Children in History: Medieval Europe

Figure 1.--

We know of quite a few children from medieval Europe. Most of the are future kings, in part because most people gave littl attention to peasant children. They generally had no ducation and had little opportunity in life. We only know of a few peasant children. Some of the future kings we have some good information because they had contemporary portraits done. Portraits done by artists lookig back on time often imagine he clothes their subjects wore. Contemporary portraits, however, jhav vey accurate depictions of clothing.

Patrick (Ireland

Brian of Munster (Ireland, 948)

Brian of Munster: The Boy Chieftain. (Afterward Brian Boru, King of Ireland). A.D. 948.

Olaf (Norway, 1010- )

Olaf of Norway: The Boy Viking. (Afterward King Olaf II of Norway ''St.Olaf''.) A.D. 1010.

William (Normandy, 1040- )

William of Normandy: The Boy Knight. (Afterward William the Conqueror, King of England). A.D. 1040.

Baldwin (Jerusalem, 1147- )

Jerusalem is now a city in Israel/Palestine. In the Middle Ages it as a Chisian kingdom. Baldwin of Jerusalem: The Boy Crusader. (Known as Baldwin III, the Fifth of the Latin Kings of Jerusalem.) A.D. 1147.

Fredrick (Germany, 1207- )

Frederick of Hohenstaufen: The Boy Emperor. (Afterward Frederick II, Emperor of Germany). A.D. 1207.

Konradin (Germany, )

When Frederick II died (1250) an era of near anarchy ruled in Germany as the German princes vied for control of the Empire in what is known as the The Great Interregnum (1256-73). The uncrowned Conradin was the last of the Hohenstaufens. He was the grandson of Frederick II, and as a teenager sought out to claim his inheritance. After some military victories, he was defeated by a French rival. He was executed at age 16 under the authority of the pope. This extinguished the Hohenstaufen male line. Many romantic German tales developed after the death of the young prince.

Stephen and Nicholas (France and Germany, 1212)

One of the most disheatening accounts in the bllod-filled history of the Crusades is the Chioldren's Crusade (1212). Few modern childen know about two medieval boys, Stephen of France and Nicholas of Germany. The Most important European Christiam crusades took place in the 12th century. The religious passions that generate the Crusades did not die quickly. The Children's Crusade of 1212 is one of many instances of misplaced childhood idealism that have passed on though the ages. The Children's Crusade was not a military crusade. Thousands of children and young adults from northern France and western Germany, rather than warriors, flocked to its banners. The Children's Crusade was launched in France by a peasant boy named Stephen from a village near Vendome. In Germany, a boy named Nicholas from Cologne began preaching crusade. No one can fully explaing what happened, but shortly after Easter in 1212 thousands of boys, ranging in age from 6 years to young adult suddenly began leaving their plows or carts or abandoned the flocks that they were sheparding. In most cases heir parents, relatives, and friends tried to stop them. First there were only small numbers of boys. Then more boys took up the cross and they were joined by 10s, than 100s and finally 1,000s of boys. The exact number will never be known. Almost all were boys and most were poor and illetrate. Many of these boys were too young to bear arms and accomplished what the best professional warriors of Europe had failed to do. These boys, however, that backed by God could accomplish anything. The results were tragic. Some of the boys were turned back at Metz, others at Piacenza, and others even at Rome. Still others got to Marseilles, but whether they crossed to the Holy Land or what their end was is uncertain. Some report that many that did get to the Near East were either killed or sold into slavery. Tragically of the thousands that thought they were answering God's call, few ever returned home.

Harry (England)

Harry of Monmouth: The Boy General. (Afterward King Henry V of England.) A.D. 1402.

Giovanni (Italy, 1490- )

Giovanni of Florence: The Boy Cardinal. (Afterward Pope Leo the Tenth.) A.D. 1490.

Joan of Arc (France, 1412-31)

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was called la Pucelle (the Maid) and has become the very symbol of the French nation. She was a peasant girl who was born at Domremy in Champagne, about 1412. The village was loyal to the French king. Domremy was part of the territory of the Dule of Burgandy. The Burgundians were nominall sujects of the French King Charles VII, but who allied with the English, desired to set up an independent kingdom. At age 13 in the summer of 1425, Joan became conscious of supernatural manifestations, whose she came to call her "voices" or "counsel." Joan carrying an ancient sword entered Orléans on April 30, 1429 which had been threatened by the Burgundians and English. Her presence changed the course of the fighting. Within a few days, English encircling the city were captured and the siege ended. A campaign was launched in the Loire ending on June 18 with a great victory at Patay, where English reinforcements were routed. Jean led forces which took Reims and on July 17, 1429, King Charles VII was solemnly crowned, Joan standing by with her standard. She was eventually captured and burned at the stake by the English in 1431. Interesingly, George Bernard Shaw reports, although much was written of Joan, no contemporry accounts ever comment that she was atractive. This was unusual in contemporary accounts of women and ugests that she was very plain.


Brooks, E.S. Historic Boys (1913/14). This interesting book sketches the lives of 12 historic boys that have impacted history.


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Created: July 9, 2002
Last updated: May 20, 2004