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The History of England From the Norman Conquest to the Death of John
The Subjugation of Land and Church
by Adams, George Burton


With William's return to England began the long and difficult task of bringing the country completely under his control. But this was not a task that called for military genius. Patience was the quality most demanded, and William's patience gave way but rarely. There was no army in the field against him. No large portion of the land was in insurrection. No formal campaign was necessary. Local revolts had to be put down one after another, or a district dealt with where rebellion was constantly renewed. The Scandinavian north and the Celtic west were the regions not yet subdued, and the seats of future trouble. Three years were filled with this work, and the fifteen years that follow were comparatively undisturbed. For the moment after his return, William was occupied with no hostilities. The Christmas of 1067 was celebrated in London with the land at peace, Normans and English meeting together to all appearance with cordial good-will. A native, Gospatric, was probably at this time made Earl of Northumberland, in place of Copsi, who had been killed, though this was an exercise of royal power in form rather than in reality, since William's authority did not yet reach so far. A Norman, Remigius, was made Bishop of Dorchester, in place of Wulfwig, who had died while the king was in Normandy, and William's caution in dealing with the matter of Church reform is shown in the fact that the new bishop received his consecration from Stigand. It is possible also that another heavy tax was imposed at this time.

But soon after Christmas, William felt himself obliged to take the field. He had learned that Exeter, the rich commercial city of the south-west, was making preparations to resist him. It was in a district where Harold and his family had had large possessions. His mother was in the city, and perhaps others of the family. At least some English of prominence seem to have rallied around them. The citizens had repaired and improved their already strong walls. They had impressed foreigners, merchants even, into their service, and were seeking allies in other towns. William's rule had never yet reached into that part of England, and Exeter evidently hoped to shut him out altogether. When the king heard of these preparations, he acted with his usual promptitude, but with no sacrifice of his diplomatic skill. The citizens should first be made to acknowledge their intentions. A message was sent to the city, demanding that the oath of allegiance to himself be taken. The citizens answered that they would take no oath, and would not admit him within the walls, but that they were willing to pay him the customary tribute. William at once replied that he was not accustomed to have subjects on such conditions, and at once began his march against the city. Orderic Vitalis thought it worthy of note, that in this army William was using Englishmen for the first time as soldiers.

When the hostile army drew near to the town, the courage of some of the leading men failed, and they went out to seek terms of peace. They promised to do whatever was commanded, and they gave hostages, but on their return they found their negotiations disavowed and the city determined to stand a siege. This lasted only eighteen days. Some decided advantage which the Normans gained--the undermining of the walls seems to be implied--induced the city to try again for terms. The clergy, with their sacred books and relics, accompanied the deputation, which obtained from the king better promises than had been hoped for. For some reason William departed from his usual custom of severity to those who resisted. He overlooked their evil conduct, ordered no confiscations, and even stationed guards in the gates to keep out the soldiers who would have helped themselves to the property of the citizens with some violence. But as usual he selected a site for a castle within the walls, and left a force of chosen knights under faithful command, to complete the fortification and to form the garrison. Harold's mother, Gytha, left the city before its surrender, and finally found a refuge in Saint Omer, in Flanders. Harold's sons also, if they were in Exeter, made their escape before its fall.

After subduing Exeter, William marched with his army into Cornwall, and put down without difficulty whatever resistance he found there. The confiscation of forfeited estates was no doubt one object of his march through the land, and the greater part of these were bestowed upon his own half brother, Robert, Count of Mortain, the beginning of what grew ultimately into the great earldom of Cornwall. In all, the grants which were made to Robert have been estimated at 797 manors, the largest made to any one as the result of the Conquest. Of these, 248 manors were in Cornwall, practically the whole shire; 75 in Dorset, and 49 in Devonshire. This was almost a principality in itself, and is alone nearly enough to disprove the policy attributed to William of scattering about the country the great estates which he granted. So powerful a possession was the earldom which was founded upon this grant that after a time the policy which had been followed in Normandy, in regard to the great counties, seemed the only wise one in this case also, and it was not allowed to pass out of the immediate family of the king until in the fourteenth century it was made into a provision for the king's eldest son, as it has ever since remained. These things done, William disbanded his army and returned to spend Easter at Winchester.

Once more for a moment the land seemed to be at peace, and William was justified in looking upon himself as now no longer merely the leader of a military adventure, seeking to conquer a foreign state, but as firmly established in a land where he had made a new home for his house. He could send for his wife; his children should be born here. It should be the native land of future generations for his family. Matilda came soon after Easter, with a distinguished train of ladies as well as lords, and with her Guy, Bishop of Amiens, who, Orderic tells us, had already written his poem on the war of William and Harold. At Whitsuntide, in Westminster, Matilda was crowned queen by Archbishop Aldred. Later in the summer Henry, the future King Henry I, was born, and the new royal family had completely identified itself with the new kingdom.

