The Leading Facts of English History
by D.H. Montgomery
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77. Fresh Elements contributed by the Danes or Northmen.

Then came the Danes or Northmen (SS52, 63). They brought with them a new spirit of still more savage independence which found expression in their song, "I trust my sword, I trust my steed, but most I trust myself at need."

They conquered a large part of the island, and in conquering regenerated it. So strong was their love of independence, that even the lowest classes of farm laborers were quite generally free.

More small independent landholders were found amongh the Danish population than anywhere else; and it is said that the number now existing in the region which they settled in the northeast of England is still much larger than in the south. (See map facing p. 32.) Finally, the Danes and the English, both of whome sprang from the North Germanic tribes (S36), mingled and becames in all respects one people.

78. Summary: What the Anglo-Saxons accomplished.

Thus Jutes, Saxons, Angles, and Danes, whom together we may call the Anglo-Saxons,[1] laid the corner stone of the English nation. However much that nation has changed since, it remains, nevertheless, in its solid and fundamental qualities, what those peoples made it.

[1] Anglo-Saxons: Some authorities insist that this phrase means the Saxons of England in distinction from those of the Continent. It is used here, however, in the sense given by Professor Freeman, as a term describing the people formed in England by the union of the Germanic tribes which had settled in the island.

They gave first the language, simple strong, direct, and plain—the familiar, everyday speech of the fireside and the street, the well-known words of both the newspaper and the Bible.

Next they established the government in its main outlines as it still exists; that is, a king, a legislative body representing the people, and a judicial system embodying the germ, at least, of trial by jury (S89).

Last, and best, they furnished conservative patience, persistent effort, indomitable tenacity of purpose, and cool, determined courage. These qualities have won glorious victories on both sides of the Atlantic, not only in the conflicts of war, but in the contests of peace, and who can doubt that they are destined to win still greater ones in the future?


This section contains a summary of much of the preceding period, with considerable additional matter. It is believed that teachers and pupils may find it useful for reference on certain topics (e.g. feudalism, etc.) which could not be conveniently treated in detail in the history proper.

I. Government. II. Religion. III. Military Affairs. IV. Literature, Learning, and Art. V. General Industry and Commerce. VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

I. Government

79. Beginning of the English Monarchy.

During the greater part of the first four centuries after the Saxon conquest Britain was divided into a number of tribal settlements, or petty kingdoms, held by Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, constantly at war with each other. In the ninth century, the West Saxons, or inhabitants of Wessex, succeeded, under the leadership of Egbert, in practically conquering and uniting the country. Egbert now assumed the title of Overlord or Supreme Ruler of the English people. In time Britain came to be known, from the name of its largest tribe, the Angles, as Angle-Land, or England. Meanwhile the Danes had obtained possession of a large part of the country on the northeast, but they eventually united with the English and became one people.

80. The King and the Witan.

The government of England was vested in an elective sovereign, assisted by the National Council of the Witan, or Wise Men. It is an open question where every freeman had the right to attend this national council,[1], but, in practice, the right became confined to a small number of the nobles and clergy.

[1] Professor Stubbs and Freeman take opposite views on this point.

81. What the Witan could do.

1. The Witan elected the King (its choice being confined, as a rule, to the royal family). 2. In case of misgovernment, it deposed him. 3. It made or confirmed grants of public lands. 4. It acted as a supreme court of justice both in civil and criminal cases. (See the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, p. ii, S3.)

82. What the King and Witan could do.

1. They enacted the laws, both civil and ecclesiastical. (In most cases this meant nothing more than stating what the custom was, the common law being merely the common custom.) 2. They levied taxes. 3. They declared war and made peace. 4. They appointed the chief officers and bishops of the realm.

83. Land Tenure before the Conquest.

Before they invaded Britain the Saxons and kindred tribes appear to have held their lands in common. Each head of a family had a permanent homestead, but that was all.[1] "No one," says Caesar, "has a fixed quantity of land or boundaries to his property. The magistrates and chiefs assign every year to the families and communities who live together, as much land and in such spots as they think suitable. The following year they require them to take up another allotment.

[1] Tacitus ("Germania") says that each house "was surrounded by a space of its own."

"The chief glory of the tribes is to have their territory surrounded with as wide a belt as possible of waste land. They deem it not only a special mark of valor that every neighboring tribe should be driven to a distance, and that no stranger should dare to reside in their vicinity, but at the same time they regard it as a precautionary measure against sudden attacks."[2]

[2] Caesar, "Gallic War," Book VI.

84. Folkland.

Each tribe, in forming its settlement, seized more land than it actually needed. This excess was known as Folkland (the People's land,[3] and might be used by all alike for pasturing cattle or cutting wood. With the consent of the Witan, the King might grant portions of this Folkland as a reward for services done to himself or to the community. Such grants were usually conditional and could only be made for a time. Eventually they returned to the community.

Other grants, however, might be made in the same way, which conferred full ownership. Such grants were called Bocland (Book land), because conveyed by writing, or registered in a charter or book. In time the King obtained the power of making these grants without having to consult the Witan, and at last the whole of the Folkland came to be regarded as the absolute property of the Crown.

85. Duties of Freemen.

Every freeman was obliged to do three things: 1. He must assist in the maintenance of roads and bridges. 2. He must aid in the repair of forts. 3. He must serve in case of war. Whoever neglected or refused to perform this last and most important of all duties was dclard to be a "nithing," or infamous coward.[4]

[4] Also written Niding. The English, as a rule, were more afraid of this name than of death itself.

86. The Feudal System (see, too, the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, p. iii, S5).

The essential principle of the feudal system was the holding of land on condition of military or other service. It appears to have gradually grown up in England from grants made by the King. In addition to the Eorls (earls)[1] or nobles by birth, there gradually grew up a class known as Thanes (companions or servants of the King), who in time outranked those who were noble by birth. He would frequently have occasion to give rewards to the nobles and chief men for faithful service and for deeds of valor. As nearly all his wealth consisted in land, he would naturally give that. To this gift, however, he would attach a condition. On making such a grant the King required the receiver to agree to furnish a certain number of fully equipped soldiers to fight for him. These grants were originally made for life only, and on death of the recipient they returned to the Crown.

[1] The Saxons, or Early English, were divided into three classes: Eorls (they must nut be confounded with the Danish jarls or earls), who were noble by birth; Ceorls (churls), or simple freemen; and slaves. The slaves were either the absolute property of the master, or were bound to the soil and sold with it. This latter class, under the Norman name of villeins, became numerous after the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century. The chieftains of the first Saxon settlers were called either Ealdormen (aldermen) or Heretogas, the first being civil or magisterial, the latter military officers. The Thanes were a later class, who, from serving the King or some powerful leader, became noble by military service.

Next, the nobles and other great landholders, following the example of the King, granted portions of their estates to tenants on similar conditions, and these again might grant portions to those below them in return for satisfactory military or other service.

In time it came to be an established principle, that every freeman below the rank of a noble must be attached to some superior whom he was bound to serve, and who, on the other hand, was his legal protector and responsible for his good behavior. The man who refused to acknowledge his duty to serve a lord or superior was looked upon as an outlaw, and might be seized like a robber. In that respect, therefore, he would be worse off than the slave, who had a master to whom he was accountable and who was accountable for him.

Eventually it became common for the small landholders, especially during the Danish invasions, to seek the protection of some neighboring lord who had a large band of followers at his command. In such cases the freeman gave up his land and received it again on certain conditions. The usual form was for him to kneel and, placing his hands within those of the lord, to swear an oath of homage, saing, "I BECOME YOUR MAN for the lands which I hold to you, and I will be faithful to you against all men, saving only the service which I owe to my lord the King." On his side the lord solemnly promised to defend his tenant or vassal in the possession of his property, for which he was to perform some service to the lord.

In these two ways, first, by grant of lands from the King or a superior, and, secondly, by the act of homage (known as commendation) on the part of the recipient when he had given up lands on condition of protection and had received them back again, the feudal system (a name derived from feodum, meaning land or property) grew up in England. Its growth, however, was irregular and incomplete; and it should be distinctly understood that it was not until after the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century that it became fully establised. It should also be distinctly understood that William the Conqueror made a most important change in this system by requiring the tenants of all the great landholders, as well as their masters, to swear direct obedience to him (S121).

