From 1848 Archer specialised in subjects from medieval history and literature. In 1862 he settled permanently in London. Much of his work, including Emelye, shows the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites including Millais and Rossetti. In the Knight's story from Chaucer's poem, ‘The Canterbury Tales’, the maiden Emelye, "Fairer than the lily, Fresher than the May with flowers new", is the heroine of a medieval romance. She rises at dawn to pick white roses (symbol of both purity and love) and unwittingly inspires love-at-first-sight in two knights, who thus become rivals.