2.1 – 23 Subjugation of the English

After 1066 William the Conqueror set about ruling his new kingdom; for 10 years, he spends much of his time changing the face of England, and stamping out rebellions which never managed to gain coherence and coordination.

Series 2, The Normans and Angevins, cover the period from 1066 to the end of John’s reign in 1217.

  • Episdoes 2.1 – 2.12 Cover the Norman – William, his sons, and the usurpation by Stephen with the resulting Anarchy
  • We then spend 3 episodes away from politics, looking at the life of the people of early medieval England
  • With episode 2.16 we arrive at the Devil’s Brood, Henry II and his family and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
  • 2.22 – 2.28 Cover the reign of the Lionheart and the Third Crusade
  • 2.29 – 2.37 Cover John his loss of Normandy, and Magna Carta – with a brief foray in 2.33-4 into the History of Europe

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Why did England fall to William so easily?

Well, a few reasons really.

  • There were no credible leaders
  • The leaders they did have were self serving and not much to write home about
  • The Normans built castles – lots of them
  • The cream of England’s warriors had been decimated by the 3 battles of 1066
  • Some of them thought they could work with William. Ha.

The new Aristocracy

By the end of William’s reign 54% of the Aristocracy were Norman. In some areas it was almost a total wipeout. There are only 2 Thegns who held significant estates directly from the Conqueror. A whitewash.

 The Harrying of the North

The conseqences of William the Conqueror’s rampage lasted for well over 15 years, with the entire vale of York laid waste. I promised some passges from one of the Chroniclers, Roger of Hoveden. By and large, Roger is a dull chap, but the Harrying caught his imagination.

‘William…swore he would pierce the whole of northumbria with a single spear… (he) did not cease throughout the whole winter to ravage it, slay the inhabitants and commit many other acts of devastation.

… a famine prevailed to such a degree that…men ate human flesh and that of horses, dogs and cats; some persons went as far as to sell themselves into slavery… some departed from their native country into exile.

It was dreadful to see human corpses rotting in the houses, streets and high roads, and as they reeked with putrefaction, swarming with worms, and sending forth a horrid stench; for…there were not suifficient left to inter them.Between York and Durham there was not one inhabited town; the dens of wild beasts and robbers …were alone to be seen.

You get the picture. It was a difficult time.



Well, this is an emotional moment everyone. We need to move on, from the emotion of probably the biggest date in English history and the end of an era. And make no mistake, the changes that would flow from the regime change that followed Hastings will be deep, fundamental and permanent. Although equally the legacy of the Anglo Saxon will be with us for many centuries in hundreds and shires, they are with us still in terms of landscape, and of course culturally and in our national story, they will never die.

This then is the start of a new series in a sense, a second series of podcasts if Anglo Saxon England was series 1, and this new series will cover the Norman and Angevin empires. So think of this episode as 2.1,  in as sense, though it is episode 23 of course counting from the very start of the History of England.

Series 2 covers the period 1066 to 1215, in 37 episodes from 2.1 – or 23 to 2.37 or 59 on the old numbering.

For 150 years, England is just one component in and Anglo French Empire. Now it is the biggest territorially, and probably therefore also the richest, and it is a kingdom whereas the other French possessions are a series of lordships. And of course we are English, or looking at an English History, so it’s not surprising we might have an Anglo Centric view. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s how the new rulers of the English thought about it. They did not. The new aristocracy that arrived were colonial overlords, who despised their English peasantry, and whose initial focus was to extract money from their new possessions and deploy them back home in Normandy – the endowment of Norman monasteries with English lands was one sign of that.

The first group of 12 episodes, therefore 23 to 34, is largely about how the new Norman conquerors subdue and organise their new possession, and bring England into a new cultural mainstream, away from the Scandinavian world and into the French orbit. After we run out of William’s sons, we have a nasty succession crisis, the Anarchy between Matilda and the usurper Stephen of Blois, and just before Henry II starts the Angevin period, I take the chance to have 3 episodes looking at the wider society rather than the political goings on at the top.

