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(1)  1066 was a very important year for Anglo-Saxon England. There were 3 Kings, 2 Battles and a comet. There hasn't been another y...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


(2) England now had a new King, but not everyone was prepared to submit to Norman rule.  The north of England continued for six years to try to free England from this foreign invader and in 1068 Harold's sons attempted an invasion of the south western peninsula, but William managed to defeat them.

William moved north from London, to squash resistance in the Midlands and Northern England.  He ordered for many castles to be built throughout the land, although he spent much of his time in Normandy.  Winchester Castle was built in 1067, within a year of the Norman Conquest.  At the time, it was one of the greatest strongholds in England, and for over a century it served as the seat of government, before that position was taken by London. 

In 1068 William constructed Lincoln Castle, two years after the battle of Hastings.  The castle occupied what, was the site of a former Roman fortress.  According to the Domesday Book, 166 Saxon homes were cleared to make way for the castle.  Until the construction of Lincoln Cathedral, the castle dominated the Lincoln skyline.  Lincoln was one of the most important cities in the country.  It had a mint.  The size of the Norman castle reflects its importance.

Windsor Castle was built around 1070.  The original wooden castle stood on the site of the present Round Tower.  The wooden structure was replaced by stone from 1165 to 1179 by Henry II, who also constructed the prominent Round Tower.  Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by a succession of monarchs and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe.  It was designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London, and to oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames.Windsor Castle was built as a motte and bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound.

William also built a number of other castles including Warwick and Nottingham.  The castle at Warwick was built in 1086.  There was a castle at Rochester by the time the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, but no trace of this structure now survives.  The bailey wall that exists today was built in 1088 for William II, by Gundulf, the bishop of Rochester.

Rochester Castle
Rochester Castle
William put his greedy Normans in charge of the lands around England.  So the once owned lands of the Saxons, was now owned by the Norman Barons who taxed the English heavily. 

After the rebellion in the north of England, the Norman rule became far more harsh.  William embarked on the "Harrying of the North" as the English had betrayed him and his so-called 'generosity'.  The rule imposed on England became more brutal.  New laws were introduced to the English people, these laws were part of William's way of controlling the English

Here is a modern translation of what they introduced. 

1) Only one God will be worshiped throughout the whole of England and there will be only one faith.  This will preserve peace between the English and the Normans. 

2) All freemen will swear an oath that they will be loyal to the king.  All freemen will swear to defend William against all of his enemies. 

3) All those men who came to England with William in 1066 and after, shall be guaranteed their safety.  If any of these men are killed, his murderer must be caught within five days if possible.  His lord is responsible for this.  If that lord fails to do this, that lord must pay me 46 marks of silver.  If he cannot afford to pay this fine, those who live under his control must pay up to a total of 46 marks of silver. 

4) All Frenchmen who shared in the customs of the English when Edward the Confessor was king shall pay what is called "scot and lot". 

5) No live cattle can be sold outside of cities.  When cattle is sold in cities, there must be three witnesses to the sale.  If this law is ignored, the person responsible shall be fined the same sum of money as was made in the sale.  

6) If a Frenchman accuses an Englishman of murder, theft or perjury, that Englishman shall be allowed to defend himself either by ordeal through combat or by ordeal by hot iron.  If that Englishman is too ill to do this, he will find another Englishman to do this in his place.  If an Englishman accuses a Frenchman of a crime, and is unwilling to prove his case against the Frenchman by ordeal of combat or hot iron, the Frenchman will be acquitted if he swears an oath of innocence. 

7) All the laws regarding land ownership introduced under Edward the Confessor, shall be kept alongside those land laws William has introduced. 

8) Anybody who wants to be considered a freeman must swear an oath of loyalty.  This oath must be guaranteed by others.  If this man who has sworn an oath, breaks the law, those who have guaranteed his oath must pay any fine that is set against this man.  Any problems should be sorted out in a court of law.  If anybody who is summoned to court refuses to attend, he shall receive one warning; if he refuses to attend a second time, he shall have one ox taken from him.  If he fails to attend a third time, he shall have another ox taken from him.  If he fails to attend a fourth time, he shall pay a fine to the king and shall have taken from him goods to the value of the original charge against the accused.  

9) No man is allowed to sell another man.  Anyone breaking this law will pay a fine to the king. 

10) No one shall be executed for crimes they have committed; but if they are guilty of a crime, they will be blinded and castrated.  This law is not to be challenged.

These laws made living in England, very bleak.  An everyday Englishman could not possible go up against a Norman Baron in a single combat.  The only option left open to him was hot irons, not very pleasant, or to find someone who could go up against a Norman.  The simplest way of having a quiet life was to never accuse a Norman of a crime, but he would still run the risk of being accused of a crime, by a Norman.  The Englishman would still suffer the same fate.

