Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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herself, and her union with England greatly forwarded
Christianity in all the countries of the north. The Dane's
differed from the people in England very little in blood,
language, customs, and laws, and their settlement in Eng-
land may be regarded as a reenforcement of German blood
and a strengthening of the English character.

At the death of Knut (1035) he was succeeded by his two
sons in turn, Harold (1035-40) and Harthaknut (1040-42).
They were, however, thoroughly barbarous and unfitted in

" Lotigitttde We»t 4° from Grcentvick'

England and the Norsemen loi

every way to rule. England was again given up to vio-
lence, and as the people disliked them there was general
joy when Harthaknut died and Eadward the Confessor
(1042-66), son of Aethelred and Emma, came back from
Normandy and was acknowledged as king. Tired of for- Tiie English
eign rulers the people expected great things of Eadward, ^^'^^'^^■"•^s'^o^'ed.
who was in blood an Englishman. But most of his life
having been spent in Normandy he was far more Norman
than English. He returned with a large following of Nor-
mans, whom he placed in high offices, both secular and ec-
clesiastical, greatly to the disgust and anger of the people.

The real i:)Ower in England, however, was in the hands
of the great earl, Godwine of Wessex, whose earldom con- Earl Godwinc.
sisted of all the land south of the Thames. Eadward him-
self had little ability and less energy, and was content to
pass his time in quiet. The two great earls of the north.
Si ward of Northumbria, and Leofric of Mercia, were kept
bur,y with the affairs of their earldoms, so that Godwine
had ample opportunity to carry out his plans. These were
concerned with increasing the power of his own family.
For his sons and other relatives he obtained small earldoms,
and in 1045 strengthened himself by giving his daughter
Eadgyth to the king in marriage.

Owing to the jealousy of the other great earls and to
a quarrel with the king Godwine withdrew to Flanders
(105 1). The next year, however, the English were glad
to see him return, because tlie king had, in the meanwhile,
shown even greater favor to the Normans. In 105 1 Will- William vibits
iam the Bastard, duke of Normandy, visited the childless
Eadward and is said to have received from him the promise
of the crown of England. The court was filled with Nor-
mans, but on the reappearance of Godwine they hastily
fled to the continent. Among them was Robert of Ju-
toieges, who had been made Archbishop of Canterbury. At



A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

promised the



his flight the high office was given to an Enghshman. This
action offended the Pope, for, according to the papal claims,
no Church official could be deposed except by ecclesiastical
authority. Godwine died soon after, and was succeeded
in the leadership by his son Harold.

Since Eadward was childless, it was necessary to deter-
mine who should succeed him. Although not of the royal
line, Harold was the only possible candidate. His earl-
dom was the largest in England. He was the right-hand
man of the king, and he had shown the greatest ability
both as a ruler and warrior. There was nothing to do
but revive the old German custom of electing the ablest
man king, and it was accordingly agreed that Harold should
succeed his royal master.

During his last years Eadward became even more inac-
tive than before. The management of affairs was wholly
in the hands of Harold, who put down a dangerous revolt
in Wales, maintained peace and order throughout the king-
dom, and administered the laws equitably. In England
there was but one family which could contest the crown
with him, that of Leofric of Mercia, and this he concil-
iated by making Morkere, the brother of Leofric, earl of
Northumbria, in the place of his own brother Tostig, against
whom the Northumbrians had rebelled. On the death of
Eadward, January 5, 1066, Harold was elected and crowned
without opposition.

The German tribes of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
were almost entirely free from Roman influence till the
ninth century. Christianity had certainly gained no hold
upon them. They lived in independent groups, without
any central government. But during the ninth century
several leaders arose in various parts, who united many of
the tribes, much as Chlodwig had united the Franks in the
fifth century. Three kingdoms were estabhshed, known