The arrival of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine brings us to the Devil’s Brood, the famously fractious Angevins. Eleanor brings with her the riches of Poitou, and Henry the Angevin possessions, they dwarf the riches and power of the divided French monarchy. It is a period of great change; the aristocracy become Anglo French rather than just Norman, the basis of English Common law and a more modern state is laid, there are crusades and all of that. The period ends with another fundamental shift; John loses most of the French possessions, England at last once more becomes the core focus of the state, and Magna Carta marks a crucial shift in the relationship between the king and his lords. We are ready again then for a largely insular history and politics, and the plantagenets.

So I hope that gives you a brief overview of series two; I hope you enjoy it, and on with the action.

When I was a lad, the story after Hastings was that William had a rather easy ride after 1066, that England collapsed with surprising ease, Surely we should have expected a heroic struggle over decades with battle after battle before William was able to finally secure his new kingdom.

As we’ll see in this week’s episode, in fact he had to work harder than it might at first appear. But it’s also true to say that resistance to the new regime was weak and disjointed. One principal reason is that there’s a lack of credible leaders for the English to rally around. Edgar the Atheling, the man proclaimed but never crowned king, was only 15. All of the Godwinsson brothers had died at Hastings, and Harold’s sons had fled to Ireland or were captured. The Earls Edwin and Morcar might have provided some resistance, but they had no claim to the throne, and no one to unite behind.

We talked last week about some of the military advantages the Normans held, in cavalry and mobility. But it was the castle was now to be the most significant. The use of castles is so closely associated with the Normans that the chroniclers often actually use the term ‘castlemen’ when talking about them.

We tend to think about castles as defensive structures; and historians have tended to emphasise their importance as administrative centres more recently, in a more nuanced interpretation of their role. But make no mistake. These castles at this time were instruments of oppression. And in this context they were very much used as the basis for offense as well. Castles allowed the development of a strongpoint in hostile country, and over the crucial period of the Norman settlement they made the crucial difference between success and failure.

This Norman conquest was not a massive folk movement like the 6th century or 9th century. The wonder is that a relatively small number of people managed to dominate the much more populous English. The number of invaders are in the low tens of thousands, maybe 1% of the population., so their success is extraordinary. And the castle played a central role in this. In William’s reign alone, the Normans may have built over 200 castles, and of these over 90 were converted to stone and can still be seen. By 1100 there are over 3,000 castles in England. These castles made a massive difference for the Normans, and a time when there was almost no effective technology to overcome them.

I guess another reason I’d advance for the disjointed resistance was the tradition of kingship and the public relationship between the AS people and their king. Though alien, William may well have been seen as perfectly legitimate; AS kings could well be chosen as other than the eldest son, and from other branches of the royal family. We tend, I think, to view history through a lens that is deeply coloured by nationalism, and forget that nationalism is a largely 19th century concept, and even a basic sense of English patriotism would have been diluted by a greater sense of loyalty to local lord, village and region. To many English Thegns and Ceorls, there was simply a new master in town. We should not downplay the cataclysmic impact of the conquest, and the pain reflected by the English chroniclers. But initially at least there was a chance that by some William could have been accepted as nothing more than a kink in the royal line; Wigod was the Thegn of Wallingford, for example who had seen the way his bread was buttered, and let William cross the river Thames there on his way to London. He was simply looking for personal advantage

To add to that, once William was invested as king the basic inclination of the lay and ecclesiastical nobility was towards loyalty, order and obedience. People like Edwin and Morcar very probably also thought that this was where their best personal interests lay – there are some indications that Morcar’s eventual revolt came once he realised that William was not going to allow him to marry into his family. The experience of Cnut has been of an invader very willing to allow the existing nobility to share in the rule of the new kingdom, and create a new state that was not dominated by the new nobility, but shared by the old and the new.

This doesn’t happen in England, but it wasn’t clear that would be the case for quite a while. But in the end, the old English nobility is replaced to the most remarkable degree. By the end of William’s reign, all the major positions are held by Normans – there are no English Earls, the major landowners are overwhelmingly Norman. It’s a topic we’ll come back to but it wasn’t obvious to the English that would be the case in 1066, and actually it’s not clear that this was William’s original intention either. There is no doubt that William was driven by his need to reward his followers, and his desire to wring as much money as possible from England to feed his avarice. But within those parameters, the signs are that he intended to reach an accommodation and balance between his Norman and English lords.

