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Medieval Heraldry Timeline

Medieval Heraldry Timeline


Coats of Arms

Coats of arms, those colourful trappings of medieval chivalry, are still very much part of our modern world and those with an interest in family history very often find them increasingly alluring, if mysterious. Shrouded in obscure terminology and arcane meanings, they are as confusing as they are colourful. Here, we seek to shed some light on these mysteries for the beginner, explaining some of the terms used and use the history of heraldry to explain how the system works in the present day.

A coat of arms is a hereditary device, borne upon a shield, and devised according to a recognised system. This system was developed in northern Europe in the mid-12th century for the purpose of identification and was very widely adopted by kings, princes, knights and other major power holders throughout western Europe. The shield is the heart of the system.

Other elements include the crest, which refers specifically to the three-dimensional device borne on top of a helmet this is nearly always shown resting on a horizontal wreath made up of two differently coloured skeins of silk, twisted together. To either side of the helmet, and behind it, hangs the mantling, a cloth worn to shade the helmet from the sun. It is shown much ripped and slashed, as naturally any self-respecting knight would have seen much action.

The funeral procession of Elizabeth I of England, 1603, depicting the procession of some of the heralds of the College of Arms.

Below the shield, or above the crest, is displayed the motto, a later development. The ensemble of shield, helmet, crest, wreath, mantling and motto, when shown together, are known as the full achievement but it is very common to find only the shield, or just crest and wreath, or crest, wreath and motto, displayed alone. No family can have a crest unless it also has a shield.

Coats of arms, then, were adopted for the practical purpose of identification by those who participated in warfare at a high level. These European nobles were also during the 12th century becoming increasingly enthusiastic participants in tournaments, the rich man’s sport par excellence at the time. It was perhaps akin to power-boat racing today: very dangerous and expensive, hugely glamorous and essentially international.

Heraldrie, an early text explaining the system of heraldry, written by John Grullin and published in 1611.

The coat of arms was a necessary part of the tournament as it enabled participants and spectators to identify those who performed well.

Heraldic devices were the perfect status symbol, communicating the bearer’s wealth as well as his chivalric prowess. It was the role of the herald to know, recognise and record these coats of arms, and in time they would come to regulate and grant them.

These heraldic devices were also significant because they were inheritable. They passed from father to son, as did lands and titles, and thus could serve as identifiers of specific lineages as well as of individuals. Different members of the same family could be distinguished by the addition of small devices or charges to the shield.

Does your family have a coat of arms?

One popular misconception is that there can be a ‘coat of arms for a surname’. Since they are specific to individuals and their descendants we can immediately see that there can be no coat of arms for a family name in general.

Instead, arms only pass in the legitimate male line from parent to child.

However, if we are seeking to discover whether a particular person has a coat of arms, we need first to develop a good understanding of that person’s male line ancestry. Only such ancestors could have acquired a right to a coat of arms.

Once a good knowledge of these ancestors has been gained, it is possible to search for indications that they had a coat of arms. Such searches might be in published sources like the numerous heraldic books published over the years in many languages or in manuscript collections held by record offices.

In countries where there is a heraldic authority, which include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, searches need to be carried out in the official records of grants and confirmations of arms. Research in the records of the College of Arms, the Court of Lord Lyon or other authorities would reveal whether an ancestor was officially recognised as having arms.

This article was originally written for Your Family History magazine.


Medieval Armorial Pendants

Harness pendants with thirteenth century English royal arms and the arms of Erpingham from a pendant found at Dunwich, Suffolk

The small heraldic ornaments, commonly known as armorial pendants, appear to have come into popular use during the latter part of the medieval ages. They were usually small heater – shaped shields made of copper or bronze, and measured on the average about one inch across the top, with a loop for the purpose of suspension. In some instances the shield was depicted on a square piece of metal, with the suspension loop at one corner or on one of the edges.

