Author Archives: Andrea Cefalo

About Andrea Cefalo

I am the author of the new historical fiction series The Fairytale Keeper. The first novel in the series, The Fairytale Keeper: Avenging the Queen, is in publication and will be available to the public June 1st. Many called her Snow White, but few knew her as The Fairytale Keeper.

3 Names Worthy of Medieval Queens…and Modern-Day Princesses

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

Thought the new Windsor princess’s name would be Khaleesi? Sites like paddypower.com let us put our money where our mouths are. So while William and Kate mulled over the name for their baby girl, the rest of us were able to make wagers. With odds at eleven to four, Alice was the safest bet. Charlotte, Olivia, and Elizabeth were, too. But what if the royal couple had looked to England’s most famous Medieval queens for inspiration? Which name might they have picked?

Empress Matilda Matilda

Odds: Forty to One

Who was she? The most famous queen from the House of Normandy, Empress Matilda was born to Henry I of England in 1102. After the untimely death of her brother, King Henry made Matilda his heir. But when he died, Stephen of Blois usurped the crown—resulting in civil war. Despite a failure to definitively take the English throne for herself, Matilda secured her son’s position as heir after the death of King Stephen’s son,  Eustace.

What made her a good candidate? Matilda was a strong independent woman who often ruled in the stead of her first husband, Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. She fought for twelve years to rule England. Some people in London called her harsh and others named her arrogant, but she compromised when she had to—especially if those compromises benefited her family and friends.

Eleanor of AquitaineEleanor

Odds: Sixty-six to One

Who was she? Eleanor of Aquitaine is arguably the most famous Medieval queen of England—and France.  When she inherited the duchy of Aquitaine upon her father’s death, the king of France scooped her up for his son. Within months of the marriage, the king died and the two were crowned king and queen. But the marriage was an unhappy one. Citing consanguinity (being blood relatives), they sought an annulment from the pope. It was granted.

Despite their shared blood, Eleanor chose Empress Matilda’s son, Henry, for her second husband. The two were crowned king and queen of England two years later. The marriage was adulterous and tumultuous, but still produced eight children.

In 1173, Eleanor supported her son’s efforts to overthrow his father. Furious and mistrusting of Eleanor, Henry imprisoned her for sixteen years. It was her son, the famous Richard the Lionheart, who freed her after his father’s death.

What made her a good candidate? Eleanor was as determined as she was beautiful. When she wanted something, she usually found a way to get it. During her lifetime, Eleanor was a duchess, a queen of France, a crusader, a queen of England, an attempted kingmaker—and an inventor.  She developed Europe’s first built-in fireplaces.

Isabella of FranceIsabella

Odds: Sixty-six to One

Who was she? When Isabella of France married Edward II in 1308, Edward’s strange favoritism toward incompetent commoner, Piers Gaveston, left Isabella—and Edward’s barons—feeling angry and forgotten. In the end, the barons executed Gaveston.

For the next decade, the queen and king seemed happily married and had four children. Then Edward found a new and dangerous favorite in Hugh Despenser. Isabella had had enough. She set sail for France to discuss an unrelated peace treaty, but she returned with a lover and an army. Isabella and English Baron Roger de Mortimer ousted Edward II and put young Edward III on the throne. While the two lovers were serving as co-regents for fourteen-year-old Edward, the old king was violently killed. Edward III later sentenced Mortimer for his part in the crime and had him hanged. It was only at Isabella’s pleading that Mortimer wasn’t drawn and quartered. Isabella spent two years under house arrest. After that, she led a quiet life as a pious Christian and doting mother and grandmother.

What made her a good candidate? For many years, Isabella tried to be a loyal queen and wife. Whether viewed as a woman who killed her husband or a monarch who saved England from a weak king, Isabella’s resourcefulness and cunning can’t be denied. She led the most successful invasion of England since William the Conqueror.

Wiliam and Kate With Baby Daughter Leaving HospitalIf William and Kate wanted to name their daughter after a Medieval English queen, these three women would have been worthy candidates. I  placed my money on Matilda and lost. The royal couple announced the name this morning: Charlotte.  I guess I’ll have to forego my skinny soy mocha frappuccino today.

So I want to know, did you make a wager?  If you did or if you simply guessed what the princess’s name would be, tweet me @AndreaCefalo.

 Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/matilda_queen.shtml

http://www.historyinanhour.com/2012/08/10/empress-matilda-summary/

http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/eleanor-of-aquitaine

http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.com/2012/07/isabella-of-france-she-wolf-of-england.html

Cinderella Georgian dress

Cinderella 2015: Fashion Influences, Fairytale History, And a Rap Battle

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

Cinderella 2015A month ago, I dragged my husband to Disney’s live-action Cinderella. (Yeah, I know. I’m a bit late getting this post out.) After Frozen, Disney set the bar pretty high for itself. The art direction, morals, and wit of Frozen made it a movie for the entire family.

This wasn’t the case for Cinderella.

It is truly a movie for young girls. For me, the story felt overly-sentimental and tasted as cheesy and artificial as the concession nachos my husband bought.

