Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Political Contrast between Normandy and England

The causes which were making the English thegnhood a military aristocracy acted with still greater force in Normandy. The tillers of the soil, sprung from the old inhabitants of the land, were kept by their Norman lords in even harsher bondage than the English serfs. The Norman warriors held their land by military service, each one being bound to fight for his lord, and the lord in turn being bound, together with his dependents, to fight for a higher lord, and all at last for the Duke himself.

In England, though, in theory, the relations between the king and his ealdormen were not very different from those existing between the Norman duke and his immediate vassals, the connection between them was far looser. The kingdom as a whole had no general unity. The king could not control the ealdormen, and the ealdormen could not control the king. Even when ealdormen, bishops, and thegns met in the Witenagemot they could not speak in the name of the nation. A nation in any true sense hardly existed at all, and they were not chosen as representatives of any part of it. Each one stood for himself, and it was only natural that men who during the greater part of the year were ruling in their own districts like little kings should think more of keeping up their own almost independent power at home than of the common interests of all England, which they had to consider when they met—and that for a few days only at a time—in the Witenagemot. Æthelred at least was not the man to keep them united.

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