NEW MAP OF THE KINGDOME of ENGLAND, Representing the Princedome of WALES, and other PROVINCES, CITIES, MARKET TOWNS, with the ROADS from TOWN to TOWN (1685)
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The Anglo-Normans were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans and French, following the Norman conquest. A small number of Normans had earlier befriended future Anglo-Saxon King of England, Edward the Confessor, during his exile in his mother's homeland of Normandy. When he returned to England some of them went with him, and so there were Normans already settled in England prior to the conquest. Following the death of Edward, the powerful Anglo-Saxon noble, Harold Godwinson, acceded to the English throne until his defeat by William, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.

The invading Normans came from the duchy of Normandy in the kingdom of France. They formed a ruling class in Britain, distinct from (although inter-marrying with) the native populations. Over time their language evolved from the continental Old Norman to the distinct Anglo-Norman language. Anglo-Normans quickly established control over all of England, as well as parts of Wales (the Cambro-Normans). After 1130, parts of southern and eastern Scotland came under Anglo-Norman rule (the Scoto-Normans), in return for their support of David I's conquest. The Norman conquest of Ireland in 1169 saw Anglo-Normans (or Cambro-Normans) settle vast swaths of Ireland, becoming the Hiberno-Normans.

The composite expression regno Norman-Anglorum for the Anglo-Norman kingdom that comprises Normandy and England appears contemporaneously only in the Hyde Chronicle.[1]

The Norman conquest of England, being a conquest by a people whose tongue and institutions were different from those of the English in many aspects, was an event of an altogether different character from the Danish conquest, a conquest by a people whose tongue was more akin to those of the English, but whose religion was pagan. The English were Catholic and shared this religion with the Normans and they had already an influence in England, before the conquest. Furthermore, the relationships between the sailors from both sides of the English channel had maintained a certain common culture.

The Normans were not a homogeneous group springing from Scandinavian stock, but mostly hailed from a region of France known as Normandy (Romanised Gallo-Franks). The Normans who invaded England did it with a strong contingent from a wide cross-section of north western and central France, from Maine, Anjou, Brittany, Flanders, Poitou and "France" (today Ile-de-France), altogether non-Norman men accounted for more than a quarter of the army at Hastings. In terms of culture, they represented the Northern French civilisation, who mostly only spoke French and other Langues d'oïl. The Norman settlers felt no community with the earlier Danish settlers, despite the fact that the Normans were themselves partly descendants of the Danish Vikings. However, in their own army, they did not even feel any sense of community with the Poitou, the Bretons, and other groups that had different dialects (or in the case of the Bretons and Flemish, a different language) and traditions. The association between these different troops was only occasional and corresponds to an immediate necessity for the Norman ruler. In fact, the Normans met with the steadiest resistance in a part of England that was the most influenced by the Danish. Ousting the Danish leaders who recently conquered parts of England and provided some of the stiffest resistance to the Normans, and largely replacing the powerful English territorial magnates, while co-opting the most powerful of them, the Normans imposed a new political structure that is broadly termed "feudal" (historians debate whether pre-Norman England should be considered a feudal government – indeed, the entire characterisation of Feudalism is under some dispute).

Many of the English nobles lost lands and titles; the lesser thegns and others found themselves dispossessed of lands and titles. A number of free geburs had their rights and court access much decreased, becoming unfree villeins, despite the fact that this status did not exist in Normandy itself (compared to other "French" regions). At the same time, many of the new Norman and Northern-France magnates were distributed lands by the King that had been taken from the English nobles. Some of these magnates used their original French-derived names, with the prefix 'de,' meaning they were lords of the old fiefs in France, and some instead dropped their original names and took their names from new English holdings.

The Norman conquest of England brought the British Isles into the orbit of the European continent, especially what remained of Roman-influenced language and culture. If the earlier Anglo-Saxon England was tied to local traditions, the England emerging from the Conquest owed a debt to the Romance languages and the culture of ancient Rome, that was not so important before the Conquest, but was maintained at a high level by the English Catholic Church and the clerks of England. It transmitted itself in the emerging feudal world that took its place. That heritage can be discerned in language, incorporating shards of the French language and the Roman past, in architecture, in the emerging Romanesque (Norman) architecture, and in a new feudal structure erected as a bulwark against the chaos that overtook the Continent following the collapse of Roman authority and the subsequent Dark Ages. The England that emerged from the Conquest was a decidedly different place, but one that had been opened up to the sweep of outside influences.

This page was last edited on 27 June 2018, at 14:34 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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