The Good

Disney crafted whimsical settings reminiscent of Europe’s Georgian and Victorian eras. The landscapes blended snow-capped Austrian mountains, rocky Scottish coastlines, and lush English countryside. The palace–which I assumed would look like Cinderella’s castle at Disney World–resembled the Palace at Versailles in every way, from its structured layout, stone facades, hidden gardens, and over-the-top interiors.

Fashions too spanned these time periods. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and sisters donned Victorian fashions–tight corsets, ample bustling, and rich fabrics. Though, bright colors gave the gaudy dresses a fairytale flare. Cinderella’s simple, pastel dresses–which her stepmother called outdated–reflected the simplicity of Georgian fashion.

The Palace at Versailles

This room in the Palace at Versailles looks similar to the throne room in the Cinderella movie. (See below.)

Cinderella Palace 2015

These examples of Georgian fashion are similar to Cinderella's wardrobe,

These examples of Georgian fashion are similar to Cinderella’s. (See below.)

Cinderella Georgian dress

Victorian Dress

These Victorian gowns inspired those donned by the wicked stepmother and sisters in Disney’s Cinderella. (See below.)

victorian dress cinderella 1The Bad

Staying true to Perrault’s tale and the original animated version hindered Disney’s effort to develop characters and relationships. I have a low tolerance for corny—and that’s exactly what it was. The dialog was cheesy and the relationships felt forced. That being said, I don’t think Grimm’s or Perrault’s fairytales translate easily to modern movies. Most of these tales have Medieval or Early Renaissance origins. In the Middle Ages, stories were told not written. Storytellers gave their listeners a stereotype for each character so they could focus on plot rather than character development. Morals and themes, such as girls should be pious and good, lent themselves well to Medieval society, but don’t quite fit in a modern framework. For characters and themes to feel relevant to the modern viewer, alterations must be made. Disney succeeded at this with Frozen, but failed with Cinderella.

A Rap Battle

To end, I had to share this epic rap battle between Cinderella and Belle. As many of you know, Disney plans to do a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Cinderella may have won this epic rap battle, but I have a hunch that when compared to Cinderella, Disney’s like-action Beauty and the Beast will come out on top.

Still want to see the movie? Don’t let me stop you. If you have a little girl who thinks herself a princess, she’ll probably be thrilled to tag along. I’m sure she’ll be asking Santa Claus for her very own blue gown and glass slippers this Christmas.

mail coif

If Thirteenth-Century Knights Had Sky Mall: Part Two

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

Who among us hasn’t flipped through Sky Mall on a long flight? As a Medieval fiction novelist, I do oodles of research and the easiest way to keep track of what I learn is to blog about it. To keep from writing boring, encyclopedia-ish posts,  I’ve been writing a series on thirteenth-century armor—catalog-style. I’d imagine a knight making the long journey from home to a military campaign might have enjoyed a good catalog. Obviously, they didn’t have access to Sky Mall or anything like it. But let’s pretend they did, and let’s call our publication Kingdom Market.  Last week, I published a post on thirteenth-century body armor. This week let’s peruse a page on helmets.

Kettle Hat

kettle hatGive yourself the added protection of a Kettle Hat from Kingdom Market. Crafted quickly and cost-effectively by the finest armorers in Christendom, this iron helmet is perfect for the foot soldier on a budget. For easy fitting, add our breathable padded inlay. The result is comfortable, affordable protection—from the elements of nature as well as the enemy.

Comes with adjustable chin strap. Gilding, embossing, etching, and engraving available upon request. One size fits all.

mail coifMail Coif

Don’t forget to protect your neck! Kingdom Market’s mail coif is the only defense against a stab at the jugular.  Our hand-crafted mail loops are crafted from Christendom’s finest steel. Master armorers  flatten, rivet, and weave each coif by hand.

When combined with a floating pad and helmet, the mail coif offers the greatest coverage and defense. Available in small, medium, and large.

spangenhelmSpangenhelm

Tried and true, the spangenhelm has been protecting foot soldiers and cavalry alike for over a thousand years. Kingdom Market’s trademark iron spangenhelm comes with its own nasal guard.

A quilted-inlay and chin strap make for easy fitting. Use with a mail coif for extra protection or add iron cheek or face plates (extra charge). Gilding, embossing, etching, and engraving available upon request. One size fits most.

great helmGreat Helm

Completely encase your head in iron with this latest and greatest in helmet technology. When worn over a mail coif, the great helm delivers the most reliable protection that money can buy.

Comes with quilted arming cap for comfort and stability. Visor slits and piercings allow for visibility and breathing. Gilding, embossing, etching, and engraving available upon request. Available in custom sizes.

Explore Some of Our Many Options

With custom add-ons, Kindom Market’s armorers offer countless options. Visit one of our shops, to customize your own. The images below show only a few examples of what we can do!

Fancy great helm with gilded cross and trim

Fancy great helm with gilded cross and trim

Plain great helms

Plain great helms

spangenhelm with cheek plates and  etching

Etched spangenhelm with cheek plates.

Plain, riveted spangenhelm with face plates

Plain, riveted spangenhelm with face plates

If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned. Next week, I’ll be covering thirteenth-century weapons. Also, let me know what you think of this post via Twitter, Facebook, or simply comment below. If you like it, there’s more where that came from, follow my blog, Twitter, and Facebook to keep up with my posts on Medieval history and fairy tales.

