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Northern and Western Europe: the British Isles; Denmark, Sweden, Norway; France; Spain; the Byzantine Empire.

Medieval history. From end of western empire to the discovery of America (a.d. 476-1492). The Crusade Period (a.d. 1096-1270).
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When the conquest of England had been completed in the severe suppression of risings in various quarters, William I. (1066-1087) showed his wisdom in the measures which he took to consolidate his position as sovereign. The land was given to his chief Norman followers on feudal tenure, but in the form of manors scattered in many distant parts of the country, so that no baron should have the power of raising at once a large force of vassals for action against the Crown. In 1086 he made the feudality which was now firmly established in England more favourable to the king or supreme lord, by requiring all landholders, great and small, to take an oath of allegiance direct to the sovereign, thus binding them to serve him in war against their own lord, or fellow-baron, in case he were a rebel. Strong fortresses of stone were built in London (the Tower), at Rochester, Windsor, Canterbury, Norwich, Hastings, and many other places, and occupied by royal garrisons. The great statistical survey of the kingdom, the results of which were embodied in Domesday Book, still to be seen in the Public Record Office, Fetter Lane, in London, afforded a basis for taxation in its details concerning the nature of the tillage, the pastures, the mines, mills, fisheries, woods, live-stock, value, and service due from owner, in the case of each property, and, in furnishing the number of people on each holding, it was a muster-roll of the feudal force. The four large earldoms were abolished, and the shire became the chief political division, with its principal executive officer in the shire-reeve (sheriff), nominated by the sovereign. The lower local courts of justice were made subordinate to the king's court. The Church was reformed and reorganised under the new Norman archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, William's ablest minister and adviser, while Normans replaced Englishmen in the sees and abbacies. We must specially note the independent attitude assumed by the great Norman ruler towards the Papacy. He positively refused any homage to the Pope, declaring it to be a thing unknown in England. He kept in his own hands the appointment to bishoprics, and ordained that no Papal letter, brief, or bull should be received in this country, no Papal synod or council held, and no bishop appeal to the Papal court in Rome, without the sanction of the sovereign of England. It was in the establishment of this ereat centralised, almost absolute royal authority, and its maintenance by strong-willed kings for several generations, with little interruption, that the Norman Conquest was of vital and lasting benefit to England. The elements of society were hammered into a united realm The conquered people sank to a low position-the old English landowners into small feudal tenants, the former English yeomen into serfs, and their places were taken by Normans from beyond the Channel. There was also a considerable influx of Norman traders and craftsmen, and, within a century after the Conquest, it is estimated that one-eighth of a whole population of about 2,000,000 consisted of Normans. The absorption of these people, in the course of two centuries after the battle of Hastings, in the conquered race, made the true modern English people, benefited intellectually and morally by the admixture of a new element, and possessed of a new and superior civilisation mainly provided by a wealthy, learned, and zealous body of Churchmen, who furnished the builders of stately cathedrals, the chief ministers of state, the scholars, the improvers of tillage, the almost sole possessors and communicators of culture in every form.

Of William II. (Rufus) (1087-1100), an able, energetic soldier, and a rapacious tyrant in his rule, we need record nothing save his quarrel with Anselm, the excellent archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the question of investitures, already seen in German history, and other matters. Anselm, for his own safety, left the country in 1097 and did not return until the accession of the "Red King's" younger brother Henry I. (1100-1135). This able, firm, energetic, selfish, and crafty ruler promptly took possession of royal power on the sudden death of his brother in the New Forest, without regard to any supposed right of his elder brother Robert, duke of Normandy, whom we have seen in the First Crusade. The primogeniture principle was not yet, however, fully established, and Henry, accepted by some of the barons and by his English subjects, secured himself by issuing a Charter, in which the "Law of Edward the Confessor" was restored, and the abuses and exactions of Rufus were set aside. He greatly pleased the English by marrying a lady of their old royal line - Edith, daughter of Malcolm and Margaret of Scotland. Her name was changed to Matilda or Maud, to please the king's courtiers, speaking Norman-French. The attempt of Robert to obtain the crown in 1101 ended in a compromise without a battle. In 1106 Henry invaded Normandy and defeated his brother at Tinchebrai, keeping him in captivity for the rest of his life (until 1134) at Cardiff Castle in Wales, and annexing the Duchy to England. A quarrel with Anselm, who had resumed his duties, ended in a compromise by which the election of bishops and abbots was respectively left to the cathedral-chapters and to the monks, and the prelates and abbots, doing homage to the king in respect of their feudal lands, were to receive investiture with the ring and crosier, the signs of ecclesiastical authority, from the Pope. Before the king's death in 1135, Maine, in France, was added to the' territories of the Crown.

