The Anatomy of a Medieval Castle: Part 4 – Types and Architectural Features


Italy’s Castel del Monte was built in the 1240s by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. You may not know it, but it originally had a curtain wall. Yet, it’s a unique enough castle to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Finally, we get to the castle architecture. Over the 900 some years castles were built during the Middle Ages, they took on many forms with many different features. Most castles were made from wood since it was cheap, readily available, and an easy building material. However, a wooden castle was totally helpless against flaming arrows because we all know how wood catches fire, breaks, and decays over time. However, if a noble could afford it, he’d have his castle constructed from stone despite the high expense and maintenance. But stone was significantly less flammable and breakable with siege weapons and the elements. Early castles mostly consisted of simple fortifications and design. But as the medieval period went on, they became more complex with more towers, stronger gatehouses, and sturdier walls.

Castle Types


Restormel Castle in England is an example of a shell keep which was a circular stone keep, are type of castle design. Though once a luxurious residence of the Duke of Cornwall, it was in ruins by the 16th century.

Adulterine Castle- a castle built without a liege lord’s or king’s approval.

Concentric Castle- a castle with 2 or more concentric curtain walls, such that the inner curtain wall is higher than the outer and can be defended from it. Often had round towers.

Courtyard Castle- a castle type consisting of a stone curtain wall surrounding a courtyard with buildings built inside it, normally against the curtain wall.

Knight’s Castle- a castle owned by a knight.

Motte and Bailey- an early form of castle where a large mound of dirt was built up. A wooden fortification was placed on top, which were shaped like a timber fence forming a circle like a crown.

Rectangular Keep- a stone castle with a square or rectangular keep with a second-floor entrance. The castle on Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic example.
Shell-Keep- castle style consisting of a circular or oval wall surrounding its inner portion. Usually stores and accommodates wooden buildings inside the hollow walls.

Stone Keep Castle- the classic medieval castle with a stone keep and a thick stone wall, which can be rectangular or circular in shape.

Tower House- a small castle consisting mainly or entirely of a single tower.

Architectural Features


Built in the 12th century, the Château de Pierrefonds almost seems straight out of a fairy tale. Despite its 19th century restoration, it retains most of its defensive military architecture.

Aisle- space between an arcade and outer wall.

Ambulatory- aisle around an apse.

Apse- a circular or polygonal end of a tower or chapel.

Baluster- a small column.

Balustrade- a railing, as along a path or stairway.

Bar Hole- Horizontal bar for timber bar used as a door-bolt.

Barrel Vault- a cylindrical roof of stone or wood.

Base Cruck- a form of wood framed construction where the roof is supported by curved logs rising from the walls and not by aisle posts set on floor.

Bay- an internal division marked by roof principals or vaulting peers.

Blind Arcade- a line of arches on the face of a solid wall for decoration.

Bonnet- a freestanding fortification.

Boss or Keystone- a central stone in an arch or vault.

Bressumer- a beam to support a projection.

Cap House- a small chamber at the top of a spiral staircase in a tower or turret, leading to an open wall walk on the roof.

Cavalier- a raised structure containing a battery, usually sited above a bastion’s center to give better trajectory.

Cesspit- a wall opening where waste from one or more toilets were collected.

Colonnade- a range of evenly spaced columns.

Course- a level layer of stones or bricks.

Crossbar or Transom- a horizontal window division.

Cupola- a hemispherical armored roof.

Crow or Corbie Steps- a step-gabled end to a roof.

Diaphragm- a wall running up to the roof ridge.

Dog Leg- a right angle in a passageway.

Dormer- a vertically placed window in a sloping roof. Like you see on the top floors of a Cape Cod house.

Entresol or Mezzanine- a low story between 2 high ones.

Fireplace- a walled hearth used for heating a room. Most castles in the later Middle Ages had one in almost every room once they took off.

Gable- a wall covering the end of a roof ridge.

Garret- a building’s top story within a roof.

Groined- a roof with sharp edges at intersection of cross vaults.

Groin- junction of 2 curved surfaces in a vault.

Hood- an arched covering.

Impost- a wall bracket to support arch.

Jambs- side posts of an arch, door, or window.

Joists- wall-to-wall timber beans to support floor boards.

Lancet- a long, narrow window with a pointed head.

Label- a projecting weather molding above a roof or window to deflect rainwater.

Lantern- a small structure with open or window sides on top of a roof or dome to let light or air into the enclosed space below.

Lattice- Lines crossing to form a network whether on a window, fence, or gate.

Lintel- a horizontal stone or beam bridging an opening.

Loggia- a covered arcade or colonnade.

Louvre- a potter vent allowing smoke to escape from the hearth.

Meurtriere- an opening in the roof of a passage where soldiers could shoot into the room below.

Molding- masonry decoration that’s long and narrow as well as casts strong shadows.

Mullion- a vertical division of a window that’s constructed in panels.

Newel- Center post of a spiral staircase.

Nookshaft- a shaft set in a jamb or pier angle.

Pediment- a low-pitched gable over porticos, doors, and windows.

Pilaster- a shallow pier used to buttress a wall.

Piscina- a hand basin with a drain, usually set against or into a wall.

Pointed Arch- a sturdy arch that distributed the force of heavier ceilings and bulky wall. Can support much more weight than previous, simply, spindly pillars.

Rear Arch- an arch on a wall’s inner side.

Relieving Arch- an arch built up in a wall to relieve thrust on another opening.

Rib- a raised molding dividing a vault.

Roofridge- a roof’s summit line.

Soffit- an underside of an arch, hung parapet, or opening.

Spur- a triangular buttress used to strengthen a round tower’s bottom.

Spiral Staircase, Corkscrew, or Turnpike- a winding, circular staircase spiraling up clockwise which allowed added sword room for defenders. Steps were built unevenly to make it difficult for attackers to climb and fight. Said to be among the most economical and convenient method of accessing upper tower floors and easier to defend.

Squint- an observation hole in wall or room.

Traverse- a small bank or wall cutting across a covered way’s line.

Tympanum- a space between a lintel and arch over a doorway.

Vault- stone roofing.

Vaulted Ceiling- a ceiling with sturdy pointed archers and pillars that allowed ceilings to be taller than ever before. Also provided an impression of height, grandeur, and elegance. Can be built in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Wall-Plate- a horizontal roof-timber on wall-top.
Wall-Stair- staircase built into a wall’s thickness.

The Anatomy of a Medieval Castle: Part 3 – The Keep, Bailey, and Interior


Built in the 14th century, the French Château de Vincennes boasts one of the tallest medieval fortified medieval structure in its keep. Within Paris, this castle served as the French royal residence during the 15th century. Yet, it’s had a long and colorful history with memorable moments.

Once you get through the walls, it’s on to the castle’s interior. First, we go into the courtyard with the bailey where you’d find plenty of animals grazing, gardens, and buildings. These buildings consisted of stables, workshops, barracks, water suppliers, and storage facilities. You may even see a chapel there. Yet, the central heart of the castle was the keep, which was considered the strongest area and the last place of refuge if outer defenses fell. During times of peacetime, it was the lord’s main residence where he’d conduct his business. He’d hold meetings and entertain guests in the great hall. At banquets, the kitchens would be bustling preparing lavish feasts while everyone was treated to dinner and entertainment. In some castles, the lord and his family would eat and sleep in the hall. Sometimes you might even find a chapel or dungeon, too.

The Courtyard


Scotland’s Doune Castle was built in the 13th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. Its 14th century reflected current ideas on what a royal castle should be. Yet, we remember this as the castle featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Its courtyard isn’t particularly big in this aerial shot. Yet, it at least includes a well.

Bailey, Courtyard, Enclosure, or Ward- open space surrounded by a castle’s walls. Walls making up the bailey could be considered part of it. A castle could have several of these like an upper bailey, lower bailey, west bailey, and/or east bailey. Had room for buildings to house the Lord and his immediate followers along with space for animals and storage. During attacks, the local people could enter the bailey for safety.

Bake House- building that would’ve baked fresh bread for everyone living within the castle since bread was a dietary medieval staple.

Barmkin- a yard surrounded by a defensive wall in smaller castles.

Brewery- a building where an ale wife would’ve brewed ale and beer. Mostly because brewing beer was said to sterilize highly polluted water.

Death Hole- the space between the inner and outer curtain walls of a concentric circle that trapped attackers.

Garden- green area located in the bailey near the kitchen. Was split into several sections: fruit trees and bushes, herbs for cooking, herbs for medicine, vegetables, flowers for cooking, and flowers for medicine. There were often stairs leading up to it.

Inner Ward or Quadrangle- large inner courtyard inside a castle, usually around the keep. A focus to day-to-day residential life within the castle.

Outer Ward- large courtyard outside the inner ward but still held within the curtain wall. Was mostly reserved for livestock for grazing.

Stables- part where the horses and other livestock are kept since they’re the main medieval means of transportation, communication, and battle. Included haylofts and spaces for the grooms to live.

Workshops- separate buildings in the bailey for artisans to make objects for maintaining the building the grounds. Consists of carpenters, farriers, and blacksmiths.

The Keep


Germany’s Burg Eltz was built in the 12th century and has been own by the same family for over 33 generations. It is one of 3 castles in the country that have never been destroyed. Yet, its keep is quite imposing in the Alps.

Forebuilding- a fortified entrance to the keep. Often held a staircase and a small chapel.

Keep, Donjon, or Great Tower-generally the central main tower built in the inner ward which was the tallest and strongest structure in the castle and gave a commanding view of all fighting positions. Usually served as the ruling lord’s residence since it was the safest place. The top most part served as his and his family’s quarters. The bottom was used for storage. While the middle was used for the great hall. In warfare, it was mostly used as the last line of defense during a siege or attack. Can be square or round and comprise of several floors. Can be attached to walls or free standing. Its walls could be over 17 feet thick to prevent undermining and a built-in staircase.

The Dungeons


Castle dungeons were the stuff of nightmares. If you were thrown in here for a crime, you can be subject to a dark room in the castle basement with all kinds of horrifying conditions. And yes, you may be subject to torture and possibly execution. If you don’t starve to death or succumb to disease first.

Dungeon- a place to confine political prisoners. Mostly consists of a single small room with a single access from outside like a heavy door. Is generally underground and sometimes a secret passageway would lead to it. Though it could also be in the keep or under a gatehouse. Has plenty of unique torture devices for interrogation like branding irons, collar, torture rack, and others. Other enhanced interrogation techniques include whipping, boiling in water, and starvation etc. Also, employed full-time executioner who also administered torture.

Oubliette- a dark, narrow, underground, vertical tunnel-like dungeon with the only opening consisting of an iron-grilled trap door on the ceiling from the guard room floor where prisoners were left in their solitude for psychological torture. Though other torture methods may be used for interrogation or increase a prisoner’s suffering. Once a victim was thrown in the oubliette, they were considered forgotten by the outside world and left to die. Survival was nearly impossible and there was no way to escape.

The Great Hall


The Great Hall was the main room in the castle where the lord would conduct his business, hold meetings, and throw feasts. In early castles, the lord, his family, and staff would even eat and sleep there.

Gallery- passage built into the thickness of the walls that runs around the upper part of a keep’s hall. Windows allow light into the hall below and the passage allows for movement around the keep’s upper floors. Also provides a position where hall events can be viewed. If the hall’s captured, defenders could’ve used a gallery to shoot arrows from.

Hall or Great Hall- a major room that’s possibly the heart of the castle which served as the castle’s principal living quarters. Usually a castle’s largest room either built in the keep or a separate building. Generally, consists of an elaborate high vaulted roof and/or a gallery running around on top of it. Served as a throne room, conference center, and dining hall.

Minstrels Gallery- a raised gallery overlooking the great hall intended for the lord’s musicians. Consisted of a narrow balcony with a railing or balustrade.

Truss- a timber frame used to support the roof over the great hall.

The Chapel


Since Christianity was very important to people in the Middle Ages, most castles included a chapel. These can range from a simple room like this to elaborate buildings.