Works Cited:

“Catalogue of Helmets.” Catalogue of Helmets. Medieval Reproductions, 26 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. A catalog for purchasing replicas of Medieval armor

DeVries, Kelly Robert. Medieval Military Technology. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1992. Print.

Hood, Jaime. British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, Volume 2. London: Archetype in Association with The British Museum, 2008.British Museum. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

Hunter, Edward. “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Fire Gilding of Arms and Armor. Department of Arms and Armor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Three Army Surgeons

4 Grimm’s Fairy Tales That Will NEVER Be Disney Movies

In my retelling of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I meld the original folklore with real medieval history…gore and all. And while I prefer a gritty story, there’s something about Disney that even I love. With a wave of Walt’s wand and a sprinkling of Tink’s fairy dust, Disney transforms dark tales into candied confections. Still, there are a few fairy tales that even Tinkerbell can’t sweeten and will likely never be Disney movies.

Three Army SurgeonsThe Three Army Surgeons

Three army surgeons enter a tavern… Yup, this one starts like a dirty joke. Anyways, the three men tell the tavern owner they can amputate and reattach any body part. Shocked, the owner doesn’t believe them and challenges them to prove their claim.
One army surgeon gouges out his eyes. Another slices off his hand. The last removes his heart. And then, off to bed they go.
To make a long story short, a cat steals the eyes, heart, and hand when a serving wench isn’t looking. Terrified of punishment, the wench replaces the missing organs and appendage with animal and corpse parts. Ignorant of the switch, the surgeons attach the impostor body parts the next morning and go on their merry way.
When their new parts malfunction, the army surgeons return to the tavern and demand the real eyes, heart, and hand. But the owner can’t return what he doesn’t have. To keep the three army surgeons from killing him, the tavern owner gives them his life savings. The three army surgeons are left with faulty body parts, the bar owner is broke, and no one lives happily ever after.

So why won’t Disney touch it? The tale is too violent and offers few merchandising options. Can you imagine a “gouge out the kitty’s eyeball” playset? Me neither.

rumpelstiltskinRumpelstiltskin

In a nutshell, a king locks a beautiful maiden in a room and commands her to spin straw into gold, but she doesn’t know how. So enter a conniving magical dwarf who can and will spin straw into gold—for a price.

At first the girl trades her jewelry for the dwarf’s services. When she no longer has anything to offer him, the dwarf makes her promise to give him her firstborn child.
Eventually the girl marries the king and becomes queen. Her first child is born and the dwarf comes to take what was promised, but the queen is so distraught that the dwarf makes her an offer. If she can guess his name in three days, she can keep her child. The queen sends a messenger to learn every name in the kingdom. The messenger stumbles upon the dwarf’s hovel instead. By the third day, the queen learns the dwarf’s name is Rumpelstiltskin. She keeps her child. And Rumpelstiltskin, in a fit of rage, tears himself in half.

Calling little people dwarfs and portraying them as evil isat the very leastpolitically incorrect. Disney strives for a squeaky-clean image and this seems like a bigger media debacle than The Little Mermaid penis castle.

The Girl Without HandsThe Girl Without Hands

A man accidentally sells his daughter to the devil, but the girl keeps herself so clean that the devil cannot claim her. The devil commands the girl’s father to chop off her hands so she can’t clean herself. At her father’s orders, the girl succumbs to the amputation without argument. But because the girl cries on her stumps, she remains clean and the devil still can’t touch her. In his rage, the devil kidnaps the father and mother before burning their mill to the ground. The homeless, handless girl wanders to a castle followed by an angel. The king of the castle falls in love with the pious girl, has silver hands made for her, and marries her.

Can you imagine parents lining up at the box office to watch a little girl’s hands get lopped off by her selfish father? I can’t. Besides this, the female protagonist in this tale offers herself up for sacrifice without argument and then waits for salvation which makes her far too passive for modern audiences. .

The Jew Among ThornsThe Jew Among Thorns

When a boy discovers his violin’s music forces people to dance, he preys upon a Jewish man in a thorn bush, forcing him to dance. The Jewish manwho’s being cut by the thornsbegs the boy to stop playing. The boy refuses…unless the Jewish man hands over a bag of money. When the man relents, the boy runs off with his coins. The Jewish man reports the robbery to local officials, the youth is caught and then sentenced to hang. At the gallows, the boy pulls out his violin and makes the Jewish man dance again. The boy refuses to stop playing until the man admits that he stole the gold in the first place, which he does. They hang the Jewish man instead of the boy even though he was a thief, as well.

This story perpetuates an old and terrible stereotype that Jewish people are greedy swindlers. For that reason, Disney would never turn this into a movie. They did, however, adapt the Israelite Exodus into a movie  called The Prince of Egypt, a more positive portrayal of Jewish people and their history.

