GCSE History Revision: Norman England: Monarchy & Government
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Everything you need to know about Norman England: Monarchy & Government!
Edward the confessor was a very religious man and believed his power was granted by God and it was only God who could take it away. The king was seen as the peacemaker and had a responsibility to protect his country, defend the church, introduce and enforce fair laws and was the only one allowed to settle disputes between nobles.
In Anglo-Saxon times, the King did not own all the land in England. He owned a lot and could give it and take it away, but land was usually inherited through generations of families. When Edward became king he redistributed land taken from his enemies to his loyal Norman subjects. This ensured they had a position of power and influence to counter balance Earl Godwine’s power and influence.
Earl’s had powers similar to the king. They collected taxes and received a third of the revenue from their lands which made them wealthy. They oversaw the justice and punishment in their lands which gave them strong social powers. They were the lords to many thegns and had great military power. The king used his earls like military generals who rallied the thegns and led them against his enemies. Thegns were divided into kings thegns (those who owned land given by the king and worked directly for the king) and those who acquired land from earls. When a man became a thegn he was required to pay a Heriot tax. This required him to equip himself with a horse and harness, sword and spear, helmet and mail coat. The thegns would also call upon the fyrd if the king had requested them. This was made up of 1 man from every 5 hides but were limited in their service because of their commitments to their farm and the harvest. This could be seen as one of Edwards and Harold’s main military weaknesses.
The Godwine house was by far the biggest threat to Edward reign, controlling more land and thegns. Earl Godwine and Edward the Confessor fell out in 1051 over in incident in Dover involving Eustance of Boulogne, a close friend of the kings, and Earl Godwine. Instead of facing a prejudiced tribunal, the family fled. It is said that during this time, William of Normandy visited and it is then that Edward promised him the English crown. In 1052 Godwine returned with his sons and, unwilling to start a civil war, the king settled terms with Godwine, returning his lands and exiling many of his Norman thegnes and earls.
Another problem was Danelaw. This was a set of legal terms and definitions set out by Alfred the Great and the Danish warlord Guthrum in 878AD to ensure peace and prosperity. It was later used to describe the area of England where many Danes settled and chose to continue living by Danelaw (14 shires including York, Lincoln, Norfolk). Most things operated the same ways as the Anglo-Saxons did just, using different terminology. Hundreds were called wapentake, a hide was replaced by plowland and oxgangs and free peasants called sokeman, could attach themselves to a lord rather than the land. They didn’t use shillings, rather coins called marks and ores and were exempt from paying certain taxes to the king. This often meat tension rose between the earls and the king.
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