Norman Conquest of England began on September 27, 1066, when the forces of William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror, landed on the southern coast of England at Pevensey, but it continued throughout the formative years of the English nation. William completed military conquest of England when he successfully defeated the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, on
290 "NOW GOTH SONNE UNDER WOD"
october 14, 1066, at the Battle of Hastings. William's coronation as William I, king of England, on December 25, 1066, firmly established the Norman dynasty as the new royal family of England. The sociocultural conquest of the English people would continue over the next century.
one of William's first goals was to change the social structure of English society. He rewarded faithful followers at the expense of English nobles, reassigning lands and titles. His earliest efforts to realize this ambition involved the disruption of traditional Anglo-Saxon rulership by election and the foundation of a strong centralized monarchy based on patriarchal lines of inheritance, including primogeniture (oldest son as heir). The new Norman nobility assisted with this agenda. Other sociocultural changes followed.
one of the most drastic shifts in English culture was the subversion of the English language. Members of William's court spoke Norman French. Despite the fact that individuals who spoke English were viewed as inferior and commonplace, the majority of the individuals who were not part of the royal court refused to adopt a new language. As a result, a dual linguistic system emerged where many members of the nobility spoke Norman French while the language of the common people remained English. In 1086, a massive survey of the English countryside and its population entitled The Domesday Book was completed at William's insistence. The Domesday Book contained detailed census information about every shire and its tenants in England. This survey helped William to implement in England the continental Norman practice of feudalism. Traditionally defined as a military arrangement made between lords and their vassals (see feudal oaths), feudalism did not exist in Anglo-Saxon England. The military relationship between the Anglo-Saxon kings and their nobles was similar to that portrayed in the Old English poem Beowulf. William bolstered the spread of feudalism in England by embarking on a massive castle-building project. The Tower of London is one of the most famous castles built during his reign.
The English people initially resisted William's efforts. They resented the dominance of the new Norman aristocracy, the ascendancy of the Norman-French language, and the heavy taxation they were forced to pay in order to finance the king's Continental military expeditions. However, the Norman dynasty ruled England until the reign of Henry II, William the Conqueror's great-grandson, in 1154. Henry II was a product of the hybrid Anglo-Norman society that developed as the Norman Conquest of England came to a close during the 12th century. He established a new royal dynasty known as the Norman-Angevins, or Plantagenets. Troubadours (singer-poets) from southern France who accompanied Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's queen, introduced the ideas of chivalry and courtly love to the English populace. These motifs were two of the biggest influences on medieval English poetry. By the time Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century, the effects of the Norman Conquest had long been absorbed.
Barlow, Erank. "The Effects of the Norman Conquest." In The Norman Conquest: Its Setting and Impact, edited by Dorothy Whitelock et al., 125-161. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1966. Brown, R. Allen. The Normans and the Norman Conquest. New York, N.Y.: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.
Deborah L. Bauer
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