Can you think of another Grimm’s fairy tale that would make a TERRIBLE Disney retelling? Let me know via Twitter, Facebook, or simply comment below. If you like this post, there’s more where that came from, follow my blog, Twitter, and Facebook to keep up with my posts on medieval history and fairy tales.

mail hauberk

If Thirteenth-Century Knights Had Sky Mall

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

As a Medieval fiction novelist, I do oodles of research and the easiest way to keep track of what I learn is to blog about it. But creating a list of terms and definitions is a bit boring. No one wants to read a dictionary, but most of us enjoy a good catalog, especially on a long flight. I’d imagine a knight making the long journey from home to a military campaign might have enjoyed flipping through a catalog to pass the time, too. Obviously, thirteenth century knights didn’t have access to Sky Mall or anything like it. But let’s pretend they did, and let’s call our publication Kingdom Market.  Below is just a single page. The subject? Thirteenth century armor.

13th century gambesonThe  Aketon or Gambeson is perfect for every warrior.

From the foot soldier on a budget to the cavalry knight seeking extra protection, this fabric coat hits the mark for ever warrior. With up to thirty sheets of linen and wool stuffing in between, the quilted aketon and gambeson offers light-weight protection. Wear it over or beneath your mail hauberk to keep those pesky arrow and lance impacts from injuring internal organs. Even alone, these quilted coats offer better defense than a surcote alone.

  • Available in red, blue, brown, and cream
  • Sizes small through extra large
  • Comes with matching belt
  • Now available in chausses to protect legs, too!
  • Note: Gambesons are worn over mail shirts while aketons are worn beneath.

thirteenth century coat of plates

Protect yourself like a king!

Until now, this cutting-edge technology had been donned by kings and counts alone. Now you too can protect your chest with a coat of plates. This series of durable iron plates are riveted into a leather vest made by the finest tanners in France. Worn beneath or over a mail hauberk, a coat of plates will make you the best protected knight on the battlefield.

  • Available in brown and dark brown
  • Sizes small through extra large
  • Extra charge for plus sizes

mail hauberk

Tried and true, no knight should be without a mail hauberk.

With Kingdom Market’s steel mail hauberk, protect your greatest asset—YOU! Our armorers forge the finest steel Christendom has to offer. Each steel ring is flattened and riveted by hand before being woven together to create a light-weight shirt of armor that offers maximum maneuverability and protection.

  • Sizes small to extra large
  • Extra charge for plus sizes
  • Add a pair of mail chausses to protect the legs, too!

knight's surcote thirteenth century

Make a statement with a one-of-a-kind surcote.

A few yards of linen can offer as much protection as steel—especially if the battle is lost.  ‘Tis  better to be ransomed than killed, and nothing says “Ransom me!” like a heraldic surcote from Kingdom Market. Our custom-made linen surcotes are brightly dyed so that—even through the blood of your victims—the enemy can easily identify your family’s crest. Whether a dragon, lion, or serpent, your heraldic emblem will be boldly embroidered for all to see.

  • Register your heraldic emblem so it’s NEVER reproduced
  • Available in all colors and sizes
  • Wool available upon request

Thirteenth Century Leg Armor Chausses and Poleyns

Protect your legs with cutting-edge technology.

A cavalry knight’s legs are particularly vulnerable during battle. Shield your thighs, knees, and shins with cuisses,  poleyns, and greaves. Crafted by Christendom’s finest armorers, these molded plates add extra protection. When combined with quilted cuisses and mail chausses, not even the sharpest Damascus steel swords can penetrate it!

  • Stand out from the cavalry crowd! Etching, engraving, and gilding now available.
  • Sizes small through extra large
  • Extra charge for plus sizes

Works Cited

  • “Arts of the Armorer.” Rotarian Mar. 1956: 18-20. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.
  • DeVries, Kelly Robert. Medieval Military Technology. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1992. Print.
  • Johnson, Craig. “Metallurgy and Production of European Armor.” Metallurgy and Production of European Armor. N.p., 1999. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Stretching a Medieval Penny: The Somewhat Empty Purse of a Medieval Shoemaker

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Medieval re-enactor acting as a cobbler.

All novelist struggle with crafting believable characters. For historical fiction writers, I think the challenge is even greater. We walk a tight rope with believability on one side and intrigue and relatability on the other. Needless to say, it was after a great deal of research that I created Ansel Schumacher. The breadwinner in my novel, The Fairytale Keeper, Ansel is a shoemaker living in 13th century Cologne. To develop a better understanding of what his family’s economic situation would have been like, I created the chart below.

There are a few things worth noting before reading the table. First, if our shoemaker didn’t sell shoes, he didn’t make money. Luckily, Cologne was a city 40,000 strong and its relic of The Three Magi drew thousands of pilgrims each year. During tough economic times, a cobbler could spend less on food and drink—foregoing expenses like spices and proteins.  But there were a few expenses he couldn’t escape: rent, taxes, and tithes. Based on my research, the average shoemaker[1] living in the middle 13th century made 44 pennies each month. Here’s what his monthly budget might have looked like.

