If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. — Thomas Jefferson

Historical Characters of British Middle Ages

    Early Britain     Saxons and Normans     Plantagenet Kings     Tudors and Reformation     Stuarts and Civil War     Scotland     Ireland     European Middle Ages

Early Britain—43 to 800

Roman Conquest of Britain to First Viking Raid


CharacterDate Short Biography

Roman Britain

Caswallon~ 54 BC Celtic chieftain in Britain who resisted the invasion of Julius Caesar.
Boadicead. 61 Queen of the Iceni. Led the largest revolt of Celtic Britons against the Romans.

Dark Ages

Vortigern~ 488 King of the Britons. Usurped the throne from rightful heir. Invited Hengist and Horsa to settle Britain.
Sir Galahad~ 500 Knight of the Round Table. Considered the noblest and worthiest of knights.
Sir Gawain~ 500 Knight of the Round Table. Famous for his encounter with the Green Giant.
King Arthur460–510 Legendary king of the Britons.
Sir Perceval~ 500 Knight of the Round table. Raised in the woods by mother who didn't want him to be a knigtht.
Hengist and Horsad. 488 Two Jute princes were invited to Britain in order to help fight the Picts.

British Saints

Saint Alband. 304 First martyr of England. Killed for hiding a priest in his home.
Saint Patrick389–461 Kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland, returned later to spread Christianity.
Saint Brigid 451–525 Patron saint of Ireland (with Patrick). Founded a monastery at Kildare in Ireland.
Saint Augustine of Kentd. 604 Sent by St. Gregory to Britain to preach to the Saxons. Converted Ethelbert.
Bertha539–612 Christian princess who married the Saxon king, Ethelbert. Helped convert him to Christianity.
Ethelbert552–616 First Christian Saxon King. Invited St. Augustine to Kent to preach in Britain.
Saint Cuthbert634–687 Bishop at Lisdisfarne. Helped to unify the Celtic and Roman Churches.
Venerable Bede672–735 Monk at Jarrow. Scholar and author of The Ecclesiastical History of English People.
Saint Mungo~ 540 Early Christian missionary to Scotland.
Saint Columba521–597 Missionary who helped to christianize Scotland. Founded a monastery on Iona in Scotland.
Saint George275–303 Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.

Saxons and Normans—800 to 1154

House of Wessex to Death of Stephen


CharacterDate Short Biography

Saxons

Egbert the Saxon770–837 United the Saxon and Angle kingdoms in a federation to resist the Danes.
Alfred the Great849–899 Noblest of Saxon kings. Fought the Danes and made peace. Built churches and schools.
Athelstan895–939 Grandson of King Alfred. Fought the Danes and Celts at the Battle of Brunanburh.
Elfrida~ 960 Saxon queen, wife of Edgar, mother of Athelred the Unready. Thought to be involved in her stepson's murder.
Saint Dunstan909–988 Influential archbishop at the court of Edgar of England.
Aethelred the Unready968–1016 Acsended to the Saxon throne at a young age, ruled poorly and was unable to effectively resist the Danes.
Edmund Ironside988–1016 Eldest son of Aethelred the Unready, fought Canute for the throne, but then died.
Godwin1001–1053 Very influential Earl of Wessex during reigns of Canute and Edward the Confessor. Father of Harold.
Hereward the Wake~ 1066 Saxon rebel who led resistance to William the Conqueror for many years.
Harold Godwinson1022–1066 Son of Godwin. Ascended to the Saxon throne when Edward the Confessor died childless.
Tostig Godwinson1026–1066 Brought an army of Vikings to fight his brother, Harold Godwinson, at Stamford Bridge.
Edward the Confessor1004–1066 Last Saxon king of the Wessex line. Raised in Normandy, befriended William the Conqueror.
Saint Margaret of Scotland1045–1093 Wife of Malcolm III of Scotland. Pius and noble Queen. Mother of Maude the Good.
Maude the Good 1080–1118 Scottish wife of Henry I. Grandmother of Henry II. Patron and benefactor to poor of England.

Danes

Guthrumd. 890 Danish king defeated by Alfred the Great. Agreed to become Christian and settle in England.
Canute the Great994–1035 Danish king of Britain who ruled well. Married Emma, the wife of his enemy, Ethelred the Unready.

