19th Century Child Education & Employment


In 19th century England, eighty per cent of the population were working class, and would have lived below the bread-line.

Education was not free, except for the poorest of families, and that counted for a high percentage of children.  Many families, thought it was more important to send their child out to work, and put food on the table, than send them to school, to get an education.

In the early part of the 19th century, Parliament passed an Act to curtail child labour, but enforcing it proved impossible.

1833, was a turning point, when a new law was passed, banning children under nine, working in textile factories.  Reformers had been publicising children’s working conditions, comparing their way of life as cheap labourers, and were treated like slaves.  What a co-incidence, the British Empire outlawed slavery in 1833-34.

Grants were provided to church schools, to educate the poorest of children.  Dame schools were also setup, offering reading, writing and arithmetic undertaken by women, but it has been suggested, these were no more than a form of child minding services.

In 1844 a law came into force, making it illegal for children under the age of eight, to work in coalmines.  Then the Factory Act of 1847 stated women and children could only work ten hours per day.

Workers had reached a time, when they needed somebody to speak on their behalf, and so the national trade unions were formed in 1850-1860 for skilled craftsmen.  The TUC wasn’t formed until 1868.

Fosters Education Act of 1870 was a time when the Government was forced to take responsibility for the education of England’s children; schooling should be provided for all children.  The exploitation of children had gone on for much of the 19th century, including the barbaric practice sending small boys up chimneys for the purpose of cleaning them.  In 1875 a law came into force, banning this practice.

The unskilled workers became an organised union in 1880.

school children a

Compulsory school attendance for five to ten year olds came into force in 1880, as attitudes towards children changed, and so the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was founded in 1889.  In 1891 school fees were abolished.  Then in 1899 the school leaving age was raised from ten to twelve.

It was a far different lifestyle for those that had money.  Middle Class families would send their sons to grammar schools, whilst their daughters went to private schools, being taught the finer attributes in life for their future; music, dancing and sewing.  Upper Class families on the other hand would send their sons to public schools like Harrow or Eaton, and their daughters would be taught by a governess.

With Government legislation and the NSPCC children’s lives were beginning to see a change by the latter part of the 19th century.

No longer were they being treated as little adults, and their childhood being exploited by ruthless businesses.  They were free to live the life of a child, attend school and gain an education for their future.

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19th Century Industrial Revolution

19th Century London

The living conditions of those who lived in our cities and towns of the 19th century, suffered badly from the multi-tier system.  On one hand you had those people who lived in comfortable houses and employed servants.


Whilst the housing stock for the poor consisted of houses built back to back.  Living room and kitchen downstairs, with two bedrooms upstairs, and they only had windows on the side of the house.  Another form of dwelling was the one-room cellars, where the poorest of the poor lived.  They were damp and poorly ventilated, and they would sleep on straw, for they had no money to buy beds.

Flushing lavatories which we take for granted did not come into use, until the latter years of the 19th century.  If you were one of the large number of poor people at that time, early designs were rather basic, and showed lack of hygiene.  They used a cesspit, which required regular emptying.  Later in the century, they used Earth Closet (A pale with a box containing earth.  When one pulled the lever, so earth would cover the contents of the pale).

19th century streets were often unpaved, and hardly ever cleaned.  Rubbish, hardly ever collected and left to pile up on the streets.  Most of it was organic, and over time would turn into a black and sticky substance, which would be used as a fertiliser.

One of the first improvements in London was the installation of Gas Street Lights in the Pall Mall area in 1807.  By the 1820’s they were being introduced to many towns and cities up and down the land.  By the 1840’s they would be installed in the homes of the rich of that time, replacing the oil lamps, and by the 1870’s most homes would have gas light.

The standard method by which cooking was undertaken, was by means of an open fire, by the 1820’s all that changed, giving way to the Range Iron Cooker.

Crime was rife in London, which led to the first police in Britain; the Metropolitan Police created by Sir Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary in 1829.

For it was in 1829, the first horse-drawn omnibuses started running in London, and by the 1860’s and 1870’s we were to see horse-drawn trams running in many towns and cities.

England was rife with diseases and life expectancy was low, with its highest mortality rate amongst young children.  For it was in 1831-32 and again in 1848-49 cities and towns would suffer severe outbreaks of cholera, killing thousands in its wake.