Monthly Bill Amount Description
Rent[2] 9 pennies A typical craftsman house would have had a workshop, solar, and two bedchambers.
Food[3] 15 pennies
  • 4 1/2 pennies on grains to make pottage, oatcakes, and ale
  • 4 pennies on bread.
  • 4 pennies on small amounts of either salted herring, eggs, offal, other cheap meat, cheese, milk, or almond milk
  • 1 penny on spice blends
  • 2 pennies on produce, pickled produce, dried nuts, fresh fruit, or fresh herbs
Ale[4] 3 ½  pennies 4 cups a day per person in 4 person family.
Tithes 4 ½  pennies Ten percent of a person’s income went to tithes.
Taxes[5] 4 ½ pennies Tax rates fluctuated, but on average ten percent of a person’s wages went to taxes.
Household Expenses[6] Varied based on need.
Savings 7 ½ pennies  (unless there are household expenses)

A 13th century shoemaker would have bought food for his faimly at a market, like the one in this artist rendering.

[1] Hodges’ List of Prices does not list the wages of a shoemaker. I make the assumption that a shoemaker probably made the same amount as a weaver, which Hodges does list. In the year 1407, a weaver made 5 pennies per day. According to another part of Hodges’ list a thatcher living in the middle 13th century made 44% of what a thatcher living in 1407 would have made. Assuming that this rate of inflation applied to everyone’s pay, I have adjusted my imaginary shoemaker’s income and the prices of the items he buys accordingly.

[2] Hodges’ List of Prices lists the rent of a craftsman’s home in the 14th  century to be 20 schillings per year in London. I’ve adjusted this according to the wages of the middle thirteenth century in which a craftsman made 44% the wages.

[3] This is a ball park figure in the most extreme sense of the phrase. First of all, this budget assumes our shoemaker lived in a city and was not able to grow a small garden of his own. Therefore, he had to buy everything at the market. Someone living on this kind of income would have relied on pottages and breads most likely. He might have had money for a little meat now and then, when meat was allowed. Nearly half the year–when one accounts for Lent, Advent, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays—people living in the Middle Ages were not allowed to eat meat. Only fish was permitted during these times. Ian Mortimer says the price of fish was high, but Hodges’ list states the purchase price for 5-10 salt herrings at 1 penny. Salted herring was probably the cheapest form of fish and people grew quite sick of it, especially by the end of Lent. Also worth noting, many foods were available seasonably.

[4] In The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer states that four gallons of ale fetched a penny in the 14th century. I think it’s safe to assume that someone living in the thirteenth century could purchase it or brew it (as women were expected to do) for about half of that. Assuming that each person in a four person household drank an average of 4 cups of ale each day, the family would go through roughly a gallon a day. Surely when times were bad, cobblers drank less, relied on their wives home-brewed ale, or in dire times collected water in cisterns. They may have also spent more money on better ale or wine during times of celebration and wealth.

[5] Like today, taxes could be levied on income, goods, or property.

[6] Household expenses could be anything from household goods, clothing, grooming, and healthcare. I imagine most woman came with the goods needed to keep a peasant household. Even peasant women came with a dowry of some sort by the thirteenth century. Hodges’ List shows peasant dowries of between 15 and 57 schillings in the 14th century. Adjusted for the 13th century, this would have been 6 and 25 schillings, roughly 2 to 7 months of a cobbler’s pay. Little wonder women were praised for birthing sons. I think this also is evidence that people living in the High Middle Ages were savers and not spenders. That being said, children would come with expenses of their own. A cobbler might have to pay for them a fee for them to be able to start an apprenticeship or their clothing and shoes would get worn. Certainly during hard times, people in the Middle Ages would have kept raged shoes a little longer in order to make sure they had enough money for food.

Sources:
Hodges, Kenneth. “List of Prices of Medieval Items.” Hodges. List of Prices of Items in Medieval England. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.
Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England a Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. New York: Touchstone, 2014. Print.
Pirenne, Henri. Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969. Print.
Powicke, F. M. The Thirteenth Century: 1216-1307. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991. Print.
Photo of Medieval Shoemaker: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/archeon/3448099214/
 

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:

Penny, Pfennig, and Denier: Comparing the Coins of Medieval Europe

Halfpennies, Farthings, and Nobles: A Guide to England’s Medieval Coins

Inventing the Penny: Charlemagne’s Lost Effort at a Standard Currency

Venetian Ducat

Penny, Pfennig, and Denier: Comparing the Coins of Medieval Europe

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut later this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.
 
 

Medieval coins

By the High Middle Ages political and economic systems in Europe became more complex, so too did the coins. For example, in part twelve of Ken Elks’ book, Coinage of Great Britain: Celtic to Decimalization, his charts show eighteen changes in Scottish coinage alone in a one hundred year period.

Historical fiction writers like myself try to paint the most accurate portrait of history that we can. I wanted to better understand the money of Medieval Germany so that I could better understand what my characters could earn and spend. The chart below serves to simplify a very complex system.  I created it for myself, but I thought it might be of interest to others, so I am publishing it. Below the chart, I’ve listed a few facts worth considering before examining the table.