The reign of Stephen (1135-1154) was that of a usurper who, through the help of some of the greater barons and the citizens of London, set aside the rights of Henry's daughter Matilda (Maud) and her young son Henry, by her marriage with Geoffrey Plan-tagenet of Anjou. Her claim had been again and again recognised, on oath, by the barons of England and Normandy, including Stephen himself, who was Henry I.'s nephew. The new king was a brave, unprincipled, generous fellow, of delightful manners, never cruel to beaten foes. The events of his reign consist chiefly of those of a dreadful civil war between the king's adherents and the supporters of Maud's claim. In 1138 an invasion from Scotland was defeated at the "Battle of the Standard" near Northallerton in Yorkshire. The king and Matilda were taken prisoners in the course of a struggle which desolated the country, but he was exchanged, and she escaped. A renewal of warfare by her son Henry was brought to an end by the Treaty of Wallingford (1153), which left the crown to Stephen for his life, with remainder to Henry.

Stephen's death in the following year brought to the throne of England a really strong man in Henry II. (1154-1189), first of the Plantagenet kings. He was at once the ablest and most powerful monarch of his time, endowed with a body of wonderful activity and strength; with boundless energy, resolute will, political acumen, prompt and fluent speech. He was, at all points, such a man of business as is rarely seen, and one capable of an excellent choice and use of men to carry out his policy. The extent of territory under his control was remarkable - including the whole of England; Normandy and Maine, by inheritance from his mother; Anjou and Touraine, from his father; and all the rest of central and western, and much of southern France, through his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, divorced consort of Louis VII. of France. Ruling thus from the borders of Scotland to the Pyrenees, he was as much a French as an English sovereign, and the greater part of his time was passed beyond the Channel. The first claim of Henry II. to notice lies in his foundation of the judicial system of England. In the set of decrees or ordinances called the Assize of Clarendon, from the place in Wiltshire where they were issued in 1166, he established in each shire the body called "grand jury," and formed the nucleus of the "petty" or ordinary jury in appointing 12 men to discover the truth in judicial cases by inquiry into particulars. Ten years later, other decrees called the Assize of Northampton started the system of judges going on circuit to try civil and criminal causes in various districts of the kingdom at assizes or sittings. In establishing order after the dreadful tumults under Stephen, Henry sternly put down the banditti who roamed the country; he expelled the foreign mercenaries who had been brought over by each set of partisans in the civil war; and he pulled down hundreds of the castles of barons and petty nobles who had used these strongholds as bases for a system of local pillage. In order to lessen the power of the greater barons, the king established a feudal tax called scutage (shield-money) in place of personal service of vassals in the field. The feudal tenants of the Crown thus lost to some extent the practice of warfare, and the sovereign obtained money for the hire of troops who could not claim disbandment, as the feudal militia could, after 40 days of service.