Normans

Emma of Normandy988–1052 Norman princess, wife first of Aethelred, then of Canute. Mother of Edward the Confessor.
William the Conqueror1028–1087 Claimed the crown of England and won it at the Battle of Hastings. Ruled forcefully but justly.
William Rufus1056–1100 Son of William the Conqueror. A bad and brutal king. Killed in the New Forest.
Saint Anselm1033–1109 Archbishop of Canterbury under William Rufus and Henry I. Feuded with both kings.
Henry I1068–1135 Son of William the conqueror. Competent king who reigned for 35 years. Left throne to Matilda.
Stephen1096–1154 Grandson of William the Conquer. Usurped the throne from Matilda. Was profligate and weak.
Matilda of England1102–1167 Daughter of Henry I. Fought her cousin Stephen for the throne. Her son Henry II won the crown.

Plantagenet Kings—1154 to 1485

Henry II Plantagenet to Battle of Bosworth Field


CharacterDate Short Biography

Henry II and Sons

Henry II1133–1189 Reclaimed kingdoms in England and Normandy after chaotic reign of Stephen. Founded Plantagenet dynasty.
Eleanor of Aquitaine1122–1204 Wife of Henry II, queen of Aquitaine. Led dramatic, adventurous life.
Saint Thomas a Becket1118–1170 Appointed Archbishop by Henry II, but strove for an independent church. Martyred.
Richard I1157–1199 Son of Henry II. Spent almost his entire reign crusading and fighting in France.
Robin Hood~ 1200 Leader of a legendary band of benevolent bandits who stole from rich and gave to the poor.
John I1167–1216 Wicked king, murdered his nephew and usurped throne. Forced to sign the Magna Carta.
Archbishop Langton1150–1228 Archbishop who rallied opposition to king John and forced him to sign Magna Carta.
Saint Richard de Wyche1197–1253 Appointed by the Pope against the wishes of Henry III. Faithful servant of the poor.
Henry III1207–1272 Blundering king whose government lay largely in the hands of Simon de Montfort throughout his reign.
Simon de Montfort 1208–1265 French nobleman who led resistance to Henry III and laid foundations of English Parliament.

Edward I, II, III and Richard II

Edward I1239–1307 Competent and decisive king of England. Reformed government, pacified Wales and Scotland. Ruled 35 years.
Edward II1284–1327 Weak and profligate son of Edward I. Lost all his father's holdings in Scotland.
William Wallace1272–1305 Commoner who led resistance to Edward I's conquest of Scotland.
Robert the Bruce1274–1329 Scottish nobleman who claimed the crown and led resistance to England at Bannockburn.
James Douglas1286–1330 Associate of Robert the Bruce. Fought in wars of Scottish Independence.
Philippa of Hainault1313–1369 Wife of Edward III and mother of 13. Intervened at siege of Calias in favor of citizens.
The Black Prince1330–1376 Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
Edward III1312–1377 Reigned for nearly 50 years. Invaded France, and won the Battles of Crecy and Calias.
Wat Tylerd. 1381 Leader of a peasant rebellion during reign of Richard II. He was killed during talks.
John Wycliffe1335–1384 Early proponent of reform in the Catholic Church. Favored power of state over church.
Geoffrey Chaucer1340–1400 Wrote the first widely read epic poem in the English language, Canterbury Tales.
Richard II1367–1400 Son of the Black Prince. Reigned after Edward III. Deposed by Henry Bolingbroke.

Henry IV, V, and VI (Lancasters)

Henry IV1367–1413 Son of John of Gaunt. Assumed the throne after Richard II was deposed.
Owen Glendower1359–1416 Last Welshman to be crowned Prince of Wales. He led an unsuccessful Welsh revolt.
Henry V1387–1422 Led a victorious army of longbowmen against France at Agincourt.
Jack Caded. 1450 Led a rebellion against Henry VI's government. Rebels looted London and many were killed.

Edward IV and Richard III (Yorks)

Duke of York1411–1460 Aspirant to the throne in the early years of War of the Roses. Killed in action with eldest son.
Earl of Warwick1428–1471 Primary figure in war of the Roses. Changed sides from York to Lancaster. Killed at Barnet.
Margaret of Anjou1429–1482 Ruled in stead of her weak husband, Henry VI. Led armies against Yorks. Deposed after the York victory at Hexham.
Edward IV1442–1483 Son of the Duke of York. Became king of England when other aspirants were dead or deposed.
Richard III1432–1485 On death of his brother Edward IV, he killed his nephews and usurped the throne.
Margaret Beaufort1441–1509 Mother of Henry Tudor. Benefactor of Cambridge University.