This doesn’t happen because in fact the leading English earls find it impossible to serve their new master, and in his turn William was to find them deeply untrustworthy. And to return to that general feeling that England was conquered rather easily, in fact the history of the first 10 years of William’s reign is one of continual revolt and fire fighting. But This resistance was not co-ordinated, and was never able to really get off the ground. The leaders of the revolts were mainly concerned with their own self interest, without any wider ambitions or patriotism. But we should have no illusions about the fact that William would never have felt entirely secure in England, and would have felt severely threatened at many times.

So let’s go back to the new and shiny Westminster, where we left William standing, for one very rare time in his life, pale and trembling as his soldiers fire London, mistakenly afraid that the natives had risen in revolt. As I say, his first approach was to work with the local leaders. He was very clearly distrustful of the secular leaders, like the Earls Morcar and Edwin, sothey kept their lands, but their position as Earls was largely honorary, he demanded hostages of them, and he kept them physically close by on the keep your friends close and your enemies closer principle.

But he did seem perfectly willing to rely on the Old English ecclesiastical leaders. Stigand remained Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the fact that he was clearly in breach of the rules by holding multiple offices, and would have been strongly disapproved of by the Norman church. Ealdred, the Archbishop of York who had already played the peacemaker, was made a viceroy of Northumbria; Athelwig, the Abbot of Evesham and Wulfstan Bishop of Winchester were given similar positions in Mercia. The situation in the far north was more uncertain. William appointed a man called Copsi, a supporter of Tostig, to be earl in Bamburgh, but he was quickly despatched by Oswulf, the descendant of Uhtred of Bamburgh, who you will remember from previous episodes. But sometime during 1067, we then find a man called Gospatric as earl in Bamburgh. Gospatric seems to be from Scotland, and to have earned his position by the clever and innovatory mechanism of offering William lots of cash. He knew his man well.

And William seems to have felt reasonably relaxed about his position at this point. A the start of 1067 he made sure he had things set up to his liking – he ordered a castle to be built, on the site of the current White Tower of London, he made his half brother Odo the Earl of Kent, and basically unofficially put him in charge – and then set off back for home, for Normandy before Easter 1067.

This was William’s idea of having a good time. He went on a procession through Normandy, with the conquered English leaders Stigand, Edwin, Morcar and Edgar the Atheling in tow. Before he went, he had made sure that his line of return was secure, building castles at Dover and Pevensey. William didn’t return to England until the end of the year, and it’s a pattern that is repeated for the rest of his life. Normandy was his home, and his main priority – England was a sideshow, a milch cow to be…well…milched.

Back in England, his confidence does seem to have been well placed. There are two hotspots. The first was caused by an AS Thegn called Eadric the Wild. Eadric’s motivation for rebellion, like so many, was to be the removal of some of his lands in Herefordshire by a Norman called Richard FitzScrob. What a great name/ Scrob! Come here Scrob! That’s my Dad sir… anyway,Eadric wasn’t having it, and he and some of his Welsh mates attacked Hereford castle. They had no luck taking the castle, and so retreated into Wales, and spent the next 2 years causing the Normans trouble, without causing them any serious existential problems, if you see what I mean.

In the South West, Harold’s Mother Gytha Thorkelsdóttir refused to give up the City of Exeter. Late in the year, William arrived back in England, and must have been pretty pleased at the way things were going – I’d like to bet that he’d expected something a bit more dramatic. So he was disposed to be reasonably diplomatic – I mean reasonably on William’s terms which has its very own scale and measurement system. So he did his normal trick of having some poor citizen mutilated in full sight of the walls, all fairly standard, but when that didn’t have the desired effect he negotiated. Gytha duly sailed away into exile in Flanders, and Exeter had to submit, but with no punitive conditions. William promptly had a castle built, and was able to relax. In April 1068, he felt happy enough to bring his wife Matilda over to join him, and in May she was crowned as his queen in England. Everything looked good.

