The Normans - Lide na UHK

1066-William the Conqueror won The Battle of Hastings
1215-Barons forced King John to grand the Magna Carta
1282-The English completed the conquest of Wales
1295-Edward I summoned the Modal Parliament
The Normans
The Normans were actually Norsemen,i.e. Vikings. They were,in fact,of the same blood as the Danes but they
had thoroughly absorbed the culture of the Late Roman Empire and had been long Christianised.
The Normans were descendants of the Norsmen who,more than a hundred years before their conquest of
England,had settled in the northwestern part of France which is now called Normandy.And soon they adopted
the French language and became ardent builders of cathedrals,but kept their fighting spirit.
The Battle of Hastings
Edward the Confessor died in 1066 without a direct heir.The English nobles chose Harold in place of
Edgar,who was his brother-in-law,as king.
The Norman Duke William invaded England:he landed with 12,000 men and defeated King Harold at the Battle
of Hastings.This started the Norman Conquest.All English schoolchildren remember the date because it was
the last time that a foreign enemy entered English soil .At Christmas 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned
at Westminster.
William the Conqueror's coronation didn't go as planned.When the people shouted „God Save the King“ the
nervous Norman guards at Westminster Abbey thought they were going to attack William.In their fear they set
fire to nearby houses and the coronation ceremony ended in disorder.Although William was now crowned
king,his conguest had only just begun,and the fighting lasted for another five years.
There was an Anglo-Saxon rebellion against the Normans every year until 1070.Few Saxon lords kept their lands
and those who did were the very small number who had accepted Willliam immediatelly.All the others lost
By 1086,twenty years after the arrival of the Normans,only two of the greater landlords and only two bishops
were Saxon lands.After each English rebellion there was more land to give away.His army included Norman and
other French land seekers.Over 4,000 Saxon landlords were replaced by 200 Norman ones.
William was careful in the way he gave land to his nobles.In England,as each new area was captured,William
gave parts of it as a reward to his captains.This meant that they held separate small pieces of land in different
parts of the country so that no noble could easily or quickly gather his fighting men to rebel.William only gave
some of his nobles larger estates along the troublesome borders with Wales and Scotland.
Of all the farmland of England he gave half to the Norman nobles,a quarter to the Church,and kept a fifth
himself.As a result England was different from the rest fo Europe because it had one powerful family,instead of
large number of powerful nobles.
William organized his English kingdom according to the feudal system.The word “feudalism“ comes from the
French word Feu,which the Normans used to refer to land held in return for duty or service to a lord.
The basis of feudal society was the holding of land,which was owned by the king but it was held by others,called
“vassals“.The King gave the large estates to his main nobles in return for a promise to serve him in war and also
had to give him part of the produce of the land.The greater nobles gave part of their lands to lesser
nobles,knights and other“freemen“,who,in fact,weren't free.They often were little better than slaves.
With this system the king was connected through this „chain“ of people to the lowest man in the country.At each
level a man had to promise loyalty and service to his lord.This promise was usually made with the lord sitting on
his chair and his vassal kneeling before him,his hands placed between those of his lord.This was called
„homage“,and has remained part of the coronation ceremony of British kings and queens until now.
William gave out land over England to his nobles.By 1086 he wanted to know exactly who owned which piece
of land,and how much it was worth.He needed this information so that he could plan his economy,find out how
much was produced and how much he could ask for tax.He therefore sent a team of people all through England
to make a complete economic survey.
This survey was the only one of its kind in Europe.English people didn't like it because it remined them the
paintings of the Day of Judgement,or „doom“,on the walls of their churches that they called it the „Domesday
Book“.The Domesday Book is still preserved,and gives us an extraordinary amount of information about
England at this time.
The Growing Kingdom
A struggle soon developed between the king and the nobles.Each nobel wanted to build a castle and act like an
independent ruler.
Henry I strengthened the authority of the king.But later,in a long war during the reign of King Stephen,the
nobles and clergy became almost completely independent.The first king of the House of Plantagenet,Henry
II,restrored the great administrative system(introduced a tax system,he made legal reforms;e.g.the jury)that
Henry I had built.Henry II spent much of the time in France,because he had inherited all the French provinces
along the Atlantic coast from Normandy to the Pyrenees Mountains.He also try to assume the title of King of
Ireland.Henry was a strong upholder of law and order.His most famous conflict was a struggle between the
Church and the State.Church courts claimed the right to judge and punish the clergy.Henry wanted to give
authoritaty to the royal courts only.This was against the Church and resulted in the murder of Thomas
Becket,Archbishop of Canterbury.Later the King was forced to do penance at the tomb of Thomas(proclaimed
the saint)in Canterbury.Becket's martyrdom remained for centuries one of the best-known events in English
Magna Carta
Richard I(the Lion-Hearted)reigned for 10 years.But he spent most of them outside England fighting in the the
Third Crusade.The country had to pay heavy taxes to support his armies.His brother John,who ruled during
Richard's absence was cruel,teacherous and cowardy.The legendary Robin Hood fought against John's
officers.When John became king,the barons were already discontented.John the Lackland lost his lands across
the Chanel after a dispute with France.He also quarrelled with the Church.The barons drew up a document called
the Magna Carta,or Great Charter,which gave them many rights.It limited the power of the king.In 1215, they
forced John to agree to it.Because of John's bad reputation,no later English king has used his name.
