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Anglo-Saxons v Norman Cultural Differences


Anglo-Saxon Sword

With the “Battle of Hastings” won by William in 1066, stability would be enforced upon England by these Norman invaders.  For they recognised this land they had conquered, was a land of wealth.

How different were the Anglo-Saxon and Norman societies at the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066?  Bearing in mind they had the same ancestral heritage.

One should never forget that the Anglo-Saxons and Normans came from the same basic stock.  They were both Scandinavian immigrant’s who had settled in another land, and taken over the ruling aristocracy or monarchy of the time.  Which means their structural way of life was similar.

Both the Anglo-Saxons and Normans desired land, you could say land was the currency by which each and everyone existed by.

The Anglo-Saxon System: For the Lord owned the land, which he shared out amongst his followers in return for service…  They became minor lords upon this land, surrounded by retinue of warriors, who would receive rewards for their service, and the greatest reward would be land.

Success in battle equals more land, more riches, which would be shared around.  If the Lord wasn’t successful or generous, his followers might offer their services to a better Lord.

The Lord led his warriors, and they fought for him.  They were both reliant on non-fighting tenant farmers, and below them came the slaves.

Therefore, the basic building block of the system was the hearth:  On his land, the overall Lord owned a hearth-hall within which he housed his warriors.  It was the responsibility of his tenant farmers to bring produce to the hall, to feed and maintain these warriors, in return all who lived upon his land received security…

By the 10th century, Anglo-Saxon England had become one of the most organised countries in all of Europe.  The King controlled a land divided into shires, upon which taxes were levied accordingly, and those taxes were collected from the burhs.

Over the previous two centuries, much had changed as a Germanic styled system had been integrated into the original form.  Basically, Anglo-Saxon Kings, changed the way it worked, instead of duties of the Lord, they imposed duties upon the land itself.  So the Lord, who owned the land, had to pay warriors to protect his lands and those who lived upon it.

In contrast the Norman system was simpler by design, for they were firmly entrenched in the past, and used the Lords hearth as other’s had done before them.

A Norman Duke could call upon his Norman nobles to bring forth his warriors in times of war, and they would expect a share in the spoils of conquest.

Norman warriors, were an elite military force, whilst the Anglo-Saxon’s their counterparts were nothing more than farming warriors, yet they proved themselves well in battle.

However, the Norman forces at the “Battle of Hastings” proved a formidable force, as Harold’s army was defeated.  One could say William had been lucky that day, for Harold was exhausted and led an army of battle weakened warriors.  For he had just fought and slew Hardrada and his Norwegian forces at Stamford Bridge in the north, on the 25th September 1066, then marched south to face the Norman’s on the 14th October 1066 at Hastings.

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William changed things to match the accepted way as used by the Norman’s, one of these was: Determining whether a person was innocent or guilty of a crime.

Trial by Oath Taking, the Anglo-Saxon process whereby one would rely on oaths by your Lord and peers, who would vouch for your innocence… It is a wonder anyone was found guilty.

The Norman practice of Trial by Battle was introduced, in which your guilt or innocence was determined by the success or failure of your champion; in battle.

(Image) Anglo-Saxon Sword: Jelkdragon


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