Kings and Queens of the Medieval World
From Conquerors and Exiles to Madmen and Saints
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Charlemagne (800-814) - king of the Franks who defeated the Lombards and made incursions into Muslim Spain and campaigned against the Saxons to the East. Uniting most of western Europe for the first time since the Romans, he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by the Pope.
Louis the Pious (814-40) - King of Aquitaine and King of the Franks, Son of Charlemagne, reconquered parts of northern Spain from the Muslims, including Barcelona and Pamplona.
William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England - Norman invasion of England (1066).
Alexander Nevsky (1221-63) - rose to legendary status in Kievan Russia on account of his military victories over German and Swedish invaders while agreeing to pay tribute to the powerful Golden Horde.
Casimir the Great (1310-70) - doubled the size of Poland, mostly through wars in what is modern-day Ukraine.
Wladyslaw II Jagiello (r.1386-1434) - Born a pagan in Lithuania, Wladyslaw was the Grand Duke of Lithuania, before becoming King of Poland. The allied Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, secured the Polish and Lithuanian borders and marked the emergence of the Polish-Lithuanian alliance as a significant force in Europe.
Philip II Augustus of France - broke up the Angevin Empire presided over by the crown of England and defeated a coalition of his rivals (German, Flemish and English) at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214.
Robert the Bruce, king of Scots, led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence, defeating King Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Edward III, who transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe, launching the conflict that became known as the Hundred Years' War to reclaim land in France, and defeating the French at Cre cy (1346).
Henry IV of England, deposed his cousin Richard II. Richard later died in prison, possibly of starvation. Henry went on to defeat the Welsh uprising led by Owain Glyndwr.
Henry V of England and his defeat of the French at Agincourt (1415), bringing him close to conquering France.
English civil conflict: The Wars of the Roses - Edward IV, Richard III and Henry Tudor (Henry VII)
Ivan III 'The Great' of Russia (1462-1505) tripled the territory of his state, ended the dominance of the Golden Horde over the Rus.
CRUSADERS, PERSECUTORS AND RELIGIOUS REFORMERS
Monarchs on crusade: Richard I (the Lionheart) of England, Philip II of France, Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor led the Third Crusade.
Louis IX took part in the Seventh and Eighth Crusades, dying on the latter.
Louis' son, Philip III, later died on the Aragonese Crusade.
Sigismund von Luxembourg, Holy Roman Emperor, led the last West European Crusade - the Crusade of Nicopolis of 1396 against the Turks. The crusaders, with forces from across Europe, were defeated in a single day.
In attempting to reform England's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, Henry II of England (1154-89) came into conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. Becket was later murdered by followers of the king.
Jews: In 1182, Philip II of France expelled all Jews from his lands; John I, Duke of Brittany drove them out of his duchy in 1239; and in the late 1240s Louis IX of France expelled the Jews from the royal demesne. In 1306, Philip IV 'the Fair' expelled the Jews from France. Edward I of England first exploited Jews, taxing them; in 1279, in the context of a crack-down on coin-clippers, he had 300 of them executed and finally expelled remaining Jews from the country in 1290. In contrast, Casimir the Great of Poland (1310-70) encouraged Jews to settle in his country.
Devoutly religious, Louis IX of France (1226-70) punished blasphemy, gambling, interest-bearing loans and prostitution.
Philip IV of France's (1285-1314) persecution and execution of the Knights Templar. Wladyslaw II Jagiello (r.1386-1434) - the Pagan duke of Lithuania became a Christian
and subsequently converted Lithuania to Christianity. Ferdinand and Isabella and the Spanish Inquisition
Following the death of Henry I of England, Empress Matilda, his only surviving child, fought his nephew, Stephen of Blois, for control of England in a war that lasted, on and off, for 20 years (1135-54). When her son, Henry II, became king in 1154, she settled in Rouen, was in charge of the administration of Normandy for her son and founded Cistercian monasteries.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, first married Louis VII of France, but their marriage was annulled on grounds of consanguinity. Later she married Henry II of England, making her Queen of France (1137-1152) and then of England (1154-1189). She led armies several times in her life, including taking part in the Second Crusade (1147-1149).
Blanche of Castile, mother of Louis IX (1226-70), reigned in the first years of her son's reign until he reached maturity. She brought an end to the 20-year-long Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars.