England and the Norsemen 103

respectively as the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and
Denmark. Since the leaders and nobles of the conquered
tribes were too proud to submit to a conqueror they turned
to the sea, hoping to preserve their independence. At first
they played the part of pirates, attacking the coasts of
Gaul, Germany, northern Spain, and even Italy. Ascend-
ing the rivers for many miles they robbed, plundered, and
burned all the towns they could. They attacked monas-
teries and churches because of the treasures which they
were known to contain. At first these raids were made in
the summer, and the pirates returned to their homes for the
winter. Gradually, however, they began to spend the win-
ter also in the countries which they \vere plundering. They
seized the land and settled upon it, and these winter settle-
ments became permanent. As their success became known
at home they were joined by large numbers of their fellow-
countrymen who were eager to have a share in their pros-
perity. Terms were made with the lord of the land, and
these unwelcome guests made themselves at home and iden-
tified themselves with the country in which they settled.
It was plainly to their interest that not too many Norse-
men should join them, since their own portions would be
thereby diminished ; they therefore resisted all further im-
migration as well as piratical invasions by their country-

These Norsemen possessed to a marked degree the Ger- Their


man characteristic, adaptability. In France they became
Frenchmen, in England, Englishmen, in Russia, Russians.
They did not, however, lose their individuality. They
preserved their courage, their genius for governing and
their bodily vigor, their love of war and their thirst for
fame. Like the Goths, when they migrated they left their
religion at home, but not their religiousness. They ac-
cepted Roman Christianity with a heartiness which soon

I04 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

made them the champions of the Papacy. They rebuilt the
burned monasteries and churches and soon became the
most zealous pilgrims of all Europe. They had the greatest
regard for holy places and persons, and from pirates turned
to Christian knights.
ThcNorsemen The lands to the east of the Baltic were attacked by the
Norsemen also. About the middle of the ninth century
they began to make settlements on the coast, and their
leader, Rurik, succeeded in uniting the tribes of Finns,
Lapps, Letts, and others who were scattered over what is
now western Russia. He and his successors extended their
power into the interior. Novgorod, on Lake Illman, and
Kiev, on the Dnieper, became their most important cen-
tres. For more than seven hundred years the family of
Rurik held the kingship and ruled over a large part of what
is now Russia. In their raids to the east and south they
came into contact with Constantinople, from which they
received Christianity and the rudiments of civilization. In
the tenth century a large body of Norsemen sailed down
the Volga and raided a part of Persia. All the way from
the Baltic to the Black Sea the Norsemen made settlements
along the rivers, and thus was opened up a route of travel
and commerce between the Scandinavian countries and
Constantinople and the east. From the many coins of
Bohemia, Hungary, and Constantinople, and even of the
Khalifs of Bagdad, which have been found in Sweden, we
must infer that this commerce was very considerable.
Christian pilgrims from the north regarded this as the most
convenient way of reaching Palestine, because they found
some of their countrymen all along the route. In the
eleventh century many Norsemen went to Constantinople
to seek their fortunes and offer their services to the Em-
peror, who enrolled large numbers of them in his body-

England and the Norsemen 105

About 800 the Norsemen began to settle in the Hebrides, in the west
Orkneys, and Shetland Islands, which up to this time were
occupied only by Irish monks and hermits. From these
islands they spread to the mainland of Scotland, and in
the course of about a hundred years all these settlements
were united into one kingdom. In the ninth century they
took possession of Iceland, which soon became thoroughly
Norse. There the Norse customs and traditions were pre-
served in greater purity and for a longer time than in their
original home.^ In the tenth century the Norsemen settled
in Greenland, and kept in constant intercourse with their
mother country till the fourteenth century when they dis-
appeared ; from what cause is unknown.

About the year 1000, Norse sailors discovered the coast
of America, and several efforts were made to plant colonies
there, but without success. On the east and south coasts
of Ireland they also made many settlements, some of which
continued to exist till far into the twelfth century. Their
invasions of England have already been recounted, as well
as those of France. The settlement of Rolf in the valley
of the lower Seine (Normandy) resulted in the establish- Normandy.
ment of a powerful duchy which soon put an end to the
invasions from the north. Duke Rolf (911-27) and his
successors (William Longsword, 927-43 ; Richard the
Fearless, 943-96; Richard the Good, 996-1027; and
Robert the Magnificent, 1027-35) ruled with a strong
hand, and Normandy was soon one of the strongest as well
as best-governed duchies of France. The laws were en-
forced, order preserved, and the vassals kept in subjection.
In 911 Rolf had agreed to accept Christianity, and in spite
of occasional backslidings he and his pirates became de-
voted adherents of the Church. Normandy was noted for

