From Sir Frank Stenton, ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND

EPILOGUE THE ANGLO-NORMAN.STATE BY the end of the Conqueror’s reign all directive power within the English state had passed from native into alien hands. In 1087, with less than half a dozen exceptions, even lay lord whose possessions entitled him to political influence was a foreigner. The English church was ruled by men of continental birth and training. No Englishman had been appointed by the Conqueror to any English see and, when he died, Wulfstan of Worcester and Giso of Wells alone survived from the episcopate of King Edward’s day. Ramsey and Bath were the only abbeys of more than local importance which remained under the authority of Englishmen. The leading members of the king’s household were all Frenchmen; a French clerk presided over his chancery, and French sheriffs controlled the administration of all but an insignificant number of shires. It would never be gathered from Domesday Book or from the witness-lists of King William’s later charters that he had begun his reign in the hope of associating Frenchmen and Englishmen in his government on equal terms. There was more than one reason for the disappearance of the great English landowner. In the twenty years between the coronation of King William and the completion of the Domesday Survey a considerable number of English families must have become extinct in the course of nature. Several of the Conqueror’s barons are known to have married Englishwomen, who, presumably, were the heiresses of native houses. Other prominent families suffered forfeitures which compelled their younger sons to find new careers in foreign parts. Within twenty years from the battle of Hastings, Englishmen in large numbers were serving the Eastern Emperor as guardians of his palace, or in operations against the Normans of south Italy and the Turks of Asia Minor. But it is also probable that many families which escaped forfeiture and extinction fell into insignificance because no place could be found for them in the new order which was developing in England. It was essential to the stability of the government that provision should be made in England for the endowment of a powerful military force. It would have been impossible for the Conqueror to leave a large number of important Englishmen in possession of their estates without requiring them to enfeoff knights for his service. But it must have been clear to him that an English thegn was ill fitted to be the lord of men whose conception of warfare was fundamentally different from his own, and Domesday Book shows that the number of Englishmen to whom he allowed this responsibility was remarkably small. So far as can be seen, most of the prominent Englishmen who survived the wars of the Conquest were

deprived of the .greater part of their estates, retaining no more than was sufficient to maintain them in modest prosperity. Their fate was hard, but in the circumstances of the time it was inevitable. They were the victims of a social revolution. A hundred years ago most writers would have been inclined to define this revolution as the introduction of the feudal system into England. It is still hard to find a better definition. Here and there in pre-Conquest England there are signs of an approach, towards a form of society which can loosely be described as feudal. Many scholars have used the remarkable leases granted by St. Oswald and other Old English bishops as an indication of this tendency. If feudalism is regarded merely as a form of social order which recognized, the principle of tenure in return for service, there is no reason to quarrel with this opinion. St. Oswald’s tenants were bound to him by fealty, and he would undoubtedly have maintained that their tenure was conditional on the performance of the services which he expected to receive from their holdings. But to regard these leases as evidence of a social organization which, might have produced a tenurial system like that of medieval England is to go beyond anything that the facts warrant. In any scheme of social relationships to which the word feudal can profitably be applied the tenant’s service was specialized and defined exactly. Its amount was determined by a bargain between the tenant and his lord, in which the size of the tenancy was a secondary consideration. Pre-Conquest leasehold tenure has none of these features. The stipulated services are many and various, and their amount was decided, at least in part, by the size of the tenant’s holding. It is perhaps more important that these leases contain no demand for services of a military character. The riding-service which some of them required was not the duty of going on military expeditions, but service to a lord as his escort or messenger. It can safely be assumed that the king would expect the tenants of a bishop, or of any other magnate, to serve in the levies of their shires, mounted and equipped in a way appropriate to their several degrees. But it is no less clear that their liability to military service was a personal obligation, independent of any contract with the lord of whom they held their lands. They were not in any sense the predecessors of medieval knights, and the men who were holding land on similar conditions in the Norman age could never be fitted into any accepted category or feudal tenure. In contrast to these various and indeterminate conditions the services which governed post-Conquest tenures were limited in range and definite in amount. It is true that after the Conquest, as before, it was possible for an individual to owe more than one form ot service for the same piece of land. Of Ditton in Surrey, held by Wadard of Bishop Odo, Domesday Book says “He who holds it of Wadard renders him 50 shillings and the service of one knight”. But such cases were exceptional, and the services which they comprised were always