Sometimes the field of the shield was cut out of the metal and filled in with a coloured enamel, while the charges were incised on the exposed metal and probably silvered or gilded. In other cases the charges were cut away and filled with enamel, leaving the field exposed. Unfortunately, very few of those now in existence have retained the enamel, due to erosion through the ages, thus frequently making it difficult to identify them with any particular person or family.

Although they have lost much of their original charm, they are nevertheless of considerable interest to the heraldic student, and are a credit to the craftsmanship of that period.

It has been supposed that one of their uses was on the trappings of horses. In a MS at Trinity College, Cambridge, there is a drawing representing a charger with a row of these shields suspended around the breast band. 1 Also a few specimens have an adjustment by which they appear to have been attached to leather. One can, however, examine numerous contemporary illustrations without finding any sign of them on the trappings, so perhaps their use in this direction was rather the exception than the rule.

Moreover, one may search in vain for them on scores of seals, monumental effigies, brasses and illustrations of men in armour or otherwise, as well as those of women.

The palimpsest brass of a lady, found at Lupitt, Devon, 2 shows two heraldic shields used to fasten the cord of the mantle. But it is clear that they are not in the nature of pendants. Neither can the shield affixed to the camail on the chest of the effigy on the Cockayne monument in the Church at Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 3 nor that of a similar shield on the effigy of a knight preserved in the Zurich public library, 4 be considered in this category. Both are larger than the average size pendant, and they have no loops for suspension.

This would tend to suggest that these pendants were probably used more in the nature of badges for retainers, messengers or other representatives of noblemen, rather than for themselves personally.

There are few museums in this country that do not possess at least one of these pendants. Some, of course, have a large number, and there are several private collections. From time to time, during the past century some have have been exhibited or referred to at the proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries.

Two fine specimens are preserved in the small but excellent one-roomed museum at Dunwich, Suffolk. They were found in this village, which at one time was a capital city of East Anglia, but has now almost disappeared into the sea. One of them is made of bronze, measuring 1¼ inches across the top of the shield, and 1½ inches in length, with a loop for suspension. The Arms depicted are — an inescutcheon and an orle of 6 martlets. The inescutcheon and the martlets have been cut out of the metal, leaving the field exposed. At one time these charges would have been filled with coloured enamel, but there is no sign of any now.


Medieval Battles Key Dates 13th Century Medieval Britain & Europe

1199 AD Richard I dies and Prince John is appointed King
1203 AD-1204 AD Siege of Chateau Gaillard by Philip II of France
1204 AD Loss of Normandy to the French
1214 AD Battle of Bouvines
1215 AD Magna Carta and the siege of Rochester Castle
1216 AD King John dies, Henry III in his minority and Prince Louis lays siege to Dover Castle
1217 AD Battle of Lincoln
1224 AD Bedford Castle under siege
1227 AD Henry III passes from his minority and becomes King
1258 AD The Barons Parliament
1259 AD Peace with France
1264 AD Battle of Lewes
1265 AD Battle of Evesham and the death of Simon de Montfort.
1266 AD Kenilworth Castle is under siege
1272 AD Henry III dies and Edward I ascends to the throne
1277 AD First of the Welsh wars begins
1282 AD Second Welsh war
1296 AD First war with Scotland
1297 AD Edward I campaigns in Flanders and signs a truce with Philip IV of France
1297 AD Battle of Stirling Bridge
1298 AD Second campaign in Scotland and the battle of Falkirk
1300 AD Third Scottish campaign and siege of Caerlaverock castle
1301 AD Fourth Scottish campaign.
1303 AD-1304 AD Fifth Scottish campaign
1305 AD William Wallace is executed
1307 AD Edward I dies at Burgh &ndashby &ndashSands in Cumbria. He is succeeded by Edward II

The timeline of medieval kings and queens in England is also useful to read in conjunction with this


What is Heraldry?

The iconic image of a mounted knight almost inevitably includes a colourful shield or surcoat, emblazoned with his family coat of arms or symbols. Heraldry, the use and identification of these symbols, developed slowly over the course of the Middle Ages, and expanded its use and reach across Europe, eventually settling in a language still used today for official coats of arms and flags.

