Stretching roughly from about the Norman Conquest (1066 and All That
) to the early 1300s, but most often imagined as about the 12th or 13th century, this is Era of The Crusades
, Robin Hood
, and fat, lecherous, irascible
, but good-hearted friars
. Also home to knights
, beautiful princesses
with anachronistic hennins
, and tall, spire-tipped Gothic architecture (note that most versions of the story of King Arthur
are depicted as if they were set in this era, though strictly speaking he belongs to Late Antiquity
). Expect to see a corrupt churchman
or two wandering the landscape burning witches
, heretics, and pretty much anyone
who doesnít agree with him
In actual history, this is the high spot between the Vikings and the Black Death. The modern nations began to take shape, and with them the foundations of the legal system and government bureaucracy. The first great European universities were founded as a renaissance began flickering into life, and then disaster struck. A combination of internal strife and climactic disaster, capped by the Black Death, brought the brief golden age to an end. Whole villages were swallowed up by the advancing wilds as civilisation retreated.
It is probably because it ended so badly that this period is remembered so well, the halycon days before the Black Death stalked the land, hence the idealised popular image of this time, which hasn't changed much in five centuries.
The setting is likely to be a mythologized Britain
, though there are examples from farther afield. Jerusalem
, which had pretty much been ignored since Biblical Times
, will now also be used as the stage for all sorts of spectacular battles involving scimitar-wielding Saracens
and sinisterly handsome Knights Templar
See The Middle Ages
for the more fantasticated version of this trope.
WARNING: Do not confuse with the French "Haut Moyen Age", which is a phrase literally meaning the same thing as "High Middle Ages" but refers to the period before (The Low Middle Ages
Popular tropes from this time period are
- Black Knight
- Chivalric Romance: The era they were written in — which helps explain the King Arthur stuff above.
- Christianity is Catholic: Though it was throughout most of Central and Western Europe, in Eastern Europe and the Near East, Orthodoxy was more prevalent; yet is much less common in fictional works (and officially, the final split came as late as 1054).
- Courtly Love
- The Crusades: These are a perennially favorite backdrop for medieval fiction.
- Feudal Overlord
- Gorgeous Period Dress: Though most people, even the nobility, were dressed in wool except on the most festive occasions, Hollywood noblemen and (especially) noblewomen are resplendent in silks, satins, and velvets (which werenít invented until late in the period) all the time.
- Historical-Domain Character: Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard The Lion Heart appear in a number of works set in this period.
- Historical Fiction: Due to the influence of Sir Walter Scott, this is one of the most common settings for this type of fiction.
- Knight in Shining Armor
- Lady and Knight
- Land of One City/ Merchant City : This was when the merchants were ariseing to form a third class to compete with the warriors and priesthood for power, often founding states of their own independant or semi-independant of the aristocracy, and even beating them on the battlefield.
- Swashbuckler: Only slightly less common as a setting for these than The Cavalier Years.
- Warrior Monk: Not only were there many militant churchmen like Bishop Turpin in The Song of Roland, but this was the era of the military religious orders such as The Knights Hospitallers, The Knights Templar, and The Teutonic Knights.
Works set in this time period are
- Dante's Divine Comedy, sort of (Hell, Purgatory and Heaven are effectively other dimensions, but most of the characters Dante meets are his close contemporaries).
- Sir Walter Scottís Ivanhoe (and all its film versions) and The Talisman (and its film version, King Richard and the Crusaders).
- Kristin Lavransdatter, a Nobel Prize-winning three-volume epic by Sigrid Undset, set in medieval Norway, is one of the most realistic depictions of this time period in fiction, especially interesting for its examination of feminism and religion in medieval life.
- Murder in the Cathedral
- The Pillars of the Earth is set during 'The Anarchy', the 12th-century English civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.
- The Wild Hunt Trilogy is set during the reign of the sons of William the Conqueror.
- Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine, France from The Royal Diaries series.
- The Accursed Kings is about France (and England, in a lesser extend) from the last decades of the High Middle Ages to the beginning of the Hundred Years War.
- Most of Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction is set in this time period.
- The Brother Cadfael series.
- Robin of Sherwood, which is cited as being one of the most faithfully accurate depictions of this era in television history.
- The main campaign in Medieval II: Total War starts shortly after the Norman Conquest of England (in fact, the game tutorial is the Norman Conquest of England) and the bulk of the game takes place in the High Middle Ages.
- Paradox Interactive's Crusader Kings 4X games. The base games both start at the very beginning of the Norman Conquest and run up through 1453, the historical fall of Constantinople, though expansions to the sequel extend the timeline back into Dark Age Europe.
- Assassin's Creed I
- The old Sierra adventure game Conquests of the Longbow.
- The beginning of the English campaign of Empire Earth is set during the Norman Conquest. It then reenact the Hundred Years War and the Napoleonic Wars.
- Most campaigns of Age of Empires II.
- The Stronghold series (minus Legends and Crusader) is set in an non-historical realistic High Middle Age England. Crusader is an heavily historically-based reenactement of the Crusades.
- The bulk of Knights of Honor play in the High Middle Ages. There's 3 starting points in time, and confusingly they are named Early, Middle and Late Middle Ages, but the dates don't really match up with Historical convention (the game's Early Middle Ages start at 1000 AD for instance).
- The Europe1200 and 1257 A.D. Game Mods for Mount & Blade.