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Norman Conquest Notes

History Notes > History of the British Isles II: 1042-1330 Notes

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Norman Conquest Tutorial Rhetoric of continuity
~ e.g. Laws of Edward the Confessor More power for royal officials - more centralised
~ Due to the Conquest or an entirely new system?
Mercenaries - undermines feudalism in terms of military power Threat from the North Domesday Calls English fyrd and mercenaries against Norman lords who rebel against him Feudalism has little to do with the military Orderic - new power structure created by handing out land for military service
~ Most military power relies on the familia regis and mercenaries
~ Feudal host is not as important
~ Domesday - feudal knights are not there are retired or do not have enough land Domesday is not used - not annotated, cross-referenced etc. Survey and Book are very different
~ Survey - tax
~ Book - military outcome Bishop of Worcester - effectively wrote his own entry To what extent was there a 'Harrying of the North'?
Much more difficult to assess the North for Domesday Violence in the north shows the limitations of state power Garnett - military consequences of new tenure not true All land from the king has major consequences - are these just short-term?
King legitimises the taking of land after the event
~ Lords hold from the antecessor in Domesday
~ Say they should have all the antecessor's land conflict 20 years after the Conquest, Domesday shows invaders to land - still conflict over land
~ Anarchic - not as the theory of terra regis 1077 writ - sheriffs must give church lands back Giving land away may be face-saving for lands that you have lost - much of this Inheritance is manipulated by the king Land is the major cause of discontent Kings promised to remove forest land and only have lawful reliefs - more in the 12th century

Kings could have greater levers in Anglo-Saxon times
~ Grant earls large amounts of land Castles - instruments of royal power or threats to the king?
~ Anglo-Saxon England - no private fortifications Importance of arbitrary violence e.g. mutilations

The Anglo-Saxon State and the Norman Conquest 1042-87 Dr Garnett Anglo-Saxon State - usually assumed to have been under Alfred
~ Most precocious political institution in early medieval Europe
~ Only exceeded by the Byzantium Empire Countrywide system of shires and hundreds - each had a public court
~ Hundreds continued under the Danish System of administration and justice were the same across the kingdom - unlike anywhere else in Europe
~ e.g. coinage reform under Edgar in 973 - crowned as Emperor of the whole of Britain
~ Uniform dies for coins but with identifying marks for the moneyer
~ Silver content was also the same
~ Remained legal tender for a fixed number of years - handed in, melted down and reminted
~ The king could therefore adjust the silver content of each issue Immense degree of central control - no need to itinerate constantly around the country
~ Had agents who acted in the locality in his name State - great degree of central control Simplest explanation is that Alfred had to wage a war of survival against Danish attackers who had settled in the country
~ Because England was conquered, it became very centralised
~ Not reconcilable with the sudden collapse when the Normans conquered England End of the 10th century and beginning of the 11th - series of fresh attacks from Scandinavia
~ Good at raising Danegeld to pay off these armies - yet less effective at sustaining military resistance to these armies 1016-18 following the death of Aethelred, Cnut successfully conquered the English kingdom
~ Cnut purged much of the existing English aristocracy - killed or exiled
~ Yet Cnut retained the governmental system
~ Only change was the division of the country into 4 earldoms - Essex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria
~ Much great aristocratic power in these areas than ever before Continued to rule in Norway and Denmark - required a king to be present
~ Delegated rule in England After Cnut's death in 1035, these earls undermined the coherence of the English kingdom Chaotic succession
~ Brief division between his 2 sons
~ Harthacnut summoned eldest surviving son of Aethelred
~ Harthacnut died within a year Edward the Confessor

Edward was convenient for Cnut's various earls
~ Married to the daughter of the most powerful earl, Godwin, Earl of Essex Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - more attention to reign of Edward the Confessor than to any other king 2 major rebellions in 1051-2 and in 1065 - Edward managed to survive 1051-2 King's attempt to ratify ecclesiastical appointments
~ Canterbury fell vacant and Edward appointed a conflicting man to Godwin's choice
~ Heart of Godwin's earldom > armed confrontation
~ Failed to erupt into open warfare - other earls sided with the king
~ Godwin and his sons retreated into exile into Flanders and Ireland invaded in 1052
~ Godwin and his sons were restored to their earldoms The local people were more loyal to Godwin than their king Anglo-Saxon Chronicle suggests that earls sided with the king due to national loyalty Mid 11th century - administration was disintegrating because it was no longer in the king's hands 1065 - Northumbrians rebelled against the Earl that the king had appointed
~ Chose Tostig - younger son of Earl Godwin
~ Tostig was apparently the king's favourite Tostig's elder brother, Harold, is seen as responsible for inciting the Northumbrians to revolt
~ Rebellion was due to rivalry between Godwin's sons The king was forced to replace Tostig with someone whom the Northumbrians found more congenial Harold had to rush north in 1066 to stop a rebellion of his elder brother and Harold Hardrada
~ Was not in the south for William's invasion In the mid-1050s, Edward and Edgar were brought back from Hungarian exile
~ Nephew died suspiciously quickly
~ Although the son, Edgar, was kept at the royal court, he was not treated in the correct way
~ Didn't attest any of the charters or given any of the customary estates
~ Didn't succeed Edward as king
~ Marginalised by Harold, Earl of Wessex - apparently designated as heir by Edward Anglo-Saxon Chronicle agrees that Edward designated the kingdom to him Other sources claim that Harold usurped the kingdom - used Edward's funeral mass as his coronation mass
~ Abbot of Bury St Edmunds - was also the king's doctor closest account
~ Very different to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle English sources say nothing about Edward designating William as heir Only 11th century sources that mention it are post-Conquest Norman sources