But a great task still lay before the king, the greatest perhaps that he had yet undertaken. The north was his only in name. Scarcely had any English king up to this time exercised there the sort of authority to which William was accustomed, and which he was determined to exercise everywhere. The question of the hour was, whether he could establish his authority there by degrees, as he seemed to be trying to do, or only after a sharp conflict. The answer to this question was known very soon after the coronation of Matilda. What seemed to the Normans a great conspiracy of the north and west was forming. The Welsh and English nobles were making common cause; the clergy and the common people joined their prayers; York was noted as especially enthusiastic in the cause, and many there took to living in tents as a kind of training for the conflict which was coming. The Normans understood at the time that there were two reasons for this determination to resist by force any further extension of William's rule. One was, the personal dissatisfaction of Earl Edwin. He had been given by William some undefined authority, and promoted above his brother, and he had even been promised a daughter of the king's as his wife. Clearly it had seemed at one time very necessary to conciliate him. But either that necessity had passed away, or William was reluctant to fulfil his promise; and Edwin, discontented with the delay, was ready to lead what was for him at least, after he had accepted so much from William, a rebellion. He was the natural leader of such an attempt; his family history made him that. Personal popularity and his wide connexions added to his strength, and if he had had in himself the gifts of leadership, it would not have been even then too late to dispute the possession of England on even terms. The second reason given us is one to which we must attach much greater force than to the personal influence of Edwin. He in all probability merely embraced an opportunity. The other was the really moving cause. This is said to have been the discontent of the English and Welsh nobles under the Norman oppression, but we must phrase it a little differently. No direct oppression had as yet been felt, either in the north or west, but the severity of William in the south and east, the widespread confiscations there, were undoubtedly well known, and easily read as signs of what would follow in the north, and already the borders of Wales were threatened n with the pushing forward of the Norman lines, which went on so steadily and for so long a time.

Whether or not the efforts which had been making to obtain foreign help against William were to result finally in bringing in a reinforcement of Scots or Danes, the union of Welshmen and Englishmen was itself formidable and demanded instant attention. Early in the summer of 1068 the army began its march upon York, advancing along a line somewhat to the west of the centre of England, as the situation would naturally demand. As in William's earlier marches, so here again he encountered no resistance. Whatever may have been the extent of the conspiracy or the plans of the leaders, the entire movement collapsed before the Norman's firm determination to be master of the kingdom. Edwin and Morcar had collected an army and were in the field somewhere between Warwick and Northampton, but when the time came when the fight could no longer be postponed, they thought better of it, besought the king's favour again, and obtained at least the show of it. The boastful preparations at York brought forth no better result. The citizens went out to meet the king on his approach, and gave him the keys of the city and hostages from among them.

The present expedition went no further north, but its influence extended further. Ethelwin, the Bishop of Durham came in and made his submission. He bore inquiries also from Malcolm, the king of Scots, who had been listening to the appeals for aid from the enemies of William, and preparing himself to advance to their assistance. The Bishop of Durham was sent back to let him know what assurances would be acceptable to William, and he undoubtedly also informed him of the actual state of affairs south of his borders, of the progress which the invader had made, and of the hopelessness of resistance. The Normans at any rate believed that as a result of the bishop's mission Malcolm was glad to send down an embassy of his own which tendered to William an oath of obedience. It is not likely that William attached much weight to any profession of the Scottish king's. Already, probably as soon as the failure of this northern undertaking was apparent, some of the most prominent of the English, who seem to have taken part in it, had abandoned England and gone to the Scottish court. It is very possible that Edgar and his two sisters, Margaret and Christina, sought the protection of Malcolm at this time, together with Gospatric, who had shortly before been made Earl of Northumberland, and the sheriff Merleswegen. These men had earlier submitted to William, Merleswegen perhaps in the submission at Berkhampsted, with Edgar, and had been received with favour. Under what circumstances they turned against him we do not know, but they had very likely been attracted by the promise of strength in this effort at resistance, and were now less inclined than the unstable Edwin to profess so early a repentance. Margaret, whether she went to Scotland at this time or a little later, found there a permanent home, consenting against her will to become the bride of Malcolm instead of the bride of the Church as she had wished. As queen she gained, through teaching her wild subjects, by the example of gentle manners and noble life, a wider mission than the convent could have furnished her. The conditions which Malcolm accepted evidently contained no demand as to any English fugitives, nor any other to which he could seriously object. William was usually able to discern the times, and did not attempt the impracticable.

William intended this expedition of his to result in the permanent pacification of the country through which he had passed. There is no record of any special severity attending the march, but certainly no one was able to infer from it that the king was weak or to be trifled with. The important towns he secured with castles and garrisons, as he had in the south. Warwick and Northampton were occupied in this way as he advanced, with York at the north, and Lincoln, Huntingdon, and Cambridge along the east as he returned. A great wedge of fortified posts was thus driven far into that part of the land from which the greatest trouble was to be expected, and this, together with the general impression which his march had made, was the most which was gained from it. Sometime during this summer of 1068 another fruitless attempt had been made to disturb the Norman possession of England. Harold's sons had retired, perhaps after the fall of Exeter, to Ireland, where their father had formerly found refuge. There it was not difficult to stir up the love of plundering raids in the descendants of the Vikings, and they returned at this time, it is said with more than fifty ships, and sailed up the Bristol Channel. If any among them intended a serious invasion of the island, the result was disappointing. They laid waste the coast lands; attacked the city of Bristol, but were beaten off by the citizens; landed again further down in Somerset, and were defeated in a great battle by Ednoth, who had been Harold's staller, where many were killed on both sides, including Ednoth himself; and then returned with nothing gained but such plunder as they succeeded in carrying off. The next year they repeated the attempt in the same style, and were again defeated, even more disastrously, this time by one of the newcomers, Brian of Britanny. Such piratical descents were not dangerous to the Norman government, nor was a rally to beat them off any test of English loyalty to William.

