Middle Ages Timeline

750 - The first great English epic poem, Beowulf, is written in Old English. The work is anonymous and untitled until 1805. It is a Christian poem that exemplifies early medieval society in England and shows roots in Old Testament law.

Written by an Anglo-Saxon in 1000 A.D., the oldest surviving manuscript of Beowulf is owned by Robert Cotton. Cotton gave the manuscript to a British museum after it was very nearly destroyed by a fire in 1731. Contrary to popular belief, some believe Cotton's manuscript could have been written as far back as the 800s.

While the author of Beowulf is unknown, it was first available in print to the public in 1815.

814 - Charlemagne dies without leaving competent successors to continue the glory of the Carolingian dynasty. His sole surviving son, Louis the Pious, divides his inheritance between his own three sons, who engage in civil war. Charlemagne's united realm is invaded by Scandinavian Vikings, Hungarians, and Muslims during these civil wars.

Charlemagne's final wish that he be buried with a codex of his darkest sins and the history of his family in founding the Roman Catholic Church written on fine vellum in English, Latin, and Greek. His final wishes were honored for four centuries until the codex was rediscovered by Frederick II in 1215 and immediately removed. The codex has not been seen since.

In 817, the first division of the empire was decided. Lothair, the oldest child of Louis, was associated with the Empire's government and was the successor to his father. The two other brothers, Pepin and Louis, received two other parts of the Empire.

1192 - Richard I captures Jaffa, makes peace with Saladin; on the way home he is captured by his enemy, Duke Leopold of Austria.

In 1193, Leopold hands Richard over to Emperor Henry VI, who demands ransome for him.

Later, in 1194, Richard I is ransomed back to England.

1215 - Signing of Magna Carta; English barons force King John to agree to a statement of their rights.

King John was forced into signing the charter because it greatly reduced the power he reserved as king and allowed the formation of powerful parliament, and became the basis for English citizens' rights.

The Magna Carta was first drafted Archbishop Stephen Langton and the most powerful of the Barons of England. This was originally titled "Articles of the Barons".

1348 - Edward III establishes the Order of the Garter, and the Black Death reaches England.

The Order of the Garter, consisting of the King and 25 knights, is the oldest British Order of Chivalry. The Order honors those who held public office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Sovereign personally.

The exact death toll of the Black Death in Europe is difficult to measure because of the inconsistency of medieval sources, and because the number of deaths in particular areas were so varied. Today's estimates are that between 75 and 200 million fatalities occurred because of the plague.