In the background of course, the real revolution was going on, as steadily the lands held by English Thegns were taken over by Norman invaders. It’s difficult to know exactly how fast this happens, and precisely what the process was, but because of the Domesday survey we have an extremely good idea of the end result. By 1086 the vast majority of English Thegns had been dispossessed of their lands. The numbers are truly staggering – by 1086, 190 lay Norman nobles held 54% of English land. It is difficult to know exactly how far this went down the social scale; the English gave themselves Norman names pretty quickly, and many Thegns would have become knights, even if that meant moving down the social scale and now having to give homage for land they had previously held as of right. But in terms of land ownership, English names are almost entirely absent from Domesday. There are only two thegns we are sure continue to hold land directly from the Kingas tenants in Chief – Coleswein of Lincoln and Thurkil of Arden. The rest was split between Norman Barons, the Church, and land that Willam held in his own hands as the Kings demesne.

The way William did this was to create a number of mega–rich barons, the kind of people who would have appeared in the Sunday Times rich list. There were about 150 Baronies of this kind. The biggest winners, like his half brother Robert Count of Mortain, ended up with a barony with 800 manors. Others of his known companions at Hastings like Hugh de Grandmesnil were handsomely rewarded with over 100 manors, right down to relatively modest estates such as Gilbert de Bretteville with 19 manors. In general, these men were simply given the landholdings of existing AS Thegns; this meant that the holdings were widely spread throughout the country, though there are exceptions we’ll come to, like the lords of the marches.

Initially, William probably simply took over the land of the thegns who had died at Hastings, and you can bet there was plenty to go round. Then as more of the remaining major AS earls fell foul of him, more lands were added to the pot. But even with this first bunch, picture the scene repeated all over the country, of a group of mailed Norman soldiers appearing in the village, chucking the old thegn’s family into the street, building a castle and general setting up camp. I’d imagine that as this spreads the dissatisfaction among lords grew. This was colonisation red in tooth and claw. One of the better chroniclers of the age was a chap called Oderic Vitalis, writing in the 12th century and born of a Norman father and English mother. He says:

‘foreigners grew wealthy with the spoils of England while her own sons were either shamefully slain or driven as exiles to wander hopelessly through foreign kingdoms.’

Then there’s the matter of how land was held. This was a fantastic opportunity for William to start from scratch and design his new state the way he wanted it. What he does is to make sure that it is absolutely clear that all lands and all rights come from the King. Nobody has any land held because it belongs to them – they are simply getting the use of the land in return for a set of military services.

This is a fundamental change in the structure of society, and it is difficult to underplay  its importance. In AS England, many thegns and indeed many ceorls held their land as of their own right. The service owed the state came from that land as a matter of public service, not because they held land from the king. All of those people had therefore immediately been robbed of land and status – they were now landholders not landowners. Some would make deals to regain their land, and if so they regained it on lesser terms, and held it on a feudal basis – a relationship with the lord on terms that involved personal homage and land tenure; whereas before the relationship with a lord had been based on terms that were purely personal.

So I think it’s important to remember all this background strife bubbling away as we go through the constant rebellion and dissatisfaction of the next few years. Added to that was the personal disappointments of the individuals involved, as they discover that their new King is not going to give them the influence they once had, and that his Norman mates are the ones who really count – no pun intended. And one more thing before I get on with it; the Norman lords themselves also had to adjust. Now in the main they do just fine, given that many of them are now rich beyond their wildest dreams. But life is not like it was back home. William was very careful to hold on to the central powers of the AS Monarchy which had been allowed to slip in Ducal Normandy. For example, he held on hard to the office of Sherrif, with the right to administer justice anywhere, including the Barons’ lands, and making sure the office did not become hereditary. This gets up a few noses. He also imposed a much higher level of military service for land than they were used to in Normandy. Though I don’t think any of them were on the breadline, so obviously don’t waste any sympathy on the poor lambs.

Ok, so in 1068 things begin to get a little hotter. Edwin and Morcar have had enough of being dragged around like lions in a menagerie and raised their standard in revolt. Edgar the Atheling does the same, and Gospatric Earl of Northumbria joins in. The rebels were clearly getting some support from Malcolm, the king of Scotland, who was married to Edgar the Atheling’s sister Margaret, later to become canonised as St Margaret.