Aumbry- recess to hold sacred objects, typically in a chapel.

Chancel- the space surrounding the altar.

Chapel- a place of worship usually built within the keep, near the gatehouse, or a separate building in the bailey. Can range from a simple room or an elaborate edifice that can be 2 stories high with the family sitting in the balcony and servants in the nave. May have a resident or visiting priest depending on the resident noble’s peerage rank. Great place for the lord to marry off family members to secure alliances, soldier funerals, and display of piety. Also, a great space safe since harming a priest was widely seen as the ultimate act of barbarity. For only the most fearless of castle attackers would do such a thing. Not to mention, killing anyone in a place of worship was often frowned upon in the Middle Ages.

Choir- part of a cruciform church east of the crossing where you’ll find the singers.

Narthex- a chapel’s principal hall between the nave and the main entrance.

Nave- the principal chapel hall, extending from the narthex to the chancel.

Living Quarters


In most medieval castles, high ranking nobles rarely slept alone since many had servants there with them. Yet, they can nonetheless be colorful tableaus as you see in this one.

Apartment- a room belonging to a castle household resident like a lord’s widowed mother.

Bottlery or Buttery- a room for storing and serving beverages like wine land other expensive provisions like a castle wine cellar. Located between the great hall and the kitchen. The person who presided over this room was called the butler.

Bower- attractive private apartment intended for the Lady. Usually in a room behind the dais of the great hall but later a higher level in the keep.

Camera- a private room used for both living and sleeping that’s set apart from the more public areas of a house.

Cistern- a castle’s water source, which collected rainwater from roofs. Can be located within the keep or bailey. Some castles had rudimentary plumbing that channeled water from cisterns to sinks.

Great Chamber- the bedroom for the lord and lady located on the keep’s upper floor.

Kitchens- where food is made. In early castles, they were separate from the keep in kitchen towers due to fire risk. But moved to the keep when brick construction became more common. A castle kitchen’s size was often proportionate to castle’s intended grandeur and importance. The most elaborate kitchens were all set to cook and prepare game and fish when hunting on the grounds.

Larder- a cool area where perishable food is stored prior to use. Was usually close to the kitchen. Staffed by a larderer who was responsible for meat and fish. Often had ice to keep the food chilled along with meat hooks.

Latrine or Privy- rooms with holes in the seats used as toilets. Wastes dropped below into the bailey, the outer wall’s base, the moat, or cesspools within the tower. Usually far away from the chambers and often had double doors to reduce the smell. But as time went on, a private privy was built for people occupying important rooms. To keep out a noxious stink, privy windows had no glass, which made it freezing in the winter months. Can be fitted with a wooden or stone bench with as many as 4-6 holes in it. Hat a chute which led to a cesspit or moat. Supplemented by chamber pots.

Oratory- a private chapel with an altar used by the lord’s family for private prayer. Can also be a small cell attached to a larger chapel.

Pantry- a storage area for food, beverages, gold, and other items. Usually located in the keep’s lower levels.

Screens- wooden partitions at the kitchen end of a hall, protecting passage leading to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen.

Solar- originally a room above ground level, but commonly applied to the great chamber or a private room off the great hall. Was traditionally seen as the sleeping and private quarters of the Lord’s family. But later became their private living room. Usually above the great hall.

Wardrobe- a room used to store the lord and his family’s clothes and personal articles.

Well- a castle’s primary water source that proved important during a siege even if they had little food. Can be situated in the courtyard or keep. Or at least located near the kitchen either within the bailey or keep. Outside wells were usually protected from the elements by a wooden covering or iron grating. Yet, it was possibly the castle’s weakest point. Since invaders could poison the water supply if left unattended, which virtually guaranteed defeat.

Specialty Areas


No castle could ever be without its own armory. But where it was could depend on the castle. On some it can be in the keep. In others, in the gatehouse or bailey.

Arcade or Cloister- a covered passageway with arches along one or both sides. Can also be a row of arches supported on columns, which could be free standing or attached to a wall (like a blind arcade).

Armory- a room which stored weapons, armor, and other defenses to use in war or attacks. Typically located in the keep’s upper levels.

Barracks- a building or group of buildings used to accommodate soldiers.

Blockhouse- a small square fortification, usually of timber bond overlapping arrangement of bricks in courses.

Dovecote- a building used to house pigeons and doves. Generally contained pigeon holes for birds to nest.

Guardroom- room used by on-duty guards. Can also store weapons. However, the guards wouldn’t sleep there since they’d be barracked in the gatehouse, a tower, or under the keep.

Ice House- building to store ice. Was usually built underground with a conical or rounded bottom to hold melted ice and a drain for water.

Kennel- place to keep animals, particularly hunting dogs.

Knight’s Hall- a large room or chamber within a castle where knights gathered for meetings, meals, and planning their next activities.

Knights’ Quarters- living area for resident castle knights.

Mess Hall- dining area for soldiers and servants. May include its own kitchen.

Secret Passage- secret routes in the castle that served a variety of purposes. Some were designed to pen up a distance from the castle so inhabitants could escape during an attack or get supplies in and out during a siege. Secret passages also led to secret chambers where people can hide, supplies could be kept, or a water well was dug.

The Anatomy of a Medieval Castle: Part 2 – Towers and Gates


England’s Windsor Castle was built after William the Conqueror’s invasion in the 11th century. Since then, it’s been a residence for the royal family to this day. Even if modern British monarchs just use this place for a weekend getaway. And yes, you’d almost mistake this gatehouse as the castle itself.

So we’re off to a great start. Some of the other distinguishing castle features are towers and the gates. When you look at any castle picture, you might come across an imposing entrance with the impressive gatehouse containing a drawbridge and that sliding iron wrought door of spikes. Yet, since an unsecure entrance made a castle uniquely vulnerable, the gateway was usually the first structure built in stone. A gatehouse contained a series of defenses to make a direct assault more difficult than battering down a simple gate. Yet, you’d probably wouldn’t know this in movies where vast armies storm the castle with no problem. In reality, trying to storm a castle head was a stupid way to lose an army. Another prominent castle feature are the towers, which were used for look outs and shooting arrows along with storage and imprisonment. They could be built in various locations like the walls and the gatehouse as well as come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Though early towers were mostly square shape which were said to be quite easy to topple through burrowing at the foundations. While round towers were not.

The Main Entrance


The Welsh Harlech Castle was built by English King Edward I Longshanks in the 1280s. It was involved in several wars and was used as a residence and military headquarters by Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr in the early 1400s. Later, it was held by the Lancastrians during the 1460s until the Yorkist forces took it during the Wars of the Roses. And served as a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War in the 1640s. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site as one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.” Nonetheless, seeing this imposing gatehouse, you wouldn’t want to storm this castle.

Barbican- a stone outpost protecting the castle’s gate usually built in front of the main entrance. Construed in the form of a tower or gateway where guards could stand watch. Some may include a narrow passage allowing for a limited number of attackers forced into a confined area for defenders to shoot at them like fish in a barrel through murder holes from the ceiling. Early barbicans were built from earthworks and wooden palisades designed to add complexity to the entrance’s layout and confuse attackers. Usually acted as the outermost defense of a castle. Due to limited space, was only defended by a small number of men.

Breastwork- a heavy parapet slung between 2 gate towers. A defensive work usually situated over the portcullis.

Drawbridge- wooden bridge in front of the main gate to span the moat or ditch. In early castles, it was moved horizontally to the ground by hand or destroyed and replaced. In later castles, it was built so it can raise up in a hinged fashion thanks to pulleys, ropes, chains, and winches. Can be raised or withdrawn making crossing impossible and prevent siege weaponry being pushed toward the castle’s walls and gates.

Gatehouse- a complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect the castle’s main entrance. Often had a guard house and living quarters. Usually consisted of 2 very large stone towers joined above the main gate guarded by a bridge, gates, portcullis, or a combination. But can range from a simple structure to a 2-3 story building with an impressive façade to impress royal visitors. Above the entrance were rooms to house the constable and some men to defend the building who were stationed on the first floor. While the top floor contained murder holes and storage space for weapons. Traditionally the most vulnerable part of the castle, it became one of the most secure and with an excellent defensive position. Contains a passage with all kinds of obstacles, traps, and murder holes in the vaulted ceilings. So perhaps you want to think twice before storming a castle. Usually the first part of the castle to be completed. Though a larger and circular wall castle could have more than one.

Murder Holes- holes left in the floor on a gatehouse’s upper level, used to thrust pole weapons down, or shoot down flaming arrows at attackers trapped between the inner and outer gates. Also used for dropping heavy rocks, hot tar, boiling water, and other nasty things.

Neck or Death Trap- a narrow walled passage between a barbican and the castle walls which trapped invading enemies.

Portcullis- a heavy, sliding metal or wood grate with sharp spikes that was vertically dropped just inside the castle’s main gate through ropes and pulleys. Designed to block passage and make using rams against the main gate less effective. Think about that before trying to break down a door with a battering ram. Can also be dropped on an enemy and injure multiple people. Was always in a state of readiness and the guards can drop it from its suspended position at any time. Some gatehouses could had more than one, depending on the castle’s size and number of entrances.

Turning Bridge- drawbridge pivoted in the middle and worked like a see-saw. Had a counterweight attached to the end near the gateway.

Wicket- a person-sized door set into the main gate door.

Wing-Wall- a motte’s wall downslope to protect stairway.

Yett- a portcullis of lattice wrought iron bars used for defensive purposes.

The Towers


Originally built in the early 1100s, the Alcazar of Segovia started out as a fortress, but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery college, and a military academy. Today it’s a military archives building, museum, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, you have to admit how its towers give the place a unique look.

Bastion Tower- tower projecting from a wall face that functions as a bastion.

Bastle House- a small tower house with a living room over a cowshed.

Corner or Archer Tower- tower located on curtain wall corners used for firing arrows from slits.

Drum Tower- a large, round, low, squat tower built into a wall, usually connecting stretches of curtain wall.

Flanking or Mural Tower- tower located on the castle walls that provided effective flanking fire.

Gate Tower- tower constructed at the main entrance. May be part of the gate house.

Tower- fortification used to provide stability and additional defensive capabilities to the curtain wall. Used for firing upon enemies, lookout, storage, and keeping prisoners. Provided access to lookout points, wall walks, and sleeping points. Can be constructed in various shapes, sizes, and at various locations.

Sanitary Towers- a tower in the inner or outer walls used as a toilet. The wastes would drop into a cesspool in a pit.

Wall Tower- tower on wall that archers used for showering arrows on invading armies.

Watchtower or Look Out- a freestanding structure used to alert the castle in an enemy attack, spot returning soldiers and visitors in the distance, check whether the coast was clear before anyone left the castle, and send messages to distant people using recognized symbols. Had to be so high that areas around the castle could be watched for an impending attack or siege. Usually had a 360-degree view as well as employed a guard or watchman to see for many miles around.



Belgium’s 14th century Cleydael Castle seems straight out of a fairy tale on the water. However, the turrets on that one tower are quite unique.

Bartizan or Crow’s Nest- a small turret at the corner of a tower or wall. Usually at the top but not always. Usually located at one of the highest points of the castle and used as a lookout.

Belvedere- a raised turret or pavilion.

Squinch Arch- arched support for an angle turret that doesn’t reach the ground.

Turret- a small tower rising above and resting on the walls or the edge of the castle’s main towers, usually used as a lookout point. Allowed defenders to provide sheltering fire to the adjacent wall in attacks. Can contain a staircase if higher than the main tower or an extension of a tower room.

The Anatomy of a Medieval Castle: Part 1 – Around the Walls


This is Bodiam Castle in Sussex, England. Built in 1385 to defend against French invasion during the Hundred Years War, it doesn’t have a keep. But its walls and moat are impressive.