87. Advantages of Feudalism.

This system had at that time many advantages. 1. The old method of holding land in common was a wasteful one, since the way in which the possessor of a field might cultivate it would perhaps spoil it for the one who received it at the next allotment. 2. In an age of constant warfare, feudalism protected all classes better than if they had stood apart, and it often enabled the King to raise a powerful and well-armed force in the easiest and quickest manner. 3. It cultivated two important virtues,—fidelity on the part of the vassal, protection on that of the lord. It had something of the spirit of the Golden Rule in it. Its corner stone was the faithfulness of man to man. Society had outgrown the outward forms of feudalism, which like every system had its drawbacks, but it would seem as though it could never wholly outgrow the feudal principle.

88. Political Divisions; the Sheriff.

Politically the kingdom was divided into townships, hundreds (districts furnishing a hundred warriors, or supporting a hundred families), and shires or counties, the shire having been originally, in some cases, the section settled by an independent tribe, as Sussex, Essex, etc.

In each shire the King had an officer, called a shire reeve or sherrif,[1] who represented him, collected the taxes due the Crown, and saw to the execution of the laws. In like manner, the town and the hundred had a headman of its own choosing to see to matters of general interest.

[1] Reeve: a man in authority, or having charge of something

89. The Courts.

As the nation had its assembly of wise men acting as a high court, so each shire, hundred, and town had its court, which all freemen might attend. There, without any special judge, jury, or lawyers, cases of all kinds were tried and settled by the voice of the entire body, who were both judge and jury in themselves.

90. Methods of Procedure; Compurgation.

In these courts there were two methods of procedure; first, the accused might clear himself of the charge brought against him by compurgations[1]; that is, by swearing that he was not guilty and getting a number of reputable neighbors to swear that they believed his oath.

If their oaths were not satisfactory, witnesses might be brought to swear to some particular fact. In ever case the value of the oath was graduated according to the rank of the person, that of a man of high rank being worth as much as that of twelve common men.

91. The Ordeal.

Secondly, if the accused could not clear himself in this way, he was obliged to submit to the ordeal.[2] This usually consisted in carrying a piece of hot iron a certain distance, or in plunging the arm up to the elbow in boiling water.

[2] Ordeal: a severe test or judgment

The person who underwent the ordeal appealed to God to prove his innocence by protecting him from harm. Rude as both these methods were, they were better than the old tribal method, which permitted every man or every man's family to be the avenger of his wrongs.

92. The Common Law.

The laws by which these cases were tried were almost always ancient customs, few of which had been reduced to writing. They formed that body of Common Law[3] which is the foundation of the modern system of justice both in England and America.

[3] So called, in distinction from the statute laws made by Parliament.

93. Penalties.

The penalties inflicted by these courts consisted chiefly of fines. Each man's life had a certain "wergild" or money value. The fine for the murder of a man of very high rank was 2400 shillings; that of a simple freeman was only one twelfth as much.

A slave could neither testify in court nor be punished by the court; for the man in that day who held no land had no rights. If a slave was convicted of crime, his master paid the fine, and then flogged him until he had got his money's worth out of him. Treason was punished with death, and common scolds were ducked in a pond until they were glad to hold their tongues. These methods of administering justice were crude, but they had the great merit of being effective. They aimed to do two very necessary things: first, to protect the community against dangerous criminals; secondly, to teach those criminals that "the way of the transgressor is hard."

II. Religion

94. The Ancient Saxon Faith.

Before their conversion to Christianity, the Saxons worshiped Woden and Thor, names preserved in Wednesday (Woden's day) and Thursday (Thor's day). The first appears to have been considered to be the creator and ruler of heaven and earth; the second was his son, the god of thunder, slayer of evil spirits, and friend of man.

The essential element of their religion was the deification of strength, courage, and fortitude. It was a faith well suited to a warlike people. It taught that there was a heaven for the brave and a hell for cowards.

95. What Christianity did.

Christianity, on the contrary, laid emphasis on the virtues of self-sacrifice and sympathy. It took the side of the weak and the helpless. The Church itself held slaves, yet it labored for emancipation. It built monasteries and encouraged industry and education. The church edifice was a kind of open Bible.

Very few who entered the sacred building then could have spelled out a single word of either the Old or New Testament, even if they had then been translated from Latin into English; but all, from the poorest peasant or the meanest slave up to the greatest noble, could read the meaning of the Scripture histories painted in brilliant colors on wall and window.

The church, furthermore, was a peculiarly sacred place. It was powerful to shield those who were in danger. If a criminal, or a person fleeing from vengeance, took refuge in it, he could not be seized until forty days had expired, during which time he had the privilege of leaving the kingdom and going into exile.

This "right of sanctuary" was often a needful protection in an age of violence. In time, however, the system became an intolerable abuse, since it enabled robbers and desperadoes of all kinds to defy the law. The right was modified at different times, but was not wholly abolished until 1624, in the reign of James I.

III. Military Affairs

96. The Army.

The army consisted of a national militia, or "fyrd," and a feudal militia. From the earliest times all freemen were obliged to fight in the defense of the country. Under the feudal system, every large landholder had to furnish the King a stipulated number of men, fully equipped with armor and weapons. As this method was found more effective than the first, it gradually superseded it.

The Saxons always fought on foot. They wore helmets and rude, flexible armor, formed of iron rings, or of stout leather covered with small plates of iron and other substances. They carried oval-shaped shields. Their chief weapons were the spear, javelin, battle-ax, and sword. The wars of this period were those of the different tribes seeking to get the advantage over each other, or of the English with the Danes.

97. The Navy.

Until Alfred's reign the English had no navy. From that period they maintained a fleet of small warships to protect the coast from invasion. Most of these vessels appear to have been furnished by certain ports on the south coast.

IV. Literature, Learning, and Art

98. Runes.

The language of the Saxons was of Low-German origin. Many of the words resemble the German of the present day. When written, the characters were called runes, mysteries or secrets. The chief use of these runes was to mark a sword hilt, or some article of value, or to form a charm against evil and witchcraft.

It is supposed that one of the earliest runic inscriptions is the following, which dates from about 400 A.D. It is cut on a drinking horn,[1] and (reproduced in English characters) stands thus:


I, Hlewagastir, son of Holta, made the horn

[1] The golden horn of Gallehas, found on the Danish-German frontier.

With the introduction of Christianity the Latin alphabet, from which our modern English alphabet is derived, took the place of the runic characters, which bore some resemblance to Greek, and English literature began with the coming of the monks.

99. The First Books.

One of the first English books of great value was the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," a history covering a period beginning 1 A.D. and ending in 1154. The work was probably written by the monks in Canterbury, Peterborough, and other monasteries. It may be considered as an annual register of iportant events. Thorpe says of it, "No other nation can produce any history written in its own vernacular, at all approaching the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" either in antiquity, truthfulness, or extent, the historical books of the Bible alone excepted."

Though written in prose, it countains various fragments of poetry, of which the following (rendered into modern English), on the death of Edward the Confessor (1066), may be quoted as an example:

"Then suddenly came On Harold's self, Death the bitter A noble Earl! And that dear prince seized. Who in all times Angels bore Faithfully hearkened His steadfast soul Unto his lord Into heaven's light. In word and deed, But the wise King Nor ever failed Bestowed his realm In aught the King On one grown great, Had needed of him!"

Other early books were Caedmon's poem of the Creation, also in English, and Bede's "Church History" of Britain, written in Latin, a work giving a full and most interesting account of the coming of Augustine and his first preaching in Kent. All of these books were written by the monks in different monasteries.

100. Art.

The English were skillful workers in metal, especially in gold and silver, and also in the illumination of manuscripts.[1] Alfred's Jewel, a fine specimen of the blue-enameled gold of the ninth century, is preseved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. It bears the inscription: "Alfred me heht gewurcan," Alfred caused me to be worked [or made].

[1] These illuminations get their name from the gold, silver, and bright colors used in the pictures, borders, and decorated letters with which the monks ornamented these books. For beautiful specimens of he work, see Silvestre's "Pale'ographie."

The women of that period excelled in weaving fine linen and woolen cloth and in embroidering tapestry.

101. Architecture.

In architecture no advance took place until very late. The small ancient church at Bradford-on-Avon in the south of England belongs to the Saxon period. The Saxon stonework exhibited in a few buildings like the church tower of Earl's Barton, Northamptonshire, is an attempt to imitate timber with stone, and has been called "stone carpentry."[2] Edward the Confessor's work in Westminster Abbey was not Saxon, but Norman, he having obtained his plans, and probably his builders, from Normandy.

[2] See Parker's "Introduction to Gothic Architecture" for illustrations of this work.