Coin Name Value First Use Description
English Medieval PennyEnglish: Penny

french denierFrench: Denier

pfennigGerman: Pfennig

Italian DenariItalian: Denari

1/240th pound of silver Late 700s
  • In 790, Charlemagne declared that 240 pennies should be minted from a pound of silver.
  • Smaller denominations of pennies were minted during the High Middle Ages like the English farthing and halfpenny.
groatEnglish: Groat

grostournaisFrench: Gross Tournois

groschenGerman: Groschen

Italian GrossoItalian: Grosso

  • 4 English pennies or…
  • 6 German pfennigs
1200s
  • A variety of coins fall into the groat category.
  • The word gross means big in German.
  • The term indicates that it was a big penny.
  • Counterfeit and devalued pennies made the groat a more popular coin among merchants.
English: Schilling

French: Sous

German:  Skilling

Italian: Soldi

  • 12 pennies or…
  • 3 groats or…
  • 1/10th mark or…
  • 1/20th pound
700s
  • During most of the Middle Ages, the schilling was a unit of account. People didn’t carry schillings in their purses.
  • The Florentines were the first to mint testones, a coin valued at a shilling, in the late 1400s.
  • The French and English were quick to follow suit, minting their own testoons.
  • The testoon became the shilling after Henry VIII’s reign.
Edward_III_nobleEnglish: Noble

Ecu d'or CoinFrench:  Ecu d’or

German GuldenGerman: Guilder/Gulden

FlorinFlorentine: Florin

Venetian DucatVenetian: Ducat

  • 80 pennies or…
  • 6 schillings and 8 pennies or…
  • 1/3 of a pound
  • Late 1200s in Italy
  • More widely used across Europe in 1300s
  • Many areas minted quarter and half denominations of these coins. Some of the smaller denominations were minted in silver.
  • The English minted half nobles and quarter nobles.
English: Mark

French: ?

German: Mark

Italy: ?

  • 120 pennies or…
  • 1/2 of a pound
700s
  • During most of the Middle Ages, the mark was a unit of account and most nations didn’t mint them.
English: Pound

French: Livre

German: Pfund?

Italian: Lira

  • 240 pennies or…
  • 60 groats or…
  • 20 schillings or…
  • 6 Half Nobles or…
  • 3 Nobles or…
  • 2 Marks
700s
  • During most of the Middle Ages, the pound was a unit of account and most nations didn’t mint them.
  • By the end of the Middle Ages the French were minting Francs.

Medieval minting shopThings to Consider:

  1. Coin values varied between nations. It’s similar to comparing an American dollar with the English pound or Euro. Each has a different value. The value of money in the Middle Ages was directly correlated with the coin’s size and silver or gold content, not the nation’s economic power.
    1. In general, German coins were of lower quality and value than English coins. The German lands consisted of duchies, counties, imperial cities, archbishoprics, and bishoprics. The Hohenstaufens doled out minting rights and didn’t regulate them. Therefore, many areas minted coins of varying quality. By the thirteenth century, six German pfennigs equaled four English pennies.
    2. During much of the early Middle Ages, the French kings were weak, and the kingdom itself was fairly small. While they minted purer coins than the Germans, the appearance varied widely. The mints of Tours in Touraine were considered the most stable.

By the end of the Middle Ages—much like the Scots—the French kings were constantly changing the coins and their value. Therefore, it is easier to classify the French coins into categories like types of pennies, types of big pennies (groats), and types of gold coins.

  1. As time passed and trade expanded into all classes, there was need for coins of larger and smaller denominations. The average pay for a day’s wages during the High Middle Ages was a penny. Let’s compare that to today where the average pay is about 100 dollars.

Imagine having to pay for everything with 100 dollar bills, except imagine that the 100 dollar bill was a coin. What if something costs 25 dollars? Then you have to chop the coin into fourths. It’s not very convenient. Here’s where it gets more complex: not every area minted the same denominations.  However, most of them had a silver penny, a groat, and by the fourteenth century, a gold coin.

  1. Minters and noblemen got greedy or they went through difficult economic times and would devalue their own currency to keep the excess silver and gold. I discuss this more in a previous article: Inventing the Penny: Charlemagne’s Lost Effort at a Standard Currency.

Whether you’re a historical fiction writer or budding medievalist, I hope you found this chart of value. If you find any errors in my research, please comment.

Sources:
“Banks and Money.” Currency and Banking in the Late Middle Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.http://europeanhistory.boisestate.edu/latemiddleages/econ/banking.shtml
Brooke, Christopher Nugent Lawrence. Europe in the Central Middle Ages: 962-1154. Harlow: Longman, 2000. Print.
“Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe.” Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.http://www.medievalcoinage.com/denominations/
“Medieval Sourcebook: William of Malmesbury: Counterfeit Money in the Time of King Stephen, 1140.” Internet History Sourcebooks Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
“The Fitzwilliam Museum : Coins and Medals Home.” The Fitzwilliam Museum News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/coins/
“Testoon.” ø. Coin and Bullion Pages, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

Halfpennies, Farthings, and Nobles: A Guide to England’s Medieval Coins

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut early next year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The Coins of Medieval England

Medieval coinsI began researching Medieval coinage of the Holy Roman Empire–especially in the area that would become Germany–for my Medieval fiction series. It was a far more complex topic than I anticipated. The coinage went from simple and organized in the ninth century–with Charlemagne’s  declaration that a penny would be 1/240th of a pound of silver—to complex by the thirteenth century. (I’ve written an article entitled Inventing the Penny: Charlemagne’s Lost Effort at a Standard Currency that delves into this.)

