he effect the invasion had on the English people after the Battle of Hastings. How the Saxon way of life changed under William. New rules and regulations upheld with an iron fist.
How Was It Possible ?
illiam had achieved in a short space of time a victory that would alter the face of England forever. 7500 soldiers had taken over a country of one and a half million souls. He had conquered what the Romans, Saxons and Vikings had had to fight long and hard for a piece of. He truly deserved his name of William the Conqueror. England was the richest and most cultured in Europe. Christianity was established and the people had developed a God fearing mentality. The country was admired throughout Europe as a model of how it should be. William understood this well. It was in his interests to maintain it as a viable going concern. At least, this was his plan at the start. He seemed quite prepared to leave the country to administer itself. Unfortunately, things did not quite go to plan. From the time of Alfred the Great, England had developed into something apart from the rest of Europe. This was the reason it was the subject of constant invasion. Usually it was for the countries riches. William's invasion was for totally different reasons. It was in anger and pride. During the early stages of his administration, he installed many English Lords to positions of power, or at least those who accepted him as the new king. Another dichotomy was that he had to reward his own people who had supported him on this crusade. He possibly made a huge mistake by promising riches and wealth to them. He must have calculated that to introduce too many Normans to England in a short space of time could have destabilized the country and caused a anti Norman backlash.
Almost the first thing William did after securing England, was to found this abbey on the battle site.
Strength Is Respected
eing an island race, the English, have always had a morbid dislike of foreigners, especially the French. It is an attitude that still prevails today.
Many vendettas had to be settled. William understandably could not grant power to those who had fought against him at Hastings. These people had their land confiscated. This was in sharp contrast to the actions of Alfred when he defeated Guthrum. I am sure William would have liked to have been magnanimous in victory, but he learnt from an early stage in his life that this did not pay and that strength was respected. Maybe if Alfred had been more like William, this battle would never have taken place. William was determined to succeed but he still had to carry out his promises to his counts and knights. The allocation of land to Normans was becoming more and more resented. By 1069 an uprising forced William to show his hand more forcefully. He became ruthless. Any sign of insurrection or revolt was brutally quashed before it could get out of hand. By the time he had died in 1087, there was virtually no part of England that was controlled by an Englishman.
bout 25% of the available land was acquired for his own purpose and another 25% went to the church. This was a necessary obligation as the invasion was with the blessing of Rome. The rest was divided between his trusted and loyal servants. These amounted to only 10 or 12 people. These huge land grants were subject to conditions. William knew that a country that was not prepared for war, would soon end up in one, as the weakness of a country was an invitation for invasion, as the Saxons had found out before getting organised. He decided therefore, that to be a landowner would entail military duty. The country would be semi war ready at all times. The tenants in chief would be responsible for raising an army in times of crisis. The tenants in chiefs, in turn, sub divided further to vassals, who were responsible for providing a fighting Knight, along with everything else he would need in battle. Depending on how large the holding was related to the number of Knights that tenant in chief supplied. The Knights function was also to protect his peasant farmers, some of whom were wealthy landowners in their own right before the invasion. It was a form of pyramid of allegiance that had to be sworn. Everybody had a overlord with whom he had to swear allegiance and was the basis of the feudal system. Failure to respond to the overlords request, resulted in the loss of land and privileges. The land could not be sold, partitioned without the overlords consent. Everybody was answerable to a superior who he had sworn fealty too. The restrictions were great, but is instilled a sense of purpose and belonging. Everybody eventually was answerable to the Crown.
e had problems with the English adapting to the new regime. He even had problems with his Norman tenants in chief. They had delusions of grandeur but were crushed by William. By 1069 the problems were beginning to mount. He called all his Tenants in chief and major landholders to Salisbury where he laid down the law and requested that they swear an oath of allegiance to him. William was very clever in the way he allocated the land holdings or manors. By issuing in such a way that they were dispersed up and down the country, each tenant in chief was unable to rebel or muster enough men to challenge William.
If William was a hard man, everybody knew their position in life and what was expected of them. This was the basis of the class structure that exists today.
illiam did not totally dismantle the Saxon system of government. He saw that it had some good points which he left alone or developed. He was particularly insistent on retaining the tax system of geld and retained the process of shires and hundreds on which it was based. He also retained the process of local law. The Witan was also retained but with a Norman attendance. Many of the administrative processes were left intact. He invaded a rich country, so why change a system that worked. He also respected the land granted to Danish settlers in Danelaw. Many of the freedoms and rights enjoyed by London were retained. He did not disband the fyrd. He saw the useful purpose that they served. William seemed to want to retain as much of the English way of life as possible. He might of realised that any threat to his kingdom was more likely to come from a Norman usurper. A deeper reason may have been his childhood, that was full of turmoil. He had a difficult time and was lucky to make adulthood. He must have craved for stability and a sense of belonging which might explain why he did not totally change England but retained that which was lacking in his bastard Norman upbringing. He possibly had a need to be accepted, or even loved.