Even the historian, Orderic Vitalis, half English by descent and wholly so by birth, but writing in Normandy for Normans and very favourable to William, or possibly the even more Norman William of Poitiers, whom he may have been following, was moved by the sufferings of the land under these repeated invasions, revolts, and harryings, and notes at the close of his account of this year how conquerors and conquered alike were involved in the evils of war, famine, and pestilence. He adds that the king, seeing the injuries which were inflicted on the country, gathered together the soldiers who were serving him for pay, and sent them home with rich rewards. We may regard this disbanding of his mercenary troops as another sign that William considered his position secure.

In truth, however, the year which was coming on, 1069, was another year of crisis in the history of the Conquest. The danger which had been threatening William from the beginning was this year to descend upon him, and to prove as unreal as all those he had faced since the great battle with Harold. For a long time efforts had been making to induce some foreign power to interfere in England and support the cause of the English against the invader. Two states seemed especially fitted for the mission, from close relationship with England in the past,--Scotland and Denmark. Fugitives, who preferred exile to submission, had early sought the one or the other of these courts, and urged intervention upon their kings. Scotland had for the moment formally accepted the Conquest. Denmark had not done so, and Denmark was the more directly interested in the result, not perhaps as a mere question of the independence of England, but for other possible reasons. If England was to be ruled by a foreign king, should not that king on historical grounds be a Dane rather than a Norman? Ought he not to be of the land that had already furnished kings to England? And if Sweyn dreamed of the possibility of extending his rule, at such a time, over this other member of the empire of his uncle, Canute the Great, he is certainly not to be blamed.

It is true that the best moment for such an intervention had been allowed to slip by, the time when no beginning of conquest had been made in the north, but the situation was not even yet unfavourable. William was to learn, when the new year had hardly begun, that he really held no more of the north than his garrisons commanded. Perhaps it was a rash attempt to try to establish a Norman earl of Northumberland in Durham before the land had been overawed by his own presence; but the post was important, the two experiments which had been made to secure the country through the appointment of English earls had failed, and the submission of the previous summer might prove to be real. In January Robert of Comines was made earl, and with rash confidence, against the advice of the bishop, he took possession of Durham with five hundred men or more. He expected, no doubt, to be very soon behind the walls of a new castle, but he was allowed no time. The very night of his arrival the enemy gathered and massacred him and all his men but two. Yorkshire took courage at this and cut up a Norman detachment. Then the exiles in Scotland believed the time had come for another attempt, and Edgar, Gospatric, and the others, with the men of Northumberland at their back, advanced to attack the castle in York. This put all the work of the previous summer in danger, and at the call of William Malet, who held the castle for him, the king advanced rapidly to his aid, fell unexpectedly on the insurgents, and scattered them with great slaughter. As a result the Norman hold on York was tightened by the building of a second castle, but Northumberland was still left to itself.

William may have thought, as he returned to celebrate Easter at Winchester, that the north had learned a lesson that would be sufficient for some time, but he must have heard soon after his arrival that the men of Yorkshire had again attacked his castles, though they had been beaten off without much difficulty. Nothing had been gained by any of these attempts, but they must have been indications to any abroad who were watching the situation, and to William as well, that an invasion of England in that quarter might hope for much local assistance. It was nearly the end of the summer before it came, and a summer that was on the whole quiet, disturbed only by the second raid of Harold's sons in the Bristol Channel.

Sweyn of Denmark had at last made up his mind, and had got ready an expedition, a somewhat miscellaneous force apparently, "sharked up" from all the Baltic lands, and not too numerous. His fleet sailed along the shores of the North Sea and first appeared off south-western England. A foolish attack on Dover was beaten off, and three other attempts to land on the east coast, where the country was securely held, were easily defeated. Finally, it would seem, off the Humber they fell in with some ships bearing the English leaders from Scotland, who had been waiting for them. There they landed and marched upon York, joined on the way by the men of the country of all ranks. And the mere news of their approach, the prospect of new horrors to be lived through with no chance of mitigating them, proved too much for the old archbishop, Aldred, and he died a few days before the storm broke. William was hunting in the forest of Dean, on the southern borders of Wales, when he heard that the invaders had landed, but his over-confident garrison in York reported that they could hold out for a year without aid, and he left them for the present to themselves. They planned to stand a siege, and in clearing a space about the castle they kindled a fire which destroyed the most of the city, including the cathedral church; but when the enemy appeared, they tried a battle in the open, and were killed or captured to a man.