In 1837 the Telegraph was invented.  The first cable was laid across the channel in 1850, and by 1866, it was possible to send messages across the Atlantic Ocean.  Then in 1840 Rowland Hill invented the Penny Post, and it was the sender who paid the postage charges, as we do today.

The first railway line was from London Bridge to Greenwich, opening in 1836.  Railway lines were laid, the length and breadth of the country.  Many stations were created; Euston Station in 1837, Paddington Station in 1838, and so the list of new stations continued; Victoria, King’s Cross, Euston, and Paddington, just to name a few.

With the 1840’s came a new law by the councils, banning cellar dwellings, and the new construction of back to back houses.

Medical advances made their mark in the 19th century, when in 1847 James Simpson discovered anaesthetics and went on to use chloroform in operations.  Then in 1853 the hypodermic syringe was invented by the French, and in 1865 Joseph Lister discovered antiseptic surgery.

One disease which was very common during the 19th century was that of consumption, now better known as tuberculosis.  Signs of decline started around the 1850’s, and has been reducing ever since.  All these years on, this dreadful disease rears its ugly head from time to time.

Raw sewage flowed through London’s gutters, and eventually emptied out into the River Thames, this same water its residents would drink.  It is no wonder Cholera broke out from time to time, as it did in 1831-32 and again in 1848-49.

Dr. John Snow and Rev Henry Whitehead, proved in 1854 that the disease cholera was spread by contaminated waters.

In 1858, Parliament had to go into a period of recess, for the smell from the River Thames became unbearable.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette (Engineer) put a plan into effect; 2100km of sewers, tunnels and pipes were laid across London, and would take twenty years to complete.  This created a cleaner environment, and healthier lifestyle.  From then on, towns and cities started the mammoth job, of digging sewers across the land.

In the 1870’s and 1880’s saw the introduction of purpose built bathrooms, built into the home, whilst others had a tin bath, and washed in the kitchen, a practice that continued well into the 1970’s at least.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and the first telephone exchange opened in 1879.

With the invention of the Electric Light Bulb by Thomas Edison in 1879; cities and towns changed to electric street lights.  This was the first step into seeing electric lights being used in the home…

With the coming of the 1880’s, gas fires came into use within the home, followed by the gas cooker in 1890.

Louis Pasteur invented pasteurisation, a way of sterilising liquids and went on to invent vaccination for anthrax.  Immunization against diphtheria was invented in 1890, and a vaccine for typhoid in 1897.

The use of X-rays was discovered in 1895, allowing doctors to investigate patient’s inners, rather than blindly opening them up to investigate the probable cause.

With the 19th century, Britain saw the transformation of its capital; London, into a financial global and trading capital.  It went on to display itself to the world at the Great Exhibition of 1851, held at Crystal Palace.

Charles Dickens, one of our renowned writers spent much of his life walking the streets of London.  His readers would experience the sights, sounds and smells as he had observed them in his daily travels.  For he would immerse his readers in the perfect stage, as he weaved his fiction.

The streets of his time would be filled with vendors selling their wares, pick-pockets, prostitutes, drunks and beggars.  Fortunately for us, London has changed, since those days, cleaning itself up, and creating a healthier lifestyle for its inhabitants.  Would you not agree?

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Henry tore Christian England apart

Henry VIII - Anne Boleyn

King Henry VIII – Anne Boleyn

One man’s desire for a male heir, to continue the House of Tudor, tore Christian England apart.  A faith that had existed for years; the Roman Catholic Church, with the Pope as its leader, witnessed the creation of Protestant Christianity, with King Henry VIII, as head of the Church of England.

On the 11th June 1509, Henry married his brother’s widow; Catherine of Aragon in the Friary Church in Greenwich.  Henry claimed, they married as a deathbed wish of his father, but in reality he wanted an alliance with Catherine’s father; Ferdinand of Aragon.

Catherine gave birth to six children in all, yet only one would survive into adulthood; On the 18th February 1516, Catherine gave birth to a healthy daughter, and she was baptized Mary. It was at this point, Henry started believing that God was taunting him, for marrying his brother’s wife.  In 1524, Henry ceased sleeping with his 39–year-old wife; Catherine of Aragon, for she had not produced a male heir.

In 1526, Henry pursued Anne Boleyn, daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, displaying his courtly loves to her.

In 1527, this was the start of his annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, claiming it was invalid according to the scriptures:

Leviticus: Chapter 18 verse 16.