Co-incidentally the sons of Harold Godwinsson launch a raid from Ireland to the South West at the same time.

This all sounds serious, but you get the impression that William hardly broke sweat. He moved fast, and struck north with an army, cutting Edwin and Morcar in Mercia off from the north. They quickly apologised to William, and he forgave them. As he marched north he established castles at places like Warwick and Nottingham, and by the time he reached York the revolt had disappeared into nothing. Edgar and Gospatric fled to Malcolm in Scotland. William had bared his teeth. And they’d legged it in horror. But they’d be back for another go in 1069.

William realised that his authority was not yet firmly stamped on Mercia and Northumbria, and he now appointed his own man to be earl, Robert of Comines. Robert gathered a substantial force of 700 household troops, which you’d have thought would be enough for most emergencies, and set off north in January for Durham. As he travelled, he was met by the Bishop of Durham, Aethelwin, who came with some friendly warnings. Look Robert, he might have said, just go easy here, things are still very edgy, you need to be diplomatic and win people round, and be aware of knives appearing in your back, beware of treachery.

After wondering what the word ‘diplomatic’ might have meant, Robert sent his men in with their hobnailed boots with as much sensitivity as a bull in a china shop. They generally set about alienating the locals, to the point of murdering a few of them for good measure. All of which proved that Aethelwin’s warnings had been justified – the Northumbrians in Durham exploded into violence, and set about murdering Robert’s men. Despite Aethelwin’s warnings, Robert was taken completely by surprise secure in the confidence that Norman soldiers would be able to deal with whatever the despised AS’s could throw at them – and they paid the price, as Roger of Hoveden record,

‘So great was the multitude of the slain that nearly every spot in the city was filled with blood’.

Only 1 Frenchman escaped. Robert himself took refuge in the Bishop’s house. The rebels couldn’t storm the place so they simply torched it, and Robert and his men were burned alive.

By this stage Aethelwin, disgusted by Robert’s stupidity and arrogance, had switched sides, sent messages to Gospatric and Edgar in Scotland, and closed Durham against the king.

William had other things in his intray and couldn’t react straight away. The sons of Harold again raided the south west from Ireland, but were eventually driven off, and had done nothing to increase their popularity with the locals – with the damage they inflicted, they’d made themselves the enemy.

Edgar, Gospatric and his allies knew that their best chance for independence lay in the north. It was reassuringly distant form Normandy, and well within reach of their principal ally, Malcolm in Scotland. It had a history of autonomy within the English kingdom, dominated by powerful earls. And the Scandinavian tradition there opened up further possibilities.

In 1069, though, they realised that they needed to do considerably better than the previous year, and they had 3 further groups they needed to bring with them. The first was Waltheof, the youngest son of Earl Siward of Northumbria. He had been made an earl of land around Huntingdon and Northamptonshire in 1065. William had treated him generously, allowing him to keep his lands and status. But bringing Waltheof to their side would give the rebels the credentials they needed to bring the Northumbrians over too, and for whatever reason they were able to talk the 19 year old Waltheof into joining them.

The second group were the Scandinavians. Because despite my grand assertions that we came to the end of the Viking age in 1066 with the death of Harold Hadrada, the Danes seemed to lack that kind of 20/20 hindsight. So they continued to think that they could roll back time and re-live the days of Canute the Great. Svein Esthrithson now felt secure on the throne of Denmark, and ready to challenge, and it’s not until we get to the death of his son, Cnut II, that English kings can turn their back on the Danes. Svein therefore assembled a massive fleet of 240 ships, maybe 10,000 men, and sent his brother, Osbern, and his sons Harold and Cnut.

The third group were the Earls Edwin and Morcar – but this time, perhaps fatally, the Earls refused to take part.

The plan, simple enough, was to take York and proclaim Edgar king. We never get the chance to find out whether that was the extent of their ambitions, but I think we suspect not, and that London would have been next.

Things kicked off in September, when the Danish fleet followed the traditional route to the north, appearing off the South East coast, and raiding Dover, Ipswich, and Norwich as they went. But the results were disappointing by comparison with the past, as the raiders met the walls of the Norman castles. But by September 8th they appeared in the mouth of the River Humber, where they were joined by the rebel leaders Edgar, Gospatric and Waltheof.