Whether you’re into Disney movies, Middle Earth, or Game of Thrones, we all seem enchanted with medieval castles. However, while we imagine them as a fairy tale palace, they were medieval house fortresses for European nobility. Though you’ll also find castles in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Castles originated in the 9th and 10th centuries as the fall of the Carolingian Empire resulted in individual lords and nobles dividing the territory. To control the area surrounding them, these guys built castles as both offensive and defensive structures. Castles provided a base to launch raids and protect from enemies. Though castle studies often emphasize their military origins and see castles as “a fortified private residence,” they also served as centers of administration and power. Urban castles were used to control the local populace and important travel routes. Rural features were often near features integral to life and community like mills, fertile land, or a water source. Though most medieval castles in Europe today are made from stone, many were made from wood, especially in the early Middle Ages. Due to lacking arrow slits and towers, early castles often exploited natural defenses and relied on a central keep. But as a scientific approach to castle defense emerged, leading to tower proliferation and emphasizing flanking fire. Taking inspiration from Roman forts and technology from the Crusades, you’ll find some concentric castles. Nevertheless, since all things much come to an end, castles began to decline began to decline with the introduction of gunpowder which made them uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. Though these structures still captured the imagination enough to make aristocrats want to build castle like houses, but without the key defenses.

herstmonceux castle from the air

This is Herstmonceux Catstle in England’s East Sussex. Built in the 15th century, it’s one of the most significant brick buildings in England. Though more like a palace than a fortress, its walls and moat are nonetheless impressive. By the way, from 1957-1988, it was home to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. Today it’s used by the Bader International Center of Queen’s University in Canada.

The first part of this series will focus on the outermost components like the walls and what’s outside them. As the first line of defense, such structures would have to make invasions and sieges incredibly difficult for the enemy. Before a castle was built, you’d often construct an artificial hill called a motte and a ditch filled with water called a moat. A castle’s walls had to be high enough to make scaling with ladders impossible. And they had to be thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines. Though sizes vary, a typical castle wall could be 10 feet thick and 39 feet tall. They’d also have stone skirts around their bases to prevent infiltration as well. Walkways on top of curtain walls allowed defenders to rain arrows on the enemies below with battlements giving them further protection.

Outside the Walls


The Chateau de Gisors in France whish was a key fortress for the Dukes of Normandy in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was built to defend the Anglo-Norman Vexin territory from the King of France. However, when Richard the Lionheart got imprisoned in Germany, the castle went into Philip Augustus’s hands. Was also known for its links to the Templars, serving as a final prison for its last Grand Master in 1314. Still, its motte is particularly notable.

Berm- a flat piece of land between the curtain wall and the moat protecting it. Intended to reduce soil erosion to keep the wall from collapsing. Also kept debris from the wall from falling into and filling the moat.

Bivalate- a pair of defensive ditches or earth embankments surrounding a mound or medieval castle.

Caponier- a covered passage within a ditch.

Caponiere- a covered passage across a ditch to an outer fortification structure like a ravelin.

Counterscarp- outer slope of a ditch.

Couvre Face- a low rampart in a ditch protecting the ravelin’s face.

Covered Way- a protected communication wall all around the ditch’s outer edge, covered by earthworks from enemy fire.

Crownwork- a freestanding fortification built in front of the main defenses.

Cunette- a trench at a ditch’s bottom.

Ditch or Fosse- a common defense dug around the castle’s outside walls and the resulting earth to create banks. Most were dry but some were filled with water to create moats. The steeper the ditch sides, the better since it made it more difficult for attackers to climb. Though ditches weren’t filled with water, rainfall would’ve created a muddy obstacle to cross. The castle’s toilets also emptied into it, giving attackers another disgusting problem.

Earthwork- fortification made of earth mounds, banks, and ditches.

Glacis- a bank sloping down from a castle which acts as a defense against invaders. Consists of broad, sloping, naked rock or earth on which the attackers are completely exposed.

Hornwork- an independent earthwork located in front but not connected to the curtain wall within its bastions’ range (so it can be defended by them). Had long parallel sides with a back shaped like a crescent moon facing the castle’s curtain wall. But was built so low so it couldn’t shelter attacking forces if overrun. Forced attackers to start their siege further away from the castle and gave defenders a better chance to destroy siege lines before they could reach the structure.

Moat- a deep, wide ditch surrounding a castle’s outer walls. Often filled with water from diverted rivers, lakes, or springs with a special dam. Mostly had an inlet and outlet of water rather than being a self-contained donut (unless the castle was built on an island in the middle of a lake). It was often around 3-30 feet deep and at least 12 feet wide. It was sometimes within the outer wall or between the outer wall and the inner wall. Its primary purpose wasn’t to stop attackers but siege weapons, siege towers, battering rams, and most importantly, tunnelers. Since tunneling a castle was an effective means of collapsing the walls or infiltrating it. A moat would cause any tunnel to collapse through flooding. Also, gave valuable time for castle defenders to form strategies for subsequent defense. Sewage was often tipped into the moat so it would smell pretty unpleasant.

Motte- a natural or artificial hill with a flat top upon which a castle was built. Was constructed from dirt and rocks to a height between 10 and 100 feet.
Neck Ditch- a ditch cutting across a neck of land to hinder an enemy’s advance.
Place of Arms- an enlarged area in a covered way where troops could assemble.
Ravelin or Demilune- a triangular earthwork located in front (but not connected to) the curtain wall, within range of the curtain wall’s bastions. The back was shaped like a crescent moon and faced the curtain wall. But built low so it couldn’t shelter attacking forces if the ravelin was overrun. The front sides also had a defensive wall of their own. Allowed defenders to fire upon attacking troops before they could reach the curtain and a better chance to destroy siege lines before they could reach the castle. Forced attackers to start their siege further away from the castle.

Revetment- a retaining wall to prevent erosion.

Scarp- a slope on a ditch’s inner side.

Tilting Yard- yard or field where jousting tournaments and combats took place. Usually situated just outside the castle’s confines.

Watergate- a gate allowing a coastal castle to be resupplied by sea, especially during a siege.

The Walls


Scotland’s Craigmillar Castle is a ruined castle in Edingburgh built in the 14th century. Mary, Queen of Scots once stopped here to convalesce after her son James’s birth. It was here some of her supporters decided to kill her godawful husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Still, the walls are amazing to look at.

Allure or Wall Walk- walkway at the top inside of the curtain wall, which allowed guards to look for enemies. Reached either from a set of stairs running up from the wall’s inside or from a built-in tower. Can also be the fighting area on a tower as well.
Bastion or Bulwark- a structure projecting at the end of the curtain wall or at the junction of 2 walls. Usually situated at each corner of a curtain wall. Though could be placed in the middle if the walls were long. Allowed the defenders to cover dead ground (blind spots where attackers can’t be seen or fired upon) and provide crossfire for the curtain wall and adjacent bastions. Can consist of a tower or turret.

Batters- a section at a castle wall’s base that’s angled in such a way to make dropped stones bounce away from the curtain wall and into the enemy. Also add strength to the wall walk’s base.

Buttresses- a rectangular masonry projections used as additional outside strength and support for walls. Become thinner towards the top. Prominently featured in Gothic cathedrals like Notre Dame.

Chemin-de-Ronde- a walk-walk extending all the way around a castle.

Chemise Wall- wall formed by a series of interlinked or overlapping semicircular bastions.

Citadel- the innermost curtain wall of a concentric castle. Had walls higher than the rest and was the last line of defense before the keep itself.

Corbel- a stone bracket projecting from a wall or corner that supports a main floor or other structure’s weight. Often used for turrets.

Cornice- a decorative projection along the top of a wall.

Counterguard- a long near-triangular free-standing fortification within the moat.
Crenels, Embrasures, or Wheelers- small openings in crenellation that’s splayed on the inside, allowing the archer to move into the arrow slit space and get a better view.

Cross-Wall- an internal dividing stone wall in the keep providing extra strength and a platform for wooden floors. Also served as a barrier at times when the keep had been invaded.

Curtain Wall or Enceinte- a surrounding outer stone wall around the castle connecting the towers and other fortifications. Was designed to protect the castle. Can be 8-20 feet wide, up to 45 feet high and 1,500 feet long.

Flying Buttresses- masonry projections used to spread and support the weight of tall walls by transferring force directly to the ground. Were often elaborately designed, appearing to dart and sweep around each building, giving a sense of movement and flight. Usually decorated with intricate carvings giving a sense of grandeur and importance.

Garderobe- a room projecting from a wall that served as a toilet the family’s clothes. A hole in the floor allow wastes to drop below. Had chutes for discharge which often led to the castle moats and had iron bars to prevent entry from attackers.

Glacis- an angling of the curtain wall along the vertical plane that allows the wall to deflect some or all the force of rocks or other missiles thrown from a siege engine or cannon balls fired from siege cannons.

Hoardings or Brattices- wooden fortifications added to the crenellations and towers to provide additional protection to the castle’s defenders. They were removable and provided overhead cover. Also provided a walkway outside the crenellations facilitating the dropping of stones and hot liquids on attackers.

Hoarding Holes- holes in the castle walls to support the hoarding.

Inner Curtain Wall- defensive wall within a castle dividing the inner area into 2 or more defensive areas.

Lunette- a fortification shaped like a half-moon or arrowhead which was similar to a bastion except that it didn’t have wings connecting to a castle’s wall and the back was generally open. Can be its own structure or connected to a curtain wall like a bastion.
Machicolations- permanent stone additions to a castle’s battlement which provided better cover for defenders inside the castle, allowing them to drop items like boiling oil, hot lead, dead animals, human excrement, and rocks on attackers. Most often located in places that would be commonly attacked like near the main entrance.

Oriel Window- a window or set of windows sticking out from a building like bay windows. Made of stone or wood. Often had corbels underneath to support them.

Orillion- an arrowhead bastion.

Palisade- a sturdy wooden fence built to enclose a site until a permanent stone wall could be constructed. Can be as high as 10 feet tall.

Pitatta Forma- a fortification structure protecting the curtain wall between 2 bastions. It’s square or rectangular in plan but takes the form of a small tetrahedral bastion.

Plinth- a wall’s projecting base.

Postern or Sally Port- a small secondary gate located in the curtain wall’s back, which mostly functioned as a backdoor entrance or exit. Was connected to a small guard room near the bailey. Was often in a concealed location which allowed occupants to come and go inconspicuously. If possible, it could be built on a cliff, only accessible by footpath. During a siege a postern could act as a secret exit for troops to pass through besiegers or send out a messenger. Was firmly barricaded during conflict and people sometimes used a password to enter. Used by tradesmen and servants during peacetime. Designed for only one unmounted person could go through at a time.

Putlog Holes- castle wall holes to support scaffolding.

Rampart- a defensive wall of stone and mounds of earth that can be built quickly for early medieval castles. Later replaced by battlements.

Rear Arch- arch on an inner wall’s side.

Relieving Arch- an arch built in a wall to relieve thrust on another opening.

Respond- a half-pier bonded into a wall to carry an arch.

Redan- a small ravelin, derived from the lunette but had shorter sides. Was often made of earthwork but could comprise of stone and other materials. Could be its own structure or connected to a curtain wall like a bastion.

Rubble Core- a filling between the outer and inner wall parts.

Shield Wall- an exceptionally thick wall protecting the castle on its most vulnerable side.
Talus- a slope on the curtain wall that inhibited an attacker’s ability to reach the wall with a siege tower. Since a tower’s ramp wasn’t enough. Also provided a strong foundation to help support a wall against undermining.



England’s Warwick Castle was developed from an original built by William the Conqueror during the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, it was refortified which resulted in one of the most recognizable examples of 14th century military architecture. After its stronghold days were over in the 17th century, it was converted in a country house. And yes, you’ll find a lot of cool battlements here.

Arrow Loops, Arrow Slits, or Loopholes- thin slots in the walls and structures used to shoot arrows through. Came in a variety of shapes and sizes, usually depending on the weapons fired from it. Low and narrow arrow slits were suited for crossbows. High and wide arrow slits were built for longbows, which can be as high as 9 feet. But common designs are key holes, vertical slits, or crosses which allow the archer to fire his weapon with a great amount of protection.