“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; she is your brother’s nakedness.”  (This stated no man could have sex with his brother’s wife).

On the 22nd June 1527, Henry told Catherine he no longer considered her as his lawful wife.  Her reply, was that the marriage between herself and Arthur, Henry’s brother had not been consummated, making her marriage to Henry valid.

On the 23rd December 1527, William Knight, Henry’s diplomat went to Rome to negotiate the case on behalf of his King, to have his marriage to Catherine annulled.

Pope Clement gave a dispensation, that Henry could marry again, which meant that any child born would be classed as illegitimate.  What was omitted was any clause stating his first marriage was invalid.  For Henry this did not resolve the issue in hand, for he wanted a male heir to succeed him.

In the early months of 1528, bitter negotiations between the envoys for England and Rome, led to permission being granted on the 13th April, allowing Thomas Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio, to determine the case on English soil.

On the 31st May 1529, the case came before the “Legatine Court” and on the 18th June Catherine denied its right to hear the case, and registered her appeal with Rome.  On the 21st June, she knelt before her husband, her King at the hearing, stating she had been a good, faithful and obedient wife to him.  On the 25th June, she was charged with contempt, for failing to attend the hearing.  In July the case was adjourned, and Pope Clement recalled the case to Rome.

Pope Clement found himself in the middle, so to speak.  For on one side he had the English King; Henry VIII, who wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, be approved by Rome so he could marry Anne Boleyn.  Whilst on the other hand, King Charles V Emperor of Spain threatened to invade England, if the Pope granted his request.

On the 7th March 1530, Pope Clement summoned Henry VIII to a matrimonial hearing in Rome.  The Pope refused an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and of his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Thomas Wolsey fell out of favour with Henry VIII, for failing to obtain an annulment from the Pope.  On the 9th October, Thomas Wolsey was charged with exercising the papal office legate, illegally, primarily foreign jurisdiction on English soil.  On the 18th October, the “Great Seal” allowing the Lord Chancellor to exercise the King’s authority, was taken from him, for he no longer bore the right to hold it.

On the 25th October, the newly appointed Lord Chancellor; Sir Thomas More took up the post, made his oath, and received the “Great seal.”

On the 3rd November a bill of articles was presented to Parliament, which would see Thomas Wolsey indicted on the charge of treason.  On the 4th November, whilst at his diocese in York, Wolsey was arrested on the charge of high treason.  On the long journey south to stand trial, he died at Leicester Abbey in November of 1530.

On the 1st September 1532, Henry VIII made Anne Boleyn Marchioness of Pembroke, and on the 11th October she accompanied Henry to Calais for his meeting with the French King.

In the January of 1533, Anne announced to Henry she was with child, and on the 25th January they were secretly married.

In 1533 Henry introduced a bill in Parliament, declaring that he be the “Supreme Head” in England and no foreign court had jurisdiction in this land.  So it was, an English Ecclesiastical Court had no right to rule on Henry’s marriage.

On the 30th March, Thomas Cranmer was consecrated as the new Archbishop of Canterbury.  On the 5th April Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was ruled invalid.  On the 9th April Catherine was no longer Queen, and on the 12th April Anne Boleyn was proclaimed as the new Queen, and officially crowned Queen on the 1st June.

On the 11th July Pope Clement ordered Henry to separate from Anne, as the original annulment between himself and Catherine was lawful, and his marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid.

On the 7th September 1533 Anne gave birth to her first child; a daughter and she was christened; Elizabeth.

Thomas Cromwell was entrusted with stamping out opposition to Henry and Anne’s marriage.  First on the list was Elizabeth Barton a Benedictine Nun, who was arrested in November on the charge of treason along with six of her followers.  On the 20th April 1534, they were all executed and their body parts were fixed to the city gates and London Bridge as a warning.

In February of 1534, Catherine of Aragon, the former Queen of England, had her title changed to “Dowager Princess of Wales.”

On the 23rd March 1534, an “Act of Succession” was passed in Parliament, validifying Henry and Anne’s marriage and the right of succession for their offspring.  All Henry’s subjects were also required to swear an oath or face life imprisonment.

In March of 1534, Parliament passed an act which would see an end to papal taxes.

On the 12th April Sir Thomas More was ordered to take the oath – he refused and on the 17th April he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and beheaded on the charge of treason on the 6th July 1535.

