Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Normans

Battle of Hastings: After the last Anglo-Saxon king died in England, several people claimed the throne. One was the late king's cousin, William, Duke of Normandy. William was also a vassal of the king of France. He had a very strong feudal organization in northern France. His vassals included nearly all the Norman nobles. He had no trouble putting together a huge army of 6000 men, along with several hundred ships. He invaded England, and at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William defeated another rival for the throne. He was crowned King of England.

To keep all his Norman nobles happy and to thank them for their help, he took all the land away from the Saxon church officials and nobles, and gave it all to his Norman vassals. Anyone who had helped him became rich. What the Saxon people in England thought about all this mattered not to the new king of England, William the Conqueror.

The Great Council: William set up a council of Norman nobles and bishops. He called it the Great Council. The council's job was to help him rule effectively. But the Normans were very busy at first setting up their new land and homes. Still, William knew he could call on the nobles whenever he needed them.

The Great Council grew to become an important part of government. By the 1200's, the Great Council was called Parliament. It is still called Parliament today. By the 1400's, Parliament had divided into two chambers - the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Nobles and clergy ran the House of Lords. Knights and burgesses (a class of extremely wealthy merchants) ran the House of Commons.

Sheriffs: William had another great idea. He knew his nobles and bishops were going to need tax money to run their fiefs. William needed tax money to run the kingdom. He wanted local officials, under his control, in all the towns anyway. He created a new office called a sheriff. A sheriff's job was to collect taxes. Since the sheriff was a local official, a representative of the king, local sheriffs had a great deal of power.

The Domesday Book: William needed to know how much tax he could expect to collect. He appointed people out to every hamlet in the country. Their job was to count every pig, every person, every farm, every rooster in the kingdom. Their reports were entered in a book called the Domesday Book. It was the first census since Roman times.

The Battle of Hastings Game
Norman invasion quiz
Wilian the Conquerror

HOMEWORK : Who was Willian the Conqueror? What did he do?

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