Icons of The Middle Ages

William the Conqueror, King John, and Joan of Arc

William the Conqueror

Biographical Information

William I, son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy and the first Norman King of England, was born around 1028 in Falaise, Normandy. He was also know as "William the Bastard" because he was illegitimate (his parents had him before they were married). Although he spoke a dialect of French and grew up in Normandy, he and other Normans descended from Scandinavian invaders, who were more well known as Vikings. In 1053, William married Matilda of Flanders. William was a stern man and he showed no mercy to his enemies. He died in September of 1087 from injuries he received when he fell from his horse at the Siege of Mantes.

Memorable Moments

William the Conqueror ruled from 1066 to 1087. He gave himself that name after he defeated and killed the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, Harold, at the Battle of Hastings. When he arrived in England after crossing the English Channel with his Norman knights he picked up a handful of sand and said, "See I grasp England in my hand." William's prediction was right; after battling the Anglo-Saxons for 10 months, William defeated Harold and the throne was his. His first years of reign were spent crushing the resistance and securing borders, invading Scotland in 1072, and he spent the last months fighting Philip I, King of France.
William the Conqueror


In 1086, William ordered a survey to be made of the kingdom. This became known as the Doomsday Book and remains one of the oldest valid legal documents in England. The book helped the king set an accurate tax system and it listed a detailed consensus of the population and property. William never spoke English and he was illiterate, but he had more on influence on the English language than anyone before, adding a bit of French and Latin to the language. William gained complete control over England by shaping it's feudal system so that he had supreme power, not the nobles. The introduction of his power and the skilled Norman administrators are considered to be largely responsible for eventually making England the most powerful country in the world.

King John

Biograghical Information

John was born around Christmas in Oxford, England in 1166 or 1167, the youngest son of Henry ll. When he was little, John was given the nickname"Lackland" by his father as a joke. His older brothers had titles that came from lands their father had given them; he did not have any at the time. John tried to kill his father and and his second wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eventually his father died and his brother Richard became king. In October 1190, Richard recognized his nephew Arthur as the original heir to the throne. Arthur was captured by Phillip ll of France in 1196 leaving the throne to John. John was described by many as being very short tempered and greedy. His death in October of 1216 enabled compromise with France and the succession of his son Henry lll.

Memorable Moments

War with France was renewed because of John’s second marriage to the Angoulame heiress Isabellla. John was ordered to reconcile with King Phillip ll of France. His failure to do so resulted in war. By 1206 John had lost Normandy, Anjou, Maine and parts Poitou. Determined to win them back, he taxed the people greatly and exploited his feudal rights.

Due to the economic disaster John had caused, civil war broke out in May of 1215. The rebels seized London and John was compelled to negotiate. In June of 1215 the nobles came to him in what he described as a "gay military array" and they demanded that "liberties be granted to them." On June 19 of 1215 at Runnymede on the River Thames, John accepted the terms embodied in the Magna Carta, also known as the Great Charter.


King John of England is most famous for signing the Magna Carta, signing it only because the nobles would have killed him if he didn't. By signing the Magna Carta, he agreed to not collect taxes from the nobles without their consent or take their property without paying for it. The Magna Carta was the first formal document stating monarch was under the law just as much as the people and the first to state that the rights of individuals were to be upheld even against the wishes of the sovereign. It was the first step in a long historical process leading to the rule of constitutional law.

Joan of Arc

Biograhical Information

Daughter of Jacques d’Arc and Isabellette Romee, Joan of Arc was born on 6 January, 1412 in the farming village of Domremy in the Duchy of Bar. She was also know as the "Maid of Orleans" because she relieved the Orleans from the 100 Years War. She described visions of saints and angels which she said had ordered her to drive the English out of France,

· reporting her first vision around 1424. Joan of Arc was an inspiring and fearless leader and she became a Catholic saint and a national icon of the French. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on May 30 in 1413 at the age of 19.

Memorable Moments

Joan of Arc was a French national heroine. She led a French Army in 1429 at the age of 15 to break the siege of Orleans by English and dive them away. Then she led King Charles VII of France through enemy territory to cathedral at Reims for his coronation, beating the English in several battles during the course of this journey. Before dying while at the stake her last words were "Jesus...Jesus." One of her biggest crimes was that she wore men's clothing, particularly pants.
Biography: Joan of Arc - Virgin Warrior Dressed as a Man


Joan of Arc was a highly religious person following the Catholic religion and believed that it was her sacred duty to drive the English out of France. Her death is considered to be one the biggest injustices of the Middle Ages. 25 years later after being captured by the English and tortured, she was found innocent of all heresy charges by the Pope himself. The English knew what they were doing all along and killed her simply because she was a great leader. They were afraid of her. Joan of Arc was a brave sole, embracing death when being burned at the stake rather than denying what she believed to be the truth.