XXVIII

THE TRADITIONAL POWERS: KINGDOMS AND EMPIRE

1 GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF THE MONARCHIES

ABOVE the profusion of manors, family or village communities, and vassal groups, there were in feudal Europe various powers whose wider range was for a long time counter-balanced by much less effective action; it was nevertheless their destiny to maintain in this divided society certain principles of order and unity. At the summit, kingdoms and Empire derived their strength and their ambitions from a long past. Lower down, younger powers were ranged one above another, by an almost imperceptible gradation, from the territorial principality to the simple barony or castellany. We must first consider the position of the powers with a long history behind them.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the West had been divided up into kingdoms ruled by Germanic dynasties. It was from these ‘barbarian’ monarchies that almost all those of feudal Europe were more or less directly descended. The line of descent was particularly clear in Anglo-Saxon England, which towards the first half of the ninth century was still divided into five or six kingdoms; genuine heirs—although their number was much smaller—of the states founded not so long before by the invaders. We have seen how the Scandinavian invasions left in the end only Wessex, enlarged at the expense of its neighbours. In the tenth century its sovereign took to calling himself either king of all Britain, or more frequently and with more lasting effect, king of the Angles or English. On the frontiers of this regnum Anglorum there nevertheless subsisted, at the time of the Norman Conquest, a Celtic fringe. The Britons of Wales were divided among several little principalities. Towards the north a family of Scottish—that is to say, Irish—chiefs, conquering in turn the other Celtic tribes of the Highlands and the Germanic or Germanized populations of Lothian, had bit by bit established a large realm, which took from the conquerors the name of Scotland.

In the Iberian peninsula a number of Gothic nobles, who had taken refuge in Asturias after the Moslem invasion, had set up a king. Several times partitioned among the heirs of the founder, but considerably enlarged by the Reconquest, the state thus formed had its capital trans-

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