Battlement, Rampart, or Crenellation- a defensive, outside top wall that has a broad top with a walkway and a typically stone parapet. Notched wall consists of alternate crenels (openings) and merlons (square sawteeth) to give castle defenders a position to fight or fire through as well enough protection to reload.

Fausse Braie- an exterior battlement, outside and parallel to the main battlement and considerably below its level.

Finial- a slender piece of stone used to decorate the merlon tops.

Merlons- upward square sawteeth of a battlement. Often pierced with arrow slits for observation and fire. Are usually rectangular in medieval Europe but can also appear in a swallow-tail form along with other shapes. Also have a secondary decorative purpose by giving the castle a distinct castle like appearance you find in storybooks.

Oilette- a round opening at a loophole’s base to help archers to easily aim a shot.

Parados- a low wall on a main wall’s inner side.

Parapet- a barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, walkway, or other structure. Often used to defend a castle from military attack as a low defensive wall at shoulder or head height.

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


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 “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 “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 “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.)

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


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.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 8- Medieval Scotland


Braveheart: How Mel Gibson killed history for the sake of entertainment. Sure it has inspirational tidbits like “You can take our lands but you’ll never take our FREEEEEDDDDDOOOOMMMMMM!” Yet, it’s notoriously one of the most historically inaccurate movies ever made, which is sad considering that there aren’t a lot of movies about medieval Scotland. Yet, use any image of Mel Gibson in a kilt and blue paint, and medieval historians will scream in absolute horror. A historic travesty of 1995.

While most medieval movies usually take place in either England or France, movies on medieval Scotland deserve special mention since the most historically accurate movie on anything related to Scotland in the Middle Ages is a Disney Pixar film. Yes, you hear me. Scotland during the Middle Ages may not get much attention in movies, but when it does, they usually tend to be very historically inaccurate. Of course, most historians don’t mind when it comes to filming Macbeth because it’s a notable Shakespearean play with great literary value (though it makes Richard III look historically accurate in comparison). Besides, most people don’t know that Macbeth was a real guy. However, Macbeth was a real Scottish king who did come to power through killing his predecessor Duncan as well as ended up dead when Duncan’s son Malcolm challenged his rule. However, the historical Macbeth was never the guy depicted by Shakespeare nor were some of the characters either. Also, who knows what Lady Macbeth was like for there’s little information about her. Still, though a more historically accurate Macbeth would merit a very different story, most people don’t watch the play on its lack of historic merits anyway. Besides, Shakespeare probably had some excuse to depict such events as inaccurately as he did like James I, for instance. And then you got Braveheart which managed to win Oscars despite being one of the most historically inaccurate movies of all time that most of the errors I will list come from this very movie. And no other movie has ever made medieval historians cry in sheer anger and disgust over what Hollywood would ever consider such historical disasterpiece as something worthy of critical acclaim, let alone film awards. Many historians would think that Monty Python and the Holy Grail has more historical merits than this. And when you’re historical epic has more inaccuracies than a movie with killer rabbits, you have a problem. Sure, Gibson probably wasn’t aiming for historical accuracy and used the screenplay from a guy who claimed descent from William Wallace. However, now that this historical piece of shit may now be on its way on becoming a classic, most people unfamiliar with William Wallace and the Scottish Wars of Independence may now actually take Gibson’s vision of Scottish history seriously. Yes, unfortunately, people tend to believe things presented in historical movies regardless of the weight of inaccuracy. At least the guys making Spartacus had some concern for accuracy which is why the 1960 film is actually more historically reliable than the Howard Fast novel it’s based on. But you don’t see the concern for authenticity in Braveheart. And this it will be forever by trashed by medieval and Scottish historians as well as anyone who actually cares about history in general. I mean, I don’t expect historical movies to be 100% accurate, but not with an inaccuracy level like Braveheart. Nevertheless, here’s what Hollywood gets wrong about Scottish history.

Scottish men like William Wallace wore kilts during the Middle Ages. They also painted their faces and all armies wore uniforms in battle. (William Wallace’s men actually wore saffron shirts, not kilts for they didn’t come around until much later and so did army uniforms. Not to mention, they haven’t painted their faces since the Dark Ages.)

Prior to the 13th century, Scotland had always been subject to English rule. (Actually it had enjoyed a century of peace before Edward I tried to take it for himself when Scotland was in a messy political crisis regarding succession. The English were backstabbing encroachers, not overlords.)

Banquo and Fleance are the ancestors of the Stuart monarchs. (Shakespeare made up these guys to satisfy James I who was descended from Duncan.)

Bagpipes were outlawed in 13th century Scotland. (They weren’t and were very popular in England.)

There was no Stirling Bridge in the Battle that bears its name. (There too was a bridge, but Gibson wanted to save money. Also, Andrew Moray, the man instrumental in that battle is absent from the film.)

There were Irish conscripts at the Battle of Falkirk. (There’s no record of this.)

Most noblemen in Scotland were Gaels. (They were culturally similar to English nobles and would’ve dressed more like their English counterparts. Also, many of them were related to English royalty, spoke a Scottish dialect of English and/or Anglo-Norman French.)

The sons of Scottish knights dressed in rags. (Even poor Scots would know how to sew or at least was related to someone who did. Even poor people couldn’t afford to have their clothes disintegrate for being unhemmed.)

13th Century Scottish men had long hair they braided as well as tied bits of fur and feathers even though it was messy most of the time. (There’s no reason to think this.)

Pikes were used against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. (They were at Falkirk though.)


Macbeth was only King of Scotland for two years after he killed Duncan in his bed just to get his throne. (For one, Macbeth ruled Scotland for 17 years {which proves he wasn’t a weak ruler} and even spent a several month trip to receive a blessing from the Pope. He was also known as a good king known for his charity, not a bad king who slaughtered his friends {he was actually good to his friends}. As to Duncan’s death, Macbeth killed Duncan in battle because Duncan was encroaching on his territory so the motive was self-defense after a failed invasion in England. And it was Duncan who was the young, violent tyrant but Shakespeare couldn’t say that because King James I was descended by him. As for Lady Macbeth, she is almost a complete fabrication in which nothing is known about her than her name {Gruoch}, the fact she was married before, and that she had at least a son from that marriage. And that son would later succeed Macbeth before Duncan’s son Malcolm gained power and killed him mostly because he didn’t think the guy was a legitimate king.)

King Duncan was a wise old king. (Duncan was younger than Macbeth and was a worthless wastrel who the latter killed in a fair fight in battle on his land. So in reality, Duncan got what he deserved.)

King Malcolm III:

Everyone in Scotland seemed to accept Malcolm’s kingship. (He was able to seize the throne of Scotland because England was able to support him. Scotland actually resisted his rule because their standards differed considerably from England on what consists of royal legitimacy. Also, Macbeth’s stepson and friends also campaigned against Malcolm.)

King Alexander III:

King Alexander III died in 1280 without a son. (He died without a son in 1286 after falling off his horse {since the Scottish throne went to his young granddaughter Margaret of Norway [so the country was ruled by regents] until she died in 1290 on the way there} but he and his two sons were still alive by 1280. It was only after Margaret’s death in 1290 when his brother-in-law King Edward I got involved because the Scottish noblemen couldn’t trust each other and Scotland was in a political crisis as well as headed for civil war.)

William Wallace:

Scottish men like William Wallace wore kilts during the Middle Ages. They also painted their faces and all armies wore uniforms in battle. (William Wallace’s men actually wore saffron shirts, not kilts for they didn’t come around until much later and so did army uniforms. Not to mention, they haven’t painted their faces since the Dark Ages.)

William Wallace grew up as a poor man who became a great liberator and had an affair with English  Queen Isabella, which resulted in Edward III. He ended up captured by the English because of Robert Bruce’s betrayal and was hanged drawn and quartered. (Actually, William Wallace was a well-educated minor aristocrat whose dad actually fought for the English and owned land {though we don’t know who he was} and might have been a scholar or been on his way for a career in the Church. He may have used a longbow as a weapon of choice {unlike the sword he’s usually depicted with in Braveheart}. He briefly served as a Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland {it’s kind of like being a Steward of Gondor except that they didn’t rule by themselves} until his military reputation tanked at the Battle of Falkirk. He engaged in diplomatic correspondence with Lubeck and Hamburg as well as went on a diplomatic mission to France and Rome before returning to his home after the Scottish surrender in 1302. Not to mention, he was said to be Welsh since his name either means “Welsh” or “foreigner” so the notion of growing up a Scottish highlander is out of the question. Also, he certainly didn’t have an affair with Queen Isabella of England for she was ten and wasn’t even living in England yet {and younger than that during the Battle of Falkirk}, didn’t father Edward III who was born seven years after he died, Edward II was only thirteen, and he wasn’t directly betrayed by Robert Bruce either. And as for his method of execution, Wallace was hanged, cut open, castrated, chopped to pieces, and finally beheaded. And before that, he was stripped naked and dragged by a horse carriage by a rope around his ankles and afterwards dipped in tar and put on public display.)

William Wallace had easy access to large quantities of gasoline. At the battle of Falkirk, he apparently has a tanker truck parked behind the lines, so that he can wet down a broad stretch of the front-line as a death trap for the enemy. It was then set alight by flaming arrows, to set the enemy stuntmen on fire so that they can run around screaming while the flammable stunt clothing blazes merrily over their Nomex jumpsuits. William Wallace can also generally get his hands on fire starter whenever he wants to burn English soldiers to death in a cottage. [From A Common Place Book](You should know this isn’t true at all.)

William Wallace was called Braveheart. (Actually that was a nickname of his contemporary, Robert Bruce who would become Scotland’s eventual king and he only acquired the nickname after his death when his heart was carried by a general around his neck into battle. It was Robert Bruce’s heart that led the Scots into battle not Wallace’s.)

William Wallace was the architect of Scottish independence and was an all-around nice guy. Robert Bruce is overrated. (Wallace also raped women and burnt down schools with kids and monks still inside. Not only that, but he used conscription and was willing to hang those refusing to serve. As with Robert Bruce, he’s still one of Scotland’s national heroes and was far more successful than Wallace ever could be {though he still could be brutal to his enemies and manipulative if need be as well as got excommunicated for murdering his rival in a church}. Not to mention, Bruce never personally betrayed Wallace, ever because they never met in the first place. Also, Wallace didn’t initially support Bruce’s claim to the throne and backed the exiled Scottish King John Balliol who was held prisoner in the Tower of London {and later sent to France} who Bruce and his family considered an usurper. Not to mention, Bruce was originally playing on both sides for a while {for personal reasons} until the Battle of Stirling Bridge and didn’t establish full claim to the Scottish throne until after his Carlisle governor father died in 1304.)

Malcolm Wallace had two sons named John and William in 1280 in a town of Paisley. (He had three including his eldest also named Malcolm and he wasn’t a commoner either, assuming that Sir Malcolm of Elderslie was William’s father. Then again William Wallace’s dad could be named Alan of Ayershire {yet no contemporary evidence links him to either location}. Still, William Wallace only appears on the historic record from 1297 when he killed an English sheriff in Lanark {said in order to avenge his wife’s murder} to his death in 1305. So how many kids William’s father had was anyone’s guess.)

William Wallace’s father and brother John were executed by the English when William was a boy. (William lost his father as an adult while his brother John was executed a year after him.)

William Wallace returned to Scotland in 1296 after spending his adolescence abroad. (He never stepped foot out of Scotland until his 1297 invasion of Northern England.)

William Wallace carried out large-scale raids in the north of England and killed Edward I’s nephew in York. (While he did stage long scale raids in Northern England, he didn’t make it as south as York.)

William Wallace’s wife Murron died shortly after their wedding. After this, he killed the English Sheriff by slitting his throat. (It’s said they had two sons, if he had a wife which is very likely. Yet, legend says her name was Marion Braidfrute, though there is no solid evidence if he was married. As for the Sheriff, Wallace cut him to pieces with a sword while his men proceeded to burn two houses with English guards inside of them.)

