The Golden Age of Medieval Nostalgia

The 14th century was a period of great upheaval. People yearned for the good old days, when everyone knew their place, prices were lower and kings were better.

Louis IX feeding the poor and washing their feet, from the Grandes Chroniques de France, 1370-75. Bibliothèque nationale de France.

‘In my day, the kingdom was as good and as full as an egg.’ So the late-14th-century knight Philippe de Mézières expressed his longing for the old days: ‘Things have changed a lot I feel’, he mourned, plaintively. It is an odd image, but a very recognisable sentiment; nostalgia is a way of responding to change and perceived decline, which resonates across the centuries. It is an emotion with a universal quality, but it is also one which peaks in periods of extreme instability. Profound change seems often to bring a wave of nostalgia, and so it was in the 14th century.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.