V. General Industry and Commerce

102. Farms; Slave Trade.

The farming of this period, except on the Church lands, was of the rudest description. Grain was ground by the women and slaves in stone hand mills. Late, the mills were driven by wind or water power. The pricipal commerce was in wool, lead, tin, and slaves. A writer of that time says he used to see long trains of young men and women tied together, offered for sale, "for men were not ashamed," he adds, "to sell their nearest relatives, and even their own children."

VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

103. The Town.

The first Saxon settlements were quite generally on the line of the old Roman roads. They were surrounded by a rampart of earth set with a thick hedge or with rows of sharp stakes. Outside this was a deep ditch. These places were called towns,[1] from "tun," meaning a fence or hedge. The chief fortified towns were called "burghs" or boroughs. Later on, this class of towns generally had a corporate form of government, and eventually they sent representatives to Parliament (S213).

[1] One or more houses might constitute a town. A single farmhouse is still so called in Scotland.

104. The Hall.

The buildings in these towns were of wood. Those of the lords or chief men were called "halls," from the fact that they consisted mainly of a hall, or large room, used as a sitting, eating, and often as a sleeping room,—a bundle of straw or some skins thrown on the floor serving for beds. There were no chimneys, but a hole in the roof let out the smoke. If the owner was rich, the walls would be decorated with bright-colored tapestry, and with suits of armor and shields hanging from pegs.

105. Life in the Hall.

Here in the evening the master supped on a raised platform at one end of the "hall," while his followers ate at a lower table.

The Saxons were hard drinkers as well as hard fighters. After the meal, while horns of ale and mead were circulating, the minstrels, taking their harps, would sing songs of battle and ballads of wild adventure.

Outside the "hall" were the "bowers," or chambers for the master and his family, and, perhaps, an upper chamber for a guest, called later by the Normans a sollar, or sunny room.

If a stranger approached a town, he was obliged to blow a horn; otherwise he might be slain as an outlaw.

Here in the midst of rude plenty the Saxons, or Early English, lived a life of sturdy independence. They were rough, strong, outspoken, and fearless. Theirs was not the nimble brain, for that was to come with another people (the Normans), though a people originally of the same race. The mission of the Saxons was to lay the foundation; or, in other words, to furnish the muscle, grit, and endurance, without which the nimble brain is of little permanent value.

106. Guilds.

The inhabitants of the towns and cities had various associations called guilds (from gild, a payment or contribution). The object of these was mutual assistance. The most important were the Frith guilds or Peace guilds and the Merchant guilds. The former constituted a voluntary police force to preserve order and bring thieves to punishment.

Each member contributed a small sum to form a common fund which was useed to make good any losses incurred by robbery or fire. The association held itself responsible for the good behavior of its members, and kept a sharp eye on strangers and stragglers, who had to give an account of themselves or leave the country.

The Merchant guilds were organized, apparantly at a late period, to protect and extend trade. After the Norman Conquest they came to be very wealthy and influential. In addition to the above, there were social and religious guilds, which made provision for feasts, for maintenance of religious services, and for the relief of the poor and the sick.


"In other countries the struggle has been to gain liberty; in England, to preserve it." — Alison



Building the Norman Superstructure — The Age of Feudalism

Norman Sovereigns

William I, 1066-1087 William II, 1087-1100 Henry I, 1100-1135 Stephen (House of Blois), 1135-1154

[1] Reference Books on this Period will be found in the Classified List of Books in the Appendix. The pronunciation will be found in the Index. The Leading Dates stand unenclosed; all others are in parentheses.

107. William marches on London; he grants a Charter to the City.

Soon after the great and decisive battle of Hastings (S74), WIlliam the Conqueror advanced on London and set fire to the Southwark suburbs. The Londoners, terrified by the flames, and later cut off from help from the north by the Conqueror's besieging army, opened their gates and surrendered without striking a blow. In return, William, shortly after his coronation, granted the city a charter, by which he guaranteed to the inhabitants the liberties which they had enjoyed under Edward the Confessor (S65).

That document may still be seen among the records in the Guildhall, in London.[2] It is a narrow strip of parchment not the length of a man's hand. It contains a few lines in English, to which William's royal seal was appended. It has indeed been said on high authority that the King also signed the charter with a cross; but no trace of it appears on the parchment. The truth seems to be that he who wielded the sword with such terrible efficiency disdained handling the pen (S154).

[2] See Constitutional Documents in the Appendix, p. xxxiii.

108. The Coronation; William returns to Normandy.

On the following Christmas Day (1066) William was anointed and crowned in Westminster Abbey. His accession to the throne marked the union of England and Normandy (S191). (See map facing p. 54). He assumed the title of "King of the English," which had been used by Edward the Confessor and by Harold. The title "King of England" did not fully and finally come into use until John's accession, more than a hundred and thirty years later. William did not remain in London, but made Winchester, in the south of England, his capital. In the spring (1067) he sailed for Normandy, where he had left his queen, Matilda, to govern in his absence.

While on the Continent he intrusted England to the hands of two regents, one his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, the other his friend William Fitz-Osbern; the former he had made Earl of Kent, the latter Earl of Hereford.

During the next three years there were outbreaks and uprisings in the lowlands of Cambridgeshire and the moors of Yorkshire, besides incursions of both Danes and Scots.

109. William quells Rebellion in the North (1068).

The oppresive rule of the regents (S108) soon caused a rebellion, and in December William returned to England to put it down. He found the task a hard one. The King of Denmark made it all the harder by sending over a powerful fleet to held the English. William bribed the Danish commanders and they "sailed away without striking a blow." Then, little by little, he brought the land to obedience. By forced marches in midwinter, by roads cast up through bogs, and by sudden night attacks William accomplished the end he sought.

But (1068) news came of a fresh revolt in the north, accompanied by another invasion of foreign barbarians. Then William, roused by terrible anger, swore by the "splendor of God" that he would lay waste the land.

He made good his oath. For a hundred miles beyond the river Humber in Yorkshire he ravaged the country, burning villages, destroying houses, crops, and cattle, and reduced the wretched people to such destitution that many sold themselves for slaves to escape starvation. Having finished his work in the north, he turned toward the ancient Roman city of Chester, in the west, and captured it. (See map facing p. 38.)

110. Hereward (1091).

Every part of the land was now in William's power except an island in the swamps of Ely, in the east of England. There the Englishman Hereward, with his resolute little band of fellow countrymen, continued to defy the power of the Conqueror. (See map facing p. 38.) "Had there been three more men like him in the island," said one of William's own soldiers, "the Normans would never have entered it." But as there were not three more, the Conquest was at length completed.

111. Necessity of William's Severity.

The work of death had been fearful. But it was better that England should suffer from these pitiless measures than that it should sink into anarchy, or into subjection to hordes of Northmen (S53). For those fierce barbarians destroyed not because they desired to build something better, but because they hated civilization and all its works.

Whatever William's faults may have been, his great object was to build up a government better than any England had yet seen. Hence his severity, hence his castles and forts, by which he made sure of retaining his hold upon whatever he had gained.

112. William builds the Tower of London.

We have seen that William gave London a charter (S107); but overlooking the place in which the charter was kept, he built the Tower of London to hold the turbulent city in wholesome restraint. That tower, as fortress, palace, and prison, stands as the dark background of most events in English history.

It was the forerunner of a multitude of Norman castles. They rose on the banks of every river, and on the summit of every rocky height, from the west hill of Hastings to the peak of Derbyshire, and from the banks of the Thames to those of the Tweed. Side by side with these strongholds there also rose a great number of monasteries, churches, and cathedrals.

113. William confiscates the Land; Classes of Society.

Hand in hand with the progress of conquest, the confiscation of land went on. William had seized the lands belonging to Harold (S67) and those of the chief men associated with him, and had given them to his own followers in England. In this way, all the greatest estates and the most important offices passed into the hands of the Normans. The King made these royal grants on the express condition that those who received them should furnish him a certain number of armed men whenever he should demand them.

Two great classes of society now existed in England. First, the leading Norman conquerors, who, as chief tenants or landholders under the Crown, and as peers of the realm, had the title of barons. They numbered about fifteen hundred, and, as we have just seen, they were all pledged to draw their swordss in behalf of the King. Secondly, the English who had been reduced to a subordinate state; most of these now held their land as grants from the Norman barons on condition of some kind of service. A majority of these men were no longer entirely free, while some were actual slaves. The greater part of this servile class were villeins or farm laborers (S150). They were bound to the soil, and could be sold with it, but not, like the slaves, separately from it. They could be compelled to perform any menial labor, but usually held their plots of land and humble cottages on condition of plowing a certain number of acres or doing a certain number of days' work in each year. In time the villeins generally obtained the privilege of paying a fixed money rent, in place of labor, and their condition gradually improved.

