England: Norman & Plantagenet’s

Norman - Plantagenets

The year 1066 became a turning point in English history.  William I (William the Conqueror), and his sons gave England new leadership.

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

England turned away from Scandinavia toward France, an orientation that was to last for 400 years.  William was a hard ruler, punishing England.  His power and efficiency can be seen in the Doomsday Survey, a census for tax purposes, and in the Salisbury Oath of allegiance, which he demanded of all tenants.

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

When William died in 1087, he gave England to his son, William II (Rufus), Normandy to his son, Robert.  Henry, his third son, left with no lands eventually got both England in 1100, when William II died in a hunting accident, and Normandy in 1106 by conquest.  Henry I used his feudal court and household to organize the government.  The exchequer, the royal treasury, was established at this time.

Henry wanted his daughter, Matilda (1102-67), to succeed him, but in 1135 his nephew, Stephen of Blois, seized the throne.  The years 1135-54 were marked by civil war and strife.  The royal government Henry had built fell apart, and the feudal barons asserted their independence.  The church, playing one side against the other, extended its authority.

Matilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, became King Henry II by right of succession, in 1154.  The Angevins, especially Henry II and his sons, Richard and John, expanded royal authority.  Henry ended the anarchy of Stephen’s reign, banishing mercenaries and destroying private castles.  He strengthened the government created by Henry I.  Most important, he developed the common law, administered by royal courts and applicable to all of England.  It encroached on the feudal courts’ jurisdiction over land and created the grand jury.  Its success demonstrated its efficiency and the growing power of the king.  Henry attempted to reduce the jurisdiction of church courts, especially over clergy accused of crimes, but was opposed by Thomas a Becket, his former chancellor, whom he had made Archbishop of Canterbury.  His anger at Becket’s intransigence led ultimately to Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170.

Henry’s empire included more than half of France and lordship over Ireland and Scotland.  His skill at governing, however, did not include the ability to placate his sons, who rebelled against him several times, backed by the kings of France and by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

King Richard I

King Richard I

Richard I, the Lion-Hearted, was in England only briefly.  He was busy fighting in the Crusades and later for the land lost in France during his absence, especially while he was a captive in Germany.  Even during Richard’s absence, the government built by Henry II continued to function, collecting taxes to support his wars and to pay his ransom.  John, who inherited the resentment against Angevin rule aroused by his father and brother, added to his troubles by his own excesses.  In 1204 he lost Normandy.  In 1213, after a long fight with Pope Innocent III over the naming of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, John capitulated and acknowledged England to be a papal fief.  All this precipitated a quarrel with his barons over his general high handedness and their refusal to follow him into war in Normandy. The barons, led by Langton, forced John in 1215 to accept the Magna Charta (q.v.).

John died in 1216, and the barons accepted his nine-year-old son as King Henry III.  They assumed control of the government and confirmed the Magna Charta in 1225, as did Henry when he came of age two years later.  Thus began the tradition of royal confirmation of the Magna Charta and the idea that it was the fundamental statement of English law and of limited government. England prospered in the 12th and 13th centuries.  Land under cultivation increased; sheep raising and the sale of wool became important.  London and other towns became vital centres of trade and wealth, and by royal charters they acquired the right to local self-government.  The universities of Oxford and Cambridge were established.

The monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, led the rural expansion and became wealthy in the process.  More than a dozen cathedrals were built, along with abbeys and parish churches, all attesting to the wealth of England and of its church.

Franciscans and Dominicans, arrived in England, improving the quality of preaching and becoming the leading scholars in the universities.