The fall of York gave a serious aspect to the case, and called for William's presence. Soon after the capture of the city the Danes had gone back to the Humber, to the upper end of the estuary apparently, and there they succeeded in avoiding attack by crossing one river or another as the army of the king approached. In the meantime, in various places along the west of England, insurrections had broken out, encouraged probably by exaggerated reports of the successes of the rebels in the north. Only one of these, that in Staffordshire, required any attention from William, and in this case we do not know why. In all the other cases, in Devon, in Somerset, and at Shrewsbury, where the Welsh helped in the attack on the Norman castle, the garrisons and men of the locality unassisted, or assisted only by the forces of their neighbours, had defended themselves with success. If the Danish invasion be regarded as a test of the security of the Conquest in those parts of England which the Normans had really occupied, then certainly it must be regarded as complete.

From the west William returned to the north with little delay, and occupied York without opposition. Then followed the one act of the Conquest which is condemned by friend and foe alike. When William had first learned of the fate of his castles in York, he had burst out into ungovernable rage, and the mood had not passed away. He was determined to exact an awful vengeance for the repeated defiance of his power. War in its mildest form in those days was little regulated by any consideration for the conquered. From the point of view of a passionate soldier there was some provocation in this case. Norman garrisons had been massacred; detached parties had been cut off; repeated rebellion had followed every pacification. Plainly a danger existed here, grave in itself and inviting greater danger from abroad. Policy might dictate measures of unusual severity, but policy did not call for what was done, and clearly in this case the Conqueror gave way to a passion of rage which he usually held in check, and inflicted on the stubborn province a punishment which the standard of his own time did not justify.

Slowly he passed with his army through the country to the north of York, drawing a broad band of desolation between that city and Durham. Fugitives he sought out and put to the sword, but even so he was not satisfied. Innocent and guilty were involved in indiscriminate slaughter. Houses were destroyed, flocks and herds exterminated. Supplies of food and farm implements were heaped together and burned. With deliberate purpose, cruelly carried out, it was made impossible for men to live through a thousand square miles. Years afterwards the country was still a desert; it was generations before it had fully recovered. The Norman writer, Orderic Vitalis, perhaps following the king's chaplain and panegyrist William of Poitiers, while he confesses here that he gladly praised the king when he could, had only condemnation for this deed. He believed that William, responsible to no earthly tribunal, must one day answer for it to an infinite Judge before whom high and low are alike accountable.

Christmas was near at hand when William had finished this business, and he celebrated at York the nativity of the Prince of Peace, doubtless with no suspicion of inconsistency. Soon after Christmas, by a short but difficult expedition, William drove the Danes from a position on the coast which they had believed impregnable, and forced them to take to their ships, in which, after suffering greatly from lack of supplies, they drifted southward as if abandoning the land. During this expedition also, we are told, Gospatric, who had rebelled the year before, and Waltheof who had "gone out" on the coming of the Danes, made renewed submission and were again received into favour by the king. The hopes which the coming of foreign assistance had awakened were at an end.

One thing remained to be done. The men of the Welsh border must be taught the lesson which the men of the Scottish border had learned. The insurrection which had called William into Staffordshire the previous autumn seems still to have lingered in the region. The strong city of Chester, from which, or from whose neighbourhood at least, men had joined the attack on Shrewsbury, and which commanded the north-eastern parts of Wales, was still unsubdued. Soon after his return from the coast William determined upon a longer and still more difficult winter march, across the width of England, from York to Chester. It is no wonder that his army murmured and some at least asked to be dismissed. The country through which they must pass was still largely wilderness. Hills and forests, swollen streams and winter storms, must be encountered, and the strife with them was a test of endurance without the joy of combat. One expedition of the sort in a winter ought to be enough. But William treated the objectors with contempt. He pushed on as he had planned, leaving those to stay behind who would, and but few were ready for open mutiny. The hazardous march was made with success. What remained of the insurrection disappeared before the coming of the king; it has left to us at least no traces of any resistance. Chester was occupied without opposition. Fortified posts were established and garrisons left there and at Stafford. Some things make us suspect that a large district on this side of England was treated as northern Yorkshire had been, and homeless fugitives in crowds driven forth to die of hunger. The patience which pardoned the faithlessness of Edwin and Waltheof was not called for in dealing with smaller men.

From Chester William turned south. At Salisbury he dismissed with rich rewards the soldiers who had been faithful to him, and at Winchester he celebrated the Easter feast. There he found three legates who had been sent from the pope, and supported by their presence he at last took up the affairs of the English Church. The king had shown the greatest caution in dealing with this matter. It must have been understood, almost if not quite from the beginning of the Norman plan of invasion, that if the attempt were successful, one of its results should be the revolution of the English Church, the reform of the abuses which existed in it, as the continental churchman regarded them, and as indeed they were. During the past century a great reform movement, emanating from the monastery of Cluny, had transformed the Catholic world, but in this England had but little part. Starting as a monastic reformation, it had just succeeded in bringing the whole Church under monastic control. Henceforth the asceticism of the monk, his ideals in religion and worship, his type of thought and learning, were to be those of the official Church, from the papal throne to the country parsonage. It was for that age a true reformation. The combined influence of the two great temptations to which the churchmen of this period of the Middle Ages were exposed--ignorance so easy to yield to, so hard to overcome, and property, carrying with it rank and power and opening the way to ambition for oneself or one's posterity--was so great that a rule of strict asceticism, enforced by a powerful organization with fearful sanctions, and a controlling ideal of personal devotion, alone could overcome it. The monastic reformation had furnished these conditions, though severe conflicts were still to be fought out before they would be made to prevail in every part of western Europe. Shortly before the appointment of Stigand to the archbishopric of Canterbury, these new ideas had obtained possession of the papal throne in the person of Leo IX, and with them other ideas which had become closely and almost necessarily associated with them, of strict centralization under the pope, of a theocratic papal supremacy, in line certainly with the history of the Church, but more self-consciously held and logically worked out than ever before.