So now William faced a threat of considerably larger scale than before. As always with northern revolts, the focus was York, and the Danes and rebels attacked the castle there. The Normans were led by William Malet, one of the men who had fought with William at Hastings and a major landowner. They fought with determination, firing all the houses around the castle to make sure that the Danes could not use the materials to fill up the ditch surrounding it. But the rebels stormed the city on 21st September and the Normans were overwhelmed. Many were killed, and only William Malet and his daughter allowed to go free.

With England in flames, Eadric the Wild realised that William had trouble on his hands and took full advantage, attacking Shrewsbury with the help of his Welsh allies and rebels from Chester.

So, William gathered his army and marched north. Florence of Worcester describes his mood by saying he has a ‘heavy heart’, Roger of Hoveden as ‘extreme irritation’ – which is lovely understatement given what’s coming. Because William had now clearly decided that is was no more Mr Nice guy, that extreme irritation was one thing, but extreme brutality was now going to be the flavour of his response.

He started with York, and his name alone made the Danes withdraw to the other side of the Humber. William detached a force to watch them, and then descended with lightening speed on Shropshire, defeated Eadric and forced him and his allies to scuttle back to Wales. While he was away, the rebels had once again occupied York, but William had no desire to see his men die against its walls. So instead he began what would become known as the Harrying of the North, and which would be the one thing that seems to have troubled his conscience for the rest of his life. William started to destroy every thing and everyone that could bring help and food to his enemies.

By devastating the area around York, William deprived the rebels of any food and supplies, and forced them to leave the city.

Meanwhile he sent messages to Osbern the Dane and offered him a deal – lots of money to leave. Osbern leaped at the chance. He’d already demonstrated a complete lack of desire to fight the Normans anyway, there was no food, and the rebels were probably whining – so, good time to leave. Back in Denmark, Svein was furious, outlawed Osbern and set sail to join and lead the fleet himself. But it was way too late for the Northumbrian rebels. They’d been chopped off at the knees, and they ran before William’s fury.

William celebrated Christmas in York with studied and calculated pomp and largesse. He wore the crown and regalia which he had brought up specially from London. All around him, the people of York and the surrounding countryside were starving, and his message was to them and any future rebels was don’t take me on because if you do, the result will be your destruction and death on a monumental scale.

After Christmas, he just kept going north, killing, destroying, burning, ravaging as he went – destroying crops, killing livestock, burning villages. The Harrying of the North outraged and horrified even William’s most ardent supporters in a hard age. No one seems to have a problem with the odd mutilation or blinding here or there – but this was different. The most staid of chroniclers breaks into flowing prose, to condemn his brutality. I’ve put some of the longer quotes from Roger of Hoveden on the website, but here’s the odd snippet. Roger has described the devastation, and now goes on to describe the impact:

‘ a famine prevailed to such a degree that compelled by hunger men ate human flesh, and that of horses, dogs and cats and whatever was repulsive.‘

And again:

‘it was dreadful to behold human corpses rotting in the houses, streets and high roads for there were not enough left to bury them’.

Oderic Vitalis is another chronicler, generally very well disposed to William, though well balanced. He wrote:

‘ The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty.

‘ To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of hunger.

I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.’

Oderic also recorded that even William himself came to realise the depth of his crime. He records William’s words on his deathbed:

‘ I attacked the English of the Northern Shires like a lion. I ordered their houses and corn, with all their belongings, to be burnt without exception and large herds of cattle and beasts of burden to be destroyed wherever they were found. It was there I took revenge on masses of people by subjecting them to a cruel famine; and by doing so — alas!— I became the murderer of many thousands of that fine race’

In point of fact, the harrying, though worse in the North, was also carried out in 1070 through large swathes of Mercia as well. And the evidence of the depth of the destruction is clear in the Domesday book. Vast areas remained uncultivated and de-populated even 15 years later, many recorded simply as waste; the value of the estates plummeted because there was no one left in many of them. William had made his point. And hate it or loathe it, it worked pretty well.