Tudors and Reformation—1485 to 1603

Henry VII Tudor to Death of Elizabeth I


CharacterDate Short Biography

Tudor Monarchs

Henry VII1457–1509 Descendent of John of Gaunt (a Lancaster) who fought Richard the Usurper for the throne.
Henry VIII1491–1547 King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Anne Boleyn1502–1536 Second wife of Henry VIII. Executed when she fell from grace.
Lady Jane Grey1537–1554 Young noblewoman executed for involvement in conspiracies engineered by ambitious relatives.
Edward VI1537–1553 Raised as a protestant, Edward's brief reign was controlled largely by his uncles, the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland.
Mary Tudor1516–1558 Eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Tried to restore Catholicism to England.
Elizabeth I1533–1603 Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
James V1512–1542 Father of Mary Stuart. He was defeated in battle and died shortly after Mary was born.
Mary Stuart1542–1587 Queen of Scotland. Deposed and exiled. Held captive and executed by Queen Elizabeth.

Statesmen/Military

Thomas Wolsey1471–1530 Rose from humble beginnings to become Chancellor of England. Stalled on Henry VIII's divorce.
Thomas Cromwell1489–1540 Minister under Henry VIII. who encouraged his divorce and helped dissolve the monasteries.
Saint Thomas More1478–1543 Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII. Fired and later executed when he opposed Henry's divorce.
Margaret Roper1501–1544 Daughter of Thomas More. Supported him throughout his ordeal.
Philip Sidney1554–1586 Favorite of Queen Elizabeth's court. Was a poet, soldier, courtier, and adventurer.
Robert Dudley1532–1588 Favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Granted many favors, but not much power.
William Cecil1520–1598 Minister of Queen Elizabeth throughout her entire reign.
Earl of Essex1566–1601 Favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Involved in a conspiracy and died in prison.

Exploration

Humphrey Gilbert1537–1583 Sea-faring adventurer. Founded the first English colony in Canada.
Martin Frobisher1535–1594 Explored much of Canada in seach of the Northwest Passage. Fought in the Armada.
Francis Drake1540–1596 Greatest sea adventurer. Sailed around the world, harassed Spanish ships. Fought in Armada.
John Davis1550–1605 British explorer who sought the Northwest Passage through Canada.
Walter Raleigh1552–1618 Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.

Arts/Science/Religion

William Shakespeare1564–1611 Greatest dramatist in the history of the English language.
Edmund Spenser1552–1599 Elizabethan era poet. Wrote The Fairy Queen.
John Knox1533–1603 Religious leader in Scotland who embraced Calvinism, founder of Presbyterian Church.
Thomas Cranmer1489–1556 Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII. Broke with Rome. Founded Anglican Church.

Stuarts and Civil War—1603 to 1714

James I Stuart to Death of Anne


CharacterDate Short Biography

Stuarts

James I1566–1625 First Stuart king of England. Intelligent and competent, but unable to work effectively with Parliament.
Charles I1600–1649 Second Stuart king. His quarrels with Parliament led to civil war and his execution.
William III1650–1702 King of Netherlands, called to be king of England when James II, his father-in-law, was deposed.
Anne of England1665–1714 Last of the Stuart queens, lived during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Arabella Stuart1575–1615 Cousin of James Stuart. Distant heir to throne. Prevented from marrying by jealous relations.
Princess Elizabeth1596–1662 Daughter of James I. Married Elector of Palatine, but they lost their duchy in 30 years war.

Political/Military

Oliver Cromwell1599–1658 Military leader of Parliament who headed the Commonwealth government after death of Charles I.
Robert Blake1599–1657 Military commander turned admiral who took a leading role in the Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars.
Samuel Pepys1633–1703 Kept a diary during the reign of Charles II; mentions the plague, the great fire, and much else.
Duke of Marlborough1650–1722 Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Lady Rachel Russell1636–1723 Wife of Lord Russell, who was executed for opposing the restoration of Charles II.
Guy Fawkes1570–1606 Explosives expert of the infamous "Gunpowder Plot" to blow up Parliament.

Arts and Sciences

Francis Bacon1561–1626 Chancellor of England, and advocate of the scientific method of experiment and induction.
John Milton1608–1674 John Milton was friend of Cromwell and a poet. His most famous work was Paradise Lost.
Isaac Newton1642–1727 Outstanding scientist. Made important breakthroughs in physics, optics, and mathematics.
Daniel Defoe1661–1731 Author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.

