Tag Archives: Norman England

Norman & Plantagenets

Plantagenet Kings

The year 1066 became a turning point in English history.  William I (William the Conqueror), and his sons gave England new leadership.

Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land among the conquerors, giving England a French aristocracy and a new social and political structure.

England turned away from Scandinavia toward France, an orientation that was to last for 400 years.  William was a hard ruler, punishing England.  His power and efficiency can be seen in the Doomsday Survey, a census for tax purposes, and in the Salisbury Oath of allegiance, which he demanded of all tenants.

He appointed Lanfranc, an Italian clergyman, as the new Archbishop of Canterbury and promoted church reform, with the creation of separate church courts, whilst still retaining royal control.

When William died in 1087, he gave England to his son, William II (Rufus), Normandy to his son, Robert.  Henry, his third son, left with no lands eventually got both England in 1100, when William II died in a hunting accident, and Normandy in 1106 by conquest.  Henry I used his feudal court and household to organize the government.  The exchequer, the royal treasury, was established at this time.

Henry wanted his daughter, Matilda (1102-67), to succeed him, but in 1135 his nephew, Stephen of Blois, seized the throne.  The years 1135-54 were marked by civil war and strife.  The royal government Henry had built fell apart, and the feudal barons asserted their independence.  The church, playing one side against the other, extended its authority.

Matilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, became King Henry II by right of succession, in 1154.  The Angevins, especially Henry II and his sons, Richard and John, expanded royal authority.  Henry ended the anarchy of Stephen’s reign, banishing mercenaries and destroying private castles.  He strengthened the government created by Henry I.  Most important, he developed the common law, administered by royal courts and applicable to all of England.  It encroached on the feudal courts’ jurisdiction over land and created the grand jury.  Its success demonstrated its efficiency and the growing power of the king.  Henry attempted to reduce the jurisdiction of church courts, especially over clergy accused of crimes, but was opposed by Thomas a Becket, his former chancellor, whom he had made Archbishop of Canterbury.  His anger at Becket’s intransigence led ultimately to Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170.

Henry’s empire included more than half of France and lordship over Ireland and Scotland.  His skill at governing, however, did not include the ability to placate his sons, who rebelled against him several times, backed by the kings of France and by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Richard I, the Lion-Hearted, was in England only briefly.  He was busy fighting in the Crusades and later for the land lost in France during his absence, especially while he was a captive in Germany.  Even during Richard’s absence, the government built by Henry II continued to function, collecting taxes to support his wars and to pay his ransom.  John, who inherited the resentment against Angevin rule aroused by his father and brother, added to his troubles by his own excesses.  In 1204 he lost Normandy.  In 1213, after a long fight with Pope Innocent III over the naming of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, John capitulated and acknowledged England to be a papal fief.  All this precipitated a quarrel with his barons over his general high handedness and their refusal to follow him into war in Normandy. The barons, led by Langton, forced John in 1215 to accept the Magna Charta (q.v.).

John died in 1216, and the barons accepted his nine-year-old son as King Henry III.  They assumed control of the government and confirmed the Magna Charta in 1225, as did Henry when he came of age two years later.  Thus began the tradition of royal confirmation of the Magna Charta and the idea that it was the fundamental statement of English law and of limited government. England prospered in the 12th and 13th centuries.  Land under cultivation increased; sheep raising and the sale of wool became important.  London and other towns became vital centres of trade and wealth, and by royal charters they acquired the right to local self-government.  The universities of Oxford and Cambridge were established.

The monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, led the rural expansion and became wealthy in the process.  More than a dozen cathedrals were built, along with abbeys and parish churches, all attesting to the wealth of England and of its church.

Franciscans and Dominicans, arrived in England, improving the quality of preaching and becoming the leading scholars in the universities.

Henry III was not an able king, however.  He quarrelled with the barons, who thought that they, rather than his favourites, should have the major offices.  In 1258 the Provisions of Oxford attempted to give control of the government to a committee of barons.  Civil war broke out in 1264, and the baronial leader Simon de Montfort came briefly to power.  Montfort, however, was killed in the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and power returned to Henry and his able son, Edward.