In May Catherine and Princess Mary, also refused to swear the oath; Catherine was banished to Kimbolton Castle and had no further contact with her daughter.

On the 25th September 1534, Pope Clement VII died and on the 13th October Alexander Farnese was the newly elected; Pope Paul III.

In November 1534, Parliament brought in a piece of legislation: “An Act of Supremacy” which ultimately recognised King Henry VIII as the “Head of the English Church.”  The act was designed to make it clear, that Parliament recognised Henry VIII as the true head of the “Church of England.”

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Tudor King: Henry VIII

King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII

Henry was born on the 28th June 1491 to parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at Greenwich Palace in London.  On the 21st April 1509 he ascended to the English throne upon the death of his father; Henry VII.

On the 11th June 1509 Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon at Greenwich, and on the 24th June was crowned King Henry VIII of England at Westminster Abbey.

On the 9th September 1509, James IV of Scotland was slain by Henry’s forces at the “Battle of Flodden.”

On the 24th December 1515, Thomas Wolsey became the new Archbishop of Canterbury following the resignation of Archbishop Warham.

On the 18th February 1516 Catherine bore Henry a baby daughter; Mary, not the son and heir he so desired, yet she would become Queen Mary I in later years.

On the 31st October in the year 1517, the Protestant Reformation begins when Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg in Saxony.  He called for a debate on the legality of papal indulgences, granted to certain individuals for the remission of punishment after death for their sins.

On the 4th October 1518, the Pope and the Kings of England, France and Spain signed a bilateral treaty of peace in Europe.  The treaty was sealed with the marriage of Henry’s two-year old daughter Mary to the Dauphin in the Queen’s Chamber at Greenwich.

In May and June of 1520, Henry holds peace talks with Francis I of France at the “Field of the Cloth of Gold” an endeavour to achieve support against Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire… this ended with Mass held by Cardinal Wolsey.

On the 10th July Henry and Charles created a treaty of friendship.

On the 12th May 1521, Bishop Fisher of Rochester oversaw the burning of Martin Luther’s books at Paul’s Cross.

In April of 1521 an armed conflict was taking place between Francis I and Charles V against the agreed 1518 Treaty of London.

On the 29th July Thomas Wolsey was commissioned to mediate a peace treaty with Ambassadors From France and the Empire.

On the 29th May 1522 Henry formally declared war on France, and by 1523 the invasion on France had been abandoned.

In 1525 King Henry VIII had an affair with Mary Boleyn, and on the 4th March 1526, she gave birth to a son; Henry.

Henry’s illegitimate son; Henry Fitzroy was installed as a Knight of the Garter on the 7th June and on the 18th June 1525 became Duke of Richmond and Somerset showing to one and all, he be of Tudor and Beaufort ancestry.

Then on the 30th August Henry and the French Ambassadors signed the “Treaty of More.”

In 1526 Henry became totally infatuated by Anne Boleyn, and displayed a courtly love for her in public at the Shrove Tuesday jousts.

In 1527, Henry sought the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, so he could marry Anne Boleyn in an effort that she would bear him a royal son, and continue the royal line … his request was denied.

In 1529, Cardinal Wolsey is accused by Henry of committing high treason, his failure tom obtain the pope’s consent for his divorce. On the 9th October he is indicted in the Court of King’s Bench for illegal use, contrary to 14th century stature of “Praemunire.”  On the 18th October he surrendered his seal of office, and on the 25th October the seal was delivered to his successor; Sir Thomas More.

On the 3rd November, forty-four complaints against Wolsey were put forward and on the 4th November the following year he is arrested on high treason, and before he could be brought to trial, he died on the 29th November 1530.

On the 1st September 1532, Henry presented Anne Boleyn as his future consort, and she received the title “Marchioness of Pembroke.”  In the autumn, Anne informs Henry she is with child.  On the 25th January 1533 King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn and on the 7th September she gives birth to a daughter; Elizabeth, who would grow up to be the last Tudor Queen of England.

In 1534 Parliament passed acts on successions to the English throne, without Rome having its say, and his subjects were required to swear an oath of allegiance.

On the 12th April Sir Thomas More refused, and on the 17th April Bishop Fisher refused, and they were imprisoned in the Tower of London to await their fate.  On the 22nd June Bishop Fisher an outspoken critic of the King’s marriage annulment was beheaded on Tower Hill, followed by Thomas More on the 6th July 1535.