For my purposes, I wanted to know what German coins were worth and what a person living in thirteenth century Cologne could buy with them. I thought developing a better understanding of the English coins might help me since I would be using Hodge’s List of prices—a list of Medieval items and their prices along with dates of purchase—to determine this. Below is table containing England’s Medieval coins, the year they were established, and their value.

Image Coin Name Established Value
farthingEnglish Medieval Farthing

1377-1399

Richard II

Farthing

(1/4d)

1216 1/4 of a silver penny
halfpennyEnglish Medieval Halfpenny

1399-1412

Henry IV

Halfpenny

(1/2d)

1100s 1/2 of a silver penny
English Medieval Penny English Medieval Penny

1199 – 1216

King John

Silver Penny

(d)

800s 1/20 of a schilling or…

1/240th of a pound of silver

groatEnglish Medieval Groat

1327-1377

Edward III

Silver Groat

(4d)

1200s 4 silver pennies or…

1/3 of a schilling

During the Middle Ages, the schilling was a unit of account. People didn’t carry schillings in their purses. Schilling

(s)

N/A 12 silver pennies
quarter nobleEnglish Medieval Quarter Noble

1327-1377

Edward III

Quarter Noble

(1s 8d)

Mid 1300s 20 pennies or…

1 schilling and 8 pennies

half nobleEnglish Medieval Half Noble

1399-1412

Henry IV

Half Noble

(3s 4d)

1351 40 pennies or…

3 schillings and 4 pennies or…

1/6 of a pound

Edward_III_nobleEnglish Medieval Noble

1354-1355

Edward III

Noble (6s 8d) Mid 1300s 80 pennies or…

6 schillings and 8 pennies or…

1/3 of a pound

During the Middle Ages, the mark was a unit of account. The English didn’t carry marks in their purses. Mark N/A 160 pennies or…

1/2 of a pound

During the Middle Ages, the pound was a unit of account. People didn’t carry pounds in their purses. Pound (£) N/A 240 pennies

60 groats

20 schillings

6 Half Nobles

3 Nobles

2 Marks

Sources:
Banks and Money.” Currency and Banking in the Late Middle Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
Brooke, Christopher Nugent Lawrence. Europe in the Central Middle Ages: 962-1154. Harlow: Longman, 2000. Print.
Cavendish, Richard. “The Farthing’s Last Day.” History Today. History Today Volume: 60 Issue: 12, 2010. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.
“Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe.” Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.
 
Images:
http://finds.org.uk/medievalcoins/types/type/id/2136
http://www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/halfp.html
http://www.timelineauctions.com/lot/richard-ii-london-farthing/1977/
http://www.calgarycoin.com/medieval3.htm
https://www.yorkcoins.com/h1350_-_edward_iii_(1327-1377),_gold_quarter_noble.htm
https://www.yorkcoins.com/h1350_-_edward_iii_(1327-1377),_gold_quarter_noble.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_(English_coin)

Inventing the Penny: Charlemagne’s Lost Effort at a Standard Currency

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The second book in The Fairytale Keeper series–The Countess’s Captive-debuted earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.
 

Charlemagne and the Silver Penny

charlemagne

Charlemagne simplified the currency of Medieval Europe in the ninth century.

For certain, easing the trade of goods and services is the truest purpose of standard currency. When Charlemagne declared that 240 pennies should be minted from a pound of silver, he eased the trade of goods and services throughout the Holy Roman Empire. For the next 400 years, the penny was made from real silver just as Charlemagne had ordered. Therefore, it had a standard value. The penny might have been called different things in different areas—the  French denier, the German pfennig, the Spanish dinero, the Italian denari—but each coin had  the same silver content, and the same value.

Because of Charlemagne’s efforts, an English wool merchant could sell his wool to a weaver in Flanders who could sell his woven wool to a dyer in Cologne who could sell his died fabric to a merchant in Venice who could sell his wares to a fashionable noblewomen with ease. None of them would have to worry about the value of the coins they traded. It’s similar to what the Euro does for Europe today.

Diluting the Penny

English Penny from the twelfth century featuring King John.

This English penny from the twelfth century features King John.

Throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries kings, noblemen, minters, and counterfeiters diluted the penny with some dire consequences and disastrous results.

During the reign of English King Henry I, the percentage of silver in coins plummeted. As punishment for minting low-quality coins, each mint master had his right hand cut off on Christmas day in 1124 at the Assize of Winchester. The threat of mutilation wasn’t enough to keep moneyers’ honest, and the improvement in coin purity was only temporary.

Reducing the silver content in coins was not a practice exclusive to England. In fact, records suggest it was worse in other parts of the Holy Roman Empire, especially the German lands.  According to Medieval Denominations, by 1100 the standard German pfennig had twenty-five percent less silver than it did in the days of Charlemagne—dropping its value to three-quarters of an English penny.

Medieval Pfennig

This thirteenth-century German pfennig minted in Cologne bears the likeness of the archbishop, not the king.

