Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

By G. W. S. Barrow | Go to book overview

PART II: NORMAN BRITAIN

CHAPTER IV
ENGLAND AFTER THE CONQUEST, 1066-87

1. The Conquest underlined

AFTER the submission of the English magnates, and his acclamation and crowning at Westminster, William of Normandy was master of England. The fact that hardly a year passed between 1066 and his death in which the king was not in his saddle directing the suppression of some rebellion should not mislead us into any notion that the conquest of England occupied William for the whole of his reign. Rebellion was endemic in the eleventh-century state. But historians have usually recognised that, by reason of their wide extent and national character, and because of the ferocity of their suppression, the revolts of the years 1068-71 mark a watershed in William's government. The famous nineteenth-century history of J. R. Green goes so far as to say,1 "It was in fact only the national revolt of 1068 that transformed the King into a conqueror". To understand why the country did not settle down peacefully after Hastings we must consider first the nature of the Conqueror's early rule, secondly the survival of the threat from Scandinavia.

William took over in its entirety the English administrative and judicial system, and left its operation very largely in the hands of the native magnates, officials and clerks who had served the Confessor. He naturally retained his own household and his own Curia, or Council; but though several of its members, e.g. the two Norman bishops Geoffrey of Coutances and the king's half-brother Odo of Bayeux, and the king' steward William fitz ("son of") Osbern, were given very great authority in England, the number of Normans entrusted with rule was at first surprisingly small. They were intended to co-operate with the surviving English bishops, abbots and sheriffs, by whom they were greatly outnumbered. Even though

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1
History of the English People ( 1878), i. 116.

-37-

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