The Norman Conquest Of England
The Norman Invasion.In the 9th century while the Danes were plundering England another branch of Northmen who were related to the Danes were doing the same along the northern coasts of France. They came to be called the Normans, a variation of the word “Northmen”, the Danes settled down in the conquered part of England known as the Danelaw. And the Normans settled down on land conquered from the French king – a territory which is still called Normandy after these Normans.
By the 9th century the Danes gradually mixed with the Anglo-Saxons, among whom they lived. They retained their Germanic language and many of their customs that were very much like those of the Anglo-Saxons. But the Normans who had settled down in France were now quite different from their Germanic forefathers. They lived among the French people and learned to speak the French language and in many ways, they had become like the French themselves.
The Normans lived under the rule of their own duke. By the 11th century the dukes of Normandy had become very powerful. They were actually as strong as the king himself. They coined their own money, made their own laws, held their own courts, built their own castles. They could wage wars against the king himself. They would wage wars in order to seize new lands.
And these descendants of the Northmen who had settled in northern France in the 9th century became the new conquerors of England. In 1066 William, the Duke of Normandy, began to gather an army to invade Britain. The pretext for the invasion was William’s claims to the English throne.
He was related to the king who died in 1066. The king who died in 1066 had no children and Duke William cherished the hope that he would succeed to the English throne.
But the king chose another relative, the Anglo-Saxon Earl, Harold. William of Normandy claimed that England belonged to him and he began preparations for a war to fight for the Crown.
William had a numerous army which consisted not only of the Norman barons and knights but of the knights from other parts of France.
Many big sailing-boats were built to carry the army across the Channel.
William landed in the South of England and the battle between the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons took place on 14th October, 1066 at a little village near the town now called Hastings. The Normans outnumbered the Anglo-Saxon forces and were greatly superior in quality. They were all men for whom fighting was the main occupation in life.
The victory at Hastings was only the beginning of the Conquest. Soon after the victory at Hastings the Normans encircled London and William was acknowledged as the lawful king of England. Thus the Norman duke became king of England – William I or, as he was known, William the Conqueror. He ruled England for 21 years (1066–1087).
The Strengthening of the Royal Power (William the Conqueror).William was now not only the Duke of Normandy but the King of England as well. And he received great incomes from both Normandy and his rich domain in England.
The Conqueror declared that all the lands of England belonged to him by right of conquest.
Each baron received with the grant of land the promise of the king’s protection, but in return he had to render military service to his overlord bringing a number of fully armed knights with him in time of war.
William the Conqueror made not only the great landowners, to whom he granted land, but also their vassals swear allegiance to him directly.
In 1086 at a great gathering of knights in Salisbury, William made all of them take a special oath to be true to him against all his enemies.
For greater security, when William the Conqueror rewarded his important supporters with a large number of estates.
Now the country was divided into “shires”, or “counties”, as the Normans called them. William I appointed a royal official in each shire to be his “sheriff”. The royal sheriffs became of great importance. Through the sheriffs the king exercised control over all his vassals.
To make himself stronger William the Conqueror ordered that many castles should be built in different parts of the country. They were nearly all royal castles.
William I created a Great Council made up of bishops and barons. Nobles were not allowed to make war on one another; all men had to keep “the king’s peace”.
All the king’s vassals were registered in the Domesday Book and William I could now see to it that they all performed their military service. Thus the feudal registration of 1086 consolidated the position of the conquerors.
How the Norman Conquerors Lived in England.
The new masters were strangers in the country. They had different manners, customs and laws from those of the conquered people. They spoke a foreign tongue and the Anglo-Saxon peasants could not understand their speech. The Normans did not feel safe in the conquered country for they could be attacked at any time. So they were compelled to build large thick stone-walled castles for defense. The castle dominated over the country round. Some of the massive strong towers built by the Normans can be seen in England today, like the White Tower of London Tower.
The Normans spent their childhood and youth in military training and as they grew up they spent their time in wars or feasting with guests in the halls of their castles.
The Norman lords were fond of the tournament and hunting.
Effects on the Language.
The victorious Normans made up the new aristocracy and the Anglo-Saxon people became their servants. The Norman aristocracy spoke a Norman dialect of French, a tongue of Latin origin, while the Anglo-Saxons spoke English, a tongue of Germanic origin.
Norman French became the official language of the state. It was the language of the ruling class. All the official documents were written in French or Latin.
Words of Germanic origin make up the basic vocabulary of modern English. In modern English simple everyday words are mostly Anglo-Saxon like “eat”, “land”, “house” and others.
But as there were no English words to describe the more complicated feudal relations, many words were adopted from the French language. For example, “manor, noble, baron, obey, council, court, crime, arms, troops, navy, battle” and other words characterizing the way of life and customs of the Norman aristocracy.
The two languages gradually formed one rich English language, which already in the 14th century was being used both in speech and in writing.
Answer the questions.
1. What is the origin of the word “Normans”?
2. Where did the Danes settle down?
3. Where did the Normans settle down?
4. How did the Danes live in the XI century?
5. How did the Normans live in France?
6. Why did the Normans wage wars?
7. When did the Duke of Normandy begin to gather an army to invade Britain?
8. When did the battle between the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons take place?
9. Why did the Normans win the battle?
10. How did William the Conqueror strengthen the royal power?
11. What did William the Conqueror do for greater security?
12. Where were all the kings’ vassals registered?
13. How did the Normans spend their childhood and youth?
14. What language did the Norman aristocracy speak?
15. What language did the Anglo-Saxons speak?
1. We find in modern English that 2 words are used for the same things:
a) Why are the words for living animals, like “sheep”, “ox” and “pig”, of Anglo-Saxon origin, and the corresponding words for the same animals used as meat, namely “mutton”, “beef” and “pork” of French origin?
b) Why are many synonymous words of Anglo-Saxon origin used in ordinary speech, while those of French origin – in formal speech? For example, such verbs as:
to give up – to abandon;
to give in – to surrender;
to come in – to enter;
to begin – to commence;
to go on – to continue.
c) In modern English the word “county” is used instead of its old equivalent “shire”. How can it be explained?
2. How can you account for the fact, that English words of Germanic origin generally indicate elementary ideas and simple notions, such as “eat, laugh, ride, good, bad, earth, land, house, water” and others without which people cannot get along in everyday speech?
3. How can you account for the French origin of the following words:a) feudal, baron, vassal, peer, prince, count, duke;
b) state, realm, government, power, crown;
c) feast, leisure, pleasure, delight, comfort?