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THE NORMAN AND PLANTAGENET DYNASTIES, FROM WILLIAM THE
CONQUEROR (1066) TO EDWARD II. (1327). THIS EPOCH IS
CHIEFLY DISTINGUISHED AS THE PERIOD OF THE INSTITUTION OF FEUDALISM; OF MAGNA CHARTA, WRESTED BY THE BARONS FROM JOHN; OF THE RISE OF A REPRESENTATIVE PARLIAMENT, OUT OF THE OLD WITENAGEMOTE, UNDER HENRY III.; OF THE CONQUEST OF WALES, AND THE SCOTTISH WARS.
1. William the Conqueror.
A. D. 1066-1087.
ENGLISH RESISTANCE TO NORMAN OPPRESSION AND CRUELTY-CONFISCATION OF PROPERTY-INTRODUCTION OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM-DOOMSDAY BOOK-WAR
ACCORDING to the feudal laws which prevailed in those days, William I. of England was vassal of the King of France, owing him allegiance and homage for his duchy of Normandy. It was fortunate for William, that, at the time of his invasion of England, Philip 1. of France was a minor, and could offer no serious obstacle to the aggrandizement of his vassal. The regent during that minority was Baldwin, count of Flanders, who, though uncle of the French king, was William's father-in-law, and naturally favoured
ENGLISH RESISTANCE TO NORMAN OPPRESSION. 23
Harold, or the
a project that seated his daughter on a throne. Witenagemote, had neglected to make provision for the possible contingency of defeat at Hastings; and it was consequently followed by terror and confusion amongst the English. For a moment they thought of proclaiming the boy, Edgar Atheling, but William left them little time for deliberation. He swept down all opposition, and by his energy, combined with a semblance of magnanimity, induced the English nobility and prelates to make submission. His first care was to cover the country with citadels, and garrison them with Normans. He was crowned on Christmas day 1066, in Westminster Abbey, by the Archbishop of York. The acclamations of assent from the Norman and English nobility was the signal out of doors, apparently under some misunderstanding, for a pillage and massacre of the English in the neighbourhood. tumult was appeased by William.
Not long after he had taken possession of his new kingdom, he resolved on visiting Normandy, leaving the direction of English affairs in the hands of his half-brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and William Fitzosborne. He carried with him, in his retinue, the most prominent and powerful of the English nobility, to serve at once as trophies of his conquest, and as security against organized revolt while he was absent. Nevertheless, the insolence, tyranny, and cruelty practised by the Normans in every part of the country, opened the eyes of the English to their real position. The hour of retribution had come. The confiscations and exterminations inflicted by them on the Britons, they were now in their turn to suffer. They had to learn that William was their Conqueror. In their distress, they invited the King of Denmark to come to their aid, and offered him the crown, preferring the revival of the old Danish dynasty to the continuance of Norman oppression. Wild bands of Saxons, having abandoned the towns on their occupation by the conquerors, lived in tents in the open country, and, driven to desperation, were always ready to take advantage of an opportunity of retaliation. Insurrection spread rapidly over the country, and William found it no easy
task to subdue the Saxon independence and stubbornness. Resistance to the foreign encroachments raged most fiercely amongst the Northumbrians, who assaulted the Norman citadel, and put the garrison, consisting of 3000 soldiers, to the sword. When William appeared on the scene of action, the dreadful remedy he applied was worthy of a descendant of the old sea-kings. He ordered the sixty miles of country lying between the Humber and the Tees to be laid waste, the inhabitants to be slain, and every house reduced to ashes. For more than half a century afterwards the whole of this district continued an unproductive waste. Some of the survivors of this stern policy took refuge in Scotland, and were hospitably received by King Malcolm, who had married Edgar Atheling's sister, Margaret. In consequence of these devastations, and the interruption of agricultural labour caused by the disturbed state of the country, there followed so great a scarcity that more than a hundred thousand of all ages are said to have perished of want.