Edward I restored royal control and made several reforms. He limited the barons’ right to hold their own courts of law; he curtailed the vassals’ right to dispose of land to the detriment of their feudal lords; and he gave English common law the direction it was to take for centuries to come.  Most important, he used and developed Parliament, essentially the king’s feudal council, with a new name and an enlarged membership.  The Model Parliament of 1295, following Montfort’s pattern of 1265, consisted of great barons, bishops and abbots, and representatives of counties and towns. In 1297, to get money for his wars, Edward accepted the Confirmation of Charters, agreeing that taxes must have the common assent of the whole realm.  This was soon taken to mean assent in Parliament. In the following century, Parliament divided into two houses, Lords and Commons, and made good its claim to control taxation and to participate in the making of statutes. Edward conquered northwest Wales, ending the rule of its native princes.  He built stone castles, adopted the Welsh longbow as an English weapon, and named his oldest son the Prince of Wales.  He intervened in Scottish affairs, even claiming the Scottish throne. Having fought the Scots often but with little effect, Edward died in 1307 without having subdued the northern kingdom. His son, Edward II, gave up the campaign.  In 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn, King Robert Bruce made good Scotland’s claim to independence.  One cost of the war was the long-lasting enmity of Scotland, backed by its alliance with France.

Edward II was a weak king, partly influenced by favourites and partly dominated by the ordinances of 1311 that gave the barons the ruling power.  Although he freed himself of baronial rule in 1322, he was forced to abdicate in 1327.  His son, Edward III, got on well with the barons by keeping them busy in France, where England continued to hold extensive territory.  In 1337 he initiated the Hundred Years’ War to vindicate his claim to the French throne.  The English had some initial success at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), where they used the English longbow with deadly effect against the French.  By 1396, England had lost all its previous gains.  The expense of the war repeatedly forced Edward to go to Parliament for taxes, enabling it to bargain for concessions and to establish its rights and privileges.

The Black Death struck England in 1349, reducing the population by as much as a third.  The Statute of Laborers (1351) tried to freeze wages and prevent serfs and workers from taking advantage of the resulting labour shortage.  The Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 reflected the continuing unrest.  It was a time of economic and social change.

The moves by the popes from Rome to Avignon in France (1309-76) and the Great Schism (1378-1417), in which rival popes opposed one another, caused a loss of English respect for the papacy.  Statutes of Provisors (1351, 1390) limited the pope’s ability to appoint to church offices in England, and the Statutes of Praemunire (1353, 1393) prevented church courts from enforcing such appointments.  John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, criticized corruption in the church and had ideas similar to those of the later Protestant reformers.  In 1382 he was removed by an ecclesiastical court to the country parish at Lutterworth, and his ideas were declared heretical. His followers, the Lollards, were persecuted but not stamped out.

Richard II, the grandson of Edward III, began his reign when he was ten years old, with rival factions fighting for control of his government.  As an adult he governed moderately until 1397, when he became involved in a struggle with the leading nobles. In 1399 his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, duke of Lancaster, forced him to abdicate and became king in his place as Henry IV.


Norman King: Stephen

King Stephen of England

1135 Stephen the grandson of William the Conqueror claimed the English throne on the death of Henry and was crowned King of England on the 26th December.  However, Henry’s choice of successor had been his daughter; Matilda.

1136 The Earl of Norfolk, a keen supporter of Matilda led a rebellion against Stephen.

1138 Robert the Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son by birth of Henry I, once a supporter of Stephen, switched his allegiance to Matilda.

David I of Scotland, invades the English lands, showing support for Matilda, and her right to the English throne, but is defeated in battle at Northallerton.

1139 Matilda and her forces land in England.

1141 Matilda captures Stephen at the “Battle of Lincoln” and she proclaims herself Queen of England.”

Robert the Earl of Gloucester is captured by Stephen’s forces, and Matilda is forced to exchange Stephen for his freedom.

1145 Stephen defeats Matilda at the “Battle of Farringdon.”

1147 Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet is called to England, that his presence would put an end to his mother’s right to the English throne.

1148 Matilda is forced to abandon her cause to become Queen of England, and leaves English soil.

1151 Geoffrey of Anjou, husband of Matilda dies, and so their son Henry Plantagenet, becomes the Count of Anjou.

1153 Henry the Count of Anjou, lands his forces in England and gathers support, for war against Stephen.

This Civil War between Stephen and Matilda is resolved under the “Treaty of Westminster.”  Stephen remains King for life, and upon his death, Henry Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou would become King Henry II of England.

1154 King Stephen of England dies, and was buried at Faversham in Kent.

1167 The rightful heir to the English throne according to the wishes of King Henry I, was that his daughter Matilda should have reigned… sadly that never happened, and after years of war between each other Matilda died on the 10th September at Rouen, and buried in the Rouen Cathedral in France.

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Norman King: Henry I

king henry i
King Henry I of England

1068 Henry, son of William the Conqueror and Matilda was born at Selby in Yorkshire.

1087 William the Conqueror died, at the Siege of Montes in France, and was buried in St.Stephens Abbey in Caen, Normandy.  He left Normandy to son; Robert Curthose, his sword and the English crown to William and Henry received nothing.

