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Charlemagne/ William the Conqueror/ Magna Carta
Transcript of Charlemagne/ William the Conqueror/ Magna Carta
From the Fall of Rome circa 449ad (5th century)
Birth of European Feudalism
Needing more control, kings had begun giving
or portions of land to aristocratic nobility, known as
In return for the gift of land, they would offer the king their allegiance and raise armies to protect their land; but their first official duty was to fight for the king should challengers arise.
In turn, vassals would also offer protection to the peasantry who farmed the land. These peasants gained the name serfs. Obviously, the life of the serf was far from glamorous, but it was offered protection in a very chaotic time, making it possible to govern and protect large territories in the absence of a centralized government.
From Feudalism to Middle ages
Feudalism is a system of government in which power is based on land ownership.
In this system, all land is officially owned by the sovereign but divided among the nobility.
Charlemagne will be our cat, and the unruly people groups of Europe will be our mice. As we take a look at our cat and his mice, we'll also undercover the role feudalism played in their interactions.
War, what is it good for?
Although feudalism did offer some stability, it had one very large drawback. Since each noble raised an army to defend his own fief, the nobility became very powerful. As their power increased, they began warring among themselves. With this, Western Europe found itself continually in turmoil.
Although feudalism is usually linked to the time of Charlemagne, its roots go back to the 5th century fall of Rome when the people of Europe, or tribes, began fighting for domination. To say the least, it was a violent and dangerous time, and although the leaders of these tribes were usually referred to as kings, their power was not absolute, and they were always in danger of being overthrown by a challenger. In other words, they were a bit closer to kittens than big cats! Enter the Holy Roman Emperor
The Europe in which William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, came on the scene and made his mark in at a very early age,was the topsy turvy medieval period...Falling apart since the end of the Carolingian period, he also succeeded in unifying the primitive city/states under his power. Now remember, he did this during the Dark Ages, so obviously this guy had some smarts and some military might.
enter Holy Roman Emperor
Enter Charlemagne, our big cat. Although he continued to use the system of feudalism, he made sure his mice were under his firm control. To understand how he did this, we'll focus on two main things: his military conquests, which he used to forcibly unite the modern day areas of Northern Spain and Italy, through France, Germany and even Poland, under one faith, thus laying the ground work for what become the Holy Roman Empire: it is believed he ordered the slaughter of about 4,500 Saxons. Those who survived his tyranny were eventually forced to be baptized into Christianity or face death.
The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious ideology that recognizes a monarch as free from any earthly authority since his right to rule has come directly from God. For this reason, a king is not subject to the people, the nobility or any other earthly institution. Taking it a step further, the doctrine holds that any attempt to remove a king from the throne or to restrict his powers is in direct violation of God's will and punishable by damnation.
As king of the Franks, or modern-day France,
Charlemagne wielded an impressive fighting machine. However, when the Pope crowned him emperor, Charlemagne's power went from being seen as earthly to being endorsed by God himself, which brings us to the concept of the divine right of kings.
This famous crowning occurred on
Christmas day in the year 800
Feudal lords were beginning to realize that they could make a lot more profit by charging rents on free peasants than they could by manning their own fields with serfs. Freed from the land at last, many of these free peasants left their farms to find fortune in the city.Meanwhile, labor saving technologies were freeing up human beings from many time consuming tasks. By the 12th century, Europeans had harnessed horses, the wind and rivers to do work that people used to do. This meant that it took far fewer people to run a farm. Instead of digging in the dirt with sticks or grinding grains by hand, people could pursue skilled trades in Europe's growing cities and leave the grinding and digging to horses and mills. e had had time to set up archers and a well-oiled cavalry of armed knights. When they finally met, Harold's tired foot soldiers were no match for William's fighting arsenal.