Henry III was not an able king, however.  He quarrelled with the barons, who thought that they, rather than his favourites, should have the major offices.  In 1258 the Provisions of Oxford attempted to give control of the government to a committee of barons.  Civil war broke out in 1264, and the baronial leader Simon de Montfort came briefly to power.  Montfort, however, was killed in the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and power returned to Henry and his able son, Edward.

king edward I

King Edward I

Edward I restored royal control and made several reforms. He limited the barons’ right to hold their own courts of law; he curtailed the vassals’ right to dispose of land to the detriment of their feudal lords; and he gave English common law the direction it was to take for centuries to come.  Most important, he used and developed Parliament, essentially the king’s feudal council, with a new name and an enlarged membership.  The Model Parliament of 1295, following Montfort’s pattern of 1265, consisted of great barons, bishops and abbots, and representatives of counties and towns. In 1297, to get money for his wars, Edward accepted the Confirmation of Charters, agreeing that taxes must have the common assent of the whole realm.  This was soon taken to mean assent in Parliament. In the following century, Parliament divided into two houses, Lords and Commons, and made good its claim to control taxation and to participate in the making of statutes. Edward conquered northwest Wales, ending the rule of its native princes.  He built stone castles, adopted the Welsh longbow as an English weapon, and named his oldest son the Prince of Wales.  He intervened in Scottish affairs, even claiming the Scottish throne. Having fought the Scots often but with little effect, Edward died in 1307 without having subdued the northern kingdom. His son, Edward II, gave up the campaign.  In 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn, King Robert Bruce made good Scotland’s claim to independence.  One cost of the war was the long-lasting enmity of Scotland, backed by its alliance with France.

King Edward II

King Edward II

Edward II was a weak king, partly influenced by favourites and partly dominated by the ordinances of 1311 that gave the barons the ruling power.  Although he freed himself of baronial rule in 1322, he was forced to abdicate in 1327.  His son, Edward III, got on well with the barons by keeping them busy in France, where England continued to hold extensive territory.  In 1337 he initiated the Hundred Years’ War to vindicate his claim to the French throne.  The English had some initial success at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), where they used the English longbow with deadly effect against the French.  By 1396, England had lost all its previous gains.  The expense of the war repeatedly forced Edward to go to Parliament for taxes, enabling it to bargain for concessions and to establish its rights and privileges.

The Black Death struck England in 1349, reducing the population by as much as a third.  The Statute of Laborers (1351) tried to freeze wages and prevent serfs and workers from taking advantage of the resulting labour shortage.  The Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 reflected the continuing unrest.  It was a time of economic and social change.

The moves by the popes from Rome to Avignon in France (1309-76) and the Great Schism (1378-1417), in which rival popes opposed one another, caused a loss of English respect for the papacy.  Statutes of Provisors (1351, 1390) limited the pope’s ability to appoint to church offices in England, and the Statutes of Praemunire (1353, 1393) prevented church courts from enforcing such appointments.  John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, criticized corruption in the church and had ideas similar to those of the later Protestant reformers.  In 1382 he was removed by an ecclesiastical court to the country parish at Lutterworth, and his ideas were declared heretical. His followers, the Lollards, were persecuted but not stamped out.

King Richard II

King Richard II

Richard II, the grandson of Edward III, began his reign when he was ten years old, with rival factions fighting for control of his government.  As an adult he governed moderately until 1397, when he became involved in a struggle with the leading nobles. In 1399 his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, duke of Lancaster, forced him to abdicate and became king in his place as Henry IV.

Wikipedia Images


The Norman Dynasty

Norman Conquest

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 known as Normandy 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.

Edward died in January of 1066, Harold claimed the throne.  Harold faced William who had crossed the English Channel to claim the English throne, also promised to him, at the Battle of Hastings.

William the Conqueror

King William I – William the Conqueror

William I – William the Conqueror

Born in 1028.  The son of Robert, Duke of Normandy & Arlette of Falaise.

Reigned: 1066-1087

Married Matilda of Flanders, the grand daughter to the King of France.

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 – Rufus

Born in 1056.  The son of William I & Matilda of Flanders.

Reigned: 1087-1100

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

Born in 1068.  The son of William I & Matilda of Flanders.

Reigned: 1100-1135

Married (1) Matilda of Scotland, (2) Adelicia of Louvain.

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.



Born in 1102.  The daughter of Henry I & Edith of Scotland.