1092 Sybilla Corbet, mistress of Henry gave him an illegitimate daughter, named after her mother; Sybilla.

1100 William was killed in a hunting accident on the 2nd August by a mysterious arrow, whilst out hunting in the New Forest, and buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Henry moved swiftly, and was crowned King of England in a few days.  On the 11th November Henry married Edith, daughter of Malcolm Canmore, the King of Scotland at Westminster Abbey, and on the 14th November she was crowned Matilda Queen Consort.

1101 Robert Curthose landed on English shores to claim the English throne.  Conflict was averted – Henry kept England and in return promised to pay Robert 2,000 marks per year and pass over his territories in Normandy.

1102 Henry expelled Robert de Belleme, a loyal supporter of Robert Curthose with strongholds in the Welsh Marshes.

1106 Henry invaded Normandy, and overthrew Robert at the Battle of Tinchebrai, capturing Robert and imprisoning him for life.  Robert’s son, one William Cito claimed he should be the new Duke of Normandy, and carried the backing of Louis VI of France and Count Fulk V of Anjou.

1107 Henry successfully defended his claim to be the Duke of Normandy.  To protect his lands, Henry married off eight of his illegitimate daughters to neighbouring princes.  King Alexander of Scotland married Sybilla another of Henry’s illegitimate daughters.

1110 Henry created a financial counting system which involved the use of a chequered cloth, by which the Royal Treasury Officials met around it to discuss financial matters.  Henry appointed Roger Bishop of Salisbury as the “Justicar.”

1114 Henry’s daughter Adelaide married Henry V, the Emperor of Germany at Mainz in Germany.  She was crowned Matilda Empress of Germany.

1118 Queen Matilda died on the 1st May at the Palace of Westminster and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

1120 On the 25th November William Aetheling Henry’s heir to the English throne along with 300 noblemen, Richard his illegitimate brother lost their lives that day, when the White Ship sunk with no survivors.

1121 For Henry, the death of his son William, was a personal blow, he had no male heir to succeed him.

1125 With the death of Emperor Henry V of Germany, husband to his only legitimate daughter Matilda, she was recalled by her father back to England.  The barons who respected Henry, swore an allegiance to Matilda as the rightful Queen of England in the event of his death, as no male heir existed at this time.

1127 Henry put forward a marriage proposal and alliance between Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet to Count Fulk of Anjou.

1128 In the June, Matilda, a somewhat reluctant Matilda married the fourteen year old Geoffrey Plantagenet.

1133 On the 5th March a son was born to Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet at Le Mans, Anjou.

1134 Henry had planned that his daughter and son-in-law (Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet) would succeed him to the English throne.

1135 Henry died, aged 67 in Rouen, France and was buried at Reading Abbey.

English barons did not want to be ruled by a woman and an Angevin, which led to conflict over succession.  Stephen, nephew of Henry, seized the English throne.

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Norman King: William II

william ii rufus
King William II of England

1087 Upon the death of William the Conqueror, his son William Rufus inherited the English throne; King William II – William Rufus.

William faced a rebellion, which had been partly inspired by his own uncle; Odo of Bayeux, who favoured Robert for the English throne… the revolt soon collapsed.

Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury since 1070, advised the new King, which saw the distribution from the royal treasure, to the monasteries, churches and poor to gain favour with the people, and benefit his father’s soul.

1089 William waged war against his brother Robert, and laid claim to the lands of Normandy; defeating him in battle.

Lanfranc, head of the Abbey of Caen in France and later Archbishop of Canterbury died.  His post remained unfilled, and Rufus pocketed Canterbury’s income.

1091 William faced hostile opposition from Scotland, and he forced Malcolm III, King of Scotland to acknowledge him as King of England, and its lands of Scotland.

1093 Malcolm III and his Scots, revolted against William in November; Malcolm died in battle near Alnwick.  From that day forth, Scotland’s King’s had to provide military troops in return for protection of their lands.

William’s relations with the church were difficult… he was more interested in the revenue they raised.

Anselm started out as a novice at the Benedictine Abbey of Bec in 1063, rising to Prior, then Abbot by 1078.  In 1093 he was appointed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, a post he would hold till 1109, and so the battle over finance and faith began.

The King ridiculed the church, and created a council of barons to decide whether the King or Pope should rule… of course they favoured their King.

1095 Rebellion broke out against William and his rule, led by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, which was put down, by William and his chief of justice; Ranulf Flambard and his armies.