By 1085 William had been on the throne for 20 years.  With the need to defend England from possible invasion threats from Scandinavia, and costly campaigns being fought in northern France, the vast army William amassed required substantial funding.  A decision was then taken at William's Christmas court in Gloucester to comply a record of everything in England, that means everything.  It would clarify what rights and dues were owed to the King.  It was only possible because England already had a sophisticated administrative system, built up by the Anglo-Saxons, with shire counties, whose boundaries survived with little change until 1974, and a well-functioning tax system.  The view was that all major landowners had to send in lists of their Manors and tenants, which were compared to existing tax records.  Commissioners were then sent out to assess the situation on the ground, questioning local juries in detail.  Each was assigned circuits containing two or more counties.  The juries were made up of both Normans and Anglo-Saxons.  William wanted everything to follow a legal form to legitimise his title that he claimed, not simply by right of conquest, but as King Edward the Confessor's legitimate heir.

The records were named by the English as England's Doomsday Book.  It took less than a year to comply.  A local historian at the time, wrote . . .
'all over England into every shire [to] find out how many hides there were in the shire, what land and cattle the king had himself in the shire, what dues he ought to have in twelve months from the shire. Also he had a record made of how much land his archbishops had, his bishops and his abbots and his earls, and what or how much everyone who was in England had.... So very narrowly did he have it investigated that there was no single hide nor yard of land, nor indeed ... one ox or cow or pig which was left out and not put down in his record, and these records were brought to him afterwards'.
The questions asked were as follows:
What the manor was called?
Who held it at the time of King Edward?
Who holds it now?
How many hides there are (measurement of land for taxation purposes, between 60 and 120 acres)?
How many ploughs held by the lord and how many belonging to the peasants?
How many villeins (the wealthiest of the unfree peasants who had to pay his lord labour service and rent)?
How many cottars (an unfree peasant with a holding of land up to 5 acres)?
How many slaves (unfree man or woman)?
How many freemen?
How many sokemen (equivalent to a freeman, but owing dues to his lord for his holding)?
How much woodland?
How much meadow?
How much pasture?
How many mills?
How many fisheries?
How much had been added to or taken away from the estate?
What it used to be worth altogether?
What it is worth now?
Norman officials checked the answers and the punishments for giving false information were severe.  The reeve from a Manor and six peasants were questioned for every Manor visited.  A reeve was a type of farm manager.  The questions were designed to find out how much each Manor owed the king in tax.  It also told William who owned which land and how much it was worth.  Providing definitive proof of rights to land and obligations to tax and military service.  The book lists each Manor, its owner, the value of that Manor and has three values in it for each Manor:
How much it was worth before the invasion of 1066
How much it was worth during the invasion and
How much it was worth after the invasion
It was also to be noted whether more tax revenue could be taken than is being taken now.  It also gives the names of some of the jurors showing the Norman and English mix.

Most of the names that appear are those of landowners.  The King and his family held about 17% of land, Bishops and Abbots about 26% and around 190 Tenants-in-Chief held about 54%.  Some holdings were huge, with some twelve Barons controlling nearly a quarter of the country, but it is not always easy to distinguish between individuals with the same names who may have held lands in the same county or across a number of counties.

Anglo-Saxon names appear mainly as under-tenants of Norman lords.  Some four to 5,000 entries relate to Anglo-Saxon lords, such as Aelfric, the pre-Conquest lord of March Gibbon in Buckinghamshire, who, Domesday records say, he paid his rent:-
'miserably and with a heavy heart'
Just a year after the Doomsday book was completed, in 1087, William died in France, falling off his horse.  He suffered fatal abdominal injuries from the saddle pommel.  On his deathbed, William divided his succession for his sons, causing a rift between them.  Despite William's reluctance, his eldest son Robert received the Duchy of Normandy, as Robert II.  William Rufus, his third son, was the next English king, as William II.  William's youngest son Henry received 5,000 silver pounds, which would be earmarked to buy land.  He later became King Henry I of England after William II died without an heir.  William had another son called Richard, Duke of Bernay, 2nd born, who died in a hunting accident in 1081.  While on his deathbed, William pardoned many of his political adversaries.

The numbering system of the English Crown regards William as the Founder of the State of England.  His son became William II of England.  In 1272 when Edward Longshanks became King, he was known as Edward I of England, even though England had already had three Edwards as their king.


  1. Not keen on William the conqueror .... William of Orange however :-D Good read

    1. I don't know much yet about William of Orange, although I Oshould with being a stout Protestant :-) By the time I get to him I'll know about him.

  2. William believed in God as a crazy... i think.