Engraved portrait of Empress Matilda of Flanders, wearing a crown and holding a scepter, circa 1100.

Empress Matilda, George R. R. Martin’s Muse

Like the fictional character she inspired, Matilda was at the center of a civil war, fighting her own relatives for control of the royal throne.
A painting of Queen Eleanor by Anthony Frederick Sandys

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s “Court of Love”

Allegedly, the noblewomen of Poitiers solved the problems of love, lost and found. But was the court real, or was it just the fanciful invention of historians?

A Natural History of Dragons

Dragons began life as snakes, but natural historians gradually began describing them in more fantastical ways.
A woman breast feeding her child, 13th century

Paying Moms to Breastfeed in Medieval Europe

The idea of offering remuneration to women for breastfeeding—even their own children—wasn’t unusual in late medieval and early modern Europe.
Tapestry of a unicorn hunt

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries Depict a “Virgin-Capture Legend”

They’re big in elementary school, but unicorn tableaux also have a complex iconographic history that combines religious and secular myths.
Medieval illumination of a dog, 14th century, from a Codex in the Czech Republic

The Hardworking Dogs of Medieval Europe

Not everyone can be a pampered pooch.
The St. Bernard Abbey in Hemiksem by Jan Wildens, 1616

The Complex Economics of Medieval Convents

Medieval convents were better funded than many scholars assume, thanks in part to royal patrons sympathetic to the holy women's mission.
Brothel by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1562

Regulating Sex Work in Medieval Europe

When sex work was considered a "necessary evil," legal brothels provided certain protections for the women who worked there.
Two women spinning silk in the 15th century

The Silkwomen of Medieval London

A group of skilled women ran the silk-making industry in 15th century London. So why didn't they protect their workers' rights by forming a guild?
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.