Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Post: Helen Hollick talks about the Normans

Today I am happy to bring you the very talented Helen Hollick, author of the newly released I Am Chosen King, as she shares with us her thoughts on the Normans.


What type of life did a Norman lead after the Battle of Hastings?


"Oh I’m not sure I want to answer this one *laugh* - I’m not a big fan of the Normans! (as you will discover when reading I Am The Chosen King (Harold the King is the UK title)

First, it is highly unlikely that Duke William of Normandy expected to keep England. He knew he would have to subdue the North of England first (which eventually happened by the Normans razing everything to the ground, slaughtering livestock and virtually destroying everything in their path, a devastation that had repercussions even several centuries later) Also, Denmark held a claim for England so war would have been expected from that quarter.

The idea that the Normans built those great big stone castles to dominate and “show off” their power is a bit of a misconception. They actually erected them for their own safety and protection! Nor did Duke William have things all his own way after the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. He needed to get to London to be crowned, a distance of a little over 50 miles, yet it took him two months. He was finally crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. (And no, he was not the first King to be crowned there, although the history books – and the Normans – say he was. King Harold II, Harold Godwineson, was crowned legally and legitimately by the rule of English law and in the sight of God on January 6th 1066. The Normans, of course, repressed this fact.

In truth, William had no right whatsoever to the English throne.

His army met resistance as they marched towards London through Kent, many of them dying from dysentery.
Even on his coronation day there was tragedy for the English. Part of the service entails the acclamation “God Save the King!” shouted three times. The Norman soldiers posted outside the abbey could not understand English, when they heard the shouting they assumed their was trouble and started killing people in the gathered crowd.

There was rebellion too in the Midlands, a rebellion which very nearly succeeded. Hereward, who was possibly a younger son of the Earl of Mercia, raised a guerrilla army and held up in the marshy fenlands of Ely. They were betrayed by the monks of Ely Cathedral (who were probably bribed by William – certainly soon after they had enough money to rebuild the Cathedral)

Vast areas of forest and woodland were taken into royal possession by William, the New Forest in Hampshire, for instance, had been common ground during Anglo Saxon England, but William took it for his own which caused huge repercussions for the people who dwelt there. No more rights to graze their livestock, hunt, gather wood. Feudal law was brought in – and the law of primogeniture – all different from Anglo Saxon laws and customs.

Cathedrals were erected, but it is very likely that had Harold won at Hastings these beautiful buildings would have been built anyway. Westminster Abbey and Waltham Abbey were founded well before 1066 by King Edward and Harold. England was not a backward, uncivilised Kingdom!

The Domesday Book is probably one of the most famous artefacts of Duke William’s reign as King of England, but even that is not accurately accounted. The information in it was already available under Anglo Saxon Kingship, all William did was have it all put together in one big book. Nor, it has now been shown, was it for the purposes of tax collection book, it is more likely that William wanted to know exactly what he was now lord and master off, so he had a massive Land Registry compiled. A book of all that he had stolen from England’s rightful King – Harold II.

Well, I did say I don’t like the Normans much!"
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Thank you, Helen, for this informative and interesting guest post! Excellent job, even for one who does not like the Normans :)

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