According to Robert W. Jones, heraldry “is generally perceived as emerging in a recognizable from out of the Low Countries in the middle part of the twelfth century.” But these symbols didn’t necessarily develop for the purposes of warfare, as is often believed. Warfare, sadly, was not new in the Middle Ages however, one form of martial activity was: the tournament. As Jones rightly points out, it can be difficult to read all the symbols of an army’s devices while in the midst of combat: “Heraldry was an effective identifier only when the viewer had the leisure to decode it.” It’s more likely, Jones suggests (following David Crouch’s argument in Tournament), that heraldry developed as a means to identify knights on the tournament field.

Although tournaments may have been the impetus for the development of heraldic devices and practices, heraldry was adopted far beyond the tournament field, from the battlefield to seals and livery. In fact, Jones suggests, it is the rise of the use of the seal by an increasingly charter-heavy society that may have led to its popularity away from militaristic action into the realm of more ordinary use, including that of people who were meant to be excluded from fighting altogether: women and priests.

As time went on, people drifted away from using full coats of arms to identify themselves in favour of badges which represented them in either a near-literal (punning) way, or in a figurative way. As Jones writes,

The political poems and ballads that were common during the Wars of the Roses used the badges of the great nobles to identify them. In part, no doubt, because it was easier to fit the word dog or boar or swan into the rhyme and meter of a poem than the heraldic blazon of a coat of arms, but also because there was a wider audience for these pieces, beyond the chivalric and heraldic community. The badge was a much more immediate and memorable insignia precisely in its practicality for the battlefield where, again, it had come to dominate.

Badges became more popular on the battlefield in the late fourteenth century in part, Jones suggests, because of the rise of plate armour, which made shields less practical, and in part (perhaps) because nobles may have thought their chances of being ransomed (not killed) were low anyway. Given Henry V’s treatment of his French prisoners at Agincourt shortly thereafter, perhaps they had a point.

Detail of a herald in a tabard of the arms of John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, with the arms of his wife, Margaret Beauchamp, in pretence, holding a flagpole. British Library MS Royal 15 E VI f. 43

Still, it’s useless to have a series of badges or symbols to identify households and nobles if no one is able to read them. Those who took it upon themselves to memorize the arms and armour of knights were heralds. Heralds were, of course, useful on the tournament circuit, where they could identify the combatants, but they were much more useful on the battlefield, where there were many more fighters involved, and their identification was crucial to understanding their worth as prisoners. Although Jones mentions the difficulty of identifying people on the field while in the midst of combat as being a possible reason heraldry wasn’t adopted until the rise of the tournament, it’s logical to assume that heralds were extremely useful before battles began in relating to their leaders who it was that made up the ranks of the opposing army.

Jones says, “Like the priests that are only occasionally recorded praying for victory at the rear of their armies, infrequent mentions of heralds on the periphery of the fighting alert us to their routine presence and purpose.” Heralds were able to observe the actions of the parties involved and relate them later. Perhaps more importantly, they were relied upon after the battle had ended to establish who had died (an extremely difficult activity, emotionally, as Michael Livingston has shown). Jones goes a step further, suggesting that “it cannot be too much of a stretch to imagine they were the ones taking news of the fallen to their families.”

Heraldry, although no longer necessary as a means to identify the fallen, is still very much in use today, with many of the rules established in the Middle Ages still in play. The College of Arms is the official entity for the use and creation of heraldic devices in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and is still developing rules and usages for heraldry in the modern age, including how to combine coats of arms in a same-sex marriage. For more information on modern heraldry, their website has a whole lot of useful information.

For the information in this article, and the rest of Robert W. Jones’ informative work, see his article “Heraldry and Heralds” in A Companion to Chivalry.

You can follow Danièle Cybulskie on Twitter @5MinMedievalist


10 medieval dates you need to know

The Norman conquest of 1066 marked a dramatic and irreversible turning point in English history. Events began with the battle of Hastings, in which the Anglo-Saxon king Harold II attempted to defend his realm from the Norman invasion forces of William, Duke of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror).

