Early England

Hello friends,

So as previously mentioned I am taking an independent study where I am researching the creation of an English Constitution.  I have already written quite a few pages on this subject, and I wanted to share some of it with you.  This particular section covers a large segment of monarchy pre-Magna Carta.  Sorry for the huge endnotes, I don’t know how to shrink them!

After thirty years as Duke of Normandy, William crossed the channel and in 1066 C.E.conquered England, bringing with him experience and ideas on how to rule.[i] To reward his followers, William I gave his followers English lands and created a new ruling class, who at this point acknowledged that it was the king who granted them these privileges. Aside from bringing Norman aristocrats into England, William also brought in a feudal system of ruling England, which set a precedent for ruling the English realm for future monarchs.[ii] After William died from war wounds, his son Henry I took over. At court, Henry I felt, “confident enough to break some of his greatest baronial families,” and promoted lesser families to power.[iii] Court could either lift or destroy a family, to determine the strength of a house, people only needed to notice Königs Nähe which means to look at which nobles surrounded the king at court. Though Henry was active in war and worked hard to create political stability, “His plans for succession were disregarded immediately. . .” after he died.[iv] Rather than his daughter, Matilda, succeeding her father, Stephen of Blois took the crown, becoming King Stephen I.[v]

The king’s household shows a smaller degree of kingly lordship. Though household contained various offices of honor and some of these roles were more symbolic than practical, the king would also travel with his court of advisors. His household had a payroll, whether it was for the cook or an advisor, it set up an example of government management.[vi] The household followed the king, and involved the court, who would advise the king, to travel with him.[vii] The king’s command over his household, reflects the extent of power that he had in England. The king used his traveling household to visit the far reaches of the kingdom and to ensure they were being governed efficiently, adhering to the law’s wishes.[viii] Essentially, the household provides an example of a smaller governmental unit, managed by the kings administrators, to help the king rule England.

While the king held the prerogatives of land distribution, military conquest, and royal administration, after new generations more distant from England conquest rose, unlike their grandfathers, nobles began to identify less with the kings. Rather, they identified with their land, seeing it not as a gift from the king, but as a given right. In fact, eventually after a tradition of violence between nobles the “tradition of justified aristocratic violence could invest resistance to the king with a kind of acceptability.”[ix] King Stephen’s reign can particularly stand out as a case study of this. In 1136, Baldwin de Redvers led a rebellion against King Stephen. Though the overarching opinion of the time centered around obeying the king, because of his power, Baldwin did not accept Stephen as his king, so he justified his rebellion as him asserting his rights as a lord of the land.[x]

However, though Stephen was king, Matilda’s son Henry was determined to have his inheritance.   In 1153, Henry “asserted his rights as heir to the throne of England. When Henry II took the crown of England in 1153 and was crowned king the following year.”[xi] Henry II’s Angevin line had no precedent in England, so the Anglo-Norman customs established by William I continued. Following, Henry II came Richard I, otherwise known as Richard the Lionheart, emerged as the new king of England. Though he was an excellent warrior, spending his early reign on the Third Crusade, his impact on the government and constitutionalization of England were minimal.[xii] However, his death meant that his younger brother, John, would become king, which would impact the ways of the monarchy by providing nobles with a path to curb the monarchy’s power and assure their rights as nobles.

———–

[i] Bartlett, Robert. 2000. England under the Norman and Angevin kings, 1075-1225. Oxford [England]: Clarendon Press. 12

[ii] Ibid. 20

[iii] Ibid. 28

[iv] Ibid. 21

[v] Ibid. 21

[vi] Ibid. 131

[vii] Ibid. 136

[viii] Ibid. 143

[ix] Ibid. 61

[x] Ibid. 61

[xi] Ibid. 22

[xii] Ibid. 25″

-Phil

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Christian, Lover of History, Aspiring Teacher

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