~ Place designation ~1051-2 This mechanism for succession has no precedent in England - it is a Norman tradition Absence of any common ground between English and Norman sources until one reaches the day of Edward the Confessor's death
~ e.g. Harold's oath to William
~ Key point in Norman case against him becoming king Duke William presented himself as the legitimate heir and successor
~ Whole kingdom had been bequeathed to him Elaborate pretence at continuity King Harold was progressively transformed from being a usurper to not being king at all The kingdom now became William's in a sense that it had never actually been Edward the Confessor's Anglo-Saxon England - varied types of land tenure Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - English were forced to redeem/buy back their land from William Attempt to demonstrate continuity severed continuity with Anglo-Saxon England Centralised government was now linked with a tenurial centralisation
~ England was now doubly unique Cnut's aristocracy was eradicated - replaced by Frenchmen
~ The power of the earls ceased to be a factor
~ Earl replacements were temporary and ad hoc and were often removed Domesday Book - compiled in 1086 and purports to record shire by shire who held what of the king and to give a detailed description of it
~ 3 specific points in time - 1086, when the land was given by the king, tempore regis Edwardi (TRE)
~ Actually means the day of Edward's death When the land was given is often missed out Now and TRE are nearly always included Control of the past was of fundamental importance to the king
~ There had to be a precise point of reference for the massive redistribution of land
~ The last day when the kingdom had been legitimately held prior to William's arrival Rights were calculated in reference to the antecessor The king's own right to the kingdom provided a template for every other person's right Book divides each shire up into tenancies-in-chief
~ Include lands held by bishops and abbots as well as laymen
~ Ecclesiastical territories tended to be little altered by the Conquest
~ Secular lands tended to be totally reorganised The very concept of the antecessor implies that the very legitimacy of tenure was dependent upon the legitimacy of the king
~ Not the case in Anglo-Saxon England
~ Continuity had been severed 1st August 1086 - presentation of Domesday Book at Salisbury

By this point there was only one surviving version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
~ All landholding men were there and swore oaths to the king Transformation in the nature of tenure
~ Was to some extent concealed by the pretence at continuity Transformation in the relationship between bishops and abbots and the king
~ After the Conquest they were created only when the king granted them the lands of their office
~ Tenure of office was dependent upon tenure of lands
~ Required homage to be done to the king The lands of the church reverted to the king after death - kept until he decided to grant them out again Ceremony at Salisbury was for the tenants to do homage to the king - drew a line under the redistribution of land
~ Created a link between the king and the subtenants - no longer depended solely on their lords as their lords depended solely on the king
~ England had not become a feudal pyramid - many of the tenants had a direct link to the king
~ Difficult for the tenants in chief - especially the lay tenants-in-chief

Conquest and Colonisation: The Normans in Britain, 1066-1100 - B. Golding (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001) pp. 1-193 Preface Assumption that assimilation occurred quickly and that there was no permanent, longterm disjunction
~ Recent ideas - the Norman penetration of England and to a lesser extent of Wales and Scotland before 1100 proceeded fitfully and was by no means assured of success until the 1070s

The Sources For most contemporary chroniclers in Europe it was a quarrel about people who lived far away - few noticed it and those that did sometimes got the date wrong Anglo-Saxon and Norman writers were concerned with it
~ Yet they assessed it as a trial by battle - did not question God's judgement 'D' version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - Normans were granted victory at Hastings 'because of the sins of the people'
~ Fullest native account - ends in 1079 Were other versions that are now lost that were used by the Worcester chroniclers, Florence and John, early in the 12th century United by a sense of loss and resignation to the will of God Anglo-Saxon Chronicle had been a court-centred chronicle of Wessex - replaced this with a history for the defeated Others intended to fill historical gaps
~ William of Malmesbury
~ Eadmer in his life of Anselm Different perspective on the Conquest across the Channel William of Poitiers - the English who fell at Hastings 'rightly incurred their doom' William of Jumieges - their death was divine punishment for the alleged murder of Alfred, Edward the Confessor's elder brother, by the Godwine faction in 1036
~ Gesta Normannorum Ducum - compared them with the Romans and Greeks Orderic Vitalis - both dedicated their works to William in the hope of his favour Carmen de Hastingae Proelio - 'Song of the Battle of Hastings' The Bayeux Tapestry remains the most analysed For whom was it intended and what message was it meant to convey?
Harold is by no means wholly vilified and is presented throughout as an heroic fighting man
~ Consistently styled rex The duke of Normandy remained the nominal vassal of the king of France - was now king of England irresolvable tensions Orderic's Ecclesiastical History wrote with hindsight and long after the military subjugation of England - finished in 1141

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