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that they should render to them the same service they were bound to render to the king. Thus they were a kind of petty kings on their estates, and in process of time, they looked on their property as their own, and considered themselves almost or quite independent of the sovereign. But this was not till long after William's death, for William in his arrangement of their tenures, managed to distribute them in such a way, as to prevent any baron becoming too powerful. He was most likely led to do this, from seeing the way in which the Feudal System worked in other places, where the barons were practically quite independent of the king and considered themselves as his equals, looking on their king only as “ first among
LESSON 7.-THE NORMANS.- Part 2 But how did the Saxons fare at the hands of their Norman conquerors ? Very hardly, as you may judge. At first William endeavoured to govern them with firmness and justice; but his followers, who hoped to be rewarded with the spoils of the English, acted in such a way as to goad them into insurrection in various districts. Their attempts were easily foiled of course, their lands were taken from them, and they themselves were treated with harshness and cruelty. A striking instance of the little value at which William and his Normans held the English, is furnished by his proceedings in South Hampshire. There a whole district was depopulated, and the villages and dwellings destroyed, in order that a forest might be planted in a spot convenient for the king to hunt in. Parts of this New Forest” remain to this day,
In order to prevent conspiracies from the Saxons, William made a law, that all fires and lights were to be put out at eight o'clock at night. At that time a bell was rung, called the “Curfew'(couvre-feu, cover-fire) Bell, and this was the signal to extinguish all lights.
Bells are rung to this day in many parts of England, and in some places the custom is traced back to William's law. There is this to be said in its favour, the houses at this period were built of wood, and the law would tend to prevent fires. Besides, as the people kept much earlier hours then we do now, it would not appear so great a hardship to them as it would to us.
When affairs appeared to be settled in England, William was anxious to know the character and value of the country. For this purpose, he caused commissioners to pass through the land, and take an exact inventory of all the property contained in it. And a general survey of all the lands in the kingdom was made, their extent and value and character were carefully observed. In some places details of the number of tenants, slaves and cottagers were noted, and altogether a most valuable record was obtained. This record still remains, in the form of two volumes, known as the Doomsday Book. It furnishes the most exact and reliable information respecting the condition of the country at this time, and "does honour to William's memory.
An important change introduced by the Normans, was the separation of the jurisdiction of the civil and ecclesiastical magistrates. In the Saxon times the bishop and the sheriff tried causes in common, but the Normans had distinct courts in which civil and ecclesiastial offences were tried. This tended to increase the power of the clergy, for the cases that they managed to bring under their jurisdiction, became more numerous year by year, and soon they regarded themselves as independent of the civil authority altogether. In consequence of this there were continual disputes between the later kings and the clergy, which did not come to an end till the reign of Edward I.
Instead of the Anglo-Saxon ordeal, the Normans introduced trial by combat. An accused person was sometimes allowed to fight with his accuser, in order to prove
his innocence; a strange mode of proceeding to be sure, and as objectionable as the Saxon ordeal; but well suited to the superstition and bravery of the age. Of course it was believed that God would not allow an innocent man to be defeated, just as the Saxons thought Providence would interfere to prevent his being hurt by the ordeal. The “Wager of Battle” of the Normans remained for ages, a favourite mode of deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused person, where positive proof was wanting.
To the Normans we owe the introduction of many French words, many of which are themselves derived from the Latin. They continued to speak the NormanFrench for generations after the conquest, and made many attempts to establish it as the language of the country. All law proceedings were to be in French, and it and Latin were the recognized languages of the learned. But "nothing is so obstinate as a language, and so it proved in this case, for in the end the tongue of the conquered Saxon triumphed over that of the conqueror, and enriched and strengthened itself by the multitude of words it drew from this source.
No considerable foreign element has been introduced into our nation since the conquest. The character of the English has been developed from the amalgamation of the Normans and Saxons. To the Normans especially we attribute the origin of our nobility, and the introduction of a firm and settled government. Though the Saxons were numerically superior, yet the Normans were the dominant race, and they long remained so, and made an impress that will endure as long as England remains a nation. And as our country has had such influence in the world, as she and her mighty colonies are still in the van of civilization, it is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of the Conquest of England by the Normans.
Deliberate-consult. Territories-dominions, lands
Arbitrarily--of one's own will alone Hypocritical—like a hypocrite, preten- (Lat. arbiter, an umpire). tious.
Cordially-heartily (Lat. cor (cordis), Nominee-person named (Lat. nomen the heart).
SOMETIMES it is a good thing for a nation to have a bad king. This may seem a strange statement, but it is true nevertheless, and no better proof of it can be given than the reign of king John.
John was son of Henry the Second, one of the most powerful of our monarchs, and brother of Richard the First, the lion-hearted king, who went to the Crusades, and left his country to be badly governed, whilst he sought glory and renown in foreign parts. John distinguished himself before he became king, by joining in a rebellion against his father, and by treachery towards his brother.
On the death of Cour-de-Lion, the throne belonged by right to his nephew Arthur, son of his brother Geoffrey. But John, the younger brother of Geoffrey and Richard, seized the crown, thus depriving young Arthur of his rights; and after a while, when he got
the young prince into his power, he murdered him with his own hand.
Up to this time, the king of England had been duke of Normandy
also, and a good part of the rest of France belonged to Henry the Second and his family. But by the murder of Arthur, John lost all his possessions in France. For the king of France ordered John, as duke of Normandy, to appear and take his trial for the murder of his nephew; and when John refused, king Philip entered Normandy and the rest of John's territories, and made them submit to him. John tried to retake them, but was beaten, and so Normandy passed away from England.
This defeat was about the best thing that could have happened for our country; for, from the time of the conquest by the Normans, the Norman barons had looked upon Normandy as their home, and upon England as a foreign country, and Englishmen as foreigners. But now Normandy was taken away from them, and they were forced to be content with England, and to make the best of the country they had hitherto despised. They paid more attention to its condition, and began to look upon the English as their fellow-countrymen, though it was a long time before they ceased to look on them as their inferiors. We shall see the effect of this directly.
Both before and after losing his French dominions, John governed England very badly. He was cruel, false, cowardly, hypocritical, and wicked in almost every way, and was cordially hated by both barons and people.
Then he was unfortunate enough to quarrel with the Pope, about appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury. The dispute lasted several years, but in the end John submitted in the most disgraceful way, and Stephen Langton, the Pope’s nominee, became Archbishop.
During all these years John had continued his evil practices, until at last, his barons were unable to bear