By 1299, the problems presented by diluted coins were so prevalent that England forbid their import. Maurice Powicke states in his book, The Thirteenth Century, that King Henry III  tried to rid England  of “the false and debase…coins which had been brought into England and Ireland from German and Rheinish ports.”

As I survey the twelfth and thirteenth-century German coins at Fitz Museum, I can see that the minting of Rheinish coins was not nearly as regulated as it was in England. In the German lands, many dukes, lords, counts, bishops, archbishops, as well as the emperor, had minting rights.  Germans—whether counterfeiters, dishonest minters, or greedy noblemen, I can’t be sure—blended baser metals, such as copper, into the coins.  People called the debased currency black money.  In some cases, coins had less than one percent of the silver than they should have.  Not surprising, merchants from across Europe preferred coins with a high silver content, such as the groschen.

Clipping and Shrinking the Penny

Edward I

Edward I blamed Jews for clipping coins.

Besides decreasing the silver content of coins, minters devalued their coins through the process of clipping. Despite the threat of mutilation and execution, clippers trimmed the edges of the coins, collected the fragments, and made a profit, all while passing off the coins as having the same value as unclipped coins.  In 1277, Edward I hanged Jewish merchants for clipping coins.

As well as clipping and reducing the silver content in coins, minters also reduced the mass. When King Stephen I depleted the treasury in 1140, he ordered the penny’s weight to be reduced so he could pay his military expenses in wars against his niece, Matilda.  English barons also began issuing their own coins. Large amounts of counterfeit and low-quality coins drastically reduced the value of the penny. During the time of Charlemagne, a shilling was worth twenty pennies. During Stephen’s reign, the shilling’s value dropped to twelve pennies, nearly decreasing the currency value by half.

Just as a bad king can debase a currency, a good king can improve it.  In 1182,  Henry II, demanded silver content in pennies be high and consistent. One hundred thirty years later, during the reign of Henry III, the first recorded public assessment of a coin’s purity was performed. It was called Trial of the Pyx and is still performed in Great Britain to this day.

Diversity in Coins

Noble

Gold coins, like the noble, made an appearance in the 13th and 14th centuries and quickly spread through Europe.

As political and economic systems became more complex, so did the coinage. During the high middle ages, the diversity in coins skyrocketed. Because the coins varied in silver content and size, they aren’t as easily comparable as the penny, pfennig, and denier of the ninth century. Trying to compare the values is a daunting task that I tried, but probably won’t continue. I can imagine what a burden this must have been for merchants and those in charge of accounts.

Sources:

“Banks and Money.” Currency and Banking in the Late Middle Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. http://europeanhistory.boisestate.edu/latemiddleages/econ/banking.shtml

Brooke, Christopher Nugent Lawrence. Europe in the Central Middle Ages: 962-1154. Harlow: Longman, 2000. Print.

“Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe.” Medieval Coin Denominations of Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. http://www.medievalcoinage.com/denominations/

“Medieval Sourcebook: William of Malmesbury: Counterfeit Money in the Time of King Stephen, 1140.” Internet History Sourcebooks Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

“The Fitzwilliam Museum : Coins and Medals Home.” The Fitzwilliam Museum News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/coins/

Behind the Name: Why Otto the Great Was so Great

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut later this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

Otto the Great

King Otto I the Great of Germany

Otto I was the son of Henry the Fowler and his second wife Matilda. On August 7, 936, a month after the death of his father, Otto was elected king and later crowned by the archbishops of Cologne and Mainz.

Otto I successfully consolidated power by confronting—and defeating—his disobedient vassals and siblings in war. Otto’s half-brother Thankmar joined the dukes of Bavaria and Franconia in rebellion in 938. Otto was victorious, and in the end, the duke of Franconia surrendered, the duke of Bavaria was banished, and Thankmar was defeated and killed. A year later, Otto’s younger brother Henry revolted, supported by the King Louis IV of France, Giselbert of Lotharingia, and the duke of Franconia—who had only just been forgiven for his previous rebellion against the king. Both Gilselbert and the duke of Franconia were killed in battle. Though Henry begged his brother’s forgiveness—which was and granted—he took part in a conspiracy to kill the king in 941. Otto forgave him again, and Henry remained faithful thenceforth.

Otto the Great Adelaide of Italy

German King Otto the Great and his wife, Adelaide of Italy

Despite internal conflicts, Otto was able to spread and strengthen his the kingdom. He kept out Slavic and Magyar invaders, resisted France’s claim to Lotharingia, founded three bishoprics in Denmark, and secured his interests in Italy and Burgundy via his marriage to Adelaide of Italy. In 962, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John XII, whom he would depose two years later, placing Leo VIII in his place. Antipopes rarely kept their seat, but Leo VIII, with the help of Otto, remained pope until his death. By suppressing revolts, ousting invaders, and using the Church to spread his kingdom, Otto was arguably one of the most successful German kings of the Middle Ages. He died on May 7, 973 in Memleben, Thuringia and was buried next to his first wife, Edith, daughter of the English king Edward the Elder.

Sources:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/434895/Otto-I#toc5413
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_I,_Holy_Roman_Emperor#Rebellion_of_the_dukes