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Framework: The Norman Conquest of England
Transcript of Framework: The Norman Conquest of England
William denounced him as an usurper and, to enforce his claim to the throne, he assembled an army and invaded England.
The unfortunate king Harold was defeated and killed at Hastings (1066). Then William found a weak opposition and the last bulkof resistance, assembled in London, was easily won by his troops, and on Christmas day of 1066, he was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.
The Bayeux Tapestry
From this period of transition a new literature emerged about the 12th century and the old Anglo-Saxon themes were replaced by the French patterns imported by the Normans or spread by travelling minstrels. The most imitated French form was the romance, a poetic tale about the adventures of valiant knights. The best known was the Chanson de geste, celebrating the heroic deeds of Charlemagne's paladins. Love and honour were strongly idealized, according to the tradition of chivalry and courtly love. The legend of King Arthur and his knights, of Celtic origin, but revised by French authors, added new charming elements to romance. The French Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung inspired more stylized forms such as the dream allegory. Another source of inspiration was the classical world with its Greek and Roman tales, but historical events and the figures of ancient heroes were often adapted according to the contemporary way of life.
The Normans brought a different type of government to England
The Norman Conquest of England
The Norman Conquest
They introduced a body of laws which gave a new asset to the country: feudalism was fully established. It consisted in a downward delegation of power: the king, as the only owner of the land, granted part of it to his followers in return for services in war or other customary dues. The vassals also received, together with the lands, the political right of governing them. They, in their turn, subdivided them among others on similar terms, thus forming a sort of pyramid
The Normans belonged to the stock of Scandinavian peoples. Around 700 A.D. they spread along the coast of Norway and began to clear forests and build ships, which enabled them to make considerable voyages. A part of this adventurous group of people reached France and obtained from the Frankish kings the concession of the land, now known as Normandy.
So local power came to rest with the lord of the manor. The barons gave knights land on their own to "hold" in exchange for military service, so that the knights could pay for their own upkeep. They came to form a new upper class.
The people who actually farmed the land where peasants or serfs. They would work a strip of land or maybe several strips. This is why medieval farming is known today as strip farming.
In return for the land used to grow their own food, the serfs had to work for the lord of the manor. As well as farming their own land, each serf had to work a fixed number of days per year onlands owned by the lord and his family. The serfs, however, lived in close-knit communities which ran their own affairs, with each person having a say in village matters.
In Medieval England the church had great power over people's lives. Everyone was a member of the church and believed it to be right. If they didn't attend church they could be punished or face heavy fines. There was a church in every village or community. However, the head of the church, the Pope, didn't live in England but in Rome. The Pope was the leader of the whole church throughout Westen Europe. Medieval cathedrals remind us of the power of the Christian church at that time.
The Power of The Church
The life of peasants and serfs was a hard one. However therewere many days in the year given over to religion or entertainment. Each Sunday was a free day and and opportunity for some relaxation and fun, although everyone attended church at least once each Sunday. There were also many church festival, which were holidays ("holy days"). The whole village would get involved in community games and there would often be social gatherings and communal meals, known as "church ales", to raise money for the church and parish. Feasts were great occasions and could last several days. On feasts days, huge amounts of food would be available. Banquets were held either in the great hall or in the open square
s and food was served on long tables, where guests were seated according to their importance. There was a great difference between the food eaten by rich people and the one eaten by peasants and serfs.
Way of Life
Public entertainment included cockfighting, bear baiting and, for the rich, jousting. During winter evenings, people passed the time by playing indoor board games, including some similar to chess, draughts and backgammon. Women and girls would spin, weave cloth and embroider. Weatlthy families would listen to professional storytellers, minstrels or harpists. Those who could afford it went on religious pilgrimages to special holy places called shrines. For many more, the local market town was as far as they travelled. Town had their weekly markets and, once or twice a year, they would have a fair – a large market lasting a whole week.
The Norman invasion caused a split in the linguistic unity of the country: French was the language of the ruling class, jointly with Latin, the language of the Church and scholars; Anglo-Saxon remained confined to the mass of people. The two languages underwent a slow and constant change. The result was that, about two centuries from the Conquest, a new language emerged, commonly known as Middle English. It retained its German characteristics, though enriched by French vocabulary. But the process of fusion was not completed until the 16th century. The main literary genre of the period was poetry, which had a religious and didactic character and aimed at instructing people. Other works of the period were proverbs, riddles, fables and fabliaux. Only with the advent of Chaucer English literature rose to the standard of other European literatures and, after a long period of imitation, found its own expression both in form and in substance.