The Worst 5 People from the Middle Ages

henry v of england Painting is in "The Ro...
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Who gives the Middle Ages a bad name? They were bad, but without them history wouldn’t have been so interesting. Again like my article on the Top 5 Medieval People, this list is completely arbitrary. The villains of the medieval age are in my opinion:

  1. Innocent IV – the implacable enemy of Frederick II. Innocent’s political ambitions tore Italy apart and prevented Frederick from fulfilling his (possibly enlightened) political ambitions.
  2. John of Gaunt – the younger brother of the Black Prince, and terrible as a military commander (although a stickler for the rules of chivalry and not bad in single combat), and venal and worse as a politician and stand-in for his dotard father Edward III.
  3. Bernard Gui – the famous Inquisitor and author of Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis is an easy target as a hate figure – the archetypal oppressor and symbolic of what is always wrong with the Middle Ages – dogmatic, cruel repression. His reputation is cemented by being the baddie in Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose.
  4. William the Conqueror – gave us an Anglo-Norman aristocracy, French speaking until the fourteenth century to rule over us. Would England have been less riven by class divide if the English hadn’t been subject to a French ruling class for so long?
  5. Henry V – a great tactician on the battlefield and a leader of men, but was his ambition to conquer France really a good idea? Consigned England to humiliating defeat at the hands of the French, and the disastrous Wars of the Roses.

A bit controversial maybe? I’d love to hear your comments.

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2 thoughts on “The Worst 5 People from the Middle Ages”

  1. Mark — Love your blog, but your European bias is showing! How about Genghis Khan? Not sure if he should be on the 5 best or worst. Sure, he & his descendents united & pacified most of Central Asia, enabling Europeans such as Marco Polo to travel across the continent. But — he killed a lot of people doing it.

  2. Melissa – glad you like the blog. You are correct, I’m being completely Euro-centric, and also I have no examples of women in either this post or the top 5 post either, which is very bad of me!

    Hope to have rectified the Mongol issue in a recent blog post about Kublai Khan!

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