Harold’s English troops numbered around 5,000, compared to a well-equipped Norman force of 15,000 infantry, archers and cavalry. Although the English had some initial success using shield-wall tactics, they proved no match for William, who was a formidable warlord. English defences were eventually broken down and King Harold was killed. His crushing defeat and gory death on the battlefield is famously recorded in the Bayeux tapestry, which was completed in the 1070s.

Following William’s success at the battle of Hastings – dubbed by Andrew Gimson the “most durable victory of any monarch in English history”– William the Conqueror set about transforming the face of Anglo-Saxon England. He skillfully secured his hold on the lands he had invaded, replacing the English ruling class with Norman counterparts and building defensive fortresses at strategic points throughout the kingdom.

Under William the feudal system [a hierarchical system in which people held lands in return for providing loyalty or services to a lord] was introduced, the church reorganised and England’s links to Europe strengthened. The legacy of 1066’s Norman conquest can still be seen today in Britain’s language, culture and social structure.

1085: The Domesday Book is completed

The Domesday Book is England’s earliest surviving public record, unsurpassed in depth and detail until the introduction of censuses in the 19th century.

Towards the end of the 11th century England came under threat from Danish invaders. William the Conqueror (who had himself been an invader two decades earlier) realised the need to catalogue the country’s financial resources in order to assess how much taxation he could reap from the land to fund a potential war. He therefore commissioned a massive survey of England’s landholdings and financial assets. The monumental resulting document, the Domesday Book, extensively catalogues the kingdom’s taxable goods and records the identities of England’s landholders at the time.

The Domesday Book is significant because it provides a unique and remarkably rich historical source for medievalists. Its vast amount of information offers historians, geographers, linguists and even lawyers invaluable insights into the nature of England’s government, landscape and social structure at the time. The book now survives in two volumes: Great Domesday and Little Domesday.

1095: The First Crusade is decreed

Pope Urban II’s official call for “holy war” in 1095 heralded the beginning of centuries of religious conflict. The crusades were a significant and long-lasting movement that saw European Christian knights mount successive military campaigns in attempts to conquer the Holy Land. Religious conflict peaked during the 12th and 13th centuries and its impact can be traced throughout the Middle Ages.

Muslims in the Holy Land were not the only target of the crusades. Crusade campaigns were directed against a variety of people viewed as enemies of Christendom. Military campaigns against the Moors in Spain and Mongols and pagan Slavs in Eastern Europe have now also been recognised by historians as part of the crusade movement.

The crusades had a huge impact on medieval life in Britain. People from all walks of life were involved – everyone from peasant labourers to lords and kings took up the fight for Christendom. Richard the Lionheart (r1189–99) considered the quest to conquer the Holy Land to be so important that he was absent from England for many years of his reign, waging war in the Middle East.

These intercontinental military expeditions also had a much wider impact on global relations. They led to an unprecedented interaction between east and west, which had an enduring influence on art, science, culture and trade. Meanwhile the shared fight for Christendom arguably also helped to foster ideological unity within Europe. In the words of historian Linda Paterson, the crusades “transformed the western world and left a profound legacy in inter-cultural and inter-faith relations nationally and worldwide”.

1170: Thomas Becket is murdered

Bloody proof of overflowing tensions in the ongoing power struggle between the medieval church and crown, the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170 has gone down in history for its shocking brutality.

In 1155, after enjoying a successful career in the clergy, Becket (1120–70) became chancellor to King Henry II. Friendship and rapport developed between the two men and in 1161 Henry appointed Becket as archbishop of Canterbury.

However, following Becket’s appointment as archbishop, his harmonious relationship with the king was short-lived. Trouble began to emerge as it became clear that Becket would now fight for the interests of the church, often in opposition to the wishes of the crown.

Becket began to challenge the king over a wide range of issues and their turbulent disagreements lasted several years. Their relationship disintegrated to such an extent that between 1164 and 1170 Becket lived in France to avoid Henry’s wrath. He returned to Canterbury in 1170 but was soon in conflict with the king again, this time over the excommunication of high-ranking clerics.

