. Actually he doesn’t come worse off than most kings of the time.)

Henry VII effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. (Yes, but there were still major revolts against him which he tyrannically suppressed. This made him very unpopular and many nobles were glad to see him go. Yet, he did marry Elizabeth of York which helped secure his throne as was a rather intelligent woman in her own right. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare didn’t write a play about Henry VII. Then again, any king would do the same and Henry VII was a rather competent king that England needed at the time and did whatever needed to be done. Still, despite the fact he has a small role in Richard III doesn’t mean that he was a boring guy.)

Richard III killed the Duke of Somerset. (The guy died when Richard was three.)

Hotspur was a childhood friend of King Henry V. (Actually he was three years older than his dad.)

Henry V was the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. (It’s said he had little charm, no sense of humor, and was truly terrifyingly convinced he was an instrument of God. Still, he really did care about his soldiers yet Shakespeare’s portrayal of him is a reasonable break from reality. It’s unlikely Princess Catherine of Valois would’ve found him entertaining. Interestingly her second husband was Owen Tudor, the keeper of the Queen’s wardrobe from Wales. Of course, we know what that family amounted to.)

The Duke of Buckingham rebelled to have Edward V on the throne. (He wanted to put himself on the throne but ultimately decided to join Henry Tudor instead. Besides, he’s suspected of having the Princes in the Tower killed to begin with and probably knew the kids were dead).

Duke George of Clarence was a doddering fool. (He was an opportunistic bastard who switched sides. There’s a reason why Edward IV had him killed).

Richard III tried to marry himself to Elizabeth of York after Lady Anne Neville died. (While marrying your niece wasn’t unusual in some royal families at the time {as in the Hapsburgs}, Richard was actually trying to arrange marriages for both himself and his niece with the Portuguese royal family. Also, he was suffering a succession crisis since Lady Anne and his son had both died during his reign).

Richard III had Lady Anne Neville’s first husband and father killed. (Her father died in battle. As for the first husband, he was either slaughtered with his army or executed on Edward IV’s orders. They were Lanscastrians and Richard marrying Lady Anne wasn’t an advantageous match since she was known as a daughter and widow of traitors. Still, he wouldn’t be trying to woo her over her dad’s corpse.)

Duke George of Clarence was drowned in a vat of wine on Richard’s orders. (He was more likely smothered on Edward IV’s orders because of his backstabbing behavior, armed rebellion, lunacy, and murdering a servant girl. In fact, despite previous feuds, Richard argued against George’s execution and left court during the verdict but Edward was simply sick of him that he wanted him dead. So you can probably say that George was the bad brother from the trio, not Richard).

Edward IV was a frail old man when he died. (He was in his early 40s and his death was unexpected).

Richard III’s wife Anne Neville reviled him. (Contrary to Shakespeare, it’s said that their marriage was a love match and they were childhood sweethearts {and he obviously didn’t kill her her dad or first husband who were most likely not executed at all}. Besides, though he had 2 illegitimate kids, he waited to marry her. Not only that, but he was said to be a man of unimpeachable moral character who shared none of Edward IV’s vices. They also had a 10 year old son by the time he was crowned. However, Richard’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Woodville despised him. Oh, and contrary to Olivier’s portrayal, he was only 5’8.”)

Richard III drove his oldest brother Edward IV to an early grave. (He was out of town when Edward IV died).

Richard III died on the field. (He had his head sliced off from the back while surrounded by soldiers in a swamp. Still, he killed a lot of Henry Tudor’s best men and almost killed the guy himself.)

Henry V spent a lot of his early life in a tavern with his drinking buddies. (It’s not very likely.)

Hotspur was killed by a single combat with Henry V at the Battle of Shrewsbury. (He was killed by a single arrow. Still, Hotspur was a traitor since he was on the side of Owen Glydwr of Wales.)

Henry IV killed Richard II. (Richard II died in prison and more likely starved, yet he may have been murdered by his cousin.)

The Earl of Richmond was the battlefield commander at Bosworth Field. (He confined himself to politicking and left the fighting to the Earl of Oxford.)