Episode 1 The Peasant – The stereotype of the medieval peasant is a toothless, filthy, ignorant wretch, a slave to his feudal lord and master. Terry Jones discovers a very different reality. They had more holidays than us, very often their houses were bigger, they frequently ate better and arguably had more influence in the corridors of power. The average peasant was, in fact, pretty intelligent.
Episode 2 The Monk – A life of prayer in peaceful service to God? Not for many medieval monks, who devoted their lives to making lots and lots of money. Religion was big business in those days and the merchandising opportunities endless when you had a constant stream of devoted, unquestioning worshippers.
Episode 3 The Damsel – Passive, shy, helpless, in distress and in need of rescue? It may have been centuries before the Women’s Liberation, but medieval damsels had control over their lives. Some ran businesses, others led armies. Not only were many women strong, powerful and sexually confident, it wasn’t unknown for a damsel to abduct a knight. One famous example produced the Scottish hero, Robert the Bruce.
Episode 4 The King – There were three medieval King Richards of England (I, II and III respectively), or so history textbooks tell us. Richard the Lionheart spent most of his life fighting battles and only six months of his 10-year reign in England. Richard II was murdered to prevent a popular uprising against those who deposed him. As for “child murderer” Richard III, his disfigurements were probably inventions. We may not even have a true record of the medieval kings. Terry Jones uncovers evidence of a King Louis.
Episode 5 The Knight – While many may know the earthy humor of Chaucer or Rabelais, few know the dark side of chivalry, or that serfs and women were not downtrodden at all. Noble hero in shining armour? Or murdering, looting rapist? Discover some unsavoury truths, and the dark side of chivalry.
Episode 6 The Philosopher – Since the age of science and reason, the Middle Ages has been dismissed as a period shrouded in ignorance and superstition. But the reputation of medieval scientists, known then as philosophers, has been unfairly blackened. They understood far more than we give them credit for, and had a more ethical approach that we could learn from today.
Episode 7 – The Outlaw – Outlaws, men like Robin Hood, dressed in tights and little short tunics, living in the forest and fearlessly standing up for justice for the common man. But did a Medieval outlaw like this ever exist, or is it just part of a widely believed myth? Terry Jones travels Britain and Europe in search of the answer to this very question.
Episode 8 The Minstrel – We usually see the minstrel as a jolly and free man, who was popular with the kings and with the ladies. But was it really like that? Terry Jones investigates what we think we know about Medieval life, and finds some unexpected insights.