defined with precision. It is of more significance that immediately after the Conquest military tenure of a kind which was not even foreshadowed in the Confessor’s time becomes of universal and paramount importance. It is now half a century since Round made what was then the daring claim that, in England, tenure by knight-service was a Norman innovation. After a generation of research Round’s theory has been confirmed at every point. What remains to be done is to demonstrate, by work on individual fees, che extent to which, tenures of this new model had been created by the Conqueror’s companions. That the process was gradual is certain. But it is already clear that the system of military tenures revealed by the feodaries of the Angevin age had been laid down in outline before the Domesday Inquest was token. The partition of England among a foreign aristocracy organized for war was the chief immediate result of the Norman Conquest. After all allowance for the sporadic survival of English landowners and the creation of new holdings for the household servants of great men, the fact remains that an overwhelming majority of the manors described in Domesday Book were held by some form of military tenure. The provision of knights for the king in adequate numbers was the first charge upon the baronage of the Norman settlement. The arrangements devised for this purpose gave to the upper ranges of Anglo-Norman society a stability and cohesion unknown in the pre-Conquest state. They substituted for the fluctuating relationships which had connected lords and their men in Old English times a system which held the higher social classes permanently together in a definite responsibility for military assistance to the king. There was no place in Norman England for the man of position who claimed the right to go with his land to whatever lord he would. It was the outstanding merit of this aristocracy chat it set itself co use the institutions which it found in England. The chief administrative divisions of the country -shires, hundreds, and wapentakes- were accepted as a matter or course by us new lords. They for their part applied Old English methods to the management of their estates, and they were remarkably tolerant of the varied and often inconvenient types of manorial structure which had come down from King Edward’s time. The institutions which they found it necessary to create were few in number and specialized in purpose. The honorial court, which was the chief of them, came in to being for the settlement ot the internal business of a great fief. The castlery, which never became of the first importance in English life, was a tract of country organized by a series of planned enfeoffments for the maintenance of a particular fortress. Neither of these innovations interfered at any essential point with the accustomed course of local government. The framework of the Old English scare survived the Conquest. The innovation which touched the common, man most nearly was the formidable body of rules and penalties which the Norman kings imposed

on the inhabitants of the district reserved tor their hunting. The French origin of the Anglo-Norman forest law has now been placed beyond dispute, and the Conqueror’s severity towards those who broke the peace of his deer is recorded by one who had known him. That he enlarged the borders of King Edward’s forests is certain, and there is no need to doubt the early tradition that the New toresc was converted into a royal preserve by his orders, to the destruction of many peasants who were struggling for existence in that unfriendly land. Nevertheless even within the forest sphere there was no absolute break with the past. The idea of a royal forest, jealously preserved, had been familiar to Englishmen for forty years at least before the Conquest. Cnut had laid a heavy fine on anyone who hunted in a district which he had set apart for his own pleasure. Forest wardens had been maintained by Edward the Confessor. It is more important that the new forest legislation, which was intended for the protection of the king’s deer, never interrupted the operation of the common law. The forest courts brought the peasant within their jurisdiction under a new surveillance in the interests of the king’s sport, but left him in all other matters to the familiar justice of shire and hundred. In these ancient institutions the Anglo-Saxon tradition was never broken. The virtue of the Old English state had lain in the local courts. Their strength had been due to the association of thegns and peasants in the work of justice, administration, and finance, under the direction of officers responsible to the king, The memory of this association survived all the changes of the Conqueror’s reign. To all appearance, his barons and their men accepted as a consequence of their position the share in local business which had fallen to their English predecessors. As early as 1086 the feoffees of Norman lords can be seen on the hundredal juries which swore to the information collected for the Domesday Survey. Their successors carried the aristocratic element in local government down to the heart of the middle ages, and beyond. There is a genuine continuity of function between the thegns of the shire to whom the Confessor addressed his writs and the knights of the shire whose cooperation made possible the Angevin experiment in centralization. In some, and perhaps in many, cases there was also continuity of descent. The number of thirteenth-century landed families which can be traced backwards to an ancestor bearing an English or a Danish name is by no means inconsiderable. It includes some families of baronial rank, such as Berkeley, Cromwell, Neville, Lumley, Grcystoke. Auclley, Fitzwilliam of Hinderskelfe and Fitzwilliam of Sprotborough, and many others of less prominence which were influential in their own districts. Isolated families of position with such an ancestry can be found in most parts of England, but they were especially numerous in the far north, where they were indistinguishable from the English aristocracy of southern Scotland, in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and in the northern midlands. A few families of this type are known to have been descended

