The Middle Ages were a time of change in Europe in which the rule of law was still being established and defined in many Medieval kingdoms. While the laws of the time were very different from those of the modern age, the crimes of theft, murder and rape were just as common in those days as they were in any epoch of history.
We tend to think of this period as a time of lawlessness that would make the Wild West look tame. While this was not exactly true for all of Medieval Europe, it was a period in which the rule of law and order often broke down. This allowed these famous criminals to pillage and plunder their way across their respective countries and write their names in the history books of infamy.
Geoffrey Of Mandeville
When Henry I of England died without a male heir, it sent the country into a state of chaos. Two potential monarchs, Matilda, daughter of Henry and Stephen Blois battled each other for the throne.
The most famous outlaw from this period of anarchy was a nobleman from East Anglia, Geoffrey of Mandeville. During the feud for the crown, Geoffrey played both sides and alternated his loyalties depending upon his own interests at the time. This would eventually backfire when Stephen grew powerful enough to pursue Geoffrey who flead and lived the life of a full-fledged outlaw until his death in a skirmish of 1144.
Seguin de Badefol
During John II of France's wars with England, he employed several mercenary companies to aid the Royal Army. The Margot, the largest and most feared of these, was led by Seguin de Badefol.
After John was defeated by the Black Prince and the war was lost, these mercenary companies turned to outright banditry. Seguin's band was the most feared and terrorized much of eastern France. His most famous accomplishment was uniting the bands of thieves and mercenaries into "The Great Company" when the Royal Army moved against them. In one of the most stunning victories of the time, The Great Company defeated John's armies, giving them free reign over much of the country until his death four years later.
Eustace The Monk
Formerly an English monk, Eustace turned to the life of a pirate and became the most feared in the English Channel. His ships were alternately hired by the English and the French to fight against the other. In 1212, Eustace fully defected to the French side but was eventually defeated and captured by England in 1217.
Robert Fitz Hubert
Another sellsword who made his name during the anarchy that followed the death of Henry I, Robert Fitz Hubert was the most feared mercenary of the time. Immediately upon his arrival in England, he captured Malmesbury Castle, but instead of claiming it for Stephen as he had been paid to, he named himself lord and switched sides.
Hubert would go on to fight for Matilda for a short time before going back to trying to carve out a kingdom for himself between Winchester and London. He was eventually tricked and captured by John the Marshall.
Owain Red Hand
The last descendant of the Welsh kings of Gwynedd, Owain Lawgoch, also known as Owain Red Hand, dedicated his life to winning back his kingdom and terrorizing the English. He fought for France during the Hundred Years War and led a fearsome band of warriors known as the Guglers. Owain was eventually assasinated by an English agent.
Roger de Flor
Roger de Flor was a member of the Knights Templar before his disgraceful conduct and extortions led to his banishment from the order. De Flor would then turn to piracy and was relatively successful on the seas. However, his true talent was fighting on land, and he was given his perfect opportunity when the King of Aragon signed a peace treaty in 1302.
The peace left thousands of battle-hardened Catalan warriors unemployed and resteless. De Flor recruited over 6,000 of these men into a fearsome band of mercenaries known as the Catalan Company.
The Catalan Company
The fearsome group of mercenaries formed by Roger de Flor deserve their own slide. After de Flor was murdered, the Byzantines believed the Company would collapse and be easily defeated. They were sorely mistaken.
They would go on to win successive battles over the Byzantine Empire and eventually carve out a kingdom for themselves in Greece that would last for 80 years.
A Bulgarian bandit who created an army during the Byzantine Civil War, Hajduk Momcilo was one of the most skilled turncoats of all-time. Between 1343 and 1345, Momcilo switched sides no less than four times before creating his own power in the borderlands.
He eventually became such a threat to the area, that the Byzantines and Turks joined forces against him and eventually defeated his army at the city of Peritheorion.
Adam the Leper
During the middle of the 14th century, England experienced something of a crime wave. During this period of turmoil, the most infamous bandit was Adam the Leper.
Adam's exploits usually included raiding caravans and robbing merchants, but his best-known occured when he discovered the location of the queen's jewelry. When the jeweler refused to give in to the Leper's demands, Adam set fire to his home until the jewels were thrown out.
Arnaud de Cervole was Archpriest of Velines unitl he discovered he was better suited to the life of a mercenary. The Archpriest formed the first Great Company in the mid-fourteenth century and captured many cities in western and central Europe for various employers. However, he is most famous for essentially taking the Pope hostage in 1358 by surrounding Avignon and demanding 20,000 florins to leave.
The notorious Bavarian bandit, black magician and killer, Peter Niers is said to have killed or assisted in the killing of 544 people. During his crime wave of 15 years, he not only raped and killed his victims, but also forced them into Satanic rituals and is said to have eaten many of them as well.
"The Werewolf of Bedburg" wins the award for most gruesome killer on our list. Peter Stumpp was a one-armed farmer in Germany who killed 14 children and at least two pregnant women over the course of 25 years. After being captured, Stumpp admitted to not only killing them, but drinking their blood and eating the fetuses of the pregnant women.
The most famous conman of the Reneissance, Giuseppe Balsamo, also known as Alessandro Cagliostro, was an alchemist, magician and overall trickster. Although he never admitted guilt, he is best known for his role in the "Diamond Necklace Affair."
Pierre Burgot, Michel Verdun and Philibert Montot
In the 16th century, a French peasant named Pierre Burgot came under the Satanic thrall of several black-clad figures, including a man named Michel Verdun. Bugot claims he was then given an oitment that transformed him into a wolf.
Along with Philibert Montot, these men became known as the "Werewolves of Poligny" and were responsible for the murders of dozens of men, women and children in Medieval France.
When Jasper Hanebuth took up arms to support his nation in the Thirty Years' War, his farm was raided and burned, and his family was slaughtered. Instead of rebuilding the farm, he became a mercenary for the Swedes and eventually took up the life of an outlaw.
Hanebuth is a legend in Hamburg, and even to this day, the city grapples with his legacy.