THE NORMAN CONQUEST AND SETTLEMENT (W1)
xxxxxHaving won the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror lost no time in securing his new kingdom. Starting in 1067, it took some five years to complete the conquest, the most difficult task proving to be the overthrow of Hereward the Wake and his men on the Isle of Ely. This achieved, he set about stamping his authority on all the affairs of church and state. French nobles replaced much of the English nobility, and French clergy took over from the English. A stricter and more efficient feudal and manorial system was introduced and a network of powerfully built castles ensured Norman authority would be respected. In addition, vast areas of England were granted to French nobles or taken over by William and his half-
xxxxxWilliam the Conqueror's first task after winning the Battle of Hastings was to secure his new kingdom. Starting in 1067, it took about five years, during which he ruthlessly put down a rebellion in the north -
xxxxxPerhaps "settlement" is too soft a word -
xxxxxThus within 20 years of the battle of Hastings, vast areas of England were in Norman hands; the country was controlled by a network of huge castles, about 80 in number (some are named above); the church was endowed with some fine cathedrals; and the administration of church and state -
xxxxxThe Norman Conquest is generally regarded as a victory of the French over the English and let this be so, but it is worth noting that the Normans were, in fact, Vikings. As their name implies, they were Men from the North and, as such, they had only been settled in north-
xxxxxThe Feudal System was based on service and was practised before the Normans came, albeit in a less rigid form. The king granted his nobles land and, in return, they were obliged to pay him taxes and provide him with fighting men. Alongside this medieval structure was an agricultural system of land tenure, centred around the manor house and its grounds. In this "Manorial System", the lord parcelled out his land to the peasants and they farmed their own strip in return for money, crops and a set period of labour. Most of the peasants were "tied to the land", that is, to their lord, and it was he who kept everybody in their rightful place and administered justice. William I laid claim to all the land in his kingdom, and made a detailed survey of it in his Domesday Book.
xxxxxIn simple terms, the Feudal System was a means whereby the barons or nobles were granted land by the king (often for their loyalty or active support) and, in return, had to pay him taxes and provide the men to fight his battles outside or within the kingdom. The task of assembling this fighting force fell upon the knights who, in turn, were granted land from their lords. By way of payment, they had to give their masters a minimum of 40 days of military service each year and to provide a certain number of soldiers from the workers (vassals) on their estates whenever the need arose.
xxxxxAlongside this medieval structure -
xxxxxThe Normans did not introduce the feudal and manorial systems into England -
xxxxxIncidentally, one of the best preserved Norman manor houses in England is to be found in the village of Boothby Pagnell in Lincolnshire. And the village of Laxton in Nottinghamshire has the last remaining open field system still in use in the United Kingdom.
xxxxxAs one would expect, the Norman Conquest had a marked effect upon language. English became a mixture of Anglo-
xxxxxWilliam I had no designs on Wales. Having gained the English throne and overcome resistance to his coming, he was anxious to get on with the task of administrating his new kingdom and overseeing Normandy. However, Welsh incursions into England in support of attacks upon his rule forced his hand. He installed Norman barons along the border lands (the “Marches”) and invaded the principality in earnest in 1081, but it was not before 1094, in the reign of his successor William II, that some measure of authority was achieved. Furthermore, within a few years, despite the efforts of Henry I -
xxxxxAs far as Scotland was concerned, William was obliged to invade the country in 1072 in order to make sure of his hold on his new kingdom. One of the principal claimants to the English throne, Edgar Aetheling, having been defeated by William in the battle for Northumbria, had fled to Scotland and conveniently secured Scottish support by the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the Scottish king, Malcolm III. This posed a threat William could not ignore, though, as it turned out, it was not of long standing. A sizable force having reached Abernethy, some eight miles south-
The Feudal System,
Map: source unknown. Manor House: 13th century manor house at Boothby Pagnell, Lincolnshire – from Domestic Architecture in England by the architectural historian Thomas Hudson Turner (1815-