Edgar fled back to his brother in law in Scotland. Waltheof and Gospatric submitted to William, and hang me if they don’t get a kiss on both cheeks, a chuck under the chin and are told not to worry. Both are restored to their earldoms. Waltheof is even promised marriage to William’s niece, Judith. Presumably, in the midst of this chaos and slaughter, William felt he still needed their local knowledge and influence, and was prepared to give it one more try. He would not be giving them another one.

Meanwhile, remember the Bishop Aelthwin in Durham? Well, he ran around like a headless chicken for a while, disinterring the body of St Cuthbert and running for it with the bones of the saint, then coming back to Durham . . . but in the end he died alone of starvation in a Norman prison.

William may have regretted the Harrying on his deathbed, but in 1070 he showed every sign of deep satisfaction of a job well done. He paraded his army in May at Salisbury, and paid off most of his mercenaries – which shows either a certain coolness, or maybe he knew that after 4 years of occupation he could now rely on his feudal levies being forthcoming. He was confident that resistance was crushed. He was wrong as it happens. But not very wrong. None of the rebellions that followed would threaten as much, and he would be perfectly able to cope.

After 1070, William began to focus on setting his kingdom up in the way he wanted it, with the people he trusted. And those people did not include the English. Next time we will hear how the remaining English earls gather their strength and plan to recover the influence and power they had lost, while in the East a folk hero appears in the Fens.

Which is all something to look forward to of course. Until then, thank you for listening, good luck, and have a great week.

19 thoughts on “2.1 – 23 Subjugation of the English

  1. Hi, really enjoying this series thanks.
    Your recent podcast answering questions spurred me to ask one too. Hopefully this is the right place for it to be seen!
    I have stolen this question from one asked on the History of Rome podcast about Roman awareness of Han China. My slightly modified question is how aware of the rest of the world was Anglo Saxon England (apart from the Viking invasions!)?
    I was wondering as in Roman England there must have been a fair few people aware of and even from (or travelled to) distant places such as Byzantium, North Africa etc. However by the time of the start of your series all the little kingdoms that become England seem to live in a much smaller world and their knowledge greatly reduced from that of earlier centuries?
    PS. Please don’t stop at 1901!

  2. Hi Thomas. Really interesting question, and thanks for the compliment! Um, I will do my best just now, but also will do some research – I’d like to know more myself!
    1. It’s difficult to know for the early years – the records are so bad
    2. Christianity makes a big difference, and puts them in contact with Rome. Ine of Wessex, for example, resigns as King in 725 and goes to die in Rome – and actually quite a few do the same thing.
    3. Actually they are probably quite connected with the immediate continent; Offa in the 8th C mixes it with Charlemagne. Alfred has various relations married to the Count of Flanders and the Holy Roman Emperor.
    4. Further afield, later on they know of Byzantium – the Varangian guard of course is English and well as Viking (I think). And Edward the Exile in the 11th Century of course is in Exile in Hungary.
    But I suspect that AS England was pretty remote and only dimly aware of the outside world in the earlier centuries; and that the Normans drag them into the European light in quite a dramatic way. I#ll do some research though and podcast it !

  3. Great podcast, good fun to listen to while working in the garden (see its not just useful when ironing). Thank you for your work, I do find your approach very charming.
    Just a question. Are you aware on Lars Brownworth’s excellent podcast series on the Normans – Norman Centuries? I’ve been listening to both your series which intersect with your podcast series well. Your views on 1066 do reflect the different angles you both came from.

  4. Hi Jonathan. I am charmed to be thought charming ! My mother always said I had a nice smile . . .
    Um, yes, I am aware of Lars. In fact I suspect that Lars may be the father of it all, all this ‘History of . . .’ podcasting. I think that Mike Duncan’s History of Rome’ was inspired by Lars; I (and I am sure others) were inspired by Mike. But it’s interesting that you say there’s a different view. I listened to the podcasts ages ago, and haven’t gone back to them since I did my episode. I seem to remember thinking he was a bit kind to Robert the Magnificant, who in my (dour, Protestant) view was a bit of an idiot.
    Anyway, thanks for gettin gin touch, and long may you enjoy it while you garden. Maybe we should start a gardening blog to boot . . when I am not podcasting I’m on the allotment. Dear oh dear.