In this great movement England had had no permanent share. Cut off from easy contact with the currents of continental thought, not merely by the channel but by the lack of any common interests and natural incentives to common life, it stood in an earlier stage of development in ecclesiastical matters, as in legal and constitutional. In organization, in learning, and in conduct, ecclesiastical England at the eve of the Norman Conquest may be compared not unfairly to ecclesiastical Europe of the tenth century. There was the same loosening of the bonds of a common organization, the same tendency to separate into local units shut up to interest in themselves alone. National councils had practically ceased to meet. The legislative machinery of the Church threatened to disappear in that of the State. An outside body, the witenagemot, seemed about to acquire the right of imposing rules and regulations upon the Church, and another outside power, the king, to acquire the right of appointing its officers. Quite as important in the eyes of the Church as the lack of legislative independence was the lack of judicial independence, which was also a defect of the English Church. The law of the Church as it bore upon the life of the citizen was declared and enforced in the hundred or shire court, and bishop and ealdorman sat together in the latter. Only over the ecclesiastical faults of his clergy did the bishop have exclusive jurisdiction, and this was probably a jurisdiction less well developed than on the continent. The power of the primate over his suffragans and of the bishop within his diocese was ill defined and vague, and questions of disputed authority or doubtful allegiance lingered long without exact decision, perhaps from lack of interest, perhaps from want of the means of decision.

In learning, the condition was even worse. The cloister schools had undergone a marked decline since the great days of Theodore and Alcuin. Not merely were the parish priests ignorant men, but even bishops and abbots. The universal language of learning and faith was neglected, and in England alone, of all countries, theological books were written in the local tongue, a sure sign of isolation and of the lack of interest in the common philosophical life of the world. In moral conduct, while the English clergy could not be held guilty of serious breaches of the general ethical code, they were far from coming up to the special standard which the canon law imposed upon the clergy, and which the monastic reformation was making the inflexible law of the time. Married priests abounded; there were said to be even married bishops. Simony was not infrequent. Every churchman of high rank was likely to be a pluralist, holding bishoprics and abbacies together, like Stigand, who held with the primacy the bishopric of Winchester and many abbeys. That such a man as Stigand, holding every ecclesiastical office that he could manage to keep, depriving monasteries of their landed endowments with no more right than the baron after him, refused recognition by every legally elected pope, and thought unworthy to crown a king, or even in most cases to consecrate a bishop, should have held his place for so many years as unquestioned primate in all but the most important functions, is evidence enough that the English Church had not yet been brought under the influence of the great religious reformation of the eleventh century.

This was the chief defect of the England of that time--a defect upon all sides of its life, which the Conquest remedied. It was an isolated land. It stood in danger of becoming a Scandinavian land, not in blood merely, or in absorption in an actual Scandinavian empire, but in withdrawal from the real world, and in that tardy, almost reluctant, civilization which was possibly a necessity for Scandinavia proper, but which would have been for England a falling back from higher levels. It was the mission of the Norman Conquest--if we may speak of a mission for great historical events--to deliver England from this danger, and to bring her into the full current of the active and progressive life of Christendom.

It was more than three years after the coronation of William before the time was come for a thorough overhauling of the Church. So far as we know, William, up to that time, had given no sign of his intentions. The early adhesion of Stigand had been welcomed. The Normans seem to have believed that he enjoyed great consideration and influence among the Saxons, and he had been left undisturbed. He had even been allowed to consecrate the new Norman bishop of Dorchester, which looks like an act of deliberate policy. It had not seemed wise to alarm the Church so long as the military issue of the invasion could be considered in any sense doubtful, and not until the changes could be made with the powerful support of the head of the Church directly expressed. It is a natural guess, though we have no means of knowing, that Lanfranc's mission to Rome in 1067 had been to discuss this matter with the Roman authorities, quite as much as to get the pallium for the new Archbishop of Rouen. Now the time had come for action.

Three legates of the pope were at Winchester, and there a council was summoned to meet them. Two of the legates were cardinals, then a relatively less exalted rank in the Church than later, but making plain the direct support of the pope. The other was Ermenfrid, Bishop of Sion, or Sitten, in what is now the Swiss canton of the Vallais. He had already been in England eight years earlier as a papal legate, and he would bring to this council ideas derived from local observation, as well as tried diplomatic skill. Before the council met, the papal sanction of the Conquest was publicly proclaimed, when the cardinal legates placed the crown on the king's head at the Easter festival. On the octave of Easter, in 1070, the council met. Its first business was to deal with the case of Stigand. Something like a trial seems to have been held, but its result could never have been in doubt. He was deprived of the archbishopric, and, with that, of his other preferments, on three grounds: he had held Winchester along with the primacy; he had held the primacy while Robert was still the rightful archbishop according to the laws of the Church; and he had obtained his pallium and his only recognition from the antipope Benedict X. His brother, the Bishop of Elmham, was also deposed, and some abbots at the same time.