1 Cf. the Eddas and Sagas of the Norsemen, which were written in

lo6 A Sliort History of Mediccval Europe

its churches, monasteries, and schools. The abbey of Bee

was known throughout Europe because of its founder, Lan-

franc, and its great prior, Ansehn. Robert the Magnifi-

Wiiiiam the Cent, at his death, in 1035, left only a bastard son, Will-

of^Nomiandy! J^^^^^j seven years old, to succeed him. When William

1035-87- attained his majority and attempted to rule independently

many of his subjects revolted. There was a bitter struggle,

but William proved himself master of all his enemies and

administered the affairs of his duchy with as much ability

and firmness as any of his predecessors.

Eadward the Confessor is said to have promised his crown
to William, who was his cousin. Another story of still
more doubtful authenticity relates how Harold was ship-
wrecked on the coast of France and fell into the hands of
William William, who compelled him to take an oath that he would

En jriish crown, Support William's claim to the throne. When the news of
^°^^- the accession of Harold reached William he fell into a great

rage and began to prepare to invade England and make
good his pretensions to the crown. He is said to have
called on Harold to keep his promise, but Harold paid no
attention to his summons. He sent to the Pope certain
charges against Harold, and promised, in return for the
papal support and sanction, to put the Church of England
under the control of Rome. Alexander H. gave William
his blessing on these terms and sent him a consecrated ban-
ner. The Pope further assisted him in his negotiations
with the Emperor and the king of Denmark. William, in
the meantime, built a fleet and collected his troops from
every possible source.

King Harold was threatened with a double danger on his
accession to the throne. His brother Tostig had revolted
and fled to Harold Hardrada, king of Denmark, whom he
urged to invade England. Harold also learned of the
preparations of William, but was uncertain when these at-

England and the Noise men 107

tacks would be made. He collected an army and patrolled
the coasts, but since no enemy appeared his men gradually
left and went to their homes. Suddenly Harold Hardrada
and Tostig landed on the coast of Yorkshire, defeated the
troops of the earls Edwin and Morkere, and took the city
of York. King Harold hastened to the north, met the
invaders near Stamford Bridge and utterly defeated them, King Harold
September 25th. On the same day William landed, un- 'Bridge,
hindered, near Pevensey, with an army of about fifty thou-
sand men, and began to ravage the country. By forced
marches Harold hastened to the south to meet this new foe.
Although deserted by the earls of Mercia and Northum-
bria, Edwin and Morkere, he nevertheless determined to
risk a battle without first collecting new troops and allow-
ing his army to recuperate. On a hill, known later as The battle of
^,-rTii 1 •• 1 iir Hastings.

Senlac, Harold took a strong position, and was able lor

some hours to resist the onslaught of the Normans. In the
end, however, he was slain, his guard cut down, and the
rest of his troops put to flight. William had won the day
and with it the crown of England.

William's first care was to get possession of Kent and
Sussex, the inhabitants of which were frightened into sub-
mission by his violence toward those who resisted him.
He marched toward London and, hoping to overawe the London,
city, burned Southwark. The gates, however, were closed
against him and the people elected as their king Eadgar
the Aetheling, a grandson of Eadmund Ironside. The
earls of Mercia and Northumbria, Edwin and Morkere,
were present at the election, but when William crossed the
Thames and threatened their territories they withdrew from
the city to look after their own interests. Seeing that re-
sistance was hopeless the i)eople offered the crown to Will-
iam. He entered the city, and on Christmas-day, 1066,
was crowned in Westminster by the Archbishop Ealdred.

io8 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

crowned, 1066.

The land
forfeit to

The English

The crown was his by right of conquest, but he was also
formally elected by the people of London, and in his coro-
nation by the Archbishop the Church set its seal upon his
title and supplied what was lacking in the legitimacy of
his claims.