114. How William distributed his Gifts.

Yet it is noticeable that when William granted estates to his Norman followers (S113), he was careful not to give any baron too much land in any one county or shire. His experience in Normandy had taught him that it was better to divide than to concentrate the power of the great nobles, who were often only too ready to plot to get the crown for themselves.

Thus William developed and extended the feudal system of land tenure,[1] already in existence in outline among the Saxons (S86), until it covered every part of the realm. He, however, kept this system strictly subordinate to himself, and we shall see that before the close of his reign he held a great meeting by which he got absolute control over it (S121).

[1] See, too, the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, p. v, S6.

115. The Three Counties Palatine.

The only exceptions which William made in these carefully restricted grants were the three Counties Palatine,[1] which he created. They bordered on Wales in the west, Scotland in the north, and the English Channel in the southeast. To the earls of these counties of Chester, Durham, and Kent, which were especially liable to attack from Wales, Scotland, or France, William thought it expedient to give almost royal power, which descended in their families, thus making the title hereditary. (See map facing p. 436.)

[1] Palatine (from palatium, palace): having rights equal with the King in his palace. The county of Chester is now Cheshire. Durham bordered on Northumberland, then opposed to William. Shropshire was practically a fourth County Palatine until Henry I. Later, Lancaster was added to the list.

116. How William stopped Assassination; the Law of Englishry; Gregory VII.

The hard rule of the Norman nobles caused many secret assassinations. To put a stop to these crimes, William enacted the Law of Englishry. It compelled the people of the district where a murder was perpetrated to pay a heavy fine for every Norman so slain; for it was assumed that every man found murdered was a Norman, unless proof could be brought to the contrary.

While these events were taking place in England, Hildebrand, the archdeacon who had urged the Pope to favor William's expedition against England (S68), ascended the papal throne, under the title of Gregory VII. He was the ablest, the most ambitious, and, in some respects, he most farsighted man who had been elected supreme head of the Catholic Church.

117. State of Europe; Gregory's Scheme of Reform.

Europe was at that time in a condition little better than anarchy. A perpetual quarrel was going on between the feudal barons. The Church, too, as we have seen (SS53, 60), had temporarily lost much of its power for good. Pope Gregory conceived a scheme of reform which he intended should be both wide and deep.

Like Dunstan (S60), he determined to correct the abuses which had crept into the monasteries. He resolved to have a priesthood who should devote themselves body and soul to the interests of the Church; he resolved to bring all society into submission to that priesthood; finally, he resolved to make the priesthood itself acknowledge him as its sole master. His purpose in this gigantic scheme was a noble one; it was to establish the unity and peace of Europe.

118. The Pope and the Conqueror, 1076.

Pope Gregory looked to William for help in this matter. The Conqueror, who was a zealous Catholic, was ready to give that help, but with limitations. He pledged himself to aid in reforming the English Church, which had enjoyed "an insular and barbaric independence." He undertook to remove inefficient men from its high places. The King also agreed to do something that had never been done before in England, namely, to establish separate courts (S151) for the trial of Church cases (SS164, 165). Finally, he agreed to pay the customary yearly tax to Rome, called "Peter's pence."

But Pope Gregory was not satisfied. He demanded that the Conqueror should do him homage for his crown, and should swear "to become his man" (S86). This William respectfully, but decidedly, refused to do, saying that as no "King of the English before him had ever become the Pope's man, so neither would he." In taking this action the King declared himself to be an obedient and affectionate son of the "Holy Catholic Church." But at the same time he laid down these three rules to show that he would not tolerate any interference with his power as an independent English sovereign:

1. That no Pope should be acknowledged in England, or letters from the Pope received there, without his sanction. 2. That no national synod or meeting of churchmen (S48) should enact any decrees binding the English Church, without his confirmation. 3. That no baron or officer of his should be expelled from the Church without his permission.[1]

[1] Taswell-Langmead's "English Constitutional History," p. 59; Professor W. Stubb's "Constitutional History of England," I, 286.

It is noticeable that Pope Gregory never seems to have censured William for the position he took,—perhaps because one brave man always understands and respects another.

Yet a little later than this (1077), when Henry IV, Emperor of Germany, refused to comply with certain demand made by Gregory VII, the German monarch had to submit. More than this, he was compelled to stand barefooted in the snow before the Pope's palace, waiting three days for permission to enter and beg forgiveness.

119. William a Stern but Just Ruler; the Jews; the New Forest.

Considering his love of power and strength of will, the reign of William was conspicuous for its justice. He was harsh, but generally fair. He protected the Jewish traders who came over to England in his reign, for he saw that their commercial enterprise and their financial skill would be of immense value in developing the country. Then too, if the royal treasury should happen to run dry, he thought it might be convenient to coax or compel the Jews to lend him a round sum.

On the other had, the King seized a tract of over sixty thousand acres in Hampshire for a hunting ground, which he named the New Forest.[1] It was said that William destroyed many churches and estates in order to form this forest, but these accounts appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The real grievance was not so much the appropriation of the land, which was sterile and of little value, but it was the enactment of the savage Forest Laws. These ordinances made he life of a stag of more value than that of a man, and decreed that anyone found hunting the royal deer should have both eyes torn out (S205).

[1] Forest: As here used, this does not mean a region covered with woods, but simply a section of country, partially wooded and suitable for game, set apart as a royal park or hunting ground. As William made his residence at Winchester, in Hampshire, in the south of England (see map facing p. 38), he naturally took land in that vicinity for the chase.

120. The Great Survey; Domesday Book, 1086.

Not quite twenty years after his coronation William ordered a survey and valuation to be made of the whole realm outside of London. The only exceptions were certain border counties on the north were war had left little to record save heaps of ruins and ridges of grass-grown graves (S109).

The returns of that survey were known as Domesday or Doomsday Book. The English people said this name was given to it, because, like the Day of Doom, it spared no one. It recorded every piece of property and every particular concerning it. As the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (S46) indignantly declared, "not a rood of land, not a peasant's hut, not an ox, cow, pig, or even a hive of bees escaped."

While the report showed the wealth of the country, it also showed thje suffering it had passed through in the revolts against William. Many towns had fallen into decay. Some were nearly depopulated. IN Edward the Confessor's reign (S65) York had 1607 houses; at the date of the survey it had but 967, while Oxford, which had had 721 houses, had then only 243.

The census and assessment proved of the highest importance to William and his successors. The people indeed said bitterly that the King kept to book constantly by him, in order "that he might be able to see at any time of how much more wool the English flock would bear fleecing." The object of the work, however, was not to extort money, but to present a full and exact report of the financial and military resources of the kingdom which might be directly available for revenue and defense.

121. The Great Meeting; the Oath of Allegiance to William, 1086.

In the midsummer following the completion of Domesday Book, William summoned all the barons and chief landholders of the realm, with their principal vassals or tenants, to meet him on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.[1] It is said that the entire assemblage numbered sixty thousand. There was a logical connection between that summons and the great survey (S120). Each man's possesions and each man's responsibility were now known. Thus Domesday Book prepared the way for the action that was to be taken there.

[1] See map of England facing p. 436. Wiltshire is in the south of England. Alfred had established the seat of government at Winchester in Hampshire, but under Edward the Confessor and Harold it was transferred to Westminster (London); the honor was again restored to Winchester by William, who made it his principal residence. This was perhaps the reason why he chose Salisbury Plain (the nearest open region) for the great meeting. It was held where the modern city of Salisbury stands.

The place chosen was historic ground. On that field William had once reviewed his victorious troops. Toward the north of the widespread plain rose the rugged columns of Stonehenge (S3), surrounded by the burial mounds of prehistoric peoples. On the south rose the fortified hill of Old Sarum, scarred by British and by Roman entrenchments. William probably made his headquarters in the Norman castle then standing on that hill. On the plain below were the encampments of all the chief landholders of England.

122. The Oath of Allegiance.

There William the Conqueror finished his work. There not only every baron, but every baron's free vassal or tenant, from Cornwall to the Scottish borders, bowed before the King and swore to be "his man" (S86). By that act England was made one. By it, it was settled that every landholder in the realm, of whatever condition, was bound first of all to fight in behalf of the Crown, even if in so doing he had to fight against his own lord.[1] The barons broke this oath in the next reign (S130), but the moral obligation to keep it still remained binding.

[1] See SS86, 150; see also the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, p. v, S6. Even if the men should disregard this oath of allegiance, they could not help feeling that the principle it represented had been acknowledged by them.