In armed resistance, or by the axe of the executioner, the English nobility quickly disappeared. A sweeping confiscation of the lands of England followed, which William, on conditions of military service, distributed, as hereditary fiefs, amongst his Norman barons. Strong castles, defended by armed retainers, sprang up
William now commanded a survey of the lands of England to be made, and a return of their produce and value, with the names of the proprietors, to be registered in what was called the Doomsday Book. By this act he rendered a great service to the country, and to future rulers. To him also is to be ascribed the establishment and organization of the feudal system in England. By it the Norman barons became the sole possessors of land, owing homage and fealty and military service to the king, while the Saxons were reduced to a state approaching servitude. Nor were the church lands exempted from the conditions of military service. While William paid due deference to the church, and appointed to its dignities men of ability and virtue, he did not permit any opposition to his will from that or
WAR WITH FRANCE.
any other quarter. He conferred a benefit on the country by putting down the habit of taking private revenge, which was a characteristic of the old Saxon races: "No man durst slay another, though he had suffered never so mickle evil from the other."
Previously to embarking on his expedition against England, William had engaged to hand over the government of Normandy to his eldest son Robert, in the event of his attempt proving successful. Philip I. of France, naturally jealous of his too powerful vassal, now insisted on the fulfilment of the engagement, in order that the two governments might be kept separate. He therefore instigated Robert to demand its execution, and for some years the father and son were at war. On one occasion, they, not recognising each other in consequence of the armour in which they were encased, engaged in single combat. The father was worsted, and the son discovering who his antagonist had been, felt stricken with shame and sorrow.
William, at all times a large powerful man, grew corpulent as he advanced in years. A joke of Philip's, alluding to this infirmity, again kindled his ferocity, and he led an army into the domains of the King of France to recover the territory of the Vexin which had been wrested from Normandy and annexed to France. Desolating the country along his line of march, he reached the town of Mantes, which he took by assault, and reduced to ashes. While riding out to survey the destruction which he had caused, his horse trod on a burning cinder, and stumbled. The king was thrown, and received a serious injury. He was carried to Rouen, where he lingered for some weeks, tormented by recollections of the violence and tyranny he had inflicted on the English people. He died in 1087, and was buried in the church of St. Stephen's, at Caen.
Cotemporary Events.-France: Philip 1. Scotland: Malcolm 111.
Questions.-1. State the condition of England immediately after the Conquest, and the measures William took to subdue the country. 2. How was land held under the Feudal System? 3. What two great services did William render to the country? 4. Write out the manner of his death.
DISPUTES IN NORMANDY-THE FIRST CRUSADE. [A.D. 1087
2. William Rufus.1
A. D. 1087-1100.
DISPUTES IN NORMANDY-THE FIRST CRUSADE-MISGOVERNMENT.
William II., called Rufus, was the second and favourite son of the Conqueror, Robert. William Rufus. Henry I. who, when dying, named his son Robert successor to the duchy of Normandy, and, in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, expressed his wish that William should wear the English crown. William accordingly hastened to England, and was forthwith crowned by the Archbishop: but the Norman barons, who possessed estates in both countries, naturally desired their union under one head, and held Robert's claim to the throne superior to that of William. Insurrection followed, which William defeated by promptitude of action, the only virtue he inherited from his father. He then endeavoured by fraud, corruption, and force, to gain possession of Normandy, which, being ill governed by the indolent, good-natured Duke Robert, became the constant battle-field of the two brothers, till, on Robert's joining the Crusaders, he was forced, through want of money, to mortgage his duchy of Normandy and Maine to William (1096).
The great event of this age was the first Crusade,2 the battle of the Cross against the Crescent-the Bible against the Koran— which gathered under the same banner all the nations of Christendom, and all ranks of men from the prince to the serf. Robert caught the enthusiasm that carried half Europe to the sepulchre at Jerusalem. William Rufus, however, was proof against the prevailing excitement. His one thought was money, and to obtain it he shrank from no act, however mean, iniquitous, or tyrannical. His courtiers were luxurious and effeminate, and among them he found willing tools. Thus England, after having been crushed under
1 Rufus means red he was so called from his florid complexion.
2 Crusade from Croisade, derived from Croix, the Cross