William Wallace’s best friends were Hamish and his dad Campbell as well as Stephen of Ireland. (The first two are fictional characters while the latter’s existence is questioned. Also, Andrew Moray may be a better candidate though he’s absent in Braveheart though they did join forces before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.)

William Wallace was executed around the same time Edward I died. (Edward I would live for a couple more years and would die on campaign {not in bed as depicted in Braveheart}.)

The Irish fought with William Wallace. (Most Irish fought against him and certainly didn’t switch sides at Falkirk {though the Welsh archers threatened to but only out of fear}.)

Scottish nobles deserted William Wallace. (There’s no report of this happening, well, maybe with John Comyn and his supporters who did abandon him there but there’s no solid evidence. Oh, and he was opposed to fighting at Falkirk because it didn’t offer the advantages at Stirling Bridge.)

William Wallace was captured by the English at Edinburgh after being betrayed by Noble Craig and Robert Bruce’s old man. (The old man Robert Bruce was dead by Wallace’s capture while Craig never existed. Also, he was captured near Glasgow after being betrayed by Scotsman John Menteith.)

William Wallace had no intention to fight the English to free his country until his wife was killed by them. (He was already an outlaw against the English since he refused to sign the Ragman Roll from the very beginning. The English killing his wife would’ve angered him even more. Oh, and William Wallace would’ve never whipped out a concealed nunchaku, which is from China for God’s sake!)

William Wallace was clean shaven. (He had a beard and was at least 6 feet tall. But he’s played by Mel Gibson so I’ll let this slide.)

William Wallace was knighted after Stirling Bridge. (He was knighted a few years later.)

Robert Bruce:

Robert Bruce disowned his leprosy afflicted but dominating father. (There is no evidence Bruce’s old man had ever contracted it though it’s thought that Bruce himself might’ve suffered from it. Also, there’s no evidence whether Bruce disowned his father or whether he was dominated by his dad. Still, he was quite capable of making his own decisions and choices.)

The Scots won their independence when Robert Bruce changed his mind about a peace parley. (It was at the battle of Bannockburn after an English army arrived to lift the siege at Stirling Castle, nine years after Wallace’s death while engaging in guerrilla warfare for years, though Bruce would be crowned king a year after Wallace’s execution {though he was dead by the time actual independence would be won}. Also, Scottish independence didn’t last and Edward III managed to conquer more of Scotland than his grandfather ever had.)

Robert Bruce was the 17th person with the name in his family. (He was the 7th with the name and the 7th Lord of Annandale.)

Robert Bruce was present with King Edward I at Falkirk. (It’s likely he wasn’t there or at least did nothing significant. He was more likely at home in Carrick.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 7 – The Medieval Church


From Kingdom of Heaven, which is probably a movie about the Crusades we’re all familiar with as well as one that says that these wars of religion weren’t as holy as many say they were. However, this picture does encapsulate the idea of the religiosity of the time period. Still, though Orlando Bloom’s character actually did exist, he wasn’t the widowed French blacksmith as depicted in the beginning at all. However, he did end up with a Queen consort of Jerusalem, just not Queen Sybilla.

While fighting is one of the many aspects of the medieval landscape, the Middle Ages would never be what it s without the Church. Sure it was a dominant force in medieval life and a very misunderstood one as Hollywood is concerned. Still, though Christianity began in ancient times, it really came into its own in the Middle Ages as an institution (as long as the Catholic Church is concerned but there were Orthodox churches in the east as well). Medieval monasteries and convents were places of great cottage industries and learning with monks being among the intellectuals of their day and churches became not only centers of devotion but also places for community. Not only that, but we also see the rise of the Gothic cathedrals which are still used for worship today (even if it’s on the decline in Europe these days). And without the Church, we wouldn’t have universities, the institution of medicine, theology, and all those ancient writings that would’ve been lost if monks didn’t spend all day copying them. Of course, because of the medieval Church, we also have antisemitism, heresy, and the Crusades which is a series of religious wars in the Middle East geared to capturing the Holy Land from the Muslims. Still, Hollywood always tends to screw up a few things about the medieval Church which I shall list here.

Medieval Christianity:

The Catholic Church was a backward institution that discouraged education and scientific research. (The Catholic Church actually saved science and is the main reason why we know anything about the Middle Ages at all even though they did lock their books but there weren’t many books in Europe anyway and were very expensive since they were all written by hand or printed from wood carvings which were tedious to make {but many monasteries and nunneries had large libraries of them full of the works of Rome and Greeks and monks spent a lot of time copying them}. Furthermore, they even set up universities all over Continental Europe, started formalized higher education with advanced degrees, and saw no problem with dissection {the Knights Hospitaller did this and the Church was fine with it}, at least in the basement anyway, which helped set the foundation of modern medicine. They started the first medical and law schools as well. They even educated children in monastic and convent schools when education became a higher demand and that was before the printing press. Not to mention, the Crusades also allowed Europeans to come into contact with Muslim ideas and Arabic numerals. And their massive cathedrals were marvels of medieval craftsmanship and engineering. Furthermore, monks were usually the most educated people in Europe of their day. Actually it would be more accurate to say that the Catholic Church was a great medieval engine of scientific progress. Not to mention, most medieval scientists were monks and/or priests as well. Still, doesn’t stop filmmakers from making movies set in the Middle Ages in which the Catholic Church is hostile to scientific inquiry which really wasn’t the case {especially with the Galileo Affair which isn’t as much a science vs. religion case as most people think}.)

Monks locked their Bibles to keep people from hearing the true word. (No way in hell. Monks locked their Bibles so churches could guarantee that people could hear the Bible on a daily basis as well as prevent it from getting stolen. A stolen Bible would’ve taken many months to replace since books at the time were copied by hand.)

Europeans were highly religious during the Middle Ages. (Despite the Crusades and the powerful presence of the Catholic Church, most people in the Middle Ages were probably just as religious as I am, observant yes, but with a more laid back approach like many Catholics today. Sure religion was important but it wasn’t the only thing in life and it wasn’t altogether incompatible to the modern notions of the day either. In other words, medieval Europeans may have went to church on Sundays but they weren’t religious fanatics, at least in general. Of course, religiosity would increase later in the Middle Ages as well as in the early Renaissance in Northern Europe since they were people who cared enough about religion to break off from the Catholic Church.)

The Catholic Church discouraged scientific research and progress. (Actually, quite the contrary. For one, most medieval scientists in Europe had a religious vocation. Second, while the Middle Ages wasn’t the best time for science {which wasn’t a big subject at the time}, it was nevertheless studied for practical reasons. The Church understood that scientific study can benefit them and help monks and nuns do their jobs better. Needing to care of the sick led to the study of medicine. The fact monks and nuns needed to schedule prayer times as well as find out when Easter is led to the study of rudimentary mathematics and the motions of the Sun and the Moon. Third, contrary to popular belief, the High Middle Ages was a really good time for science with the rise of Scholasticism and Aristotlelianism.)

Medieval cathedrals were often dark places. (Actually, they were places with large glass windows that let tons of light in. Churches were painted in bright colors. Still, today tourists tend to complain every time these places are washed because it’s too bright. Not to mention, it was inspired by Indian and Arab/Muslim building styles also from the Crusades.)

All nuns were virgins admitted into a convent as lovely, nubile waifs. (They could also be an ugly daughter of a lord or women who didn’t want to get married or have kids.)

Monks were benevolent men who devoted their lives to God. (Well, not quite for many monasteries enjoyed great wealth in the Middle Ages and many monks didn’t live too badly either {especially in the later Middle Ages}. In many ways, they were not just clergymen, but also businessmen, scribes, scientists, intellectuals, as well as some of the smartest guys around {same goes for nuns, too, for the most part}. Oh, and many monasteries had their own armies.)

Monks could hear confessions. (If they have taken holy orders since a lot of monks are priests. If not, then no.)

Monks were dissolute hypocrites who used religion to make money. (This isn’t 100% accurate either for though monks weren’t perfect human beings and the Church did have some degree of corruption, they were just as flawed like everyone else. We just tend to put them on a higher pedestal since they tend to be religious figures. Besides, every religion has their share of hypocrites and jerks as any institution and I’m sure medieval Christianity was no exception. Sure you may have a few bad and corrupt monks, but you also had a lot of cool ones as well. However, it was true enough for Henry VIII to convince the masses on why he had to dissolve the monasteries {which was to finance a war in France}, even though the actual debauchery and corruption of monks wasn’t nearly as bad as Henry made it out to be.)

Medieval Russia had no religious insignia in the 13th century. (Russia had been Orthodox Christian for quite some time and would continue to be the dominant church in the country until the Russian Revolution {though it’s still around}. Russian churches would usually have crosses on top and their banners would contain an icon of Christ {ditto priests in the army}. Of course, Eisenstein knew that the Soviet government wouldn’t accept this while filming Alexander Nevsky. Also, Nevsky is a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.)

Clergymen were forbidden to shed blood so they didn’t fight. (Sure but there were militant churchmen as well as military religious orders like the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights, and the Knights Hospitallers.)

“Dies Irae” was a Christian standard hymn in the 1100s. (It was written by a Thomas of Celano who lived around 1200-1260 so, no.)

Saint Francis of Assisi was known as “Jester of the Lord.” (It was his disciple Brother Juniper.)

Saint Francis of Assisi was originally referred to as Francis. (His real name was Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone. Francis was a nickname derived from Francesco {“Frenchy”} which he obtained when he was a little kid. Actually, Francis wouldn’t be used as a legal name until after he became a saint.)

Pope Innocent III had a full beard. (He was clean shaven.)

Everyone in Europe was Catholic during the Middle Ages. (Everyone west of Poland, that is. In Russia, the main church was Russian Orthodox Christianity while the Greeks in the Eastern Roman Empire were Greek Orthodox. Not to mention, before the Mongols you also had quite a few Christian sects in the Middle East and Central Asia like the Coptics, Armenian Apostolics, the Nestorians, the Maronites, Ethiopian Orthodox Rite, and others. When you really get down to it, medieval Christianity was quite diverse.)

The Catholic Church pretty much ran everything. (Yes, it was a powerful institution, but it also got into clashes with secular rulers who wanted to make their own decisions in religious affairs. Not to mention, secular monarchs can and did appoint bishops {Henry II appointed Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury}. Sure medieval society didn’t exactly have a lot of separation between church and state. And yes, the Catholic Church did mettle in politics as well, but it wasn’t always without a secular ruler’s consent either. They also crowned kings as well as married and annulled their unions {back when marriages were a form of diplomacy}. So while there wasn’t a lot of separation between church and state but it wasn’t exactly a theocracy either. Also, there was less church and state separation in the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, than in any European Catholic country.)

There was an actual Pope Joan. (She never existed.)

The Catholic Church participated in witch hunts and witch burnings. (Maybe in the 1400s but they mostly considered belief in witches as highly heretical. Still, witch hunts did happen under secular governments though and only much later {and they only took witchcraft seriously in cases of murder and treason}. However, there were actually few witch trials during the Middle Ages and many were usually nothing but simple lynches.)

Inquisition guards wore nearly full plated armor in the 1300s. (Only a century later.)

Medieval monks could enter each other’s cells freely. (For a monk entering another’s cell without permission was normally forbidden as well as grounds for excommunication.)

Monks addressed each other as “Your Grace.” (This wouldn’t be appropriate address for a monk under any circumstances but rather for nobles and high members of the Catholic Church.)

Inquisitor Bernard Gui was killed in an Italian monastery in 1327. (Yes, he was a real person and was said to have sentenced 900 people as well as executing 42 of them during his 15 years in office. However, he died in the castle of Laroux in 1331. He also doesn’t die in Eco’s original novel In the Name of the Rose.)