123. What William had done.

A score of years before, William had landed, seeking a throne to which no law had given him any claim whatever (S67).[2] But Nature had elected him to it when she endowed him with power to take, power to use, and power to hold. Under Harold, England was a kingdom divided against itself (S71). It was fortunate for the country that William came; for out of chaos, or affairs fast drifting to chaos, his strong hand, clear brain, and resolute purpose brought order, beauty, safety, and stability. We may say, therefore, with an eminent Fernch historian, that "England owes her liberties to her having been conquered by the Normans."[3]

[2] "William, in short, had no king of right to the crown, whether by birth, bequest, or election." (E. A. Freeman's "Short History of the Norman Conquest," p. 65.) [3] Guizot; see also note 1 on page 64.

124. William's Death (1087).

In less than a year from that time, William went to Normandy to quell an invasion led by his eldest son, Robert. As he rode down a steep street in Mantes, his horse stumbled and he received a fatal injury. He was carried to the priory of St. Gervase, just outside the city of Rouen.

Early in the morning he was awakened by the great cathedral bell. "It is an hour of praise," his attendant said to him, "when the priests give thanks for the new day." William lifted up his hands in prayer and expired.

125. His Burial (1087).

His remains were taken for interment to St. Stephen's church, which he had built in the city of Caen, Normandy. As they were preparing to let down the body into the grave, a man suddenly stepped forward and forbade the burial. William, he said, had taken the land, on which the church stood, from his father by violence. He demanded payment. The corpse was left on the bier, and inquiry instituted, and not until the debt was discharged was the body lowered to its last resting place.

"Thus," says the old chronicle, "he who had been a powerful king, and the lord of so many territories, possessed not then of all his lands more than seven feet of earth," and not even that unttil the cash was paid for it. But William's bones were not to rest when finally laid in the grave, for less than five centuries later (1532) the French Protestants dug them up and scattered them.

126. Summary (1066-1087).

The results of the Norman Conquest may be thus summed up:

1. The Conquest was not the subjugation of the English by a different race, but rather a victory won for their advantage by a branch of their own race.[1] 2. It found England a divided country (S71); it made it a united kingdom. It also united England and Normandy (SS108, 191), and brought the new English kingdom into closer contact with the higher civilization of the Continent. This introduced fresh intellectual stimulus, and gave to the Anglo-Saxon a more progressive spirit. 3. It modified the English language by the influence of the Norman-French element, thus giving it greater flexibility, refinement, and elegance of expression. 4. It substituted for the fragile and decaying structures of wood generally built by the Saxons, Norman castles, abbeys, and cathedrals of stone. 5. It hastened influences, which were already at work, for the consolidation of the nation. It developed and completed the feudal form of land tenure, but it made that tenure strictly subordinate to the Crown, and so freed it, in great measure, from the evils of Continental feudalism (SS86, 150). 6. It reorganized the English Church and defined the relation of the Crown to that Church and to the Pope (S118). 7. It abolished the four great earldoms (S64), which had been a constant source of weakness, danger, and division; it put an end to the Danish invasions; it brought the whole of England under a strong monarchical government, to which not only all the great nobles, but also their vassals or tenants, were compelled to swear allegiance (SS121, 122). 8. It made no radical changes in the English laws, but enforced impartial obedience to them among all classes.[2]

[1] It has already been shown that Norman, Saxon, and Dane were originally branches of the Teutonic or German race. (SS36, 62). [2] Professor E. A. Freeman, who is the highest authority on this subject (see especially his "Short History of the Norman Conquest"), holds the view that the coming of William was, on the whole, the greatest advantage to England. Nearly all leading historians agree with him; for a different view consult Professor C. Oman's "England before the Norman Conquest," pp. 648-651.

William Rufus[3]—1087-1100

[3] William Rufus: William the Red, a nickname probably derived from his red face.

127. William the Conqueror's Bequest (1087).

William the Conqueror left three sons,—Robert, William Rufus, and Henry. He also left a daughter, Adela, who married a powerful French nobleman, Stephen, Count of Blois. On his deathbed (S124) William bequeathed Normandy to Robert. He expressed a wish that William Rufus should become ruler over England, while to Henry he left five thousand pounds of silver, with the prediction that he would ultimately be the greatest of them all.

Before his eyes were closed, the two sons, who were with him, hurried away,—William Rufus to seize the realm of England, Henry to get possession of his treasure. Robert was not present. His recent rebellion (S124) would alone have been sufficient reason for alloting to him the lesser portion; but even had he deserved the scepter, William knew it required a firmer hand than his to hold it.

128. Condition of England.

France was simple an aggregation of independent and mutually hostile dukedoms. The ambition of the Norman leaders threatened to bring England into the same condition. During the twenty-one years of William the Conqueror's reign, the Norman barons on the Continent had constantly tried to break loose from his restraining power. It was certain, then, that the news of his death would be the signal for still more desperate attempts.

129. Character of William Rufus.

Rufus had his father's ability and resolution, but none of his father's conscience. As the historian of that time declared, "he feared God but little, man not at all." He had Caesar's faith in destiny, and said to a boatman who hesitated to set off with him in a storm at his command, "Did you ever hear of a king's being drowned?"

130. His Struggle with the Barons.

The barons broke the solemn oath which they had taken in the previous reign (S122) to be faithful to the Crown. During the greater part of the thirteen years of the new King's reign they were fighting against him. On William's part it was a battle of centralization against disintegration. He rallied the country people to his help—those who fought with bows and spears. "Let every man," said the King, "who would not be branded infamous and a coward, whether he live in town or country, leave everything and come to me" (S85).

In answer to that appeal, the English people rallied around their Norman sovereign, and gained the day for him under the walls of Rochester Castle, Kent. Of the two evils, the tyranny of one or the tyranny of many, he first seemed to them preferable.

131. William's Method of raising Money; he defrauds the Church.

If in some respects William the Conqueror had been a harsh ruler, his son was worse. His brother Robert had mortgaged Normandy to him in order to get money to join the first crusade (S182). William Rufus raised whatever funds he desired by the most oppressive and unscrupulous means.

William's most trusted counselor was Ranulf Flambard. Flambard had brains without principle. He devised a system of plundering both Church and people in the King's interest. Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, died three years after William's accession. Through Flambard's advice the King left the archbishopric vacant and appropriated its revenues to himself. He practiced the same course with respect to every office of the Church.

132. The King makes Anselm Archbishop (1093).

While this process of systematized robbery was going on, the King suddenly fell ill. In his alarm lest death was at hand, he determined to make reparation to the defrauded and insulted priesthood. He invited Anselm, the abbot of a famous monastery in Normandy, to accept the archbishopric. Anselm, who was old and feeble, declined, saying that he and the King could not work together. "It would be," said he, "like yoking a sheep and a bull."

But the king would take no refusal. Calling Anselm to his bedside, he forced the staff of office into his hands. Anselm became the champion of the freedom of the Church. But when the King recovered, he resumed his old practices and treated the Archbishop with such insult that he left the country for a time.

133. William's Merit; his Death.

William II's one merit was that he kept England from being devoured piecemeal by the Norman barons, who regarded her as a pack of hounds in full chase regard the hare that is on the point of falling into their rapacious jaws.

Like his father, he insisted on keeping the English Church independent of the ever-growing power of Rome (S118). In both cases his motives were purely selfish, but the result to the country was good.

His power came suddenly to an end (1100). He had gone in the morning to hunt in the New Forest (S119) with his brother Henry. He was found lying dead among the bushes, pierced by an arrow shot by an unknown hand.

William's character speaks in his deeds. It was hard, cold, despotic, yet in judging it we should consider the woulds of that quaint old writer, Thomas Fuller, when he says, "No pen hath originally written the life of this King but what was made with a monkish penknife, and no wonder if his picture seems bad, which was thus drawn by his enemy."

134. Summary.

Notwithstanding William's oppression of both Church and people, his reign checked the revolt of the baronage and prevented the kingdom from falling into anarchy like that existing in France.

Henry I—1100-1135

135. Henry's Charter of Liberties.

Henry, third son of William the Conqueror, was the first of the Norman kings who was born and educated in England. Foreseeing a renewal of the contest with the barons (S130), he issued a Charter of Liberties on his accession, by which he bound himself to reform the abuses which had been practiced by his brother William Rufus. The charter guaranteed: (1) The rights of the Church (which William Rufus had constantly violated); (2) the rights of the nobles and landholders against extortionate demands by the Crown; (3) the right of all classes to protection of the old English customs or laws.

