The Middle Ages
-In 1066, a new group of warriors landed on England, an independent state in France.
-William led his army to England, where the Normans soon defeated and killed King Harold and overran much of the country.
-The Norman conquest changed the course of English history, language and literature.
- The Normans brought their social system called feudalism, and their French language.
-Under the system of feudalism, English society was divided into clear hierarchy:
1. social ranking
2. economy ranking
with the king at the top.
- Feudalism’s hierarchy was also reinforced by a code of conduct known as chivalry.
-Under the chivalric code, a knight pledged:
1.to be loyal to his lord at any cost;
2.to honor women;
3.to protect the weak;
4.to right injustices and wrongs as defined by his lord;
5.to defend the Christian faith.
A New Language
-After the Norman Conquest, England’s new aristocracy spoke mainly French.
-French had a strong influence on English.
-Eventually, Middle English, a language in many ways similar to the English used today, developed.
Was life quiet and simple in England during the Middle Ages?
It certainly would not have seemed so to those who faced the period’s major developments –
1.religious warfare of the Crusades
2.intense political conflict**
3.a century of war with France
4.a raging epidemic
** Church vs. State
Under the feudal system, the king also appointed bishops and gave land to them. Some bishops held great estates and positions in the government. Not surprisingly, frequent clashes occurred over government control of the church and over church control in nonreligious matters.
The struggle between King Henry II (the father of Richard I) and the pries Thomas á Becket exemplifies this conflict. In 1162 Henry named Becket archbishop of Canterbury - head of the Roman Catholic Church in England. As archbishop, Becket opposed the king's attempts to establish royal rights over the church, such as the right of royal courts to punish clerics who committed crimes. At one point, Henry raged, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights took Henry's words literally and murdered Becket in Canterbury Cathedral where he was praying. The murder shocked Christian Europe, and Becket was canonized as a saint. A shrine dedicated to Becket is the destination of the pilgrim in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.