Reigned: 1141

Married (1) Henry V – Holy Roman Emperor (2) Geoffrey Plantagenet Count of Anjou.


King Stephen

King Stephen

Born in 1096.  The son of Stephen, Count of Blois & Adela of Normandy, the grandson of William I.

Reigned: 1135-1154

Married Matilda of Boulogne.

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.

Wikipedia – Viking Chronicle Images

Norman Origin

Viking Warriors

Viking Warriors

So where did the Norman’s originate from and become a major force upon the lands of England?

Viking Ship Wallpaper

Viking Longship

According to history; Viking sea-raiders came in their longship’s from Scandinavia, creating a state of fear as they attacked the lands of Western Europe… They plundered; they killed and took captives to sell into a life of slavery.

Vikings under their leader Hrolf, pillaged the lands of North-Eastern France, around the area of the Seine River in 911.  The threat they imposed led to King Charles of the Franks, negotiating a treaty at St.Clair-sur-Epte in 911.  Effectively giving the lands bound by the rivers Brestle, Epte, Avre and Dives, by 924 they received Bayeux, Exmes and Sees, and in 933 the Cotenin and Avranchin, making up the lands of Normandy.

These Viking’s had come from the land’s of the north.  Two generation on and their lifestyle had changed.  They had taken under their wing so to speak, the language, religion, laws, customs and politics of the Franks.  They were referred to as the Northmen of Normandy, only later to be known as Normans.

Their desire for conquest, led Normans to pursue military goals abroad.  Normans went to Spain to fight the Moors; to Byzantium to fight the Turks; to Sicily in 1061 to fight the Saracens; and England in 1066.

The Norman Duke, William I, friend of Edward the Confessor, the Saxon English King who reigned from 1042-1066, and who supposedly promised the throne to William upon his death.

William the Conqueror

King William I

William I had no choice in his eyes, when Harold II claimed the English throne, which had been promised to him.  So these two armies met to decide who should be the rightful King of England.  The Norman style of fighting against the Anglo-Saxons… there was no real contest as William I… William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066.  It was a brutal time, as thousand’s were slaughtered in battle, and more died through famine and disease.

Norman England added to Norman France created a powerful and rich territory across Europe.

The last ruling Norman Monarch, should not have been King Stephen, for he stole it from Queen Matilda, the rightful heir of King Henry I; her father.  At that time England was a male dominated society, which would not crown a woman as the outright successor.  Matilda, was her father’s daughter, if she wasn’t going to reign, made sure her son Henry II; leader of the Plantagenet Dynasty would be the next King of England.

The legacy left by the Norman’s has to be its Churches, Cathedrals and Castles, many of which were built out of stone, that stretched across this land of ours:


Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral – Winchester Cathedral.
The Nave Arcade of Norwich Cathedral (1094-1145).
The West Front of Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire (1108)
The Nave of Rochester Cathedral (1080)
Tower of London – Windsor Castle
Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge.  Built by the Knight’s Templar, a monastic order founded in 1115 to protect pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem.

William I ran England using the “Feudal System” where the King owned everything.  So that meant he rented everything to his Barons, and they provided him with as army when required.  These Baron’s leased out land to farmer’s etc, and so the Domesday Book of 1086 was produced, creating an inventory of the country…

The Bayeux Tapestry was instigated by William’s half brother; Odo and produced by Queen Matilda.  It provides one with a visual record of events in 1066.

The New Forest, which to-day is a National Park, was formerly lands located to the North-East of Southampton and commandeered by William I, as his exclusive hunting grounds.

(Images) Durham Cathedral
(Images) Viking Scenes/William I : Wikipedia

Mass Murder by Normans


Did you know? Thousands of men, women and children, are known to have starved to death, at the hands of the Duke of Normandy, King William (William the Conqueror) of England in 1069.

