Norman Monarchy

The Normans originated from the Vikings who took up occupation in the early part of the 10th century in north-east France.  A powerful state was created around the mouth of the Seine.

In 1035, the Duchy passed to William, an illegitimate son of Duke Robert of Normandy, and anarchy reigned.  In 1047 he proved himself a skilled military leader, by defeating his enemies, and uniting the Duchy behind his rule.

William offered land hungry lords, large areas of England in return for military assistance to overcome Anglo-Saxon resistance.  Edward the Confessor had told William, that upon his death, the English crown would pass to him.  William expected resistance from the English, and was prepared to do battle, to claim what is his by right.

King William I: The year 1066, became a turning point in England’s history.  William the illegitimate son of Duke Robert the Devil of Normandy invaded England, defeating King Harold II (Harold Godwinson) at the Battle of Hastings.  On the 25th December William was crowned King William I of England at Westminster Abbey.

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

William faced Saxon revolt in the south, and responded by driving out Anglo-Saxon lords from their lands.  In the northern areas he created mass starvation by burning houses, barns crops and killing livestock.

His power and efficiency can be seen in the Domesday Book, a census for taxes, listings manors and shires across the land.

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

King William I (William the Conqueror) died in battle at the French city of Mantes; his horse stumbled amongst the ruins, and he is unhorsed, causing a fatal stomach injury.  William was buried at the Abbey Church of St.Etienne, Caen.

King William II: When William I died in 1087, he gave England to his second son, William II and Normandy to his eldest son Robert.  To his third son Henry, he left nothing, for he was supposed to enter the church.

William II ascended to the English throne upon the death of his father William I in 1087, and was crowned King William II of England on the 26th September at his coronation at Canterbury Cathedral.

William faced rebellion from his brother Robert, urged on by his uncle Odo of Bayeux, the revolt quickly collapsed.  William responded by waging war against Robert in 1089, laying claims to the lands of Normandy, and defeating him in battle.

William faced hostile opposition from Scotland in 1091, and was forced to take action, forcing Malcolm III, King of the Scots to acknowledge him as King of England and the lands of Scotland.  In November 1093, Malcolm III and his forces revolted, taking on the might of William II near Alnwick, where Malcolm died on the battlefield.

William was always at odds with the church, he being a practicing homosexual, his interest lay in the revenue the church raised, not the faith itself.

On the 2nd August 1100, King William II was killed when an arrow penetrated his lung in a hunting accident.  Walter Tirel, nobleman and friend of the King fired the fateful arrow, missing a stag and killing the king.  Tirel fled to France, fearful of his life. 

King Henry I: Henry, the third son of William the Conqueror received nothing at his father’s death, but thing’s changed, when his brother William was killed in a hunting accident, he swiftly moved being crowned King in a matter of a few days.

Henry’s brother Robert, landed on English shores in 1101, claiming he was the rightful heir of England.  Conflict was averted, Henry’s territories in Normandy passed to Robert, along with 2,000 marks a year.  In 1106, Henry invaded Normandy and captured Robert at the “Battle of Tinchebrai,” and imprisoned him for life.

In 1110 Henry created a financial counting system, a chequered cloth was used by the Royal Treasury, a central point for discussions on finance.

In 1121, Henry’s heir William died, and he had no male successor, and proposed his daughter Matilda would be Queen of England upon his death.  Henry’s barons swore an allegiance to Matilda, yet their promise was never kept.

In 1135 King Henry I died in Rouen, France and was buried at Reading Abbey.

King Stephen: With Henry I dead, the last thing English barons wanted, was to be ruled by a woman, which led to conflict over succession…  So it was, on the 22nd December 1135, Stephen the nephew of Henry I seized the English throne with the backing of barons and nobles, and was crowned on the 26th December.

Henry had so desired his daughter should be his successor, the actions taken by Stephen, led to Civil War as to who should be the rightful ruler; Stephen or Matilda.

Matilda received support from King David I of Scotland, as he invaded English lands.  In 1138 Robert the Earl of Gloucester rebels against Stephen.  In 1141, Matilda was elected as Queen, but driven out of London by its people who wanted Stephen, prior to her coronation.

This Civil War was tearing England apart, as Henry’s Royal Government lay in tatters.  The church played one side against the other, extending its authority.  It all came to a head, under the “Treaty of Westminster.”  Stephen would remain king for the remainder of his life, and upon his death the English throne would pass to Matilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet and he would take the title; King Henry II of England.

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

Norman King: William II

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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