illiam introduced the position of sheriff. These were officials of the Crown who were responsible for the administration of the royal estates and shires and collected the taxes, which were draconian, on the kings behalf and was responsible for leading the kings militia in times of unrest. The administration of the law and the jury system used throughout the world today and introduced by the Vikings was kept in place. William embarked on a survey of his conquest, the like of which had never been attempted anywhere else in the world at that time. In 1085 William wanted to know exactly what he had in his possession. Not just the broad details but everything. He wanted to know the population and the status of them, who owned what land, what was on that land, how many animals were on that land, the type of land, how the land was cultivated and what was grown. Al for the purposes of taxation. This was a onerous job for the commissioners especially appointed to carry out the task. This eventually became known as the Domesday Book. The survey was stored in the treasury in Winchester. The calculation of tax due was passed to the tenants in chief. The affect of his savage taxes ricochet down to the peasant. Everybody was affected.
f William became the monarch of law and order, his methods were severe in the extreme. As mentioned above, a quarter of England was retained by him for his personal needs. He was a avid hunter and the preservation of the fallow deer became an obsession. Anybody caught hunting on his land could expect blinding or mutilation, or if they were lucky, executed. These kangaroo courts were set up spontaneously to administer justice. a fair trial could depend on your status. Peace was not easily won by William. Many English had died in the initial battle but it dimmed into insignificance to those who would die in his quest to unify the country under his power. in Yorkshire, following a massacre of Norman knights, he undertook a scorched earth and murdering policy that took years to recover. Many of the nobility or landed Saxon gentry that existed only a few years earlier became penniless. This roll reversal led to uprisings which William dealt with. Some totally refused to accept the regime left their homes to become outlaws. Possibly the most famous was Hereward the Wake, A Lincolnshire landowner who , after the invasion, absconded to the marshes where he, until 1071, fought against William and all he stood for.
illiam embarked on a castle building scheme to protect his vulnerable areas and to house the appointed tax collectors , ( not the most popular of people ). He was responsible for the Tower of London. He built Battle Abbey to commemorate the Battle of Hastings.
f we cannot condone William's violent actions, he can be given the credit for moulding a sense of patriotism. Everybody had a position, a status and duty. From this, a country can only be strong. It was just as well because the Vikings had not finished with England. Two attempts at invasion were beaten back by William. William invaded Scotland and Wales with success. William was slowly doing what the Vikings had done with Canute. Where as England was part of a Danish Empire, It was now an extension of Normandy with the English Channel separating the two. Warfare changed, Instead of fighting on foot as the Saxon's had done. The use of cavalry, first seen at Hastings was now used to good advantage. The use of horses also allowed great distances to be covered in much shorter time. The invasion of Scotland that the Romans found difficult was achieved by William. The affairs of state were many fold. All roads would have lead back to William. He was not only the King of England but of Normandy, now the most powerful kingdom in France.
illiam Died in 1087 in a riding accident in Normandy.
I'll tell of the Battle of Hastings,
as happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And 'Arold got shot in the eye.
It were this way - one day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff,
Having no battles at the moment,
Had given his lads the day off.
They'd all taken boats to go fishing,
When some chap in t'Conquerers ear
Said "Let's go put breeze up the Saxons;"
Said Bill - "By gum, that's an idea."
Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting - "Hands up who's coming to England."
That was swank 'cos they hadn't no choice.
They started away about tea-time -
The sea was so calm and so still,
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.
King 'Arold came up as they landed -
His face full of venom and 'ate -
He said "If you've come for Regatta
You've got here just six weeks too late."
At this William rose, cool but 'aughty,
And said - "Give us none of your cheek;
You'd best have your throne re-upholstered,
I'll be wanting to use it next week."
When 'Arold heard this 'ere defiance,
With rage he turned purple and blue,
And shouted some rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered - "And you."
'Twere a beautiful day for a battle;
The Normans set off with a will,
And when both sides was duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.
King 'Arold he won the advantage,
On the hill-top he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his cads all around him,
On his 'orse with his 'awk in his 'and.
The Normans had nowt in their favour,
Their chance of a victory seemed small,
For the slope of the field were against them,
And the wind in their faces and all
The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,
And soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started banging each other
Till the swineherds could hear them in Kent.
The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed both with buckler and sword -
But the Normans had best combination,
And when half-time came neither had scored.
So the Duke called his cohorts together
And said - "Let's pretend that we're beat,
Once we get Saxons down on the level
We'll cut off their means of retreat."
So they ran - and the Saxons ran after,
Just exactly as William had planned,
Leaving 'Arold alone on the hill-top
On his 'orse with his 'awk in his 'and.
When the Conqueror saw what had happened,
A bow and an arrow he drew;
He went right up to 'Arold and shot him.
he were off-side, but what could they do?
The Normans turned round in a fury,
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the fight were all over bar shouting,
And you couldn't see Saxons for dust.
And after the battle were over
They found 'Arold so stately and grand,
Sitting there with an eye-full of arrow
On his 'orse with his 'awk in his 'and.
Thanks to Ang Puersa ay kasama mo..palagi who supplied the full version and to Marriot Edgar, who I hope, would not object to me using the poem.
© copyright Glen Ray Crack -
Battle - East Sussex - United Kingdom
Submitted 10th January 1998
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