Exploration

Henry Hudson1575–1611 Explorer who discovered Hudson Bay and other parts of North America.
John Smith1580–1631 Adventurer, leader and early settler at Jamestown. Befriended Pocahontas.
Samuel de Champlain1580–1635 Founded French colonies in the St. Lawrence seaway and great lake region. Father of 'New France.'

Religion

Archbishop Laud1573–1645 Governed the Church of England during the reign of Charles I. Very unpopular with parliament.
George Fox1624–1691 Founder of the 'Society of Friends,' better known as Quakers.

Scotland—1403 to 1707

Macalpine Unifies Scots to Act of Union


CharacterDate Short Biography

Early Kings and Heroes

Kenneth Macalpine800–859 United the Scots and the Picts into a single kingdom, reigned as first King of 'Alban' or Scotland.
Macbeth1005–1057 Murdered Duncan, the rightful king of Scotland. Ruled until he was murdered by MacDuff.
Malcolm Canmore1030–1093 Long reigning King of Scotland, married St. Margaret, befriended Saxon exiles from Normans.
Alexander III1241–1286 Last direct descendant of Malcolm Canmore. His death ushered in years of turmoil in Scotland.
William Wallace1272–1305 Commoner who led resistance to Edward I's conquest of Scotland.
Robert the Bruce1274–1329 Scottish nobleman who claimed the crown and led resistance to England at Bannockburn.
James Douglas1286–1330 Associate of Robert the Bruce. Fought in wars of Scottish Independence.
John Balliol1248–1297 Appointed King of Scotland by Edward I on the condition that he surrender Scotland's independence.
Black Agnes1312–1369 Favorite Scottish heroine who opposed the English, with great flair, during the Scottish war of Independence.

Stuart Kings

James I1394–1437 King of Scotland, who as also a poet. Imprisoned for many years by the King of England.
James II1430–1460 King of Scots who brought rebel Barons under control. Destroyed power of Black Douglases. Died at Roxburgh.
James III1452–1488 Weak ruler of Scotland who tried to make alliances with England, but was unpopular with nobles.
James IV1473–1513 Strong and effective ruler of Scotland. Brought the Barons under control. Died at Flodden Field.
James V1512–1542 Father of Mary Stuart. He was defeated in battle and died shortly after Mary was born.
Mary Stuart1542–1587 Queen of Scotland. Deposed and exiled. Held captive and executed by Queen Elizabeth.

saints

Saint Mungo~ 540 Early Christian missionary to Scotland.
Saint Columba521–597 Missionary who helped to christianize Scotland. Founded a monastery on Iona in Scotland.
Saint Margaret of Scotland1045–1093 Wife of Malcolm III of Scotland. Pius and noble Queen. Mother of Maude the Good.

Art, Science, Religion

John Knox1533–1603 Religious leader in Scotland who embraced Calvinism, founder of Presbyterian Church.
Adam Smith1723–1790 Leading theorist of modern capitalism. Wrote The Wealth of Nations.
Robert Burns1759–1796 Romantic Poet, who wrote in a Scottish dialect. National Poet of Scotland.
James Watt1736–1819 Inventor of the Steam Engine, and founder of the Industrial Revolution.
Sir Walter Scott1771–1832 Author best known for novels set in Scotland.
Jenny Geddes~ 1637 Commoner who led a rebellion against Church of England in Scotland.

Jacobite Rebellions

Duke of Argyll1678–1743 Led royalist forces loyal to George I against the Jacobites in 1715.
Young Pretender1720–1788 Grandson of James II, led Jacobites in bid to restore Stuarts to the throne of England.
Flora MacDonald1722–1790 Heroine who help Bonnie Prince Charles escape from Scotland.

Ireland—450 to 1922

Life of Saint Patrick to Irish Independence


CharacterDate Short Biography

Heroes

Edward Bruce1275–1318 Declared himself king of Ireland and led a rebellion against the English governors of Ireland.
Brian Boru941–1014 King who unified all of Ireland briefly before the Norman invasion.
Cuchulain~ 1000 BC Legendary hero of the Irish folklore.
Lambert Simnel1477–1534 Pretender to the throne of England during the reign of Henry Tudor.
Shane O'Neill1530–1567 Chieftain of the O'Neill clan of Ulster, under Queen Elizabeth.