Isabella of France (1308-27) - estranged from her husband, King Edward II of England, Isabella began an affair with noble Roger Mortimer and led an army against Edward, deposing him. She may also have been responsible for Edward's death. She then acted as regent to her 14-year-old son, Edward. Four years later, Edward led a coup against Mortimer, killing him and becoming King Edward III. No longer politically active, Isabella lived out the remaining decades of her life in style.
Joanna I of Naples (1343-82) - who sided with the Avignon Papacy and was assassinated.
Margaret I of Denmark (1387-1412), who was also monarch of Sweden and Norway.
Isabella I of Castile (1474 -1504) - married Ferdinand II of Aragon and formed the basis for the later political unification of Spain under their grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. She reorganized the governmental system, brought the crime rate to the lowest it had been in years, and unburdened the kingdom of the enormous debt her brother had left behind. Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Reconquista of Spain, forcing the conversion to Christianity or expulsion of Jews and Muslims. They also financed Christopher Columbus's exploratory voyage that led to the opening to the New World.
PATRONS & BUILDERS
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, founded the University of Naples, and is author of the first treatise on the subject of falconry.
Edward the Confessor (r. 1042 - 5 January 1066) built an early Westminster Abbey, which was rebuilt in the 13th century by Henry III.
Richard II finished Westminster Hall in the late 14th century.
Philip II Augustus (1180-1223) played a significant role in one of the greatest centuries of innovation in construction and education in France. With Paris as his capital, he had the main thoroughfares paved, built a central market, Les Halles, continued the construction begun in 1163 of Notre-Dame de Paris, constructed the Louvre as a fortress, and gave a charter to the University of Paris in 1200.
Roger II of Sicily (1130-54) - developed Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture, architecture, map-making.
Louis IX of France (1226-70), having bought presumed relics of Christ, built Sainte- Chapelle.
In response to the Mongol invasions, Bela IV of Hungary (1235-70) promoted the development of fortified towns, allowing the barons and the prelates to erect stone fortresses and to set up their private armed forces.
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (1346-78), made Prague his capital. His patronage of the city led to the building of the first Charles Bridge, Charles University, Prague Castle and the Cathedral of Saint Vitus.
Casimir the Great of Poland (1310-70) built extensively, including Wawel Castle in Krakow.
Henry VI of England founded King's College, Cambridge in the 15th century.
Philip the Good of Burgundy (1419-67) was a great patron of Flemish musicians and
artists, including Jan van Eyck.
Ivan III of Russia renovated the Moscow Kremlin in the late 15th century.
LAW-MAKERS & SOCIAL REFORMERS
Philip II (1179-1223) transformed France from a small feudal state into the most prosperous and powerful country in Europe. He checked the power of the nobles and helped the towns to free themselves from seigniorial authority, granting privileges and liberties to the emergent bourgeoisie.
King John of England agreed to the limitations of royal power in Magna Carta.
Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, re-established Roman law, which counterbalanced the papal power that had dominated the German states since the conclusion of the Investiture Controversy earlier in the 12th century.
Louis IX of France (1227-70) - Saint Louis - developed French royal justice, in which the king is the supreme judge to whom anyone is able to appeal to seek the amendment of a judgment. He banned trials by ordeal, tried to prevent the private wars that were plaguing the country and introduced the presumption of innocence in criminal procedure.
Edward I of England (1272-1307) established Parliament as a permanent institution and thereby also a functional system for raising taxes.
Known as the 'Polish Justinian', Casimir the Great (1310-70) reformed Polish law.
John III of France (1350-64) created the Franc in an effort to stabilise the country's currency. Charles V of France (1364-80) established the first permanent army paid with regular wages, which liberated the French populace from the companies of routiers who regularly plundered the country when not employed.
Louis XI of France (1461-83) brought France out of the Middle Ages, establishing the modern structure of government that lasted until the French Revolution.
George of Pode brady, King of Bohemia between 1458 and 1471, a Hussite, attempted to spread a Message of Peace across Christendom by uniting the states in what can be regarded as an early idea of the European Union. It would have a Parliament and member states would pledge to settle all differences by exclusively peaceful means. He sent a member of his court on a European tour with a draft treaty, but the idea wasn't taken up.
In the late 15th century, Ivan III of Russia laid the foundations of what later became called the Russian state.