The King sent a hundred copies of this important document to the leading abbots and bishops for preservation in their respective monasteries and cathedrals (S45).

As this charter was the earliest written and formal guarantee of good government ever given by the Crown to the nation, it marks an important epoch in English history. It may be compared to the statements of principles and pledges issued by our modern political parties. It was a virtual admission that the time had come when even a Norman sovereign could not dispense with the support of the country. It was therefore an admission of the truth that while a people can exist without a king, no king can exist without a people.

Furthermore, this charter established a precedent for those which were to follow, and which reached a final development in the Great Charter wrested from the unwilling hand of King John somewhat more than a century later (S198). Henry further strengthened his position with his English subjects by his marriage with Maud, nice of the Saxon Edgar, a direct descendant of King Alfred (S51).

136. The Appointment of Bishops settled.

King Henry also recalled Anselm (S132) and reinstated him in his office. But the peace was of short duration. The Archbishop insisted, as did the Pope, that the power of appointment of bishops should be vested wholly in Rome. The King was equally determined that such appointments should spring from himself. Like William the Conqueror (S118), he declared: "No one shall remain in my land who will not do me homage" (S86).

The quarrel was eventually settled by compromise. The Pope was to invest the bishop with ring and crosier, or pastoral staff of office, as emblems of the spiritual power; the King, on the other hand, was to grant the lands from which he bishop drew his revenues, and in return was to receive his homage or oath of allegiance.

This acknowledgement of royal authority by the Church was of great importance, since it gave the King power as feudal lord to demand from each bishop his quota of fully equipped knights or cavalry soldiers (SS150, 152). This armed force would usually be commanded by the bishop in person (S140).

137. Henry's Quarrel with Robert; the "Lion of Justice."

While this Church question was in dispute, Henry had still more pressing matters to attend to. His elder brother Robert (SS124, 127) had invaded England and demanded the crown. The greater part of the Norman nobles supported this claim, but the English people held to Henry. Finally, in consideration of a heavy money payment, Robert agreed to return to Normandy and leave his brother in full possession of the realm. On his departure, Henry resolved to drive out the prominent nobles who had aided Robert. Of these, the Earl of Shrewsbury, called "Robert the Devil," was the leader. With the aid of the English, who hated him for his cruelty, the earl was at last compelled to leave the country.

He fled to Normandy, and, in violation of a previous agreement, was received by Henry's brother Robert. Upon that, Henry declared war, and, crossing the Channel, fought (1106) the battle of Tinchebrai,[1] by which he conquered and held Normandy as completely as William, Duke of Normandy, had conquered England forty years before. The King carried his brother captive to Wales, and kept him in prison during his life in Cardiff Castle. This ended the contest with the nobles.

[1] Tinchebrai, Normandy, in the region west of Caen and Avranches. (See map facing p. 54.)

By his uprightness, his decision, his courage, and by his organization of better courts of law (S147), Henry fairly won the honorable title of the "Lion of Justice"; for the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" says, "No man durst misdo against another in his time."[2]

[2] See, too, the Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. vi, S7.

138. Summary.

The three leading points of Henry I's reign are: (1) the self-limitation of the royal power embodied in his Charter of Liberties; (2) the settlement of old disputes between the King and the Church; (3) the banishment of the chief of the mutinous barons, and the victory of Tinchebrai, with its important results.


139. The Rival Candidates.

With Henry I's death two candidates presented themselves for the throne,—Henry's daughter, Matilda (for he left no lawful son), and his nephew, Stephen. In France the custom of centuries had determined that the crown should never descend to a female. It was an age when the sovereign was expected to lead his army in person, and it certainly was not expedient that a woman should hold a position one of whose chief duties she could not discharge. This French custom had, of course, no force in England; but the Norman nobles must have recognized its reasonableness; or if not, the people did.[1]

[1] Before Henry's death, the baronage had generally sworn to support Matilda (commonly called the Empress Matilda, or Maud, from her marriage to the Emperor Henry V of Germany; later, she married Geoffrey of Anjou). But Stephen, with the help of London and the Church, declared himself "elected King by the assent of the clergy and the people." Many of the barons now gave Stephen their support.

Four years after Stephen's accession Matilda landed in England and claimed the crown. The east of England stood by Stephen, the west by Matilda. For the sake of promoting discord, and through discord their own private ends, part of the barons gave their support to Matilda, while the rest refused, as they said, to "hold their estates under a distaff." In the absence of the Witan or National Council (S80), London unanimously chose Stephen King (1135).

The fatal defect in the new King was the absence of executive ability. Following the example of Henry (S135), he issued two charters or pledges of good government; but without power to carry them out, they proved simply waste paper.

140. The Battle of the Standard (1135).

David I of Scotland, Matilda's uncle, espoused her cause and invaded England with a powerful force. He was met at North Allerton, in Yorkshire, by the party of Stephen, and the battle of the Standard was fought.

The leaders of the English were both churchmen, who showed that they could fight as vigorously as they could pray (S136). The standard consisted of four consecrated banners, surmounted by a cross. This was set up on a wagon, on which one of the bishops stood. The sight of this sacred standard made the English invincible. (See map facing page 436.)

After a fierce contest the Scots were driven from the field. It is said that this was the first battle in which the English peasants used the long bow; they had taken the hist, perhaps, from the Norman archers at the battle of Hastings (SS73, 74). Many years later, their skill in foreign war made that weapon as famous as it was effective (S238).

141. Civil War (1138-1153).

For fifteen years following, the country was torn by civil war. While it raged, fortified castles, which, under William the Conqueror, had been built and occupied by the King only, or by those whom he could trust, now arose on every side. These strongholds became, as the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (S99) declares, "very nests of devils and dens of thieves." More than a thousand of these castles, it is said, were built. The armed bands who inhavited them levied tribute on the whole country around.

Not satisfied with that, these miscreants seized those who were suspected of having property, and, in the words of the "Chronicle," "tortured them with pains unspeakable; for some they hung up by the feet and smoked with foul smoke; others they crushed in a narrow chest with sharp stones. About the heads of others they bound knotted cords until they went into the brain." "Thousands died of hunger, the towns were burned, and the soil left untilled. By such deeds the land was ruined, and men said openly that Christ and his saints were asleep."

The sleep, however, was not always to last; for in the next reign, Justice, in the person of Henry II, effectually vindicated her power. The strife for the crown continued till the last year of Stephen's reign. Then the Church came to the rescue, and through its powerful influence the Treaty of Wallingford (in Berkshire) was made. By that treaty it was agreed that Matilda's son Henry should succeed Stephen.

142. Summary.

Stephen was the last of the Norman kings. Their reign had covered nearly a century. The period began in conquest and usurpation; it ended in gloom. We are not, however, to judge it by Stephen's reign alone, but as a whole.

This considered, it shows at least one point of advance over the preceding period,—the triumph of the moral power of the Church over feudal discord. But Stephen's reign was not all loss in other respects, for out of the "war, wickedness, and waste" of his misgovernment came a universal desire for peace through law. Thus indirectly this weak King's inefficiency prepared the way for future reforms.


I. Government. II. Religion. III. Military Affairs. IV. Literature, Learning, and Art. V. General Industry and Commerce. VI. Mode of Life, Manners, and Customs

I. Goverment

143. The King.

We have seen that the Saxons, or Early English rulers, in the case of Egbert and his successors, styled themselves Kings of the West Saxons or of some other division of that race, and that finally they assumed the broader title of "Kings of the English," or leaders of the entire race or people (S49). The Norman sovereigns made no immediate change in this title, but as a matter of fact William, toward the close of his reign, claimed the whole of the country as his own by right of conquest.

For this reason he and his Norman successors might properly have called themselves "Kings of England," that is, supreme owners of the soil and rulers over it; but this title of territorial sovereignty was not formally assumed until about fifty years later, in John's reign.

144. The Great Council.

Associated with the King in government was the Great or Central Council, made up of, first, the earls and barons; and secondly, of the archbishops, bishops, and abbots; that is, of all the great landholders holding directly from the Crown. The Great Council usually met three times a year,—at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. All laws were held to be made by the King, acting with the advice and consent of this Council,—which in the next century first came to be known as Parliament (1246, 1265, 1295),—but practically the King alone often enacted such laws as he saw fit (SS213, 217).

When a new sovereign came to the throne, it was with the consent or by the election of the Great Council, but their choice was generally limited to some one of the late King's sons, and unless therer was good reason for making a different selection, the oldest was chosen. Finally the right of imposing taxes rested, theoretically at least, in the King and Council, but, in fact, the King himself frequently levied them. This action of the King was a cause of constant irritation and of frequent insurrection.

