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Europe in the Middle Ages, pt. 3 - The Norman Conquest

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Victor Cohen

on 26 April 2016

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Transcript of Europe in the Middle Ages, pt. 3 - The Norman Conquest

Europe in the Middle Ages, pt.3 - The Norman Conquest
Otto I - Holy Roman Emperor
His Empire
Whose monastery is it, anyway?
Norman Invasion of England, September 1066
William, Duke of Normandy - contender #2 for the throne of England, 1066
Emma of Normandy - mother of
Edward the Confessor, wife of
Ethelred, King of England, great-aunt
of William, Duke of Normandy
Harold Godwinson is not only a good warrior - as Earl of Wessex, he also rules from the traditional seat of Anglo-Saxon power in England, making him very "English."

But while his reign starts well . . .
Harold swears the oath, returns to England
The backstory - Harold, sent to Normandy by Edward the Confessor in 1064, is captured, and not allowed to leave until he swears an oath on holy relics (surprise) to support William. It's an oath "under duress" so Harold is not that worried he'll be held accountable to it. After the oath, he is set free to return to England.
1066 - Edward dies, and Harold is crowned - Long live the King! But then . . .
Death of Harold at the Battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066
Sheriff - or Shire Reeve
Shires of England
Entry in Doomsday Book - note the way it identifies ownership under Edward, and indicates the number of peasants on the land, as well as animals.
King Henry I 1100 - 1135 - William's Son
King Henry II 1154-1189 - Henry I's Grandson
These two descendents of William furthered the development of the law and an even more centralized bureaucracy.
1. Circuit judges deployed even more regularly, and acquired new powers to investigate sheriffs and supervise all details of local administration. Through these judges, Henry II was in direct contact with all parts of his kingdom, which received a more uniform enforcement of his power. Charlemagne dreamed of this, but could never accomplish it.
Richard Lionheart - Henry II's son
1189 - 1199
King John - Richard's brother
1199 - 1216
King John signing the Magna Carta - June 15, 1215
Archbishop of Cantebury, Thomas Becket
Pope - bishop of Rome, all diocese
Archibishop - head of bishops in a country's diocese
Bishop - head of diocese (parishes in a district)
Priest - head of parish
Abbot - head of monastery, monks