Battle of Hastings,
William the Conqueror was crowned King of England on December 25th, 1066. By 1086, he'd recorded over 6,000 watermills in England alone.Unfortunately for William and England, he spent the beginning of his English reign trying to suppress revolts. The revolts were so numerous he ordered what has come to be known as the Harrying of the North, in which he ordered the burning of farms, killing of livestock, and murder of many across the English countryside. It's estimated this action saw the deaths of over 100,000 people.
William also ordered a census of sorts that included all of England. This census recorded all the landholding of England: who owned what land, what they owned on the land, what livestock lived on the land, and even the equipment owned was recorded.
1066 Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror
The political structure of the Dark Ages is known as
. Within this system, the wealthy, usually called lords, owned land known as a manor. The peasant class worked on these manors and in turn were given food, shelter, and protection. Since wars were usually waging, outside trading opportunities were very scarce. To provide for themselves, manors were self-sustaining, producing what was needed for survival.
All of this was then compiled in what is known as the Domesday Book, and he collected more taxes than Charlemagne could ever have imagined with it. It is also when we get the Robin Hood tales. Obviously not everyone was happy with this new idea.
Like Charlemagne, he instilled fear
and he helped to unify people in
dark times. But it wasn't until the
end of the Middle Ages (1066-1485)
that corrupt powers of the Church
and State would become more
King Arthur and the Rise of the Chivalric Romance
Eleanor of Aquitaine (French: 1122 -1204) was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages
We are skipping ahead to the High Middle Ages, which spanned from the 11th to the 13th century, the Catholic Church had a considerable amount of power. The Pope's influence expanded to secular politics and even military actions. In the 11th century, the Pope called for Christians to fight against the Muslims to reclaim the Holy Land, called a Crusade. A lot of people died and witches burned; people began to question the medieval ideas of Church power and Church purity as well as the societal roles of old class systems.
Charlemagne promoted literacy. He founded monastery schools throughout the empire with the intention of creating a new uniform script for copying texts, the development of textbooks for teaching Latin to non-Latin speakers. Not out of the kindness of his heart but as a way to control dirty smelly barbaric knights, the Aurthur tales presumably enforced a code of chivalry and proper attitude towards marriage in the sweaty ranks of warriors.
Henry II is the first king of England's Plantagenet dynasty, France. Yes, I did say France, not England. The term Plantagenet comes from the yellow flower his family held as its emblem. Known to history as one of England's strongest kings, Henry II ruled from 1154 CE to 1189 CE. Not only did this powerhouse rule England, he married the ex-wife of the king of France. Her name was Eleanor of Aquitaine.
So what? By all accounts, Eleanor was extroverted, lively, intelligent, and strong-willed. Her father ensured that she had the best possible education. Eleanor's conduct was repeatedly criticized by church elders however, as she had worldly ideas not befitting a woman at her time. Indeed some believe that Eleanor’s court in Poitiers was the "Court of Love", where Eleanor and her daughter Marie meshed and encouraged the ideas of troubadours, chivalry, and courtly love into a single court. It may have been largely to teach manners, as the King Arthur tales serve to civilize his knights. The existence and reasons for this court are debated.
Some scholars believe that the "court of love" probably never existed, since the only evidence for it is Andreas Capellanus’ book. Andreas wrote for the court of the king of France, where Eleanor was not held in esteem, and may have been making fun of them; suggesting that if the court did exist, it was not taken very seriously, and that acts of courtly love were just a “parlor game” made up by Eleanor and Marie in order to place some order over the young courtiers living there.
However, as literature is a reflection of not a mirror image but of how people view the times, let's look at this interesting author who did impact the world as much as Dante, Cervantes and Shakespeare...
(Skipping ahead a little in time to explain...King John, he's the ruthless prince depicted in the famous tales of Robin Hood, besides being Robin Hood's bad guy, John is most famous for the 1215 signing of the Magna Carta. In this über famous document, which the nobles of England pretty much forced King John to sign, the first steps toward limiting the power of England's kings and protecting the rights of the nobility were taken. This document is considered a predecessor of the constitution of the United states and others.)
So this isn't King Arthur's Queen Guinevere then who is it?