Saints

Saint Patrick389–461 Kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland, returned later to spread Christianity.
Saint Brigid 451–525 Patron saint of Ireland (with Patrick). Founded a monastery at Kildare in Ireland.
Saint Columba521–597 Missionary who helped to christianize Scotland. Founded a monastery on Iona in Scotland.

Statesmen/Imposters

Henry Grattan1746–1820 Irish politician who strove to create and independent Irish Parliament. He resisted the Union of 1801.
Daniel O'Connell1775–1847 Political leader of Irish Catholics during early 19th century. Promoted Catholic Emancipation.
Charles Parnell1846–1891 Irish Catholic politician who fought for home rule for Ireland.

Arts/Literature

Edmund Spenser1552–1599 Elizabethan era poet. Wrote The Fairy Queen.
Jonathan Swift1667–1745 Poet, essayist, and satirist. Best known as author of Gulliver's Travels.
Oliver Goldsmith1730–1774 Poet and novelist, best known for The Vicar of Wakefield

European Middle Ages—600 to 1650

Rise of the Franks to Thirty Years War


CharacterDate Short Biography

Christian Conversion of Europe

Clovis466–511 Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.
Charlemagne742–814 First Holy Roman Emperor. Unified most of Western Europe into a Frankish Empire.
Wittekind the Saxon~ 780 Leader of Saxon resistance to Charlemagne. After years of struggle, converted to Christianity.
Saint Stephen975–1038 Christian King of Hungary who defeated pagans and united Magyar clans.
Henry I876–936 United Rival German duchies in a confederation to resist the Magyars.

Vikings and Norsemen

Rollo the Vikingd. 931 Viking Leader who was granted the Dukedom of Normandy if he became Christian.
Rurik the Norseman830–879 Norseman who was invited by a Slavic tribe to rule over the region of Ukraine.

Moslem Threat and the Crusades

Charles Martel686–741 Frankish King who defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours.
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Frederick Barbarossa1122–1190 Well-known warrior. Campaigned in Italy many years, but to no avail. Died on Third Crusade.
Saint Louis IX1214–1270 Crusading king. Canonized as a saint for his concern and compassion for the poor.
Don John of Austria1545–1578 Illegitimate son of Charles V. Hero of the naval Battle of Lepanto. Briefly governed Spanish Netherlands.
Mohammed II1432–1481 Sultan of the early Ottoman Empire who conquered Constantinople and much of the Balkans.
Solyman the Magnificent1494–1566 Most famous of the Ottoman Emperors. Extended the empire to the Balkans and North Africa.
Eugene of Savoy1663–1736 One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led Austria during the War of Spanish Succession.

Church State Conflicts

Saint Benedict480–547 Established the Benedictine order of monks. Founded the monastic movement in Europe.
Pope Gregory VII1020–1085 Tested wills with Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV over 'investiture' issues.
Saint Catherine of Siena1347–1380 Saint who helped resolve the Papal schism of the 14th century.
Joan of Arc1412–1431 Led the French Army to Victory at the Siege of New Orleans. Burned at the stake by English.

Renaissance

John Gutenberg1400–1468 Invented printing press. Made improvements over many years on types, inks and methods.
Lorenzo de Medici1449–1492 Great power broker Renaissance Florence. Great Patron of the Arts.

Reformation

Martin Luther1483–1546 Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Excommunicated by Catholic Church.
Charles V1500–1558 16th century Hapsburg Emperor who ruled Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Italy.
Cardinal Richelieu1585–1682 Very influential Minister of Louis XIII. Consolidated royal power and crushed dissenters.
William the Silent1533–1584 Hero of the Dutch Revolt. Led resistance to the Inquisition and Spanish tyranny.
Henry IV1553–1610 Popular Huguenot King who converted to Catholicism, but decreed religious toleration.
Gustavus Adolphus1594–1632 Renowned Protestant General during the thirty Years War. King of Sweden.

World Exploration

Marco Polo1254–1324 Traveller from Venice who spent 30 years at the court of Kublai Khan in China.
Christopher Columbus1451–1506 Genoan sailor, sponsored by Isabela of Spain, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas.
Vasco da Gama1460–1524 Portuguese explorer who voyaged to Calicut, India by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Ferdinand Magellan1480–1521 Portuguese explorer who commanded the first fleet to circumnavigate the globe. Died in Philippines.