An English chronicler of a little later date, Florence of Worcester, doubtless representing the opinion of those contemporaries who were unfavourable to the Normans, believed that for many of these depositions there were no canonical grounds, but that they were due to the king's desire to have the help of the Church in holding and pacifying his new kingdom. We may admit the motive and its probable influence on the acts of the time, without overlooking the fact that there would be likely to be an honest difference in the interpretation of canonical rights and wrongs on the Norman and the English sides, and that the Normans were more likely to be right according to the prevailing standard of the Church. The same chronicler gives us interesting evidence of the contemporary native feeling about this council, and the way the rights of the English were likely to be treated by it, in recording the fact that it was thought to be a bold thing for the English bishop Wulfstan, of Worcester, to demand his rights in certain lands which Aldred had kept in his possession when he was transferred from the see of Worcester to the archbishopric of York. The case was postponed, until there should be an archbishop of York to defend the rights of his Church, but the brave bishop had nothing to lose by his boldness. The treatment of the Church throughout his reign is evidence of William's desire to act according to established law, though it is also evidence of his ruling belief that the new law was superior to the old, if ever a conflict arose between them.

Shortly after, at Whitsuntide, another council met at Windsor, and continued the work. The cardinals had returned to Rome, but Ermenfrid was still present. Further vacancies were made in the English Church in the same way as by the previous council--by the end of the year only two, or at most three, English bishops remained in office--but the main business at this time was to fill vacancies. A new Archbishop of York, Thomas, Canon of Bayeux, was appointed, and three bishops, Winchester, Selsey, and Elmham, all of these from the royal chapel. But the most important appointment of the time was that of Lanfranc, Abbot of St. Stephen's at Caen, to be Archbishop of Canterbury. With evident reluctance he accepted this responsible office, in which his work was destined to be almost as important in the history of England as William's own. Two papal legates crossing from England, Ermenfrid and a new one named Hubert, a synod of the Norman clergy, Queen Matilda, and her son Robert, all urged him to accept, and he yielded to their solicitation.

Lanfranc was at this time sixty-five years of age. An Italian by birth, he had made good use of the advantages which the schools of that land offered to laymen, but on the death of his father, while still a young man, he had abandoned the path of worldly promotion which lay open before him in the profession of the law, in which he had followed his father, and had gone to France to teach and finally to become a monk. By 1045 he was prior of the abbey of Bec, and within a few years he was famous throughout the whole Church as one of its ablest theologians. In the controversy with Berengar of Tours, on the nature of the Eucharist, he had argued with great skill in favour of transubstantiation. Still more important was the fact that his abilities and ideas were known to William, who had long relied upon his counsel in the government of the duchy, and that entire harmony of action was possible between them. He has been called William's "one friend," and while this perhaps unduly limits the number of the king's friends, he was, in the greatest affairs of his reign, his firm supporter and wise counsellor.

From the moment of his consecration, on August 29, 1070, the reformation of the English Church went steadily on, until it was as completely accomplished as was possible. The first question to be settled was perhaps the most important of all, the question of unity of national organization. The new Archbishop of York refused Lanfranc's demand that he should take the oath of obedience to Canterbury, and asserted his independence and coordinate position, and laid claim to three bordering bishoprics as belonging to his metropolitan see,--Worcester, Lichfield, and Dorchester. The dispute was referred to the king, who arranged a temporary compromise in favour of Lanfranc, and then carried to the pope, by whom it was again referred back to be decided by a council in England. This decision was reached at a council in Windsor at Whitsuntide in 1072, and was in favour of Lanfranc on all points, though it seems certain that the victory was obtained by an extensive series of forgeries of which the archbishop himself was probably the author.4 It must be added, however, that the moral judgment of that age did not regard as ours does such forgeries in the interest of one's Church. If the decision was understood at the time to mean that henceforth all archbishops of York should promise canonical obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury, it did not permanently secure that result. But the real point at issue in this dispute, at least for the time being, was no mere matter of rank or precedence; it was as necessary to the plans of Lanfranc and of the Church that his authority should be recognized throughout the whole kingdom as it was to those of William. Nor was the question without possible political significance. The political independence of the north--still uncertain in its allegiance--would be far easier to establish if it was, to begin with, ecclesiastically independent.

Hardly less important than the settlement of this matter was the establishment of the legislative independence of the Church. From the two legatine councils of 1070, at Winchester and Windsor, a series begins of great national synods, meeting at intervals to the end of the reign. Complete divorce from the State was not at first possible. The council was held at a meeting of the court, and was summoned by the king. He was present at the sessions, as were also lay magnates of the realm, but the questions proper to the council were discussed and decided by the churchmen alone, and were promulgated by the Church as its own laws. This was real legislative independence, even if the form of it was somewhat defective, and before very long, as the result of this beginning, the form came to correspond to the reality, and the process became as independent as the conclusion.