  5. I am also doing my ironing on a Sunday afternoon while listening to the podcast! I didn’t know it was such a popular combination…

  6. *sigh*
    I’m catching up. I found this podcast after you little post on THOR about the various “History Of” podcasts. Up to this one now.
    It was a bit tough at the start. A jumble of names and places and tricky to keep track of, but your maps and so forth really help. Maybe it would be smoother going if I actually lived in Angleterre.
    But I like it. I’ve stuck around for 23 episodes, and it’s getting into more familiar territory now. Interesting to get the feel of just how un-united England was leading up to 1066.

  7. I was delighted to here that someone else is listening to this podcast whilst ironing. I’m glad to be a part of the History of England Ironing Society.

  8. Hello Celia…obviously if I was in business I would be madly researching this, but I suspect the Ironing marketing is third in importance only after commuters and cyclists. Maybe I should include a few ironing shanties? Do you shanty while you iron?

  9. This is finally my opportunity to comment on your wonderful podcast. I would not want to be tested on my knowledge of early English history (even though you do the best job I’ve ever heard and seen of anyone to make it more approachable!)but I feel that now I’m in more comfortable territory, just like the non-English reader above. I’ve been listening to your podcasts in concentrated bursts and it is always while I am sewing. Today I happen to be ironing fabric for a Halloween costume and I just hit play…and started laughing. Thank you so much for all your hard work and research. I have been recommending it to every nerdy friend I have, so your gospel is being spread far and wide.

  10. I have just discovered this podcast series and am LOVING IT! I know I’m pretty late on the scene, but living abroad I was losing touch with a love of history. However, I don’t listen while ironing or sewing but when I wake up in the middle of the night, so every day I have an episode or two to send me off blissfully to sleep again – if I fall asleep before the end I just re-play them the next day. Stunning.
    Regarding chaps who came over with William, my sister assures me that we’re directly descended from William de Braose I, 1049-1093, who fought at Battle of Hastings. He was 1st Lord of Bramber, Sussex, and through him to William de Braose IV, 1150-1211. whose wife Maud de Valery was imprisoned by King John at Corfe Castle and was starved to death.
    Their great great grandaughter, Joan de Braose married Sir John Penrys, their daughter Isabella married Sir Hugh Mansel, 1340-1376 and their great grandson was Sir Philip Mansel, beheaded after the Battle of Tewkesbury. My mother was a Mansel. There’s also a family tradition that a Clavell, (also until recently in the family tree), was William’s cup-bearer. It’s all history of one sort or another!
    Please don’t stop at 1901. Nobody has ever done justice to Slim and the 14th Army. I wonder if he’d been in the European theatre if the war there would have been a year shorter – but we’d have probably lost India …
    Anyway, thanks for being such an entertaining bedtime companion – and if you ever need a holiday try my place in Portugal. You’ll find it on Google by searching for “Paradise in Portugal” – it’s all in the name!

  11. Hi Frank, and welcome – better late than never!
    I would be very excited if I was descended from the Braose family – one of the big lords on the Welsh Marches, and well as Sussex. They had a colourful history – especially a few forced marriages and executions after a run in with Llewellyn Prince of Wales…

  12. Hello there, coming through the podcasts for the first time in 2019 and wanted to ask if you’ve had a chance to read Marc Morris’ “The Norman Conquest”? It’s somewhat revisionist but well-sourced enough to be compelling. As I understood it, the author argues that William was in many ways less violent during his conquest than Cnut was (the number of executions for example) and the number of revolts that followed this leniency ended up inflicting much higher casualties on the English nobility than the swift and sudden mopping up that Cnut did.

    1. I guess that might be true; it’s an interesting way to put it though I have not read the book. There’s an almost unavoidable tendency to squish the period between 1066 and Domesday book, and assume therefore that since Domesday shows such a complete removing and the Anglo Saxon landowning class that this is reflected from the start; and yet William did leave the Midland earls and Waltheof in power. However, it’s the level down which would be the most important to consider – the tenants in chief, rather than the very few political elite. What does Morris have to say there?

    1. It;s true, slightly odd I didn’t really cover him. It would have been good to separate myth from fact. I might come back to it

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