This dispute was the final straw for Henry. According to popular legend he lost his temper with the archbishop, asking “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Believing this to mean that the king wished Becket dead, four knights travelled to Canterbury to seek out the archbishop. On 29 December 1170 they brutally murdered Becket in his own cathedral.

In 1173, three years after his death, Becket was canonised. His murder transformed him into a martyr figure and his shrine at Canterbury Cathedral became a major European pilgrimage site. The priest’s murder was extremely damaging to Henry’s reputation and in 1174 Henry visited Becket’s tomb to pay penance for his actions.

1215: Magna Carta is signed

Sealed by King John at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, Magna Carta (meaning ‘great charter’) has become one of the founding documents of the English legal system.

At the time of its creation, however, the document’s long-lasting significance was not immediately recognised. Following a period of political and military upheaval in England, John was reluctantly forced to sign Magna Carta as part of peace negotiations with rebel barons. Drafted as part of a peace treaty, the initial document contained specific grievances dealing expressly with King John’s rule. At the time the agreement had little impact, as King John swiftly backtracked on its promises, prompting civil war.

Magna Carta’s real significance lay elsewhere. Buried within its many clauses were certain adaptable core values that ensured its influential legacy in English history. As the first document to establish that everyone, including monarchs, was subject to the law, Magna Carta laid the foundation for legally limiting the power of the sovereignty. Its 39th clause, meanwhile, ensured the right of all ‘free men’ to a fair trial.

The fundamental principles laid down in these clauses proved central to the establishment of the English legal system. The original document was adapted several times in subsequent years and three of the clauses from the original Magna Carta still remain on the statute books today. These establish the liberties of the English Church (Clause 1), the privileges of the City of London (Clause 13) and the right to trial by jury (Clauses 39 & 40).

1314: The battle of Bannockburn

The battle of Bannockburn saw Scottish leader Robert the Bruce take on the English king Edward II in a pivotal conflict in Scotland’s fight for independence.

In 1296 Anglo-Scottish tensions spilled over into open warfare when English forces under Edward I invaded Scotland. By 1314 the Scottish Wars of Independence had been raging for many years and Edward II’s hold over Scotland had begun to crumble. In an attempt to restore his grasp on the kingdom Edward II amassed a large body of troops to relieve Stirling Castle, which had been besieged by the forces of Robert the Bruce. However, Edward’s attempt to regain control backfired, as the Scots prepared to face the English forces head-on in what became the battle of Bannockburn.

The battle took place on 23 and 24 June 1314. Although the English force boasted greater numbers, the Scottish were well trained and well led, fighting on land they were motivated to defend. Their knowledge of the local land also worked in their favour, as they tactically targeted terrain that would be difficult for Edward’s heavy cavalry to operate on. English casualties were heavy and Edward was forced to retreat.

Bannockburn dealt a significant blow to English control over Scotland and Edward’s withdrawal left swathes of northern England vulnerable to Scottish raids and attacks. Robert the Bruce’s victory proved decisive for Scotland, solidifying the country’s independence and strengthening his grip over his kingdom. In 1324 Robert finally gained papal recognition as king of Scotland.

1348: The Black Death comes to Britain

The summer of 1348 saw the first outbreak of the bubonic plague in England, leading to an epidemic of huge proportions. The disease is estimated to have killed between a third and a half of the population – a devastating and unprecedented death rate.

Known as the Black Death, the bubonic plague was caused by a bacterium now know as yersinia pestis. Without any knowledge of how it was transmitted the disease spread like wildfire, particularly in urban areas. The writer Boccaccio saw the plague ravage Florence in 1348 and described the symptoms in his book The Decameron: “The first signs of the plague were lumps in the groin or armpits. After this, livid black spots appeared on the arms and thighs and other parts of the body. Few recovered. Almost all died within three days, usually without any fever”.