In January of 1535, Thomas Cromwell the newly appointed vicar-general over the church, ordered a census of ecclesiastical wealth across the land for tax purposes.

Six cannon lawyers were appointed to visit monasteries, in need of reform, but the true nature was to give Henry the legal right to confiscate their wealth.  So it began in April of 1536 the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.”

In March of 1536, Parliament passed a law closing smaller monasteries whose income was less that £200 per year.

Royal commissioners arranged the dispersal of Monks and Nuns, using their assets to pay off servants and workers, then selling off household and farming stock, then installing tenants of the Crown.

All precious metals, ornaments etc became the property of the crown.  In short the Crown was raiding these monasteries, with the approval of Parliament, to bolster their funds.

Some 800 monasteries and holy houses along with 10,000 monks, canons, nuns and friars had been scattered through England and Wales over a four year period.

On the 7th January Queen Catherine of Aragon dies at Kimbolton Castle in 1536, and was buried at Peterborough Abbey.

On the 2nd May, Queen Anne Boleyn along with her brother George were arrested on charges of incest and treason.  On the 19th May, Queen Anne Boleyn was executed on Tower Hill and buried in the Chapel of St.Peter ad Vincula.

On the 20th May, Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour, married on the 30th May and proclaimed Queen on the 4th June.

On the 8th June, Parliament excluded Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth, from the succession of Queen of England.

On the 12th October 1537, Queen Jane gave birth to a son; Edward who was baptised on the 15th October.  On the 24th October Queen Jane Seymour died and on the 12th November she was buried at St.George’s Chapel, Windsor.

On the 6th January 1540, Henry married Anne of Cleaves, and by the 4th February he wanted the marriage annulled, as she was not a suitable Queen.

On the 10th June Thomas Cromwell was arrested, charged with treason, heresy, extortion and corruption, and on the 28th July was executed on Tower Hill.

On the 28th July 1540 Henry married Kathryn Howard at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, it wasn’t long before news reached his ears on the 2nd November 1541, from Archbishop Cramer, that his new Queen had taken two lover’s prior to her marriage.  On the 8th November, she admitted her guilt, and on the 13th February was executed at Tower Hill.

On the 14th December 1542, James V of Scotland died, and succeeded by his six day old daughter; Mary Queen of Scots.  On the 1st July 1543 King Henry VIII and Scottish commissioners sign the “Treaty of Greenwich,” the proposed marriage between Prince Edward and Mary, Queen of Scots.  On the 11th December the Scottish Parliament, formally withdrew from the terms of the treaty, and reaffirmed their alliance with France.

On the 12th July 1543 Henry VIII marries Katherine Parr.

In March of 1544, Parliament restores the line of royal succession, for Henry’s illegitimate off-spring after Prince Edward; Mary then Elizabeth.

On the 19th July 1545, a French fleet of some 235 ships sailed towards the Isle of Wight, and came under attack, by the English fleet commanded by the Lord High Admiral; John Dudley, Viscount Lisle.  On this day, the second ship of the line; “The Mary Rose” England’s first gunship built in 1509, capsized and sank.

On the 28th January 1547 King Henry VIII of England died at the Palace of Whitehall, and was buried in St.George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle alongside his beloved wife and Queen; Jane Seymour.

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Dissolution of the Monasteries

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

King Henry VIII ascended to the English throne on the 21st April 1509, upon the death of his father; Henry VII.  On the 24th June 1509, Henry married Catherine of Aragon, his brother Arthur’s widowed wife, with dispensation to marry from the Pope.  She bore Henry, one child, a daughter; Mary.

The Reformation of Tudor England, came about when his desire for a son and heir to continue the House of Tudor, was not being fulfilled by his wife; Catherine of Aragon.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the son of a Suffolk wool merchant, made the request of the Pope, head of the Catholic Church in Rome, based on the fact that his wife, had failed to give birth to a son and heir.

The Pope denied the request… and Cardinal Wolsey was removed from his post by Henry VIII and died before being brought to trial on the charge of treason.

Thomas More was appointed Chancellor, but all too quickly he opposed the divorce, and Henry had him executed.

Henry’s wrangling’s with the Pope deepened so much that an act was passed by Parliament; “Act of Supremacy” in 1534 which confirmed England’s break with Rome, and the creation of the Church of England, with Henry at its head.  The Catholic Church in England, answerable to the Pope in Rome was no more.

