The story of The Heretic's Tomb takes place in the mid fourteenth century, when England and the rest of Europe was in the grip of the deadly plague known as the Black Death.
The first cases of the Black Death in England occurred during the reign of Edward III in the summer of 1348, and the disease spread quickly. By autumn, the plague had reached London, killing nearly half of the city’s 70,000 inhabitants. Over the next two years, between thirty and forty percent of the English population, or approximately two million people, died of the plague. In Europe as a whole, it is estimated that at least twenty-five million people died between 1347 and 1351. Outbreaks continued to occur periodically for centuries and the plague did not disappear from Europe until the eighteenth century.