Thus far only the southeastern portion of England
(bounded by a line from the Wash to Dorsethead) was
actually in William's hands. To secure London he built a
strong fortress, which afterward became the famous tower.
The earls of Mercia and Northumbria submitted to him
only nominally. In order to justify the seizure of whatever
lands he might desire, William declared that the election
and acknowledgment of Harold as king was an act of trea-
son, punishable with forfeiture and death. All England
was, therefore, guilty, and all the land was forfeited to
William. He seized the possessions of all those who had
borne arms against him, the rest being permitted to retain
their lands on the payment of a fine. Otherwise there was
for the present little change.

In 1067 England had become so quiet that William re-
turned to Normandy, leaving the government in the hands
of Odo, bishop of Bayeux, now earl of Kent, and William
Fitz-Osbern, earl of Hereford. These, however, were un-
true to their trusts and allowed the English to be oppressed
by the Norman nobles. This led the English to revolt, but
William returned in the same year and put down the re-
bellion. In the year 1068, however, a real national upris-
ing took place. King Swein of Denmark came with a fleet
to contest the possession of England with William. On his
arrival in the Humber all the northern, western, and south-
western parts of England revolted, and the king of Scotland
came to their aid. William hastened to the Humber and
bought the withdrawal of the Danish fleet. He then turned
to the revolted provinces and, since they were not united,

England and the Norseme7i 109

easily overcame them. Yorkshire especially suffered from
his anger. So thoroughly did he devastate it that a famine
followed which is said to have carried off more than a
hundred thousand people, and nearly a century passed be-
fore the land was restored to its former state of cultivation.
The most determined of the English fled to the Fens
(the swampy district south of the Wash), and there offered
brave resistance under the leadership of Hereward. Their
destruction, however, ended all opposition, and England
was thoroughly conquered. Scotland was next invaded and
its king subjected. Being now in full possession, William
set himself to keep in subjection and govern his hardly ac-
quired kingdom.

This Norman conquest of England had great influence on Eflfect of the
the history of England not simply because of the political °"^"^^ •
changes which William introduced. He was not only king
of England, but duke of Normandy, and a subject of the
king of France. He was, moreover, a devoted friend of the
Papacy. It was, therefore, inevitable that England should
be closely associated with the continent ; the English kings,
proud of their continental possessions, would be involved in
the territorial struggles of the French kings ; and the claims
of the Popes for universal dominion would the more easily
include England. The conquest brought England again
into intimate relations with the rest of Europe and made of
her a continental power.




From the middle of the ninth century the Saracens had
possession of Sicily, and also held many places on the main-
land. The principal part of southern Italy, called the
Theme of Lombardy, still belonged to the Emperor at Con-
stantinople and was ruled by his officers. On the east coast
these possessions extended to the north as far as Moiuit
Gargano, and on the west almost to Salerno. To the north
of this district was a large group of independent or semi-
independent principalities, such as Salerno, Amalfi, Naples,
Capua, Benevento, and Spoleto, which neither the Greek
nor ■ the German Emperor had been able to attach perma-
nently to his interests. They spent their time in warring
with one another,-TJf with the garrisons of the Greeks or
Saracens about them. They were mere political fragments,
and their condition seemed hopelessly chaotic.

In 1016 some Normans, returning from a pilgrimage to
Palestine, were shipwrecked near Salerno, and the prince
of that town asked for and received their aid in a battle
against the Saracens. The rewards which they carried back
home Avith them fired the cupidity of some of their fellow-
countrymen, and from this time we find Norman soldiers of
fortune in southern Italy offering their services to the high-
est bidder. About 1027 the duke of Naples granted Aversa
to a band of such adventurers, and by conquest they added
other small territories to this. Having quarrelled with their
Pope's vassals, allies, the Greeks, over the distribution of spoil, they at-

The Normans
get posses-
sions in south-
ern Italy and
become the

The Normans in Italy III

tacked and conquered Apulia, which they organized into a
kind of republic. The headship in this little state was ac-
quired by William of the Iron Arm, who passed it on to
his brothers, each of whom followed an aggressive policy of
conquest and annexation. In 1053 they made war on Pope
Leo IX. After taking him prisoner, they fell at his feet,
begging forgiveness and asking to be made his vassals and
confirmed in their title to the lands which they had con-

In 1057 the ablest of the brothers, Robert Guiscard, Robert Guis-
succeeded to the title of count of Apulia. Two years later duke, 1059.
he appeared before Pope Nicholas II. (1059-61), gave him
the oath of allegiance, and received in return the title of
duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. Sicily and a part of
Calabria were still in the hands of the Saracens, and the
newly made duke set about theii* conquest. His brother
Roger quickly overcame nearly all of Sicily, although the Sicily
Saracens were not wholly driven out till about 1090. Rob
ert ruled his duchy well ; Amalfi was for awhile one of
the principal commercial cities of Italy, and the schools of
Salerno also added lustre to his name.