France 30 years before the Norman invasion of England
Cnut "The Great" - son of the most recent Viking invader of England (Swein "Forkbeard"), was King of England - from 1016 - 1035.
Ethelred "The Unready" - since losing the English crown to Cnut in 1016, had been living in Normandy with his wife Emma, a Norman, and their son Edward.
Edward "the Confessor" - rules England from 1042 - 1066. He had no children, and so had no descendent to pass on the crown.
Then, the Duke of Normandy claims that Edward (the previous king of England)
promised him the throne - and so therefore England should be his.
In many respects, we've heard this story before - a land grab by Vikings, combined with a very "post-Roman" problem - how to deal with the transfer of power. Yet - surprisingly - this story ends with the beginnings of a modern administrative government and a more secure and stable Europe.
William "the Conqueror" becomes King of England, December 25, 1066 and rules until 1087. Still a vassal of the King of France, though.
In April 1066, shortly after Harold is crowned - a comet lights up
the sky for a week and is taken for a bad omen, a "sign from
the Almighty warning the people of dreadful troubles ahead."
Norman Conquest Timeline
Bayeux Tapestry, created in 1070 at William's command, tells the story of the Norman invasion embroidered on a 230-ft strip of linen, read from left to right.
Yet the Doomsday Book - 1086 - was an incredible achievement. It established the administrative basis for a general tax - a unique feature in all of Europe.
Because of this system, Anglo-Saxon kings had developed a much more vigorous economy. There were 60 mints in England making coins three times a year. This helped to keep the king rich in wealth and land, and kept feudalism under-developed by keeping the king much richer than his lords.
Why Care About William's Invasion?
William's most significant contribution to this process?
What made this achievement possible? Not some advanced
Norman accounting practice, but the system Anglo-Saxon
kings already used to tax and control their kingdom, the
same tool these rulers used that by chance kept feudalism
from developing in England as it did in France - the shire / sheriff.
The shire system came into being after the English had kicked the Danes out and reconquered the Danelaw.
Henry I (1100 - 1135): justice and revenue
The jury system under Henry II
What was justice like before Henry II?
Henry II also wanted to reform the power of church courts, which retained the power to excuse the accused even from murder - because the church could not order such a punishment.
Henry II claimed that even church men found guilty in church court should be handed over to an ordinary court - and the bishops opposed him, claiming the king had no right to contest the rule of the church.
All these developments - a legal system more important than the rule of god, a taxation system that all are accountable to - led to the development of a
tremendous conflict between the church, the lords, and the king - which was resolved by setting limits on the king's power, and the creation of a group charged with supervising the ruling of a country alongside the king - the English Parliament.
After Cnut's death, and the
death of his two sons, the crown went to Edward, son of the last Anglo-Saxon king, Ethelred.
Edward, upon Cnut's death, takes the crown in 1042. As a descendent
of the Anglo-Saxon rulers of England, Edward was welcomed, and reigned until 1066.
This is a problem.
Edward finally - on his deathbed - names Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, the next king. This seems like a good choice, since Harold is the commander of Edward's army, and the brother of Edward's queen.
The first real sign of trouble - Harald Hardrada, the King of Norway (another Viking) lays claim to the throne.
Helping him is Harold's treacherous brother, Tostig, who was banished from England the previous year.
Harald Hadrada, contender #1 for the throne of England, 1066
Even worse - William claimed that Harold Godwinson had also promised him the throne years ago - swearing it to him on a sacred relic - when Harold was a prisoner in Normandy.
How will it end? Does Anglo-Saxon rule of England come to and end? Does a Viking take the throne of England (again)? Or will the descendent of a Viking (William) get the throne?
Regardless of how it ends - note that in 1066, approximately 600 years since Rome has "fallen" - it is still quite challenging to rule and to transfer power. It is a violent world, and the most violent are those who become rulers.
1042-66 - Reign of Edward the Confessor
1064 - Harold's oath to William
1066 - January 6 - Harold crowned King
April - Halley's Comet
September 25 - Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harald Hadrada and Tostig - defeated!
October 14 - Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson defeated!
December 25 - William, Duke of Normandy, crowned King of England
1. Though England's army was strong, it was not as developed as the Norman feudal army, the most developed fighting force in Europe. There were no great duchies in England - and so no great armies, either. Feudalism can now create entire countries - and kings.
2. William - as the ruler of England - preserved all the powers of the Anglo-Saxon king and added to them the power of a feudal lord - controlling those beneath him by calling their lands fiefs - which could be confiscated if they disobeyed. William is sharp enough to use feudalism to stabilize his rule.
The Norman Conquest - feudalism at its best.
Not only does William create a powerful and stable kingdom - he also sets in motion the processes that enable England to rise above other medieval political bodies.
At least in these ways, the "dark" elements of
the middle ages begin to recede, as the modern nation-state begins to emerge.
The Doomsday Book
. He creates an exhaustive survey - a census - of how much his new kingdom is worth - so he can tax it more efficiently.
He has his officers write down in a single book what everybody - in every village in England - owns, down to how many peasants, livestock (pigs, cows . . .) are on a manor. And he even finds out who owned what before his invasion.
The survey was begun in 1085, and finished in 1086. It was wildly unpopular, unsurprisingly, since everyone knew what the end result of this survey would be - taxes.
Those who tried to falsify records were punished harshly - leading the populace to compare the proceedings to Judgement Day, and to name the record of ownership itself "The Doomsday Book."
You can visit it in the Public Record Office in London, today. It's held in two volumes, totaling 913 pages.
The shires were counties, with a village in the center. Each shire was given its own court - or "shire moot" - which met twice a year and was attended by a royal official called an "ealdorman"or "eorl" who was the king's representative in the area - and who in wartime would lead the shire's forces.
These figures had a great deal of power - Harold Godwinson was an eorl. Over time, these nobles passed their ordinary duties on to a shire-reeve, which William made great use of when he took England over as king.
By contrast - Frankish kingdoms, and the Normans, only minted coins once every three generations. But since they had the most amazing military . . .
Circuit Judges
: To further enhance the power of the king over his lords, Henry established "circuit judges" - sent out when disputes occur between lords, and were higher in rank than sheriffs.
The Office of the Exchequer
. To better monitor the tax collecting practices of the sheriffs, Henry I created the office of the "Exchequer" - the royal accounting office. Here, sheriffs would appear twice a year to present their tax revenue to a group of the king's closest advisors.
Henry I (1100 - 1135): justice and revenue
This further enhanced the king's power by making his office even wealthier - as opposed to other medieval rulers who steadily lost income to lords who were able to increase their own wealth. Even though England was thinly populated - Henry I was at least as strong (in this way) as the king of a much larger country - France.
While a sheriff might be an important local, the circuit judge came right from the king's court, and had more experience with dealings between lords in the king's interest. They also further solidified the king's rule as the law of the land.
The Jury System
.To further enhance the validity of his rule, Henry II made even greater use of an old-fashioned system previous medieval rulers had sometimes used to settle disputes - the jury system. A jury was a fact-finding organization before this - not a decision-making body. Juries were used to complete the Doomsday book, for example.
Henry II (1154 - 1189): more justice and revenue
Henry II (1154 - 1189): more justice and revenue
Under Henry II - any man of standing - a landowner, or knight - could be called in to weigh facts in a dispute, and almost all feudal disputes about property were now settled in this way. They also raised more revenue for the king, who took a percentage of all disputes that the jury settled.
1. increased revenue to the king;
2. helped insure uniformity of the application of the law;
3. created a system of justice that could function without direct supervision by the king.
1. Juries decided on verdict before meeting;
2. Guilt or innocence was determined finally
by "ordeal" - the accused was ordered to carry
a hot bar of iron - if not burned, innocent - or
they were plunged into water - if they didn't
rise - innocent.
3. Normans introduced "ordeal" by battle to
settle disputes between knights or barons - God
would give victory to the innocent - and each
side could hire a "champion."
Of course - the real issue was who had more power -
the church, or the king? Whose law was the one people had to obey? The king's law - or the church?
In 1162 - Henry II appoints Thomas Becket, his close friend, Archbishop of Cantebury, the head of the English Church, in an effort to push the church his way.
Becket - never a religious man - undergoes a religious conversion, and sides with the church. In 1172, Henry has Becket killed - and in 1173 Becket is canonized - becoming a saint. But Henry II makes his point - the king has jurisdiction over the church.
This comes about as the result of the curious relationship between two royal brothers, sons of Henry II - Richard "the Lionhearted" and King John, and the Crusades.
So - with the Norman invasion of England, what emerges is:
A feudal kingdom that can raise taxes effectively to fund a well-developed army, and to maintain a stable transition between rulers.
In this way, England, as a modern nation, is born.
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