Church officials were seen as rich figureheads, far removed from their spiritual roots, there to serve the people and help the poor.

Thomas Cromwell instigated a public campaign, making monasteries appear corrupt, and organised a census of ecclesiastical wealth for tax purposes in 1535.

In 1536 Henry needed money, but demanding new taxes against its people through Parliament to pay for wars with France, would meet many barriers.

Henry’s lavish lifestyle and funds to pay for wars, led to the “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” against these wealthy institutions.

The “Act of Suppression” of 1536 was aimed at monasteries whose income was less than £200 per year was closed.  Buildings, land and money confiscated by the Crown.  The “Second Suppression Act” of 1539 saw the dissolution of larger monasteries.

Monastic buildings were sold to wealthy gentry, who sympathised with Henry’s break from Rome, whilst other buildings were a source of building materials for local inhabitants.  Those who benefited the most, was not the King, for in his haste he sold much off at a fraction of its true worth.

So what happened to the Monks, Friars and Nuns?  Most received a pension for life, some joined mainstream churches.  As for their servants they were hardest hit.  With no money they joined the ranks of the poor and homeless.

When we think of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, many priceless manuscripts, statues, rood screens and icons were destroyed; their historic value was never considered.

The infrastructure of Monasteries and Abbey’s within the Kingdom of Henry VIII had been largely destroyed and the association with the Pope, all but gone.

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Saxon King: Edward the Confessor


Edward the Confessor

Edward, the son of King Ethelred II and Emma of Normandy, was a direct descendant of King Alfred the Great.  Edward was educated at an English monastery, and when the Danes invaded, his mother Emma fled to Normandy with her children, and it was here Edward developed strong ties with Normans.

With the death of King Ethelred II in 1016, Emma returned to England and married the new Danish King: Cnut the Great.  The son of Emma and Cnut; Hardecnut succeeded his father as King and then proceeded to bring back his half-brother; Edward from Normandy to England in 1041.

Hardecnut, King of England died in 1042 and was succeeded by his half-brother Edward, who was crowned Edward the Confessor at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter Sunday.

Edward, King of England from 1042-1066, kept the kingdom in a state of relative peace.  However the latter years of his reign were plagued by who would be successor.

Edward, famous for his piety, was canonized in 1161.

His most lasting contribution to English history, was the building project that turned the Benedictine Abbey in Westminster into the great religious and political centre of the kingdom; Westminster Abbey.

Edward, may have been King, but he found it difficult to assert his own authority over the earls of his kingdom, especially one Godwin of Essex.  He who had been chief adviser to King Cnut, who had been rewarded with large expanses of land and much wealth.  Godwin’s influence across Edward’s kingdom, increased further when Godwin demanded that Edward marry his daughter; Edith.  Edward, needed Godwin’s military support and was forced into agreeing to this marriage.  Edith was the main pawn in Godwin’s game to rule England.

Edward appointed the Norman, Robert of Jumieges as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1051, and straight away this caused a rift with Godwin.

When Godwin failed to support Edward’s brother-in-law in a dispute with the citizens of Dover, Edward banished him, and promised William the Duke of Normandy, that he would be his heir, to the English throne.  In 1052 Godwin returned to England, and with support from the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, forced Edward to name Stigand as Archbishop of Canterbury instead of Robert of Jumieges.  Edward withdrew to concentrate on the building of Westminster Abbey.

Shortly before his death in 1066, he changed his successor to the English throne, from William, the Duke of Normandy, to Godwin’s son Harold.  As news reached William that Edward had died and the English throne had passed to Harold, William of Normandy invaded England, to claim what was rightfully his in the Battle of Hastings.

Edward’s death in 1066 precipitated the Norman Conquest that ended Anglo-Saxon rule and ushered in a new period of English history; The Dark Ages.

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Norman Monarchy

House of Normandy

The Normans originated from the Vikings who took up occupation in the early part of the 10th century in north-east France.  A powerful state was created around the mouth of the Seine.

In 1035, the Duchy passed to William, an illegitimate son of Duke Robert of Normandy, and anarchy reigned.  In 1047 he proved himself a skilled military leader, by defeating his enemies, and uniting the Duchy behind his rule.