A revolution in Constantinople gave Robert an oppor-
tunity to attempt to extend his territories to the east. In
1 08 1 Alexius Comnenus usurped the power and expelled the
Emperor Nicephorus III. Constantine, the son of the pre-
ceding Emperor, Michael VII., had married the daughter
of Robert Guiscard. Apparently to restore his son-in-law,
but probably to secure the crown for himself, Robert Guis-
card gathered an army to invade the Greek Empire. He Robert attacks
sought the support of Gregory VII., Avho gave him his Emperon
blessing and promised to invest him with all the lands lie
might conquer. Durazzo, on the coast of Epirus, was first
taken. Alexius sent Henry IV. of Germany large sums
of money, and begged him to make an invasion into south-


112 A Short History of MedicBval Europe

em Italy. He secured the aid of the Venetians by grant-
ing them great commercial privileges, such as the freedom
from tolls and the possession of a Venetian quarter in Con-
stantinople. After capturing Durazzo, Robert forced his
way into the interior. Towns and fortresses fell into his
hands until he controlled all of Epirus and a large part of
Thessaly. Thessalonica and Larissa were threatened, but
at this moment Gregory VII., who was hard pressed by
Henry IV., called on* Robert to come to his aid. He left
his army in charge of his son Boemund, and hastened to
Rome, where he succeeded in driving off the Germans and
freeing the Pope. But in Thessaly the diplomacy of Alex-
ius won the victory. By offering large bribes he succeeded
in winning over many of the Norman knights. He levied
fresh troops in other parts of the Empire. Boemund' s
forces were gradually weakened by losses in battle, by sick-
ness and desertions, so that Alexius was able to defeat him
and gradually force him back to the Adriatic. At last, even
Durazzo was retaken, and Boemund with his handful of men
returned to Italy. Robert Guiscard soon renewed the at-
tempt, but Alexius had in the meanwhile so strongly for-
tified and garrisoned the coast that Robert met \\\\\\ small
Death of success. His untimely death in the following year (1085)

Robert, 1085. ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^ ^^^ invasion, and Boemund made peace with


The work of Robert Guiscard was to live after him. By

his conquests he had united Sicily and the southern part of
Basis for a new Italy into one great duchy, which was to be the basis for
kingdom. ^j^^ kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was succeeded ^

duke by his brother Roger in 1085, who in turn was fol- .

lowed by his son Roger II. (11 01). This second Roger

inherited the well-known family characteristics, ambition

and great ability, and succeeded in changing his duchy into

a kingdom.

TJie Normans in Italy 113

We have followed the Norsemen in their settlements The influence

. . J of the Nor-

throughout Europe and shown how great their activity and mans in
importance were. They settled the islands far to the west Europe,
and north, established a kingdom among the mixed peo-
ples of what is now w^estern Russia, added to the stock of
German blood in England, established a great duchy in
France, whose dukes and nobles conquered England and
impressed upon it the Norman character ; they created the
kingdom of the Two Sicilies, threatened the eastern Em-
pire, led the crusades, and established kingdoms in Asia ;
they were the most efficient allies of the Papacy in its long
and bitter struggle with the Empire, and materially assisted
in securing the Papal victory. Although they eventually
either lost their possessions or were thoroughly amalgamated
with the people of the conquered country, they nevertheless
left their impress on Europe in many ways.






relations, feu-
dal tenure.

Social rela-
tion, lord and

Political rela-
tions, immu-

Feudalism is the name applied to the economic, social,
and political relations and conditions existing in Europe
from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. These economic

Online LibraryOliver J. (Oliver Joseph) ThatcherA short history of mediæval Europe → online text (page 9 of 25)