145. The Private or King's Council.

There was also a second and permanent council, called the King's Council. The three leading officers of this were: first, the Chief Justice, who superintended the execution of the laws, represented the King, and ruled for him during his absence from the country; secondly, the Lord Chancellor (so called from cancelli, the screen behind which he sat with his clerks), who acted as the King's adviser and confidential secretary, and as keeper of the Great Seal, with which he stamped all important papers;[1] thirdly, the Lord High Treasurer, who took charge of the King's revenue, received all moneys due the Crown, and kept the King's treasure in the vaults at Winchester or Westminster.

[1] The Lord Chancellor was also the "Keeper of the King's Conscience," because intrusted with the duty of redressing those grievances of the King's subjects which required royal interference. The Court of Chancery (mentioned on page 73, note 1) grew out of this office.

146. Tallies.

All accounts were kept by the Treasurer on tallies or small sticks, notched on the opposite sides to represent different sums. These were split lengthwise. One was given as a receipt to the sheriff, or other person paying in money to the treasury, while the duplicate of this tally was held by the Treasurer. This primitive method of keeping royal accounts remained legally in force until 1785, in the reign of George III.

147. The Curia Regis,[2] or the King's Court of Justice.

The Chief Justice and Chancellor were generally chosen by the King from among the clergy; first, because the clergy were men of education, while the barons were not; and next, because it was not expedient to intrust too much power to the barons. These officials, with the other members of the Private Council, constituted the King's High Court of Justice.

[2] Curia Regis: This name was given, at different times, first, to the Great or National Council; secondly, to the King's Private Council; and lastly, to the High Court of Justice, consisting of members of the Private Council.

It followed the King as he moved from place to place, to hear and decide cases carried up by appeal from the county courts, together with other questions of importance.[1] In local government the country remained under the Normans essentially the same as it had been before the Conquest. The King continued to be represented in each county by an officer called the sheriff, who collected the taxes and enforced the laws.

[1] The King's High Court of Justice (Curia Regis) was divided, about 1215, into three distinct courts: (1) the Exchequer Court (so called from the chequered cloth which covered the table of the court, and which was probably made useful in counting money), which dealt with cases of finance and revenue; (2) the Court of Common Pleas, which had jurisdiction in civil suits between subject and subject; (3) the Court of King's Bench, which transacted the remaining business, both civil and criminal, and had special jurisdiction over all inferior courts and civil corporations. Later, a fourth court, that of Chancery (see S145, and note 1), over which the Lord Chancellor presided, was established as a court of appeal and equity, to deal with cases where the common law gave no relief.

148. Trial by Battle.

In the administration of justice, Trial by Battle was introduced in addition to the Ordeal of the Saxons (S91). This was a duel in which each of the contestants appealed to Heaven to give him the victory, it believed that the right would vanquish. Noblemen[2] fought on horseback in full armor, with sword, lance, and battle-ax; common people fought on foot with clubs.

[2] See Shakespeare's "Richard II," Act I, scenes i and iii; also Scott's "Ivanhoe," Chapter XLIII.

In both cases the combat was in the presence of judges and might last from sunrise until the stars appeared. Priests and women had the privilege of being represented by champions, who fought for them. Trial by Battle was claimed and allowed by the court (though the combat did not come off) as late as 1817, in the reign of George III. This custom was finally abolished in 1819.[3]

[3] Trial by Battle might be demanded in cases of chivalry or honor, in criminal actions, and in civil suits. The last were fought not by the disputants themselves but by champions.

149. Divisions of Society.

The divisions of society remained after the Conquest very nearly as before, but the Saxon orders of nobility, with a few very rare exceptions, were deprived of their rank and their estates given to the Normans.

It is important to notice here the marked difference between the new or Norman nobility and that of France.

In England a man was considered a noble because, under William and his successors, he was a member of the Great or National Council (S80), or, in the case of an earl, because he represented the King in the government of a county or earldom.

His position did not exempt him from taxation, nor did his rank descend to more than one of his children. In France, on the contrary, the aristocracy were noble by birth, not office; they were generally exempt from taxation, thus throwing the whole of that burden on the people, and their rank descended to all their children.

During the Norman period a change was going on among the slaves, whose condition gradually improved. On the other hand, many who had been free now sank into that state of villeinage (S150) which, as it bound them to the soil, was but one remove from actual slavery.

The small, free landholders who still existed were mostly in the old Danish territory north of Watling Street (see map facing p. 32), and in the county of Kent on the southeast coast of England.

150. Tenure of Land in the Norman Period; Military Service, Feudal Dues, National Militia, Manors and Manor Houses.

All land was held directly or indirectly from the King on condition of military or other service. The number of chief tenants who derived their title from the Crown, including ecclesiastical dignitaries, was probably about fifteen hundred. These constituted the Norman barons. The undertenants were about eight thousand, and consisted chiefly of the English who had been driven out from their estates.

Every holder of land was obliged to furnish the King a fully armed and mounted soldier, to serve for forty days during the year for each piece of land bringing 20 pounds annually, or about $2000 in modern money[1] (the pound of that day probably representing twenty times that sum now). All the chief tenants were also bound to attend the King's Great or National Council three times a year,—at Christman, Easter, and Whitsuntide.

[1] This amount does not appear to have been fully settled until the period following the Norman kings, but the principle was recognized by William.

Feudal Dues or Taxes. Every free tenant was obliged to pay a sum of money to the King or baron from whom he held his land, on three special occasions: (1) to ransom his lord from captivity in case he was made a prisoner of war; (2) to defray the expense of making his lord's eldest son a knight; (3) to provide a suitable marriage portion on the marriage of his lord's eldest daughter.

In addition to these taxes, or "aids," as they were called, there were other demands which the lord might make, such as: (1) a year's profits of the land from the heir, on his coming into possession of his father's estate; this was called a relief; (2) the income from the lands of orphan heirs not of age; (3) payment for privilege of disposing of land.[1]

[1] The clergy, being a corporate and hence an ever-living body, were exempt from these last demands. Not satisfied with this, they were constantly endeavoring, with more or less success, to escape ALL feudal obligations, on the ground that they rendered the state divine service. In 1106, in the reign of Henry I, it was settled, for the time, that the bishops were to do homage to the King, i.e. furnish military service for the lands they received from him as their feudal lord (S136).

In case of an orphan heiress not of age, the feudal lord became her guardian and might select a suitable husband for her. Should the heiress reject the person selected, she forfeited a sum of money equal to the amount the lord expected to receive by the proposed marriage. Thus we find one woman in Ipswich giving a large fee for the privilege of "not being married except to her own good liking." In the collection of these "aids" and "reliefs," great extortion was often practiced both by the King and the barons.

Besides the feudal troops there was a national militia, consisting of peasants and others not provided with armor, who fought on foot with bows and spears. These could also be called on as during the Saxon period (S96). In some cases where the barons were in revolt against the King, for instance, under William Rufus (S130), this national militia proved of immense service to the Crown.

The great landholders let out part of their estates to tenants on similar terms to those on which they held their own, and in this way the entire country was divided up. The lowest class of tenants were the common agricultural laborers called villeins,—a name derived from the Latin villa, meaning a country house or farm. These villeins, or serfs, held small pieces of land on condition of performing labor for it. They were bound to the soil and could be sold with it, but not, like slaves, apart from it. They were not wholly destitute of legal rights.

Under William I and his successors, all free tenants, of whatever grade, were bound to uphold the King,[2] and in case of insurrection or civil war to serve under him (S122). In this most important respect the great landholders of England differed from those of the Continent, where the lesser tenants were bound only to serve their own masters, and might, and in fact often did, take up arms against the King. William removed this serious defect. By doing so he did the country an incalculable service. He completed the organization of feudal land tenure, but he never established the Continental system of feudal government. (See, too, the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, p. v, S6.)

[2] See the Constitutional Summary in the Appendix, pp. iii-v, SS5, 6.

The building is Ludlow Castle, Shropshire. Manor houses proper, as distinct from castles, existed in England at least from the thirteenth century

(See Gibbin's "Industrial History of England" and Cheyney's "Industrial and Social England")

The inhabitants of a manor, or the estate of a lord, were: (1) the lord himself, or his representative, who held his estate on condition of furnishing the King a certain number of armed men (SS113, 150); (2) the lord's personal followers, who lived with him, and usually a parish priest or a number of monks; (3) the farm laborers, or villeins, bound to the soil, who could not leave the manor, were not subject to military duty, and who paid rent in labor or produce; there might also be a few actual slaves, but this last class gradually rose to the partial freedom of villenage; (4) certain free tenants or "sokemen," who paid a fixed rent either in money or service and were not bound to the soil as the villeins were.