William's famous ordinance separating the spiritual and temporal courts decreed another extensive change necessary to complete the independence of the Church in its legal interests. The date of this edict is not certain, but it would seem from such evidence as we have to have been issued not very long after the meeting of the councils of 1070. It withdrew from the local popular courts, the courts of the hundred, all future enforcement of the ecclesiastical laws, subjected all offenders against these laws to trial in the bishop's court, and promised the support of the temporal authorities to the processes and decisions of the Church courts. This abolishing by edict of so important a prerogative of the old local courts, and annulling of so large a part of the old law, was the most violent and serious innovation made by the Conqueror in the Saxon judicial system; but it was fully justified, not merely by the more highly developed law which came into use as a result of the change, but by the necessity of a stricter enforcement of that law than would ever be possible through popular courts.

With these more striking changes went others, less revolutionary but equally necessary to complete the new ecclesiastical system. The Saxon bishops had many of them had their seats in unimportant places in their dioceses, tending to degrade the dignity almost to the level of a rural bishopric. The Norman prelates by degrees removed the sees to the chief towns, changing the names with the change of place. Dorchester was removed to Lincoln, Selsey to Chichester, Sherborne to Old Sarum, and Elmham by two removes to Norwich. The new cities were the centres of life and influence, and they were more suitable residences for barons of the king, as the Norman bishops were. The inner organization of these bishoprics was also improved. Cathedral chapters were reformed; in Rochester and Durham secular canons were replaced by monastic clergy under a more strict regime. New offices of law and administration were introduced. The country priests were brought under strict control, and earnest attempts were made to compel them to follow more closely the disciplinary requirements of the Church.

The monastic system as it existed at the time of the Conquest underwent the same reformation as the more secular side of the Church organization. It was indeed regarded by the new ecclesiastical rulers as the source of the Church's strength and the centre of its life. English abbots were replaced by Norman, and the new abbots introduced a better discipline and improvement in the ritual. The rule was more strictly enforced. Worship, labour, and study became the constant occupations of the monks. Speedily the institution won a new influence in the life of the nation. The number of monks grew rapidly; new monasteries were everywhere established, of which the best remembered, the Conqueror's abbey of Battle, with the high altar of its church standing where Harold's standard had stood in the memorable fight, is only an example. Many of these new foundations were daughter-houses of great French monasteries, and it is a significant fact that by the end of the reign of William's son Henry, Cluny, the source of this monastic reformation for the world, had sent seventeen colonies into England. Wealth poured into these establishments from the gifts of king and barons and common men alike. Their buildings grew in number and in magnificence, and the poor and suffering of the realm received their share in the new order of things, through a wider and better organized charity.

With this new monastic life began a new era of learning. Schools were everywhere founded or renewed. The universal language of Christendom took once more its proper place as the literary language of the cloister, although the use of English lingered for a time here and there. England caught at last the theological eagerness of the continent in the age when the stimulus of the new dialectic method was beginning to be felt, and soon demanded to be heard in the settlement of the problems of the thinking world. Lanfranc continued to write as Archbishop of Canterbury.5 Even something that may be called a literary spirit in an age of general barrenness was awakened. Poems were produced not unworthy of mention, and the generation of William's sons was not finished when such histories had been written as those of Eadmer and William of Malmesbury, superior in conception and execution to anything produced in England since the days of Bede. In another way the stimulus of these new influences showed itself in an age of building, and by degrees the land was covered with those vast monastic and cathedral churches which still excite our admiration and reveal to us the fact that the narrow minds of what we were once pleased to call the dark ages were capable, in one direction at least, of great and lofty conceptions. Norman ideals of massive strength speak to us as clearly from the arches of Winchester or the piers of Gloucester as from the firm hand and stern rule of William or Henry.

In general the Conquest incorporated England closely, as has already been said, with that organic whole of life and achievement which we call Christendom. This was not more true of the ecclesiastical side of things than of the political or constitutional. But the Church of the eleventh century included within itself relatively many more than the Church of to-day of those activities which quickly respond to a new stimulus and reveal a new life by increased production. The constitutional changes involved in the Conquest, and directly traceable to it through a long line of descent, though more slowly realized and for long in less striking forms, were in truth destined to produce results of greater permanence and a wider influence. The final result of the Norman Conquest was a constitutional creation, new in the history of the world. Nothing like this followed in the sphere of the Church. But for a generation or two the abundant vigour which flowed through the renewed religious life of Europe, and the radical changes which were necessary to bring England into full harmony with it, made the ecclesiastical revolution seem the most impressive and the most violent of the changes which took place in this age in English public organization and life. If we may trust a later chronicler, whose record is well supported by independent and earlier evidence, in the same year in which these legatine councils met, and in which the reformation of the Church was begun, there was introduced an innovation, so far as the Saxon Church is concerned, which would have seemed to the leaders of the reform party hostile to their cause had they not been so familiar with it elsewhere, or had they been conscious of the full meaning of their own demands. Matthew Paris, in the thirteenth century, records that, in 1070, the king decreed that all bishoprics and abbacies which were holding baronies, and which heretofore had been free from all secular obligations, should be liable to military service; and caused to be enrolled, according to his own will, the number of knights which should be due from each in time of war. Even if this statement were without support, it would be intrinsically probable at this or some near date. The endowment lands of bishopric and abbey, or rather a part of these lands in each case, would inevitably be regarded as a fief held of the crown, and as such liable to the regular feudal services. This was the case in every feudal land, and no one would suppose that there should be any exception in England. The amount of the service was arbitrarily fixed by the king in these ecclesiastical baronies, just as it was in the lay fiefs. The fact was important enough to attract the notice of the chroniclers because the military service, regulated in this way, would seem to be more of an innovation than the other services by which the fief was held, like the court service, for example, though it was not so in reality.