from English landowners of 1086, and a small minority of these families are carried back by Domesday Book to the time of King Edward. But there are many which cannot be traced beyond the first half of the twelfth century, and of which the origin must be left an open question. Their distribution suggests that some at least of them were founded by Englishmen who had been planted by the king or by some Norman lord on lands devastated in the wars of the Conquest. It may be hoped that more descents of this kind will be worked out in the future, for every established case helps to reduce the abruptness of the transition from the English to the Norman order. In the law and practice of the local courts few changes of the first importance had been made by the end of the Conqueror’s reign. The most far-reaching was the withdrawal of ecclesiastical pleas from the jurisdiction of the hundred. Of the king’s other innovations the chiet was the institution of a device for the protection of the Frenchmen who had come to England since 1066. It was ordered that if any of them were killed, and his lord tailed to arrest his slayer within five days, the lord must pay 46 marks to the king, the hundred in which the murder took place being responsible for any portion of this sum which the lord was unable to produce.The regulation probably belongs to an early part of the Conqueror’s reign, when most of the Frenchmen in England were attached to the households of knights or barons, and it gives no more than a point of departure for the mass of custom which rapidly developed round the murder fine and presentment of Englishry. For the orderly settlement of disputes between Frenchmen and Englishmen, the Conqueror provided that if a Frenchman accused an Englishman of perjury, or of one of the commoner sorts of violent crime, the Englishman might choose for his defence either the native ordeal of iron or the foreign method of the judicial combat. Here the advantage was clearly with the English defendant. For the rest, there is litlle in the remains of William’s legislation which might not have been prescribed by an Anglo-Saxon king; and the only enactment, which reads like a deliberate modification of English practice is an order that offences formerly punished by death should in future be punched by mutilation. In most of its details the law observed by Englishmen in 1087 was the law of King Edward, and, for that matter, the law of Cnut and AEthelred II. But in spite of these and many other points of continuity, the fact remains that sooner or later every aspect of English life was changed by the Norman Conquest. The conclusions which different historians have reached about its significance have naturally varied with their personal interests and with the line of approach which each of them has chosen. By some, impressed with the Old English achievement in art and letters, the Conquest has been lamented as the destruction of a civilization. Others have regarded it as a clearance of the ground for a cosmopolitan culture of which Anglo-Saxon England gave no promise. Some have

stressed the survival of English institutions and ideas; others, the novelty of the social order to which the Norman government should outweigh the havoc done by the Conqueror’s armies. On all the problems connected with the COnquest opinion is continually changing as the attention of students shifts from one type of evidence to another, as fresh materials come to light, and as old theories are tested by a new grouping of familiar facts. For all this, it can at least be said that to the ordinary Englishman who had lived fron the accession of King Edward to the death of King William, the Conquest must have seemed an unqualified disaster. It is probable that, as a class, the peasants had suffered less than those above them. Many individuals must nave lost life or livelihood at the hands of Norman raiders, and many estates may have been harshly exploited in the interest of Norman lords anxious for ready money; but the structure of rural society was not seriously affected by the Norman settlement. To the thegnly class the Conquest brought not only the material consequences of an unsuccessful war, but also loss of priviledge and social consideration. The thegn of 1066 who made his peace with the Conqueror lived thenceforward in a strange and unfriendly environment. The political system of his youth had been destroyed, he had become the subject of a foreign king, and he must have felt at every turn the dominance of a foreign aristocracy which regarded him and his kind, at best, with tolerant indifference. It was as the depressed survivor of a beaten race that he handed on the Old English tradition of local government to the men who had overthrown the Old English state. To such a man there can have been little satisfaction in the strength of the Anglo-Norman monarchy or the scale of its executive achievement. But it is hard to believe that he can have been wholly unconscious of the new spirit which had entered into the direction of English affairs at the Conquest. The gallantry of individuals in the crisis of 1066 -of Edwin and Morcar at Fulford, of Harold at Stamfordbridge and Hastings- tends to conceal the troubled insecurity of the preceding years. Throughout the reign of King Edward England had been a threatened state, relying for existence on a military system which recent events had shown to be insufficient for its needs. The initiative had always been with its enemies, it had never found an effectual ally, and before King Edward’s death it had ceased to count as a factor in European politics. The Normans who entered into the English inheritance were a harsh and violent race. They were the closest of all western peoples to the barbarian strain in the continental order. They had produced little in art or learning, and nothing in literature, that could be set beside the work of Englishmen. But politically, they were the masters of their world.

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