Next to the manor house (where courts were also held) the most important buildings were the church (used sometimes for markets and town meetings); the lord's mill (if there was a stream), in which all tenants must grind their grain and pay for the grinding; and finally, the cottages of the tenants, gathered in a village near the mill.

The land was divided as follows: (1) the "demesne" (or domain) surrounding the manor house; this was strictly private—the lord's ground; (2) the land outside the demesne, suitable for cultivation; this was let in strips, usually of thirty acres, but was subject to certain rules in regard to methods of tillage and crops; (3) a piece of land which tenants might hire and use as they saw fit; (4) common pasture, open to all tenants to pasture their cattle on; (5) waste or untilled land, where all tenants had the right to cut turf for feul, or gather plants or shrubs for fodder; (6) the forest or woodland, where all tenants had the right to turn their hogs out to feed on acorns, and where they might also collect a certain amound of small wood for feul; (7) meadow land on which the tenants might hire the right to cut grass and make hay. On the above plan the fields of tenants—both those of villeins and of "sokemen," or tenants who paid a fixed rent in money or service—are marked by the letters A, B, C, etc.

If the village grew, the tenants might, in time, purchase from the lord the right to manage their own affairs in great measure, and so become a Free Town (S183).

II. Religion

151. The Church.

With respect to the organization of the Church, no changes were made under the Norman kings. They, however, generally deposed the English bishops and substituted Normans or foreigners, who, as a class, were superior in education to the English. William the Conqueror made it pretty clearly understood that he considered the Church subordinate to his will, and that in all cases of dispute about temporal matters, he, and not the Pope, was to decide (S118). During the Norman period great numbers of monasteries were built.

In one very important respect William the Conqueror greatly increased the power of the Church by establishing ecclesiastical courts in which all cases relating to the Church and the clergy were tried by the bishops according to laws of their own. Persons wearing the dress of a monk or priest, or those who could manage to spell out a verse of the Psalms, and so pass for ecclesiastics, would claim the right to be tried under the Church laws, and, as the punishments which the Church inflicted were notoriously mild, the consequence was that the majority of criminals escaped the penalty of their evil doings. So great was the abuse of this privilege, that, at a later period, Henry II made an attempt to reform it (S164); but it was not wholly and finally done away with until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

III. Military Affairs.

152. The Army.

The army consisted of cavalry, or knights, and foot soldiers. The former were almost wholly Normans. They wore armor similar to that used by the Saxons. It is represented in the pictures of the Bayeux Tapestry (S75, 155), and appears to have consisted of leather or stout linen, on which pieces of bone, or scales, or rings of iron were securely sewed. Later, these rings of iron were set up edgewise, and interlinked, or the scales made to overlap. The helmet was pointed, and had a piece in front to protect the nose. The shield was long and kite-shaped.

The weapons of this class of soldiers consisted of a lance and a double-edged sword. The foot soldiers wore little or no armor and fought principally with long bows. In case of need, the King could probably muster about ten thousand knights, or armed horsemen, and a much larger force of foot soldiers. Under the Norman kings the principal wars were insurrections against William I, the various revolts of the barons, and the civil war under Stephen.

153. Knighthood.[1]

Candidates for knighthood were usually obliged to pass through a long course of training under the care of some distinguished noble. The candidate served first as a page, or attendant in the house; then, as a squire or attendant, he followed his master to the wars. After seven years in this capacity, he prepared himself for receiving the honors of knighthood by spending several days in a church, engaged in solemn religious rites, fasting, and prayer.

[1] Knighthood: Originally the knight was a youth or attendant. Later, the word came to mean an armed horse soldier or cavalier who had received his weapons and title in a solemn manner. As a rule, only the wealthy and noble could afford the expense of a horse and armor; for this reason chivalry, or knighthood, came to be closely connected with the idea of aristocracy. In some cases soldiers were made knights on the battlefield as a reward for valor.

The young man, in the presence of his friends and kindred, then made oath to be loyal to the King, to defend religion, and to be the champion of every lady in danger or distress. Next, a high-born dame or great warrior buckled on his spurs, and girded the sword, which he priest had blessed, to his side. This done, he knelt to the prince or noble who was to perform the final ceremony. The prince struck him lightly on the shoulder with the flat of the sword, saying: "In the name of God, St. Michael,[2] and St. George [the patron saint of England], I dub thee knight. Be brave, hardy, and loyal."

[2] St. Michael, as representative of the triumphant power of good over evil.

Then the young cavalier leaped into the saddle and galloped up and down, brandishing his weapon in token of strength and skill. In case a knight proved false to his oaths, he was publicly degraded. His spurs were taken from him, his shield was reversed, his armor broken to pieces, and a sermon preached upon him in the neighboring church, proclaiming him dead to the order.

IV. Literature, Learning, and Art

154. Education; Use of Seals or Stamps.

The leaning of this period was confined almost wholly to the clergy. Whatever schools existed were connected with the monasteries and nunneries. Oxford had begun to be regarded as a seat of leaning (1120). The instruction was given by priests, though some noted Jewish scholars may have had pupils there. Very few books were written during this period. Generally speaking, the nobility considered fighting the great business of life and cared nothing for education. They thought that reading and writing were beneath their dignity, and left such accomplishments to monks, priests, and lawyers. For this reason seals or stamps having some device or signature engraved on them came to be used on all papers of importance.

155. Historical Works; the Bayeux Tapestry.

The chief books written in England under the Norman kings were histories. Of these the most noteworthy were the continuation of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in English (S99) and the chronicles of William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon in Latin.[1] William's book and the "Saxon Chronicle" still continue to be of great importance to students of this period. Mention has already been made of the Bayeux Tapestry (S75), a history of the Norman Conquest worked in colored worsteds, on a long strip of narrow canvas.

[1] Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Britons" belongs to this period. It abounds in romances about King Arthur. Tennyson based his "Idylls of the King" on it.

It consists of a series of seventy-two scenes, or pictures, done about the time of William's accession. It was probably intended to decorate the cathedral of Bayeux, in Normandy, France, where it was originally placed. Some have supposed it to be the work of his Queen, Matilda. The entire length is two hundred and fourteen feet and the width about twenty inches. It represents events in English history from the last of Edward the Confessor's reign to the battle of Hastings. As a guide to a knowledge of the armor, weapons, and costume of the period, it is of very great value. The tapestry is preserved at Bayeux.

156. Architecture.

Under the Norman sovereigns there was neither painting, statuary, nor poetry worthy of mention. The spirit that creats these arts found expression in architecture introduced from the Continent. The castle, cathedral, and minster, with here and there an exceptional structure like the Tower of London, London Bridge, and the Great Hall at Westminster, built by William Rufus, were some well-known Norman buildings which mark the time. All were of stone, a material which the Normans generally preferred to any other. Aside from Westminster Abbey, which, although the work of Edward the Confessor, was really Norman, a fortress or two, like Coningsborough in Yorkshire, and a few churches, like that at Bradford-on-Avon, the Saxons had erected little of note.

The characteristics of the Norman style of architecture was its massive grandeur. The churches were built in the form of a cross, with a square, central tower, the main entrance being at the west. The interior was divided into a nave, or central portion, with an aisle on each side for the passage of religious processions. The windows were narrow, and rounded at the top. The roof rested on round arches supported by heavy columns. The cathedrals of Peterborough, Ely, Durham, Norwich, the church of St. Bartholomew, London, and St. John's Chapel in the Tower of London are fine examples of Norman work.

The castles consisted of a square keep, or citadel, with walls of immense thickness, having a few slitlike windows in the lower story and somewhat larger ones above. In these buildings everything was made subordinate to strength and security. They were surrounded by a high stone wall and deep ditch, generally filled with water. The entrance to them was over a drawbridge through an archway protected by an iron grating, or portcullis, which could be raised and lowered at pleasure. The Tower of London, Rochester Castle, Norwich Castle, Castle Rising, Richmond Castle, Carisbrooke Keep, New Castle on the Tyne, and Tintagel Hold were built by William or his Norman successors.

The so-called Jews' houses at Lincoln and St. Edmundsbury are rare and excellent examples of Norman domestic architecture. Although in many cases the Norman castles are in ruins, yet these ruins bid fair to stand as long as the Pyramids. They were mostly the work of churchmen, who were the best architects of the day, and knew how to plan a fortress as well as to build a minster.

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