This transformation in life and culture was wrought in the English Church with the full sanction and support of the king. In Normandy, as well as in England, was this the case. The plans of the reform party had been carried out more fully in some particulars in these lands than the Church alone would have attempted at the time, because they had convinced the judgment of the sovereign and won his favour. At every step of the process where there was need, the power of the State had been at the command of the Church, to remove abuses or to secure the introduction of reforms. But with the theocratic ideas which went with these reforms in the teaching of the Church William had no sympathy. The leaders of the reformation might hold to the ideal supremacy of pope over king, and to the superior mission and higher power of the Church as compared with the State, but there could be no practical realization of these theories in any Norman land so long as the Conqueror lived. In no part of Europe had the sovereign exercised a greater or more direct power over the Church than in Normandy. All departments of its life were subject to his control, if there was reason to exert it. This had been true for so long a time that the Church was accustomed to the situation and accepted it without complaint. This power William had no intention of yielding. He proposed to exercise it in England as he had in Normandy,6 and, even in this age of fierce conflict with its great temporal rival, the emperor, the papacy made no sharply drawn issue with him on these points. There could be no question of the headship of the world in his case, and on the vital moral point he was too nearly in harmony with the Church to make an issue easy. On the importance of obeying the monastic rule, the celibacy of the clergy, and the purchase of ecclesiastical office, he agreed in theory with the disciples of Cluny.7 But, if he would not sell a bishopric, he was determined that the bishop should be his man; he stood ready to increase the power and independence of the Church, but always as an organ of the State, as a part of the machine through which the government was carried on.

It is quite within the limits of possibility that, in his negotiations with Rome before his invasion of England, William may have given the pope to understand, in some indefinite and informal way, that if he won the kingdom, he would hold it of St. Peter. In accepting the consecrated banner which the pope sent him, he could hardly fail to know that he might be understood to be acknowledging a feudal dependence. When the kingdom was won, however, he found himself unwilling to carry out such an arrangement, whether tacitly or openly promised. To Gregory VII's demand for his fealty he returned a respectful but firm refusal. The sovereignty of England was not to be diminished; he would hold the kingdom as freely as his predecessors had done. Peter's pence, which it belonged of right to England to pay, should be regularly collected and sent to Rome, but no right of rule, even theoretical, over king or kingdom, could be allowed the pope.

An ecclesiastical historian whose childhood and early youth fell in William's reign, and who was deeply impressed with the strong control under which he held the Church, has recorded three rules to govern the relation between Church and State, which he says were established by William.8 These are: 1, that no one should be recognized as pope in England except at his command, nor any papal letters received without his permission; 2, that no acts of the national councils should be binding without his sanction; 3, that none of his barons or servants should be excommunicated, even for crimes committed, without his consent. Whether these were consciously formulated rules or merely generalizations from his conduct, they state correctly the principles of his action, and exhibit clearly in one most important sphere the unlimited power established by the Norman Conquest.

To this year, 1070, in which was begun the reformation of the Church, was assigned at a later time another work of constitutional interest. The unofficial compiler of a code of laws, the Leges Edwardi, written in the reign of Henry I, and drawn largely from the legislation of the Saxon kings, ascribed his work, after a fashion not unusual with writers of his kind, to the official act of an earlier king. He relates that a great national inquest was ordered by King William in this year, to ascertain and establish the laws of the English. Each county elected a jury of twelve men, who knew the laws, and these juries coming together in the presence of the king declared on oath what were the legal customs of the land. So runs the preface of the code which was given out as compiled from this testimony. Such a plan and procedure would not be out of harmony with what we know of William's methods and policy. The machinery of the jury, which was said to be employed, was certainly introduced into England by the first Norman king, and was used by him for the establishment of facts, both in national undertakings like the Domesday Book and very probably in local cases arising in the courts. We know also that he desired to leave the old laws undisturbed so far as possible, and the year 1070 is one in which an effort to define and settle the future legal code of the state would naturally fall. But the story must be rejected as unhistorical. An event of such importance as this inquisition must have been, if it took place, could hardly have occurred without leaving its traces in contemporary records of some sort, and an official code of this kind would have produced results in the history of English law of which we find no evidence. The Saxon law and the machinery of the local courts did survive the Conquest with little change, but no effort was made to reduce the customs of the land to systematic and written form until a later time, until a time indeed when the old law was beginning to give place to the new.

Footnotes

[4] See H. Bohmer, Die Falschungen Erzbischof Lanfranks van Canterbury (Leipzig, 1902).

[5] Böhmer, Kirche und Staat in England und in der Normandie, pp. 103-106.

[6] Eadmer, Historia Novorum, p. 9.

[7] Böhmer, Kirche und Staat, pp. 126 ff.

[8] Eadmer, Hist. Nov., p. 10.

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