William II was not a devout son of the church and held the church in no reverence.  He drew strong disapproval through his flaunting of homo-sexuality, within the English court, and the plundering of vacant bishoprics.

1096 Robert mortgaged Normandy to William for 10,000 francs to finance his crusade.  The money came from taxes imposed on his English subjects.

1097 When Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury went to Rome to seek guidance from the Pope; William stepped in and seized his estates.

1099 Ranulf Flambard became the Bishop of Durham.

On the 15th July, the walls of Jerusalem were scaled, and the Holy City is seized in the First Crusade.

1100 On the 2nd August, William was killed in a hunting accident when an arrow penetrated his lung.  Walter Tirel one of his own nobleman was said to have fired the arrow, which took William’s life.

Tirel fired upon a stag, missing it and hitting the King instead.  Whether the shot was accidental or not, Tirel fled to France in fear of his life.

It is possible, Tirel was acting under orders of William’s younger brother Henry, who seized the throne and was crowned within a day.

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Norman King: William the Conqueror


1066 William the illegitimate son of Duke Robert the Devil of Normandy invades England and defeats King Harold II, the last Saxon King at the “Battle of Hastings” claiming the English throne which had been bequeathed to him by Edward the Confessor.

On the 25thDecember William the Conqueror, King William I was crowned King of England.

1067 William suppresses a Saxon revolt in the south.  He drives out Anglo-Saxon lords, and gives their lands to his Norman Earls.  It was the beginning of a systematic transfer of lands, from Saxon to Norman.

1068 William faced with a revolt in the north of the country, led by Edwin and Morcar, creates an area of mass starvation.  Norman soldiers burn every house, barn, crops and kills all livestock.

1069 Swen Estrithson and his armies land in the Humber and joins up with Northern English Earls, taking the Norman Garrison at York.  William replies by taking York back.

1070 Howard the Wake leads a Saxon revolt against Norman invaders.

William plundered monasteries, which held Saxon’s wealth.  To him England was no more than a resource to be exploited.

1071 William put an end to Saxon England in the East, by defeating Hereward the Wake.

1072 William’s Norman army heads North crossing the border into Scotland and insists Malcolm III should pay homage to him.

1073 William puts down a rebellion in Maine, France.

1078 The Tower of London construction begins, and the building has many stories to tell in its lifetime.

1079 William’s eldest son, Robert heads a rebellion in Normandy against his father, but is defeated at the “Battle of Gerbero.”  William spares his life … for Robert would inherit Normandy in 1087.

Winchester Cathedral is built.

1086 The Domesday Book, listing England’s manors or shires and the value of the country.

William informs the Pope, that England owes no allegiance to the Church of Rome.

1087 William dies in battle at the French city of Mantes; his horse stumbles amongst the ruins, and he is unhorsed.  He was buried at the Abbey Church of St.Etienne, Caen.

William leaves Normandy to his son Robert, and England to William II – Rufus.

Norman Queen: Matilda of Boulogne

Matilda of Boulogne
Matilda of Boulogne

Matilda of Boulogne was born in 1105, to parents Eustace III, Count of Boulogne and Mary of Scotland, the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret, and a descendant of the Saxon House of Wessex.  Matilda followed in her mother’s footsteps and was educated at the convents of Romsey and Wilton in England.

King Henry I of England negotiated the marriage of Matilda of Boulogne with his nephew Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain in 1125.

In 1125, Matilda’s father Eustace III, the Count of Boulogne retired to the monastery at Cluny and Matilda became the Countess of Boulogne.

King Henry I of England gifted Stephen and Matilda a London residence.  Matilda gave birth to five children:

  • Eustace IV the Count of Boulogne, who married Constance of France.
  • Baldwin of Boulogne, who died during infancy.
  • William of Blois, Count of Mortain and Boulogne and Earl of Surrey who married Isabel de Warenne.
  • Matilda of Boulogne who married Waleran de Beaumont 1st Earl of Worcester.
  • Mary I, Countess of Boulogne who married Mathew of Alsace.

On the 1st December 1135, King Henry I of England died.  Stephen had taken an oath previously, that Henry’s daughter the Empress Matilda would be Henry’s heir to the English throne… Stephen broke his oath…

Stephen crossed the English Channel upon hearing of Henry’s death and seized the English throne without spilling blood.  He was crowned King Stephen of England on the 22nd December 1135 at Westminster Abbey.  Matilda, Stephens wife was crowned Queen of England on the 22nd March 1136 at Westminster Abbey.