The dramatic death toll had a significant impact on the social and economic landscape of Britain in the following decades. Writing for History Extra, Mark Ormrod has argued that in the long-run the epidemic led to a “real improvement in the quality of life” for medieval people. He suggests that “the drop in the population resulted in a redistribution of wealth – workers could demand higher wages, and tenant farmers could demand lower rents, giving the poor more expendable income”.

1381: The Peasants’ Revolt

The first large-scale uprising in English history, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 threatened to overturn the existing social structure and undermine the country’s ruling elite.

The revolt was prompted by the introduction of a third poll tax (raised to fund the war against France), which had a particularly damaging effect on the poor. Unrest began in Essex, spreading rapidly to East Anglia, St Albans, Bury St Edmunds and London. As events escalated, government ministers were attacked and their homes destroyed. The chaos reached a peak as rioters captured and executed the king’s treasurer and the archbishop of Canterbury.

Soon, the rioters’ demands extended far beyond abolishing the third poll tax. They called for the abolition of serfdom and outlawry, and the division of lordship among all men. They also railed against the corruption of the church, demanding that its wealth be distributed among the people.

Faced with the threat of escalating violence in his capital city, the 14-year-old King Richard II met with one of the central figures of the revolt, Wat Tyler, to discuss the rioters’ grievances. However, violence broke out at the meeting and Tyler was murdered by William Walworth (Lord Mayor of London). Following Tyler’s death, government troops sought out and executed those who had rebelled, and resistance soon died out.

1415: Henry V defeats the French at Agincourt

Soon after becoming king of England in 1413, the ambitious young Henry V turned his attention to expanding his realm. During his father’s reign he had pushed for an invasion of France, and as the country was undergoing a period of political turmoil under its elderly monarch, Charles VI, it was the perfect time to launch an assault on the vulnerable kingdom.

After landing in France on 13 August 1415 and besieging the town of Harfleur, Henry’s troops marched on Calais. The French army met them at Agincourt and Henry’s men found themselves outnumbered as a bloody battle ensued. Despite this the French death toll was significant and Henry claimed victory.

Agincourt has gone down in history as a legendary victory for England and for Henry. However, historian Ralph Griffiths suggests that it was in fact a close-run and far from decisive battle. He argues that contemporaries exaggerated Henry’s achievements in France.

However, patriotic Agincourt propaganda undoubtedly had sticking power in the Middle Ages. The defeat proved devastating to French morale, while Henry’s reputation on the continent was enhanced dramatically. Henry was welcomed back to Dover with triumph and the story of his illustrious victory at Agincourt was celebrated for centuries to come.

1485: Richard III is defeated at the battle of Bosworth

The last significant clash of the Wars of the Roses, the battle of Bosworth saw the Lancastrian Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII) defeat Richard III in a bloody fight for the English throne.

Following Richard’s deposition of Edward V in 1483, Henry challenged the Yorkist king as a usurper. In August 1485 Henry launched an attack on Richard in an attempt to seize control of England. Richard’s army of 15,000 vastly outnumbered that of Henry, who had only 5,000 men. Confident of defeating his challenger, Richard was reportedly overjoyed at Henry’s arrival in England and even delayed facing his troops in order to celebrate with a feast day.

However, once the battle began, Richard’s strong initial position was undermined by the desertion of his troops and the defection of Lord Stanley (who had previously fought on the Yorkist side and commanded significant troops). The Yorkist forces were defeated and Richard was killed on the battlefield.

The discovery of Richard’s skeleton in Leicester in 2012 has told us much about how the defeated king met his death. Writing for History Extra, Chris Skidmore states that “several gouge marks in the front of the skull seem to have been caused by a dagger, perhaps in a struggle. The two wounds that would have killed Richard include the back part of his skull being sheathed off if this did not kill him, a sword blade thrust from the base of the skull straight through the brain certainly would have done the job”.

As the last major conflict of the Wars of the Roses and one that heralded the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, the battle of Bosworth marked a significant turning point in British history. It signalled the end of the medieval era and beginning of the Tudor period.

