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England after the Norman Invasion

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After diving into the Norman invasion of 1066 and its aftermath, I could see that an explanation of the aftermath of the Norman invasion of England cannot be written in a book detailing every single fact that occurred during that period, due to the large number of events that took place during these years and their importance. So, after reading a lot of documents about the effects that England suffered after the Norman invasion, I decided to write about the areas of the years where I could see the most changes, for example, English society after the Norman invasion.

Historical Background

As a result of the death of Edward ‘the Confessor’, king of the Wessex dynasty, Harold Godwine, son of a count, had obtained a high status on court. Therefore, he proclaimed himself king. Nonetheless, William Duke of Normandy believed himself as the perfect candidate to the throne, and was furious since nobody had made the proposal of giving him the English crown despite the fact that Edward ‘the Confessor’ made the promise of relinquishing his throne to him, so William Duke of Normandy realized, as Bachrach claims, “that the only way to access to the throne was to cross the English Channel accompanied by his army and fight it for himself” (505).

A few days before, king Harald had been fighting against another claimant to the throne, the Duke of Norway. In spite of the victory of king Harald on the Norwegians, he was so weak that in the battle of Hasting in 1066, he was dethroned and killed by William the Duke of Normandy, who was proclaimed King of England. From then, William I, was known as William ‘the Conqueror’.

Society and the Norman Conquest

As we can read on ‘The Impact of the Norman Conquest of England’, “the Anglo-Saxon landowning elite was almost totally replaced by Normans” (Cartwright, 1). The invaders imposed a new way of social organization, called ‘feudalism’, this means that the society was organized around relationships between a landowner who gives a portion of his land to a vassal in return for a service or labor. Furthermore, at the beginning of eleventh century a new social elite, the aristocracy, rose up thanks to a series of circumstances that provided it with own dynamism. These circumstances granted the members of that new elite to innovate culturally, with the aim of reach new goals, such as to amend existing ideas or to reject others (Liddiard, 106).

According to the role that played the woman in 1066 English society, only a five per cent of land recorded was managed by women, furthermore, almost the 80-85% of that five per cent was managed by women of the families of important counts. Moreover, before 1066, women except from the queen were not present on the witness lists of the royal charters and either on its political relevance. Conversely, some Anglo-Norman documents such as in Musset’s edition of the acts of William the Conqueror and Mathilda for the abbeys of Caen “mentions women either as a signatories, grantors, consenting to grants or as involved in some way in the making of the grant” (Stafford, 226). Diving into this topic, after 1066, king Henry I claimed the succession for his daughter. He should be remembered as a king who tried to impose the right of daughters to be given lands.

Another important fact the following years of the Norman invasion was the significant growth of the population which was accompanied by offshoots of great importance to the relationships between a lord and the peasants (Liddiard, 106).

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Cultural Change

Before the Norman Conquest, England was endowed by a native culture influenced by European kingdoms such as Scandinavia and some parts of the British Isles. England was under a range of influences which was characterized by its extension and its possession of evident implications for cultural exchange. This cultural exchange was associated with the changes that the English society experimented, with the goal of make a distinction between the shifts in England after the 1066 and the ones connected with the European change.

In ‘Vita Sancti Birini’, an Anglo-Latin text written on the eleventh century, it is mentioned that “it is important for the loser not to feel humiliated but rather that both sides should believe they are victors” (Zimmerman, 153). This sentiment and the one that express that domination reduces rule, whereas servitude raise it should be regarded as a criticism of the Norman invasion and their way of governance employed. Many years before the Norman Conquest, there were principles of rationalization and settlement that combined each other so as to create new composite identities, and that was due to the blending of the first Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until the apparition of the Angelcynn under Alfred (Zimmerman, 154). In order to the successful achievement of conquests and the creation of new communities, the idea of rationalization and settlement were crucial. That strategy was used in the Anglo-Saxon era, but not in the Norman Conquest (Zimmerman, 167). However, the Norman invasion was a drastic event due to all the political and social changes in Britain, regarding that this conquest refused to the previous annexations, in relation to both the expressions and the political identity.

The previous productions of texts, about the life of saints, to the Norman Conquest were produced by people with great ties to the church, but they suffered alienation because of the changes imposed by the Norman newcomers. For instance, Goscelin of Saint-Bertin's vitae was composed due to being exiled from Sherbone Abbey after have argued with the new Norman bishop Osmund in 1078.

Buildings Shift

As Liddiard claims, “the construction of castles is one of the most significant processes at work in the post-Conquest English landscape and seen as one of the principal mechanisms by which the invaders subdued a hostile population and made their conquest permanent” (106). As Liddiard also mentions that “deer parks and forest law and, while not new, renewed vigor was given to urban expansion and the building of minor churches” (105). Moreover, we can see the development of buildings such as cathedrals and monastics churches, not to mention that we can see clearly the main characteristics of Normandy ecclesiastical buildings on Anglo-Saxon's buildings, without maintaining its masonry. Another striking feature of England after the invasion was the building of some monuments that without the establishment of William I’s rule, they would not have been put up. One instance can be the apparition of important buildings such as Colchester and the White Tower after 1066, not to mention that, according to Liddiard, “palaces provide evidence for cultural transmission from Normandy to England” (109). Nonetheless, there are some post-Conquest buildings which still having Anglo-Saxon features, such as the Conqueror’s gatehouse at Exeter castle. It is said that some castles are ‘Normanised’ due to a feature which came up after 1066 with the aim of being a fortification situated on a raise area called a motte. But, as Liddiard says, “the origin of mottes is unclear, but relevant here is the observation that prior to 1066 motte building in Normandy was comparatively rare” (113). According to the characteristics of castles on Norman England, we can thus say that they represented the beginning of a new lordship through rebuilding, and as Liddiard mentions, “this phenomenon took place from the battle of Hastings to a many years later” (114).

Conclusion

After reading such a great variety of documents and diving into the Norman Conquest of England and its effects I have realized that not only England got influenced by Normans, but also, Normandy got influenced by English’s customs and traditions. By saying that, I mean that since ages ago, people have been always willing to apply new things they learn form a foreign country in order to improve their own skills in fields such as culture or buildings, or even better, to create things that will improve their lifestyle.

Not only do I think, that both Normans and Anglo-Saxons, on these years, could be able of learning such an amount of fascinating by conquering new lands, but also a great quantity of deaths was registered after the wars between different kingdoms. So, with the passing of time, each society, kingdom and country has been developed follow others’ steps, and that is why people have become aware of how terrible wars are, letting to know that is better to negotiate with another entity, considering the benefit of both, rather than fight against it in order to get their riches and knowledge.

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England after the Norman Invasion. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/england-after-the-norman-invasion/
“England after the Norman Invasion.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/england-after-the-norman-invasion/
England after the Norman Invasion. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/england-after-the-norman-invasion/> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
England after the Norman Invasion [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Oct 28 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/england-after-the-norman-invasion/
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