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The Norman Invasion, from William I to Henry II

·1109 words·6 mins·🙈 ·

William, duke of Normady, after winning against Anglo-Saxons gained the “Conqueror” alias and made drastic changes to the society. He changed the justice system, introducing sheriffs and the feudal system, he also introduced Norman Rule and wrecked the Anglo-Saxon ruling class.

The Norman Rule #

The Norman Rule deprived Anglo-Saxons of their properties and land and replaced Anglo-Saxon aristocrats with Norman aristocrats, so now the ruling class spoke French.

Birth of Middle English #

If you were there, after William’s conquest, you’d hear three different languages in Britain:

  • French, spoke by the court and the new aristocracy
  • Latin, spoke by the clergy
  • Old English, spoke by the people

Those three languages blended together and gave birth to Middle English with the beginning of Middle Ages too! The Old English was similar to Latin, with lots of declination. REPHRASE Those declination began to be used less and less, English went on by leaving behind those declinations.

The Feudal System #

![Image of the Feudal System from my School notes]

The feudal system was a way to manage land based on loyalty. In theory.

The feudal system is composed of lots of contract between superiors and subordinates.

Every contract establishes a bond based on loyalty. The bond was called a Feudal pact.

In a Feudal pact the superior lends a piece of land (the feud) to the subordinate and grants him protection against enemies, while the subordinate has to be loyal to the superior, provide miltary support to the superior and manage the feud.

If the subordinate is a serf or a peasant he is treated as an object and has to work for free and give the whole harvest to the superior, in exchange for free board and lodging from the superior.

About 90% of the population were "objects" at that time

This was the hierarchy of the Feudal System at that time

  • King
    • Barons
      • Knights
        • Serfs (peasants)

Usually a subordinate was also a superior of someone else, this made the system kind of decentralised and hard to control, Barons (a.k.a. French noblemen) also managed to gain too much power at that time, so Henry I introduced the Sheriff figure.

The sheriff represented the king and had judicial power. There were many sheriffs, and their main duties were:

  • Check barons’ work
  • Raise barons’ taxes

All the contracts between the King and the Barons were held in the Domesday Book. It was introduced in 1086 by order of William I and had the goal to contain holdings and values of rich men.

The Norman dinasty #

William the Conqueror was succeded by William II, an unpopular king.

Henry I, who came to power after William II’s death, was the first Norman King born in England, but he died at a young age.

Stephen, the next king, was weak and lost land, he was going to die. This is where the trouble begins.

Matilda, Stephen’s sister, claimed the trone for her sons, and married Jeffrey Plantagenet, a powerful French nobleman. A period of fights between Matilda Plantagenet and Stephen began, and the final compromise was signed in Westminster. The Treaty of Westminster allowed Henry II, Matilda’s son, to get the trone.

Henry II #

Henry II wanted to control England at he was one of the most powerful figures of Europe at that time.

Increase land power #

Henry II ruled England and arranging the marriage with Eleonore of Aquitaine he had the rights to rule Northern France, being both a Plantagenet and an Aquitanian.

Increase military power #

Henry II wanted to reduce potential opponets’ power, especially he blocked the barons from conjuring against the state by increasing the military power. He empowered the army by introducing the scutage, which changed the Feudal pact.

The scutage was a tax imposed on barons and knights by the king. The scutage had to be paid when the taxpayers didn’t have to go to war, and with the money flowing in, Henry II employed professional soldiers (mercenaries) for the kingdom’s army.

The Common Law #

Henry II wanted to increase also the kingdom’s judicial power so he introduced the Common Law, a law designed to be equal for everyone, everywhere in the Kingdom.

He introduced a new figure to control barons, since Sheriffs liked the smell of barons’ money, the travelling judges.

Travelling judges had higher judicial authority than sheriffs and barons and travelled around the kingdom.

Due to distributed protest, the dream of a law applied everywhere in the kingdom was shattered: the Church-owned land, common law was not in use.

The conflict with the church #

Henry II nominated his former Chancellor, Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest representative of the Catholic Church in England.

Thomas Beckett was probably the only true friend of Henry II, Beckett helped Henry to destroy over 1000 castles of oppositors and was the only one which Henry trusted.

Beckett didn’t belive in God, so he was seen with distrust and disregard by clergymen, even more after he was nominated Archbishop.

He changed, and he started to believe. When Henry handed him the Constitution of Clarendon, a document to subject the clergy to common law, Beckett refused, and said that Church and State were two separate authorities.

Henry was furios and viewed the conversion as a betrayal, so he exiliated Beckett.

Beckett and Henry started an intense exchange of letters, with Beckett trying to convert Henry and Henry being hostile to Beckett.

Nothing happened, and a few years later they met in [ADD: WHERE] and decided to make peace.

However, one night, the king Henry was attending a meeting with the Barons, and a baron expressed his hatred towards Beckett, [ADD: CITAZIONE]. Henry approved [ADD: CITAZIONE] and immediatly a team of four knights left the room to hunt Beckett. Henry tried to stop them, but it was too late.

The Knights arrived to the Cathedral of Canterbury, Beckett let them enter despite the opposition of a priest because “the house of God is open to everyone”, the knights surrounded him and stabbed him to death. Beckett is known as the first martyr of England because when he was being stabbed he bent his elbows and allegedly said

“For the name of Jesus and the protection of the church I am ready to embrace death.”

After Beckett’s death Henry II didn’t sleep for three nights, then he moved on, but at an old age he died [NON MI RICORDO COSA SUCCEDE MI SEMBRA LO TRADISCA LA MOGLIE ED UNO DEI FIGLI LO UCCIDA]


Lollardy Reform #

Henry III #

Richard I #


John Lackland #


magna carta #