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Famous Medieval People

Since the medieval times cover more than 1,000 years, from the 5th through the 15th centuries, it's impossible to note all the famous people of that time. There are, however, people who seem to repeatedly rise to the top of the list. This group includes royalty, artists, an inventor, a martyr, and even a few who have never been confirmed as real, mythical, or a combination thereof.

Famous Medieval People

Kings, Queens and Conquerors

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)

Perhaps one of the busiest females of medieval times, Eleanor of Aquitaine bore two famous sons, Richard the Lionheart and King John, in the midst of serving as Queen of Franks as Louis VII's wife, followed by a reign as Queen of England during her second marriage to Henry II. In addition to motherhood and matrimony, Eleanor was in prison for 16 years for supposedly helping son Richard try to steal the throne from Henry II.

Richard the Lionheart (1157-1195)

The unabashed favorite of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard roamed the land building castles and fortresses while serving as duke and lord of several regions, the most famous of which was Normandy. While he eventually became King of England, Richard is most noted for winning many battles during the third crusade, although he never realized his dream of bringing Jerusalem back under his power.

William the Conqueror (1028-1087)

Before Richard embarked on his construction spree more than 100 years prior, William the Conqueror built palaces and citadels throughout the land, including the Tower of London, to improve his chances of winning battles and squelching revolts and uprisings. After winning the crucial Battle of Hastings in 1066, he went on to reign in England as King William the Conqueror. He was instrumental in social reform regarding adoption and the reformation of the church, as well as implementing English as the official language of England.

Explorers and Warriors

Leif Ericson (970-1020?)

Five hundred years before Columbus embarked on his famous voyage, Leif Ericson discovered America. His other claim to fame was being the son of the famous Norse explorer Eric the Red.

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

Before her famous execution by being burned at the stake at the tender age of 19 and subsequent canonization, Joan of Arc rose from simple missionary to military leader. She directed French soldiers with critical and hard-line decisions that lead them to victory in numerous battles, starting with their impressive ending of the capture of Orleans.

William Wallace (Died 1305)

Before being immortalized in the movie Braveheart, William Wallace had his share of wins and losses. His most famous triumph was at Stirling Bridge where he and his troops emerged victorious despite being enormously outnumbered. Sadly, he suffered a tragic loss at Falkirk less than a year later, a turning point that ended in his violent execution.

Artists, Writers, and Inventors

Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)

DaVinci rarely gets credit for being the original Renaissance man. His lifespan extended from medieval times into the Renaissance period and, although he is normally remembered as a talented painter, he was also an expert designer and architect, botanist, writer, and inventor.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)

Besides penning the enduringly long and famous Canterbury Tales, Chaucer made English literature the accepted and preferred form of writing when only prose written in Latin or French was embraced before then. As evidenced in his writing, Chaucer was also a philosopher and commentator on the social conditions and hierarchies of the time.

Johann Gutenberg (1398-1468)

Before Gutenberg introduced the concept of moveable type and invented the printing press, books were individually handwritten and copied. His revolutionary contribution not only made books more affordable to the masses, it also changed forever how information was disseminated throughout the world.

Legendary Figures

Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476)

Vlad lived in Transylvania which, at the time, was part of Hungary. He bravely and successfully fought against forces from the Ottoman Empire, but was most noted for his barbaric treatment of his foes, especially impaling them on stakes. The stake reference may be why legend often accredits him with being Count Dracula.

William Tell (Early 14th century?)

Best known for being forced into shooting an apple off the head of his son with a bow and arrow to save both their lives, William Tell is also famous for using a crossbow to kill an oppressive Austrian monarch by aiming his weapon through a narrow mountain pass.

King Arthur (5th-6th Century?)

Indisputably the most famous medieval figure in history, no one knows if King Arthur was a real man, a fictional character or a legendary figure who was a mixture of fact and imagination. Historical accounts of him are sketchy and range from him being a brave soldier with twelve military victories to being a compassionate king.

Medieval Notoriety

Since the medieval period covers so much time, there were many famous people who made both positive and negative contributions to its growth and development. To get a well-rounded view of the expansive era, try absorbing the history a century at a time through both fictional and nonfictional accounts.