William offered land hungry lords, large areas of England in return for military assistance to overcome Anglo-Saxon resistance.  Edward the Confessor had told William, that upon his death, the English crown would pass to him.  William expected resistance from the English, and was prepared to do battle, to claim what is his by right.

William the Conqueror

King William I

King William I:  The year 1066, became a turning point in England’s history.  William the illegitimate son of Duke Robert the Devil of Normandy invaded England, defeating King Harold II (Harold Godwinson) at the Battle of Hastings.  On the 25th December William was crowned King William I of England at Westminster Abbey.

Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land among the conquerors, giving England a new French aristocracy, and a new social and political structure.

William faced Saxon revolt in the south, and responded by driving out Anglo-Saxon lords from their lands.  In the northern areas he created mass starvation by burning houses, barns crops and killing livestock.

His power and efficiency can be seen in the Domesday Book, a census for taxes, listings manors and shires across the land.

He appointed Lanfranc, an Italian clergyman to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, and promoted church reform, with the creation of separate church courts, whilst retaining royal control.

King William I (William the Conqueror) died in battle at the French city of Mantes; his horse stumbled amongst the ruins, and he is unhorsed, causing a fatal stomach injury.  William was buried at the Abbey Church of St.Etienne, Caen.

King William II

King William II

King William II:  When William I died in 1087, he gave England to his second son, William II and Normandy to his eldest son Robert.  To his third son Henry, he left nothing, for he was supposed to enter the church.

William II ascended to the English throne upon the death of his father William I in 1087, and was crowned King William II of England on the 26th September at his coronation at Canterbury Cathedral.

William faced rebellion from his brother Robert, urged on by his uncle Odo of Bayeux, the revolt quickly collapsed.  William responded by waging war against Robert in 1089, laying claims to the lands of Normandy, and defeating him in battle.

William faced hostile opposition from Scotland in 1091, and was forced to take action, forcing Malcolm III, King of the Scots to acknowledge him as King of England and the lands of Scotland.  In November 1093, Malcolm III and his forces revolted, taking on the might of William II near Alnwick, where Malcolm died on the battlefield.

William was always at odds with the church, he being a practicing homosexual, his interest lay in the revenue the church raised, not the faith itself.

On the 2nd August 1100, King William II was killed when an arrow penetrated his lung in a hunting accident.  Walter Tirel, nobleman and friend of the King fired the fateful arrow, missing a stag and killing the king.  Tirel fled to France, fearful of his life.

King Henry I

King Henry I

King Henry I:  Henry, the third son of William the Conqueror received nothing at his father’s death, but thing’s changed, when his brother William was killed in a hunting accident, he swiftly moved being crowned King in a matter of a few days.

Henry’s brother Robert, landed on English shores in 1101, claiming he was the rightful heir of England.  Conflict was averted, Henry’s territories in Normandy passed to Robert, along with 2,000 marks a year.  In 1106, Henry invaded Normandy and captured Robert at the “Battle of Tinchebrai,” and imprisoned him for life.

In 1110 Henry created a financial counting system, a chequered cloth was used by the Royal Treasury, a central point for discussions on finance.

In 1121, Henry’s heir William died, and he had no male successor, and proposed his daughter Matilda would be Queen of England upon his death.  Henry’s barons swore an allegiance to Matilda, yet their promise was never kept.

In 1135 King Henry I died in Rouen, France and was buried at Reading Abbey.


King Stephen

King Stephen:  With Henry I dead, the last thing English barons wanted, was to be ruled by a woman, which led to conflict over succession…  So it was, on the 22nd December 1135, Stephen the nephew of Henry I seized the English throne with the backing of barons and nobles, and was crowned on the 26th December.

Henry had so desired his daughter should be his successor, the actions taken by Stephen, led to Civil War as to who should be the rightful ruler; Stephen or Matilda.

Matilda received support from King David I of Scotland, as he invaded English lands.  In 1138 Robert the Earl of Gloucester rebels against Stephen.  In 1141, Matilda was elected as Queen, but driven out of London by its people who wanted Stephen, prior to her coronation.

This Civil War was tearing England apart, as Henry’s Royal Government lay in tatters.  The church played one side against the other, extending its authority.  It all came to a head, under the “Treaty of Westminster.”  Stephen would remain king for the remainder of his life, and upon his death the English throne would pass to Matilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet and he would take the title; King Henry II of England.

In 1154, King Stephen of England died, and was buried at Faversham in Kent.

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