Medieval clergy men and religious orders were highly superstitious. (Yes, but not as much as the laypeople in their domains. Of course, they probably did believe in demon possession and that writing with the left hand was a sin. For instance, most medieval clergymen believed in a round earth from its earliest days. So did most people at the time with an education. We should also account for the fact that most medieval scientists were monks and priests.)

Pagan philosophy was considered difficult to reconcile with Christianity as well as considered borderline heretical. (There is no way that William of Baskerville would need to worry about saving a book by Aristotle because Saint Thomas Aquinas had already embraced embraced several ideas put forward by the Greek philosopher as well as said it was perfectly all right for Christians to read works by non-Christian authors {and had been influenced by the Jewish philosopher Maimonides as well as Muslim philosophers Averroes and Avicenna}. This was in the 13th century. Not only that, but most of the European mythology we know about now was recorded by clergyman themselves, which were only referred just as stories.)

Some European monasteries had African monks. (This would be highly unlikely considering the circumstances.)

The Holy Grail was of great significance in Christianity at this time. (There’s no mention of it in any canonical Christian text and wasn’t spawned until the 12th century. Also, it’s more of a product of Arthurian legend than anything.)

Pagan practices were considered anti-Christian. (Except with the worship of other deities, many pagan practices weren’t considered anti-Christian, but were commonly carried out by Christians as well as became Christianized practices. Kind of like how some people celebrate the holidays with their own personal traditions just to make themselves feel comfortable with the faith. However, this doesn’t stop some people from believing that Christianity was based on earlier religions other than Judaism, of which there is no historic proof as well as nothing in what we know of the original pagan beliefs that we can draw a respective parallel with. In other words, to say that the story of Jesus was based on the myth  of Horus would be like saying it’s based on Harry Potter. Not to mention, those who believe that Christianity was based on pagan religions don’t tend to consider that a certain culture’s mythology doesn’t have a lot of consistency and that mythological stories sometimes tend to vary with location or change over time. And it doesn’t help that the prolific people who tend to believe this are high profile atheist intellectuals, who may be smart and experts in their respective field but that doesn’t mean they’re experts in religion, religious history, or even mythology.)

The Crusades:

There was no reason at all to recommend the Crusades. (Well, there kind of sort of was, at least in some of those people’s minds but I wouldn’t call it the best solution. Still, remember medieval society was a feudal and warlike culture so if these knights weren’t killing Muslims in the Holy Land, they were probably killing each other and then some {though the first Crusade’s primary enemy was the hostile Seljuk Turks who’ve just captured Jerusalem from the Fatimids who didn’t care as long as the Christians spent their money}. Not to mention, the Crusades were called to also help out the dwindling Byzantine Empire, the last remaining Christian stronghold of the Middle East at the time {though they were Greek Orthodox, not Catholic}. Also, Pope Urban II’s predecessor was kidnapped by Normans and were wreaking havoc all over Europe by the first Crusade. Besides, “bring the Cross to Jerusalem” was a much better slogan than “Save the Greek Empire” which nobody in Europe cared about.)

Crusaders taught desert dwelling Muslims how to irrigate their land. (Actually this was the other way around. They also taught them medicine, windmills, round towers, and others even though knights did participate in civil projects during the Crusades.)

Members of the Knights Templar could marry, own land, and be crowned king. (They were forbidden from marrying or owning land. Also, no Templar would ever be crowned king.)

Renaud Chatillon and Guy Lusignan were Templars. (No, they weren’t or never have been. Lusignan was actually king of Jerusalem at the time Chatillon launched his attack. Also, King Baldwin had been dead for several years.)

Sybilla’s marriage to Guy Lusignan was an arranged one. (Her family opposed the match and it was her second marriage.)

Balian was a heroic everyman knight who embodied the best of the chivalric ethos. He was also a blacksmith and an illegitimate son of a knight. (He was raised noble and wasn’t a blacksmith so he probably wasn’t illegitimate. Not to mention, he was part of the most important families in the Kingdom of Jerusalem but of a moderate faction known as the Ibelins {and he wasn’t born illegitimate, but as a younger son}. And he wasn’t born in France but in Jerusalem as a second generation crusader nobleman and would’ve definitely know who his father was. Not to mention, his dad was Italian, not French. Also, though he is known for making the courageous decision to negotiate with Saladin, he also betrayed his oath not to fight him on more than one occasion, sold many peasants in the siege into slavery, and refused to release his Muslim prisoners if Saladin wouldn’t accept surrender. He also threatened the destruction of Muslim holy places under the threat of a repeat of the 1st Crusade capture of Jerusalem. He was ruthless but Saladin would forgive his oath breaking due to prior excellent relations and even helped mediate a peace between him and Richard the Lionheart. Still, Balian wasn’t all that bad for he did pay ransoms for thousands of poor out of his own pocket and offered himself as a hostage for all the rest. Still, he was prone to taking power whenever he could find it, sided with Chatillon, and his dynasty fathered most of the royal families of Europe.)

Guy Lusignan was a foppish, racist douchebag and ax crazy Reynald Chatillon was his dragon. (Chatillon wasn’t ax crazy but he was the worse of the two, much worse. Also, though Lusignan may have been racist, so were many of the European Christians who participated and him and Reynald hated each other {leading to the disaster at Hattin} even though he tried to get him to apologize to Saladin which didn’t work. As what TV Tropes and Idioms says about Chatillon, “Raynald once had a man tortured by smearing him in honey and putting him on top of a tower in the hot sun, simply because the man refused to fund a military expedition Raynald was plotting. Oh, and the best part — the man was the Latin Patriarch of Antioch, a religious leader of the Crusaders — and the expedition was against Cyprus, an island held by the Byzantine Empire, inhabited by Christians. Of course, Raynald had what he thought was a perfectly good reason for this—he felt they owed him money. Or pretended he felt they owed him money. It’s tough to be sure. So — a “bit of a mustache twirling supervillain” is something of an understatement.” Also, Chatillon led a pirate fleet that threatened to burn down Mecca and flayed the Patriarch of Antioch alive.)

The Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem was a cowardly, self-absorbed jerk, blinded by his faith, and mostly spent his time spreading his prejudice against Muslims. (Actually it was he and Balian who negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem and rounded up the money to ransom the citizens who couldn’t afford to ransom themselves. They also offered themselves as ransom for those who they couldn’t afford to ransom which Saladin declined. He even stripped the silver and gold from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to pay the city’s defenders knowing it would’ve gotten him in big trouble.)

Sybilla was a member of the moderate faction in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (As TTI puts it, “The historical Sybilla was actually part of the extremist camp within the Haute Cour, while the film places her squarely on the moderate side. The moderates, such as the Ibelins, attempted to blunt the ambitions of Lusignan and his supporters by refusing to allow her to take the throne after the death of her son (Baldwin V) unless she first divorced him. As a concession they allowed her to marry any man of her choosing afterwards, but unfortunately neglected to add “Except Lusignan,” who she then turned around and picked as her consort. Not because she was in desperate need of his military support as the film depicts, but entirely because of her devotion to him, and because she sided with him and the other extremists politically.” So a romance between Balian and Sybilla most likely didn’t happen.)

Guy Lusignan was an utter bastard who would do anything for power and was willing to wage a war for profit. He was also a terrible King of Jerusalem. (As TTI explains, “Historically, while he may have been ambitious, he was no more so than the next noble, and his decision to go to war was less a matter of Ax Craziness and more a matter of “Saladin’s already attacking, we need to do something about it.” While he was a bad king, it was not because he was nuts and evil, but because he was incompetent: He could listen to reason, and he even did so when Tiberius cautioned him to stay near a source of water and let Saladin come to him, but he allowed himself to be swayed by the over-zealous elements among the nobles and made the decision to march across the desert, exhausting his army and causing its downfall. He was also much better to his wife than in the film: historically, he treated her well enough that when she was given the chance to keep the throne and choose any husband for herself and make him King, she went right back to Guy.”)

Teutonic knight crosses were the same on shield and coat of arms. (They were different in shape and color.)

Returning Crusaders had to face the Black Plague. (Maybe they had to face plague, but the Crusades were long over before the Plague began.)

Russians participated in the Crusades. (There were no Russians in the Crusades.)

King William of Sicily fought in the Crusades. (He sent ships but never went personally.)

Frederick Barbarossa and his son the Duke of Swabia participated in the Crusades at the same time as Richard the Lionheart. (They were both dead by Richard’s arrival. Barbossa died en route in Turkey and his son of dysentery some months before.)

The Count of Montferrat spent more considerable time plotting in the French and English courts. (He was fighting in Tyre. Also, he’s from Piedmont, not Venice.)

Queen Berengaria spent some time in Saladin’s harem. (Really? No way in hell. Besides, there’s no record of Queen Berengaria ever stepping foot anywhere further than Cyprus where she married Richard the Lionheart.)

The Crusades were mostly against the Muslims in an effort to reconquer the Holy Land. (Yes, but there were also Crusades against the Moors in Spain, the Baltic pagans, and even the Albigensian heretics {though that can be considered an Inquisition, too.})

Crusaders eagerly went to the Holy Land on behalf of their God. (They also did it out of self-interests as well such as glory, self-enrichment, and adventure.)

Both sides seemed to get along with each other during the Crusades. (Just because Muslims fought with Muslims and Christians fought with Christians doesn’t mean they liked each other.)

The Crusades consisted of Christians vs. Muslims. (It didn’t become a Christian vs. Muslim conflict until French King Louis VII took a detour in the Second Crusade where he sacked Damascus, betraying his Muslim allies out of greed. Prior to this, it wasn’t unusual for Christians to have Muslim allies or Muslims to have Christian Allies. Not to mention the “Crusaders” in the later stages were mostly just adventurers and mercenaries more interested in glory and loot than defending Christian kingdoms or recapturing holy places.)

Christian Europeans weren’t okay with Muslims controlling Jerusalem. (Actually quite the contrary since prior to the Crusades, it had been controlled by the Muslims for nearly 500 years. It’s just that until the Crusades, Jerusalem was controlled by the easygoing Fatimid Muslims who were perfectly fine with Christian visitors on pilgrimages as long as they paid. And as long as Muslims were fine with Christian visitors in Jerusalem, Christian Europe didn’t care whether the Holy Land was under Christian control or not. However, the Christians weren’t all right with the Seljuk Turks invading the city since they were more prickly and devout than their Fatimid predecessors and had been treating Christian pilgrims poorly {since they didn’t particularly care for religious minorities anyway}. Not to mention, the Seljuk Turks have been trying to take advantage of the weakening Byzantine Empire in a land grab. So the Crusades were initially less of a religious conflict with Christians against the general Muslim population and more of a conflict against more fanatical Muslims who had already proven themselves as Christendom’s enemies and showed it. However, such characteristics only apply to the general Fatimid and Seljuk populations since not all Seljuks were bad and not all Fatimids were good.)

The Crusades were no help to Muslims at all. (Having Christians kill Muslims in the name of God actually gave something that could unite the Muslim world after being locked in a period of infighting which resulted in stronger and larger Muslim states and the end of Shiism as a political force for the next 300 years {until the Safavids converted Iran}. Still, the worst thing the Crusades did for the Muslims was being a major distraction for 2 bloody centuries that neither side even paid attention to what was happening in the east during the 1200s where a little known guy Mongolian named Temujin was making a name for himself. He was also known as Genghis Khan. For the Christians though, they led to a weakening of the Byzantine Empire and a permanent division of Christianity along east and west, while the already shaky alliances of European monarchies crumbled. By 1250, the west was no longer a significant threat to the Muslim world since Europe had suffered a massive drain of manpower and resources. )

The Crusades teach the notion that “religion is bad because people kill each other over it.” (There’s a lot more to the Crusades than religion. Also, remember this is the Middle Ages so if Christians weren’t killing Muslims in the name of God, they’d probably be killing each other over something else. Not to mention, being Christian didn’t stop the Normans from sacking Rome in 1060, which gave Urban II a good reason to fear them. Besides, it’s said Pope Urban II called the First Crusade to keep Christian invaders out of his own town, which would put their aggressive impulses to more constructive use at the time. Also, the Byzantine Emperor had petitioned for help. In some way, knowing that you and your potential enemies have the same religion can help. Not to mention, the Crusades didn’t stop Christians from attacking each other in the Middle East either out of greed or when it pleased them, being the knights they were {since they also sacked Byzantine cities, too even when they weren’t allowed to}. In the Fourth Crusade, Western European Christians actually sacked Constantinople in 1204 that made the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity all but absolute. Not only that, but it massively pissed off Pope Innocent III that he excommunicated all who participated in it {well, he threatened to before to deter the Crusaders from attacking fellow Christians, but it didn’t work}.)