Modal Parliament
The beginnings of Parliament go back to Anglo-Saxon times.Previous kings had called meetings of leading
churchmen and great nobles to discuss government problems.In 1265 Simon de Montfort led the barons against
the king,who tried to oppose the Charter.Simon summoned representatives of the boroughs to the Great
Council,which was later called Parliament.But Parliament first became an important body during the reign of
Edward I.
Edward I was a wise and just king.During his reign,trade grew and towns prospered.He brought Wales under
English control in 1282.Later he gave the title Prince of Wales to his son,who had been born in Wales.He also
tried to gain control of Scotland but failed,and Scotland remained independent.Edward was willing to govern
according to the principles of Magna Carta.He enlarged Parliament to include knights,lesser clergymen,and
representatives of the towns.His Modal Parliament met in 1295,and became the pattern for later
Parliaments.Edward also agreed that Parliament had the right to approve taxes proposed by the king before they
could be collected.
England became important a centre of learning during the 1200's.A monk,Roger Bacon,was one of the leading
philosophers of the time.Another monk,John Duns Scotus,is considered one of the greatest thinkers of the
Middle Ages.The Oxford and Cambridge Universities were established
Norman cultural heritage:
language-from 11th to the 13th century there existed in England two languages and thus two
cultures:Anglo-Saxon and Norman.The official spoken language at that time was Norman French.It
showed a very strong influence,especially in
prince,painter,butcher).It is interensting that the names of farm animals,grown by the English,remained
English,but the names of the meat-because eaten by the Norman upper class-became
French;e.g.pig,cow,calf,sheep versus pork,beaf,mutton.
However Norman French wasn't the language of the nation-it couldn't become the means of
communication among people.As the years went by the Normans and Anglo-Saxons became a single
people.Their new language called Middle English was spoken from about 1150 to about 1500.It had
become remarkably adaptable language,with a rich vocabulary.It's grammatical forms were much
simplier than those of Old English.But English didn't lose it's fundamental linguistic characteristics and
finally the dialect of London and the South-East Midlands was accepted as the standard written
language.This was passed by Parliament in 1362.
Latin was the language by medieval learning,of the church,universities and schools.
architecture-the Normans brought a highly developed style of building to England,the so-called Norman
style.The main features of this style were as follows:thick walls or round arches.Norman style is also
nicely expressed in the design of doorways and usually depicts scenes from the Bible.
The buildings which are preserved from that time are mainly churches and castles built predominantly
out of stone and some from brick.
Durham,York and Canterbury cathedrals represent the finest art of Norman architecture.
The Norman castles were first made of wood and during the 12 th century and later rebuilt in
stone.Between 1066-1100 there were said to have been 85 castles in Britain.One of the most spectacular
is still Rochester in the South of England.
The very large majority of English people in the Middle Ages used for building wood.Well-known are
the timber-framed houses usually covered with straw.
The first fort William the Conqueror built was the Tower of London(its central tower).
Before 1066,Winchester,the seat of the Wessex dynasty(King Alfred etc.),was the capital of England.
The first known fortification on the site was a Roman fortress that Claudius built to protect the city of
In 1078 William the Conqueror ordered the White Tower to be built, as much to protect the Normans from the
people of the City of London as to protect London from anyone else. Earlier forts there, including the Roman
one, had primarily wooden buildings, but William ordered his tower to be of stone that he had specially imported
from France. It was King Richard the Lion-Hearted who had the moat dug around the surrounding wall and filled
with water from the Thames. The moat was not very successful until Henry III employed a Dutsch moat building
technique. It was drained in 1830, and human bones were in the refuse found at its bottom.
 The Normans
 The Battle of Hastings
 Feudalism
 The Growing Kingdom
 Magna Carta
 The Modal Parliament
 Norman cultural
 History of Britain-Lindia Kyzlinková,SJŠ-Brno
 Aspects of British Cultural History-Blanka Klímová,Gaudeamus
 Dějiny Británie-Kenneth O. Morgan a kolektiv.,NLN