Ellie Cawthorne is Staff Writer on BBC History Magazine.


The Heater shield is a medium sized wooden or metal shield, and was mainly used by knights on horseback. The Heater shield was not as long as the Kite shield, which made it perfect for the cavalry. It was very common for this shield to have coats of arms or heraldry emblazoned on the front of them, to show who the holder was or who he fought for.


Middle Ages for Kids Coats of Arms,Shields, Heraldry

In medieval times, every noble family wanted everyone to know how important they were. They also wanted to brag about their history. Since most people could not read, heraldry was invented. This was a way to brag about who you were without using words.

Heraldry was a design and short saying. Noble families designed a coat of arms that incorporated their heraldry (their design and short saying).

They put their coat of arms, showing their heraldry, on banners, shields, tapestries and anything else they could think of. Each part of the coat of arms has a specific meaning. Animals or objects were used to describe character traits - brave as a lion, for example. The colors were used as symbols of character.

Each heraldry was unique. There are many books describing what each of the symbols mean. You usually can find such a book at your local library. You can look up your name and see if your family has a coat of arms! Then you'll need to look what each symbol means. Once you have that information, you will know your family's heraldry.


Cannon Timeline

1st Century AD Chinese discover Saltpetre

AD 492 Chinese alchemical text describes Saltpetre as burning with a purple flame

9th Century Chinese invent gunpowder

1044 Chinese describe incendiary devices, (described in a copy made in the 1550's)

1132 Chinese mention Fire Lances

1221 Chinese mention cast iron bombs

1259 Chinese describe bamboo tubes and clay pellets

1248 Roger Bacon describes the formula of gunpowder

1248 Peter bishop of Lyon reported Moors used cannon, siege of Seville, Spain

1259 the city of Qingzhou, China is manufacturing 1-2,000 iron cased bombs per month

1259 City of Melilla in North Africa is /defended by cannon

1260 Chinese arsenal of Zhao Nanchong catches fire and explodes

1260 Battle of Ain Jalut where the Mamluk Egyptians use hand guns against the Mongols

1262 Siege of Niebla, Spain, where Moors use Cannon

1268 Roger Bacon describes the use of gunpowder in crackers

1274 Abu Yaqub Yusuf, uses cannon at the siege of Sijilmasa

1279 Mongols learn how to make gunpowder and when they conquer the Chinese

1280 Hasan Al-Rammah writes in Arabic the recipe for gunpowder

1280 Albertus Magnus describes a recipe for making flying fire and gunpowder

1280 arsenal in Weiyang, China catches fire and explodes killing hundreds

1280 Siege of Cordoba where gunpowder appears to have been used

1281 Archaeological finds and documentary evidence indicate Mongol invasion fleet of Japan used grenades

1288 bronze handgun found in the Acheng district dating from this year, Heilongjiang Province, China

1298 Battle of Korcula, Croatia, the Genoese and Venetian fleets list 'Bombadieri' among their ranks and were probably grenade throwers

1304 Edward I at the siege of Stirling was said to have used a combination of oil and saltpetre as an incendiary known as Greek Fire (he did not use cannon)

1304 Egyptians use hand guns against the Mongols

1306 Siege of Gibraltar where gunpowder appears to have been used

(1313 Berthold Schwartz a friar from Breisgau in Germany was said to have made the first gun but now thought to be a renaissance invention)

1324 Cannon used at Siege of Metz

1324 English fortress of La Réole in Gascony falls after a month's bombardment by cannon

1326 Illustration of cannon by Walter Milemete in a book presented to the future Edward III

1326 Florentine document directs manufacture of metal cannon and inventory lists a bronze cannon (there are some doubts over this document)

1327 Cannon used by English against the Scots 'crakys of war', as described by John Barbour writing in 1375

1331 Cannon used at the siege of Cividale in Friuli, Italy

1331 Siege of Alicante, Spain, cannon described

1332 Chinese canon found. The inscription gives it as cannon number 300

1333 Edward III orders gunpowder from a York apothecary

1333 Cannon used at the siege of Berwick

1334 Cannon used in Merrburg, near Freiburg, Germany

1338 French documents list the purchase of iron arrows and sulphur

1338 Gunpowder is being stored in the Tower of London

1338 September 21 French with Genoese crossbowmen capture The Christopherwhich was armed with 3 guns of iron. The first gun shots were fired in a naval battle.