The Catholic Church had no qualms with Christian crusaders killing Muslims in the name of God. (Actually the Church was perfectly fine with Christians killing Muslims in the name of God as long as they were seen as enemies of Christendom {while killing fellow Christians and allies was a sin}. But despite what you might’ve heard, this didn’t mean that the Catholic Church allowed Christians to kill Muslims indiscriminately, since the Christians initially had Muslim allies like the Arab Fatimids. Thus, this only applied at least to the Seljuk Turks who weren’t nice to Christians to begin with, at least in the First Crusade {though it might apply to Fatimids, too, at least later}. But being the raping and pillaging knights they were, even the stipulations against killing allies didn’t stop them  from killing Arab and Byzantine Christians eventually. As for the Muslims, the Crusades didn’t stop them from attacking each other either, at least initially.)

The Knights Templar had a relationship with the Freemasons. (There are claims of this but it’s unlikely they existed at the same time.)

The Knights Templar existed in 1539. (They were dissolved in 1312 by King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V mostly due to the Templars’ wealth.)

The Knights Templar were a fanatical and ruthless militant fighters. (Yes, but so were a lot of people in the Middle Ages and they were initially like this in the early days. However, they were also skilled, pious, and occasionally highly educated fighters, cavalry, and bankers. When they became wealthier, they became less involved with fighting.They were also notoriously tolerant organization that cultivated diplomatic contacts with the Muslim world, worked with Muslim architects {influencing Gothic architecture}, merchants, and even theologians as well as disapproved slaughtering enemies if they agreed to surrender. These guys also invented dual accounting, credit cards, holding companies, corporations {they might’ve been the world’s first}, insurance, travel agencies, and modern banking. Oh, and many of these points were used against them by French king Philip IV who just wanted their gold and there were persistent rumors {that still go on to this day} that the Templars were corrupt despite most evidence to the contrary. They’re actually not as bad as most Hollywood portrayals depict.)

The Templars knew that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdalene resulting in the Merovingian line. (This is utter Dan Brown nonsense.)

Christian crusaders only massacred Muslims during the Crusades. (They massacred every Muslim and Christian in Jerusalem in 1098. Oh, and they even sacked Byzantine cities.)

The Knights Templar used a Roman cross in the 12th century. (They used a Maltese Cross until a century later when they were forced to change to a Roman Cross.)

The Knights Templar wore a white surcoat and black cross in the 12th century. (This is the outfit of the Teutonic Knights: the arms of Saint Mary of the Germans which was founded in 1190.)

There were a lot of casualties among the defenders of Jerusalem during the siege in the Third Crusade. (There were relatively few until the final fight.)

Balian had just lost a wife and child during the Siege of Jerusalem. (He was married with two children who were with him at the time. During the siege, he was trying to get them out of the city.)

Balian and Sybilla had an affair. (There’s no way this happened. For one, Sybillia and Guy Lusignan were definitely devoted to one even though people didn’t like them being together. Second, Balian’s wife was very much alive though she was a widow to a previous king of Jerusalem. Actually they were more likely enemies since Balian supported his stepdaughter’s {who also happened to be Sybilla’s younger half-sister} claim to the throne of Jerusalem as well as got her to annul her first marriage and marry a more suitable king.)

Balian’s wife committed suicide after delivering a stillborn baby. (She was alive and with her husband in Jerusalem. Also, she managed to give birth to two kids to Balian and would later have two more {who all survived}. Oh, and she had a daughter from a previous marriage with a previous king Jerusalem no doubt. Balian’s wife Maria Kommene was actually a daughter of a Byzantine nobleman and a great-niece of Emperor who bestowed a rich dowry in her first marriage {though the Komenes were known to experience a lot of family activities such as assassinating one another}. Oh, and they were enemies of King Richard the Lionheart.)

Teutonic Knights had swastika logos on them. (They didn’t use swastikas on anything. Still, they’re used in Alexander Nevsky as stand-ins for the Nazis.)

The Knights Templar helped pass down wisdom of ancient geometry derived the Ancient Egyptians during the Crusades. (They wouldn’t have done this.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 6- Vikings and Fighters

This is from a 1928 silent technicolor movie called The Viking which focuses on Leif Ericson. The accurate details about his life featured here are that he was the son of Eric the Red and discovered North America that we know of. Still, this picture shows a popular image of Vikings wearing horned helmets, which is not only historically inaccurate but also a stupid idea. Still, this doesn’t stop teams from having such images on their sports logos.

The Middle Ages isn’t one of the most accurately depicted times in movies. Much of how we view the medieval era isn’t shaped by actual history but by how it was viewed by later generations like in the Renaissance or the Victorian era. The Middle Ages lasted for about a thousand years or show as well as experienced lots of changes, but many medieval movies may take place in one era. Yet, they may have the people wear clothes and use weapons from a later period as well as large scale battles conducted in ways that would make most medieval military minds scratch their heads. Not to mention, some aspects of the Middle Ages are more likely to be filmed than others. Movies set in the Early Middle Ages tend to be about Vikings even though they were among many of the Germanic tribes wreaking havoc all over Dark Age Europe {mostly because few surviving writings from this era exist}. Well, that or King Arthur {who may just be a mythological figure}. Also, many of them tend to focus on fighting {like large scale epic battles} and most of them would be set in England {mostly because of Shakespeare, Robin Hood, and King Arthur} though there was plenty happening throughout Europe as well. This post will devote itself to the Vikings and the Medieval warfare inaccuracies portrayed in movies since these revolve around fighting which was common place in the Middle Ages.

No group gets more movie depictions in the Early Middle Ages than the Vikings, the fearsome Scandinavian raiders that bring any settled early medieval village to its knees. Many of these guys were pagans who worshiped the Norse Gods, wore awesome gear and carried gnarly weapons, sailed on ships with gruesome figureheads, and had long light hair and beards. Of course, this is the Hollywood depiction. Yet, the Middle Ages was a time where warfare was common place, of knighthood and chivalry, castles, battles, and tournaments. However, when it comes to Hollywood, there of plenty of things that movies get wrong which I shall list accordingly.

The Vikings:

The Vikings wore horned helmets and treated their women as objects. (The Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, it was made up by Wagner when he did his operas on Norse and German mythology. Besides, a horned helmet wouldn’t be of any practical use whatsoever. Still, the Teutonic Knights and the samurai did though. And the women didn’t wear cone bras either. Also, Viking women held more rights than most other women did at the time.)

The Vikings were a savage people who raided and pillaged in areas all over Europe. They were also filthy as well as large and muscled. (Raiders, yes, but the Vikings weren’t uncivilized savages. They also were traders, explorers, artists, sailors, craftsmen, settlers, as well as a lot of other things. They also discovered Iceland, Greenland, and North America. And as for hygiene, evidence shows they were keen on personal hygiene unlike some European peoples. And they weren’t always hated and feared either.)

Vikings were tall, big, and blond. (Actually, though they came from Scandinavia and blond was seen as ideal, they took slaves from a great many ethnic groups who later joined them. So maybe there were Vikings who looked like Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine after all. Also, the average Viking man’s height was 5’ 7” which is not tall but fairly average.)

Viking was an ethnicity. (It was more of a job description derived from their method of raiding. Also, they did carry their weapons in normal life which they used for other purposes. They referred to themselves as Norsemen. All Vikings were Norsemen but not all Norsemen were Vikings. Also, most Norsemen would stay in villages all their lives.)

Vikings were clean shaven. (Male Vikings had beards.)

All Germanic tribesmen looked and dressed alike.

Viking women usually stayed home. (Many actually did accompany their husbands on invasions and sometimes fought according to recent evidence.)

Viking funerals consisted of a warrior being burned on the boat with all his possessions. (There was also a slave girl thrown in, too, but no one wants to film that.)

The Vikings were feared from all those they invaded. (Sometimes, but they weren’t bad rulers as well as accepted as traders. Also, they and the Slavs got along much nicely in what is now Russia and the former Soviet Union. It’s said Kievan Rus was founded by a man named  Rurik and his Viking band {who was a Finn raised in Swedish society} though it was already an urbanizing culture when those guys came.)

Leif Ericson fell for an English princess.( No, he didn’t. Nor did he land in Rhode Island {he landed in Canada, specifically, New Foundland or Nova Scotia}. Also, he didn’t speak Algonquin either.)

Hrothgar was a king of Denmark who met Ahmed ibn Fadlan. (Both these men existed in different eras. The Danish king mentioned lived during the 500s and wouldn’t have any contact with Muslims in the first place since Islam was founded in 622. The latter existed in 922. Of course, Vikings could’ve met Muslims though.)

The Vikings only used axes. (Vikings were all legally required to own weapons and the vast majority of Viking men and women used swords.)

The Vikings were unusually bloodthirsty and barbaric. (Well, they were living in a violent age and non-Viking armies were just as bad. However, they usually get special mention because of their willingness to destroy objects of religious value and kill churchmen, earning them a lot of hatred in a highly religious time. Also, they kind of enjoyed the reputation they had.)

Vikings were hated everywhere. (Some respected them like French king Charles the Simple who gave a Viking chief named Rollo Normandy and his daughter. In return these Vikings protected France against their wilder counterparts. Also, the Byzantine Emperors if the 11th century were protected by Swedish bodyguards in Constantinople.)

The Vikings lived only in Scandinavia and later settled in Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. (They started settlements reaching as far as North Africa, Russia, and Constantinople.)

The Vikings used crude and unsophisticated weaponry. (They were actually very skilled weapons smiths. They could make extremely sharp and flexible swords.)

Viking funerals were solemn occasions. (Yes, but after the deceased was sent in a blazing glory, it was basically a party with feasting and fighting afterwards.)

A Viking weapon of choice was the doubled axe. (No double axe has ever been found in early medieval Europe. Also, Viking axes were light and single handed and spears are the most common weapons found on their sites.)

Viking drank from skull cups. (They drank from horns.)

Vikings were a nation. (They were a groups of warriors, explorers, and merchants headed by a chieftain.)

Viking men had tresses. (They shaved the backs of their heads like a reverse mullet.)


The Huns were Asian looking. (They were from Eastern Europe or Central Asia not Mongolia. Yet, we’re not sure what the Huns looked like.)

Attila the Hun visited Rome and fell in love with Valentinian III’s  sister Honoria. (He never visited Rome nor even met the Roman princess. However, he did consent to marrying her before invading the Roman Empire after she was caught in bed with her brother’s chamberlain. Yet, this had less to do with love than wanting her brother Valentinian III dead. Oh, and instead of being exiled to a convent in Constantinople, she was forced to marry a senator.)

Attila the Hun never had a bath. (He did bathe.)

Knights and Warfare:

Knights were honorable, chivalrous, warriors who wooed damsels, were faithful to their wives, and treated their subjects with respect. (Actually, many knights usually entered into arranged marriages and many of them would hump pretty much anything that moves. Also, many of these knights raped peasant women and took their aggression on the local population which was one of the reasons why the Catholic Church called for a Crusade. Oh, and prostitution was legal because it was believed to deter rape among the general population and even the Vatican had brothels. In the Middle Ages, knights in shining armor were more the exception than the norm.)

