Five Medieval Stories that would make great TV series
It is said that we are in a golden age of television – or at least we are getting to see a wide range of quality programs coming mainly from services like Netflix and cable channels like HBO. This includes several shows that are based (at least loosely) on the Middle Ages – Game of Thrones, Vikings and Marco Polo to name a few.
We at Medievalists.net are eager for more medieval TV, so we want to share a few ideas for possible shows – and hope that some executive producers are reading this! Here are five programs that we think could be the next big hit:
The Black Prince
Looking for some teen drama? How about being the crowned prince of your country and leading thousands of soldiers, and you are just 16? Throw in the fact that you are really in love with your childhood sweetheart, but she is already married. There is a lot that can be done with the story of Edward the Black Prince, the son of King Edward III of England. Born in 1330, as a little boy he is surrounded by court intrigue and warfare. He would go on to be one of the best military commanders of his age, fighting for his father in the Hundred Years War against France.
Then you have his relationship with Joan, the Fair Maiden of Kent – she also grew up in the court of King Edward III, but that was because her father had been executed by the King’s mother, so you can imagine she might have some issues with this arrangement. Joan and the Black Prince had about a two-year age difference, so one can see the romantic possibilities here. However, it is not destined to go smoothy, but in the end will their love for each other conquer all (including the fact that one of them has secretly married?)
The Murder of Charles the Good
If you want blood and mayhem, with a lot of dramatic twists, then this series has what you are looking for. The opening scene would have a gang of knights brutally murdering Charles, Count of Flanders, as he prayed in a church. These events, which happened in Bruges in the year 1127, would soon spiral into chaos, with the murderers besieged by the people of Bruges. The lines between good and evil get blurred here, as those on both sides of the siege have their own agendas. With the Kings of France and England getting involved in the civil war that consumes the county of Flanders, one cannot be sure which side will prevail.
The Crime of the (14th) Century
If we are looking for a crime drama, how about one of the greatest heists of all time – in the year 1303 someone broke into the King’s Treasury at Westminster Abbey and stole £100,000, which would be worth more than £80 million in today’s money. The original story offers a good outline of the event, but it can be expanded with the first part of the series following the criminals plan to steal the treasure, and the second half about the hunt (in True Detective style) through the underworld of medieval London to catch the thieves.
Imagine The Walking Dead, except that instead of having hordes of zombies trying to kill you, you have hordes of Mongols. In the year 1241, a huge Mongol army emerges from the Steppes to invade the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarians fight valiantly, but at the Battle of Mohi are crushed by the Mongol forces, and within weeks the kingdom is in chaos. Our story, based on the account left by churchman Master Roger (“my hair stood on end, my body shivered with fear, my tongue stuttered miserably, for I saw that the inevitable moment of dreadful death was menacing me. I already beheld my murderers in my mind’s eye; my body exuded the cold sweat of death.”) would follow a group of survivors (knights, peasants, priests) as they try to escape from the Mongols, moving around through a ruined and empty land, trying to avoid capture, which means either slavery or death.
One of the greatest sagas written in medieval Iceland, the story of Burnt Njal would make an excellent T.V. series. Set at the turn of the first millennium, just as the island accepted Christianity, it would follow the two close friends, Gunnarr Hámundarson and Njáll Þorgeirsson, as they make their way through a world of blood feuds. It does not help that their wives hate each other. The characters in this story are complex and interesting, and themes of honour and manliness are explored.
You can learn more about the history of these show ideas:
Edward and Joan in Love in the Time of Plague
Our video feature on the Murder of Charles the Good
The article A Mediaeval Burglary