Norman Society before the Conquest

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The Nature of Kingship

  • Power of the King was based on titles used in charters and coins.
  • England developed into a highly sophisticated and organised state. (Dane & Roman influnece)
  • The SHIRE was the administrative unit and a place of local governance through which kings enforced law and taxation.
  • Each shire was divided into hundreds which covered a dozen villages and the smallest unit of land was called the hide.
  • Coins were minted so royal control was absolute. Even more so by how every 5 years all coins ceased to be legal and had to be exchanged.
  • There were approximately 60 mints in the county. >>>> Legality & Money!
  • Despite this, Dane Geld was still paid. £48,000 in 1012


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Edward the Confessor's claim to the Throne

The Vikings returned in the 10th century and Ethelred the unready fled to Normandy when an army in 1013 led by Swein of Denmark invaded England and settled North.

When Swein died, Ethelred came back but died leaving his son Edmund to deal with Canute, Sweins son. However, Edmund died seven months later and Canute ruled. (Edward went to Normandy in exile)

Canute kept the English method of kingship because it was worthy. He kept Anglo saxon bishops, earls and used the shire to raise taxes. Canutes death camer after 19 years of peace but his hereditary succesion was uncertain because he has 2 sons from different mothers.

Harold 'Harefoot' was king but died in 1040. His half brother came in from Scandinavia to take the throne but died on his wedding feast.

Then kingship went to Edward.


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Structure of Anglo Saxon society

The structure of Anglo Saxon society was seen as God given and unchangeable. The Aristocracy fought for the King, the Church was under the control of Rome and church hierachy whilst peasents worked on the land.

Yet, late Anglo Saxon society saw sophistication. E.g. new merchant classes who did not fit into the 3 tier system. Even peasent classes had levels.

  • Thegn- Highest level of village hierachy who held estate by book right and had to do armed service to keep his land
  • Genant- riding servant who served thegn
  • Cottar- Worked for lord on Mondays & 3 days a week during the harvest and had 5 acres of land for farming
  • Villein- Plough, hunting dogs and carrying services


Main evidence written after the conquest. History is written by the winners therefore all may not be true. England before the conquest was a succesful state.

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