Knights followed a specific code of chivalry which depicted unwavering pillars of justice. (Knights basically followed chivalry whenever they wanted to and only respected those above them. Most of them did whatever they wanted such as rape, looting, pillaging, and killing peasants. In fact, they looting was their right since they thought the booty was owed for their services. Hell, they’d hang out at bridges and rivers in large groups where they’d pick fights with passing knights, kill peasants, and harass women.)

Good knights treated peasants and serfs like human beings. (Knights treated serfs incredibly terrible since they were at the lowest rung of society. Serfs were usually key targets of knights since they were responsible for the upkeep of an estate. And though they might not be killed by a rival knight, they’ll likely be severely wounded or dismembered so they’d be a drain on estate. If a knight killed another lord’s serf, he’d have to pay or receive a beating.)

Armor was surprisingly useless against most forms of attacks. Whenever the plot requires, arrows and sword thrusts will punch through armor with ease. This is related to:

Braveheart Brigandine: This consists of metal plates riveted beneath a leather covering with a gap between the plates. This as flexible and easy to make, and virtually useless as protection, because any thrust will slide along the plate until it reaches the gap, slides into it, and kills the wearer. Its most perverse variant is the Braveheart Pajama Bottom of War: trousers with metal plates riveted to them with *large* gaps between them so the wearer can move. These gaps allow William Wallace to chop the wearer’s legs off with ease.  [From A Commonplace Book] (It’s unlikely that actual medieval fighters wore this.)

Studded Armor. Leather armor with decorative studs. This is designed to look like brigantine or similar armor to someone who doesn’t have a very good idea what brigantine looks like. The studs offer approximately the same protective value as loose change in the wearer’s pocket. However, the combination of metal studs and leather is very popular in bad historical movies, as well as the kind of bar where the patrons like that sort of thing. [From A Commonplace Book] (Armor wasn’t really useless in forms of attacks since many medieval soldiers used it in the form of chainmail, which was very heavy.)

For a medieval hero, a helmet is an encumbrance to be discarded as soon as possible, so that the hero’s face can be more easily seen and recognized. Unless it is desirable to wait until later to suddenly reveal that the armored figure is female, evil or somebody who we have already met. (Soldiers usually wore helmets in battle for good reason.) [From A Commonplace Book]

The Antagonists are Eeeeevil. Particularly if the protagonists are killing large number of the antagonists, having completely evil bad guys helps avoid any nasty moral ambiguity to the body count. Cardboard Cliche Villains don’t hesitate to promiscuously slaughter random civilians (Timeline), rape and kill women (Braveheart), not necessarily in that order (The Messenger) or toss babies into the fire (Alexander Nevsky) [From A Commonplace Book] (You see that many medieval movies operate on protagonist morality though both sides usually engaged in this.)

Protagonists can do no wrong. If a historical protagonist has actually made a belt from the skin of an opponent, or carried out a campaign of burning and pillage aimed at civilians, this will not appear in the movie (Braveheart)[From A Commonplace Book] (This was relatively common in the Middle Ages but this is right.)

Amazing Portable Siege Weapons. Enormous munitions siege weapons can always be deployed from somewhere else over medieval roads to where they are needed in whatever time is required by the plot (Timeline) [From A Commonplace Book] (These would take a lot of time and resources to assemble.)

Random Melee. Some modern fight choreographers like to show the chaos of battle by scattering fighters of both sides randomly about the field in a series of mostly single combats. (Braveheart, Branagh Henry V, etc, etc, etc.). (If you have gotten yourself into this kind of situation on a medieval battlefield, you, your companions, and/or commander are incompetent and will probably be dead in a few minutes. If you’re doing it right, you are standing in good formation with an ally on your left and your right, and you won’t break formation until your enemy is fleeing in rout, if then. Alexander Nevsky is one of the few movies that comes close to getting this right.) [From A Commonplace Book]

Only nobles fought battles. (Actually nobles were officers but medieval soldiers came from all backgrounds and most were drafted peasant foot soldiers.)

In a swordfight, you can always parry behind your back, and you must always find a set of stairs to fight on so that the loser can roll down them and die at the bottom. [From A Commonplace Book]

Knights could easily get up by themselves after falling off a horse. (Of course, wearing armor didn’t make this job easy.)

Knights fought in tournaments to win a lady’s favor. (It was battle practice and they weren’t fighting for girls as prizes. Sometimes there were prizes you wouldn’t expect.)

Knights never cheated in tournaments unless they were evil. (Cheating in tournaments was very common.)

Storming the castle through the front door was the best way to defeat an enemy. (In medieval warfare, this is the absolute worst thing you can do since it basically made the castle forces’ job a whole lot easier. Most medieval armies would usually surround the castle and hold it under siege until the resident lord or lady surrendered {though some did try to sneak in through the toilets which is also a dumb thing to do, which goes without saying}. This could take months or years. This is why so many nobles built castles back then because they were very effective defenses.)

Swords were a preferred weapon of choice for most of the Middle Ages. (Those living in the Early Middle Ages would rather use a spear or a battle axe {since they were easier to make and lighter than wood axes}. Besides, steel blades were rather expensive and difficult to make on swords. The Dark Age Europe weapon of choice was blade on stick, which they’d use for everything. Many Dark Age weapons were even passed down generations.)

Castles existed during the Dark Ages. (They didn’t in Britain at least until William the Conqueror. So if King Arthur existed, he wouldn’t have one.)

Early medieval knights were clad in full armor. (Knighthood as we know it didn’t exist yet in the early Middle Ages. Also, most knight armor we see came from the 13th century or later.)

Open fighting was a daily occurrence consisting of two armies on a big field. (From Medievalist: “Warfare was very common in the Middle Ages (as in pretty much every other age), but medieval strategists were too sensible to frequently attempt the type of battle we often see in the movies. Having two big armies charge each other in the field was a little too risky – the outcome could go either way. Because of this, the most common type of warfare was siege warfare: an army would attack a stronghold, and their opponents would try to withstand the attack. For some entertaining views of siege tactics, check out The Lord of the Rings trilogy (you’ll find sieges in The Two Towers and The Return of the King). While there weren’t a lot of orcs and goblins running around medieval Europe, J.R.R. Tolkien was a medievalist, so some of the tactics are borrowed from history.”)

Squires assisted the knight as a sidekick. (They also had to clean the knight’s armor as well as assist him in other ways.)

Medieval armor made knights slow. (From Writing Is Cake: “Somehow, somewhere, somebody started the idea that a fully armored knight was about as nimble as lead statue.  A lead statue high on quaaludes.  The cliche is an unhorsed knight was ‘as helpless as a turtle on its back’.  It’s not even close to true.  It is true that in the late middle ages, when tourneys were big money, specialized jousting armor was made.  These suits were designed for only one thing, riding a horse in a straight line with a lance.  They were never designed for any kind of real war (most had helmets that you couldn’t see out of)  Every other kind of armor was designed to keep a warrior alive on a field of battle and survival meant protection, mobility and vision.  Even the full plate was fully articulated and knights were expected to perform all sorts of acrobatics in them; leaping into a saddle, climbing up siege ladders with only their arms (think monkey-bars), and doing somersaults.”)

Medieval swords weighed 15 pounds. (From Writing Is Cake: “Your average sword was under four feet long and under three pounds.  A professional warriors sword would typically be more like three feet and about a pound and a half to two pounds.  The mechanics and physics of what a sword does is based on velocity.  Swords are light and balanced so the six to ten inches near the tip go as fast as possible with the least amount of effort from the end you’re holding.  Even the big two-handers like a Scot’s claymore or landsknecht’s pike breaker are much lighter than you might think.”)

There was one type of battle axes. (There were two consisting of a fighting axe for close combat and a throwing axe for distance.)

Soldiers never used guns in the Middle Ages. (They did in the later years.)

Flaming Arrows were often used in battle, particularly by those at castles. (They weren’t as often used as medieval movies claim it to be. I mean before you can set the arrows on fire, you had to wrap them in a flaming material first which may make them heavier, reduce their range, and inhibit its ability to penetrate the enemy’s skin. Also, may pose as a fire hazard. So flaming arrows wouldn’t be a handy way to kill someone and medieval soldiers didn’t use them to do so. Yet, whenever they did use flaming arrows, it was usually to frighten the enemy, letting archers know how to adjust their shots, and setting targets on fire.)

Castles were easy pickings when the adult males were away. (If you think you could easily take castles in which the resident nobles occupying it are women and children, think again. Women of noble or royal birth in the Middle Ages had sufficient knowledge of warfare and combat training for defending their turf while their men were away. Also, many tradesmen of the era had their wives helping them in their craft so women armorer is possible. So the medieval notion of damsel in distress was probably a myth unless she’s trapped in a castle and being besieged by a force significantly outnumbering her. In that case, you might want to bring reinforcements.)

Swords made a clinking sound. (From Medieval Sourcebook: “From Cathy Hanley  [Here is a myth, or rather] an inaccuracy which appears in every medieval film I’ve ever seen. Why is it that whenever anyone picks up or draws a sword the filmmakers feel obliged to add that annoying “ching” sound, even when the sword is drawn from a leather scabbard or picked up off a table? Anyone who has ever tried to draw a sword (I have several) will know that it’s almost impossible to produce this sound. The only way I’ve found is to deliberately pull the sword across the back of a mail glove, but this isn’t very authentic!I know it’s probably more dramatic, but it sounds so false and is highly annoying.”)

Armor was too heavy. (A knight in full harness weighed up to 60 to 120 pounds. All he couldn’t do in it was swim.)

Sword fights lasted a long time. (Most usually lasted a few minutes even if it didn’t result in killing or seriously injuring one’s opponent.)

Only knights used swords. (All soldiers used them in battles and these guys weren’t all knights either.)

All European swords were straight blades. (Most were but some did use scimitars from the Middle East, especially after the Crusades.)

Swords were easy to make. (It took many years for a skilled master craftsman to forge a high quality blade.)

Swordfights were always honorable affairs. (Sometimes they were just about trying to win and survive and a lot of knights wouldn’t hesitate to use dirty tactics.)

Knights were helpless without their swords. (Each knight had significant training in self-defense and martial arts from the time he was seven. Of course, he may not be as proficient or as encompassing against an Asian kung-fu master, but if he lost his sword, he’d still be formidable foe. Also, historic records and manuals of such do exist.)

Stronger swords were better swords. (They also needed to be durable and flexible.)

Swords always stayed sharp. (All blades need to be sharpened.)

Knights were highly likely to be killed in battle. (Conscripted foot soldiers could be killed if they killed a knight even he fought on the other side. Capturing one was better since they could fetch a handsome ransom. Captured foot soldiers were instantly slaughtered).

Swords cut through armor. (Chainmail was quite impervious to swords.)

Medieval armies amassed thousands of people. (Depends on the setting. Maybe in national wars but in situations between two lords, it’s more likely a few thousand at most.)

Trebuchets were very effective weapons that caused a lot of widespread damage. (They weren’t effective at long distances or at low arc {they threw projectiles at a high arc}. Also, the biggest damage they’d do to a large castle wall is creating a huge dent and a thump upon impact.)

Medieval soldiers had no problem fighting at night. (Fighting at night is what most medieval soldiers tried to avoid for obvious reasons, except in stealthy sneak attacks if possible.)

The Longbow killed the knight. (The cost of putting him on the field did. From Lonnie “It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s currency to field one knight along with the necessary supplies and retainers he would need. Even more importantly, he had to be extensively trained from the age of 5 to deftly wield sword and lance while wearing armour. That is in stark contrast to the small sum that it cost to put an arbequs–early firearm–in the hands of a common soldier with very little training. Thus it was that with the dawn of the age of gunpowder we saw the sun set on the age of chivalry.”)

Any man can become a knight. (The vast majority of knights were born into wealth. Unless a foot soldier did something exceptionally badass in battle like saving a lord’s life perhaps. But they were just as likely to be killed by embarrassing someone born with money.)

Battle axes and wood axes looked about the same. (Battle axes were lighter than wood axes since it took much less force to cut people’s heads off than cut down trees. Simple physics, really.)