1338 October 4 French raiders attack Southampton, French used pot-defer, firing bolts with iron feathers.

1339 Peter Van Vullaere described as 'Maitre de rebaudequins', took service with the English at Bruges

1339 October 8 Cambrai accounts list the production of 5 iron and 5 metal cannon

1339 French use 'pot de fer' in Perigod and Cambrai against the English

1340 French use 'pot de fer' at Quesnoy

1340 Ribaudequins used at siege of Tournai

1340 Italian painting shows hand guns

1340 June 24 Edward III may have used cannon at the battle of Sluy

1341 Stirling Castle has guns for its defence

1341 Document from Lucca lists cannon

1342 Florentine inventory lists canon to fire iron balls the size of apples

1342 Spanish Muslims used cannon which fired metal balls against Castilian army at Siege of Algeciras (Earl of Derby and Salisbury were present at the siege)

1343 Spanish muslims used gunpowder against Alfonso XI of Castile

1344 The household of Edward III includes 'artillers and gonners'

1345 February 1, Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum saggitis et pellotis' (guns with arrows and pellots)

1345 Earl of Derby uses canon at the siege of Monsegur

1345 Toulose record of 2 cannon

1345 Tower of London has 100 cannon

1345 French had 24 cannon made at Cahors for the siege of Aiguillon

1346 2 tons of gunpowder made at the Tower of London

1346 March 1 Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum pelotes et pulvere pro eisden gunnis'

1346 May 10 Edward III inventory lists 10 guns or stocks or beds, 6 pieces of lead, 5 barrels of powder, 100 large pellots

1346 26 August Cannon used by the English at the battle of Crecy

1346 September Peter of Bruges makes a cannon used vat Tournay with a 2lb lead shot

1346 20 Cannon used at the siege of Calais

1347 Bioule record of 22 cannon

1349 Agen, record of canon throwing lead balls

1350 Lille record of arrows for cannon, Saltpetre and Sulphur

1350 Petrarch describes cannon as being in common use

1351 Chinese handgun found from this date

1353 William a brazier of Aldgate, London, casts 4 copper cannon for Edward III

1356 The accounts of Laon list cannon that fired arrows with oaken shafts

1365 Edward III installs 2 great and 9 small cannon at Queenborough

1369 Froissart records handguns used by trrops under the command of Sir John Chandos

1369 document from Pisa refers to Bombards

1370 Gun foundry reference to Augsburg

1371 Dover has 9 cannon Calais has 15 cannon

1371 First Cannon cast at Basel, Switzerland

1373-5 Accounts for the stocking of guns at the tower of London

1375 French use 32 cannon and fire 100 pound stone balls during siege at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

1376 Venice had a gun foundry

1377 Tower of London inventory lists 22 cannon

1377 St Gallen Switzerland had 11 cannon

1378 Venetian ships are bombarded by canon from Kotor

1380 Southampton converts some of its arrow slits to gun ports in the town wall towers

1382 cannon used by militia of Bruges, Ghent in the battle of Beverhoudsveld

1382 The bombarde Dulle Griete at Ghent had a 25 inch calibre and fired a 700 pound granite ball

1385 Castillians had 16 light cannon at the battle of Aljubarrota

1386 Battle of Sempach, Swiss use hand guns

1389 Battle of Kosovo, Ottoman Turks use cannon

1399 Richard II takes 8 guns to Ireland

1400 Konrad Kyeser illustrates a handgunner in Bellifortis

1400 Invention of corned (grained) gunpowder in Europe, this allowed the gunpowder to ignite throughout more easily

The earliest depiction of a fire lance and grenade from the 10th Century Dunhuang, China


Late Middle Ages Timeline

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