Poverty and Famine is a hard thing to live with, when there is no food to put on the table, and one watches the young ones die from hunger.  That must have been what it was like for the people of Northern England, seeing their crops burned, livestock killed and destruction of all buildings, between the Scottish borders in the north and the rich shires in the south, creating a border of death…

This is how King William of England put an end to their resistance of him as their new King.

English Crown = Norman Civil War

English Saxon Crown

England’s Anglo-Saxon Crown

1135 Stephen the grandson of William the Conqueror claimed the English throne on the death of Henry and was crowned King of England on the 26th December.  However, Henry’s choice of successor had been his daughter; Matilda.

1136 The Earl of Norfolk, a keen supporter of Matilda led a rebellion against Stephen.  Robert the Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son by birth of Henry I, once a supporter of Stephen, switched his allegiance to Matilda in 1138.  David I of Scotland, invades the English lands, showing support for Matilda, and her right to the English throne, but is defeated in battle at Northallerton.

In 1141 Matilda captures Stephen at the “Battle of Lincoln” and she proclaims herself Queen of England.”  What appeared to be a victory was scuppered as Robert the Earl of Gloucester is captured by Stephen’s forces, and Matilda is forced to exchange Stephen for his freedom.

1145 Stephen defeats Matilda at the “Battle of Farringdon.”

1147 Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet is called to England, and Stephen hopes that his presence would put an end to his mother’s right to the English throne.  In 1148 Matilda is forced to abandon her cause to become Queen of England, and leaves English soil.

1151 Geoffrey of Anjou, husband of Matilda dies, and so their son Henry Plantagenet, becomes the Count of Anjou.  In 1153 Henry the new Count of Anjou, lands his forces in England and gathers support, for war against Stephen.

This Civil War between Stephen and Matilda is resolved under the “Treaty of Westminster.”  Stephen remains King for life, and upon his death, Henry Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou would become King Henry II of England.

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

1167 The rightful heir to the English throne according to the wishes of King Henry I, was that his daughter Matilda should have reigned… sadly that never happened, and after years of war between each other Matilda died on the 10th September at Rouen, and buried in the Rouen Cathedral in France.

Wikipedia Image

The Bayeux Tapestry


The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry, is some serious piece of embroidery, consisting of 50 scenes, with 632 people, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 creatures, 37 buildings, 41 ships and 49 trees.  It measures seventy metres in length, along with Latin captions in the upper and lower margins.

It tells the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The early stage of the Bayeux Tapestry tells of Harold’s journey to France, and Harold swearing an oath of allegiance to William, promising to support William’s claim to the English throne.

Edward dies, and Harold is crowned King of England, the oath he had made to William meant nothing, for he just disregarded it, to be King.

In February of 1066 a comet was observed in the sky… This was a sign of change, the downfall of the current regime.

Duke William prepared his fleet for the seventy mile crossing to the Sussex coast, in dragon-headed ships, a reminder of Norman – Viking ancestry.

These Norman’s built castles at Pevensey and Hastings and ravaged the countryside.  Harold’s family came from Sussex, so William was challenging him on his own ground.

The tapestry depicted the Battle of Hastings, as the English held the ridge, many on foot with their axes and shields.

The first attack by the Norman’s saw the English protect the ridge.  Some English followed Norman’s down, at the word William had been killed… he removes his helmet and cries out, “I am alive.”  His men rally to his side and kill the English who had come off the ridge.

The Norman’s lured the English into a more vulnerable position, and the Norman Calvary cut them down.  Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, is depicted with a huge club.  As a Bishop, he could not shed blood, but he could breal a few arms, legs and heads.

The decisive moment of the battle comes, when King Harold was killed as an arrow pierced his eye.

The English fled, at the news of their King’s death, pursued by Normans.

William marches off to London the very next day, and on Christmas Day he is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

One story tells of William’s wife Queen Matilda, and her ladies creating this tapestry… This piece of embroidery for her victorious husband.

If we look back in history, other 11th century queens, have produced embroidered pieces for churches.  However a seventy metre linen, embroidered in wool is something quite different, but one never knows.

Wallpaper Image

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