Queen Matilda was a keen supporter of the Knights Templar, and founded Cressing Temple in 1137 and Temple Cowley in 1139, and had close ties with the Holy Trinity Priory at Aldgate.

Civil War broke out between Stephen and Empress Matilda, for the English throne.  Matilda supported her husband Stephen in so many, to retain his position as King of England.  When Empress Matilda’s forces invaded England in 1138, Queen Matilda called upon troops from Boulogne and Flanders, and attacked and captured Dover Castle.  From there she headed north at her husband’s request, securing a treaty with her uncle King David I of Scotland, which was signed on the 9th April 1139… She had achieved Scottish support.

Family issues saw Queen Matilda leave England and Stephen and attend the French Court.  It is here she negotiated a marriage between her son Eustace IV, the Count of Boulogne and Constance of France, the sister of King Louis VI of France.  The young couple were married in 1140.

Matilda was in the south of England when news reached her, that Stephen had been captured by Empress Matilda at the Battle of Lincoln in the February of 1141.

Queen Matilda was forced to take refuge in the Tower of London.  Her pleas to Empress Matilda for the release of her husband were rejected time and time again.

Empress Matilda, had reached London, and was preparing to be crowned Queen of England, as her father had so willed.  She alienated her new subjects, that she was driven out of the capital, and would never wear the crown upon her head.

Empress Matilda had much support in the country… Queen Matilda had to resort to political tactics to persuade supporters of Empress Matilda to change sides, and follow her.

The Earl of Warrene captured the Earl of Gloucester, and so it was each side held an important person, and an exchange was on the cards.  Stephen was released in exchange for the Earl of Gloucester.

Prison had affected Stephen, and Queen Matilda had to take the lead role in the Civil War.  When Robert of Gloucester, Empress Matilda’s chief supporter died in 1147, the war ended and peace prevailed, and the Empress Matilda returned to Anjou.

Stephen and Matilda founded a monastery at Faversham, it was their way of giving thanks that the war was over and peace prevailed.

In the May of 1152, Queen Matilda died of fever at Hedingham Castle in Essex, and was buried at Feversham Abbey.  Her son Eustace died in the August of 1153 and was also buried at Faversham Abbey alongside his mother.  On the 25th October 1154, Stephen King of England died, and was buried alongside his wife Matilda and son Eustace at Faversham Abbey.

The English throne passed to Henry Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy and son of Empress Matilda according to the treaty of Wallingford.

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Norman Queen: Adeliza of Louvain

Queen Adeliza of Louvain
Adeliza of Louvain

Adeliza also known as Adelicia was born around 1103, she being the daughter of Godfrey. Count of Louvain and his wife Ida of Namur.

King Henry I of England’s only legitimate son and heir; William of Atheling drowned in the sinking of the White Ship on the 25th November 1120.  Henry, a devastated Henry, sought a male heir, and as such took a new wife.

On the 24th January 1121 Henry I married Adeliza at Windsor and she was crowned Queen of England on the 25th January.

Adeliza played a minor political role as Queen of England.  It is said she was present when Henry announced that his legitimate daughter; Matilda would be his heir.

On the 1st December 1135, Adeliza was widowed when King Henry I died.  His throne was usurped by his nephew Stephen of Bios, even though Henry’s choice of heir was his daughter; Matilda.

Adeliza retired to the Benedictine convent of Wilton Abbey near Salisbury, and attended the dedication of Henry’s tomb at Reading Abbey.  She then retired from court, taking up residence at Arundel Castle in Sussex.  She founded a leper hospital dedicated to Saint Giles at Fugglestone, St.Peter in Wiltshire.  On Henry’s 1st anniversary of his death, Adeliza gave the manor of Aston to the Abbey of Reading, and endowed them with land, to provide for the convent.  A few years later gifted them a church.

In 1138, Adeliza married William d’Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, son of William d’Aubigny and Maud le Bigod.  The D’Aubigny’s were royal stewards.  Adeliza and William resided at Adeliza’s castle of Arundel and had seven children: Alice – William – Olivia – Reynor – Geoffrey – Henry – and Agatha d’Aubigny.  Descendants of Adeliza and William include Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, Queen’s of Henry VIII.

England was plunged into Civil War when Matilda was appointed heir of King Henry I, challenged her cousin Stephen for the English throne, which by right was hers.

Adeliza supported Matilda and William her husband supported Stephen.

In 1150 Adeliza retired to the monastery of Affligem in Flanders, and she died there on the 24th March 1151.  Her burial site is unknown but it is believed she was buried at the monastery of Affligem in Flanders or Reading Abbey with her first husband; King Henry I of England.

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