In regard to the affairs of the Church, the reign of Henry II. was very important. One of William the Conqueror's very few mistakes in policy had been the establishment of new ecclesiastical courts for the trial of all causes affecting Churchmen, including civil offences. This institution was the source of great trouble to Henry when an able, ambitious man, Thomas Becket, thoroughly devoted to the Pope and the Church, became, in 1162, archbishop of Canterbury. He had previously, as Chancellor, been Henry's chief minister; he now became his steady opponent and a thorn in the flesh to his sovereign. Henry, in seeking to restore the rights of the Crown, caused the passing of the ordinances called the Constitutions of Clarendon, in 1164, at a Great Council, or Parliament of Barons and Prelates. The king thereby had greater control of the clergy, and any "criminous clerk," or ordained ecclesiastic guilty of a civil crime, could be tried in the King's Court, without appeal to the Papal Court at Rome, unless the royal assent to that course were received. Becket swore to support the Constitutions, but he then received from the Pope absolution from his promise, and Henry's wrath drove him, in 1164, to a six-years' exile. All men know his tragical fate in December, 1170, in Canterbury Cathedral, due to his arrogant behaviour after his return. When the king had appeased the Pope by proving his lack of guilty intention as to the murder, he had to face a league composed of his three eldest sons, and the kings of Scotland and France, aided by many French and English barons. Over all these enemies he triumphed in 1173 and 1174, the Scottish king being taken prisoner and induced to do homage to Henry as vassal for his country. His latest years were full of trouble, due to the rebellion of his son Richard, who joined Philip Augustus of France, and made successful war on his father. The defection of John, the youngest, best-loved son, broke the strong man's spirit, and brought him to his death in 1189.

The character and career of Richard I. (1189-1199) have been practically given in connection with the Third Crusade. His life as king was almost wholly passed out of England, and his subjects knew little of the brave feudal warrior who ruled them save through his lawless and enormous exactions to procure money for warfare. Affairs were managed at home by the "Justiciar," or chief minister in that age, William of Longchamps, bishop of Ely, and by the able Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury. The claim to homage from the Scottish kings was sold back to William the Lion, the sovereign defeated in Henry II.'s reign. During his warfare with Philip Augustus of France, Richard built, as a defence for his Norman frontier, the noblest fortress of feudal times, the famous Chateau Gaillard ("Saucy Castle") on the Seine, near Les Andelys. Richard, like Charles XII. of Sweden, met his death before "a petty fortress," the castle of Chaluz, near Limoges, held by a rebellious vassal, if not by " a dubious hand." His generous forgiveness of the archer who shot the arrow which caused his death through gangrene shows the best side of his character. He bequeathed the whole of his dominions to his brother John, and was buried at his father's feet in the abbey-church of Fontevrault, near Saumur.

In the reign of John (1199-1216) we have that of a sovereign who, wicked in all respects almost beyond rivalry in ancient, mediseval, or modern days - a man of whom a contemporary wrote, after the king's death, the terrible words "hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of John" - by his very wickedness and folly was the cause of inestimable benefit to the country which he ruled. He was a man of cunning policy, without real foresight, and of ability in war, but false, cruel, shameless, profligate, and tyrannical beyond measure. In 1204 Normandy was overrun, after capture of the great fortress Chateau Gaillard, by Philip Augustus of France, and Anjou, Maine, and Touraine were occupied by the same monarch, after sentence of deprivation passed on John for his probable murder of his nephew Arthur, duke of Brittany, accepted as feudal lord of those territories. The only French possessions ultimately left to the English king were the Channel Islands and a part of the province of Aquitaine, in the south-west, between the Garonne and the Pyrenees. The loss of Normandy and adjacent territories at this time had effects of great importance in our history. It was a long further step in consolidating the nation. The Norman nobles had to make their choice between being vassals, for Brench territory, of Philip Augustus, or English subjects, possessed only of lands in this country. Those who elected to remain in the island instead of on the continent soon came to regard the conquered English as their countrymen, and they had a common interest with them against both an oppressive king and the foreign favourites from Aquitaine and Poitou who filled the royal court. From the first John had disgusted the barons by his illegal exactions and other misconduct, and he was soon embroiled with Pope Innocent III., who compelled him, after long resistance, to receive, as archbishop of Canterbury, the learned and pious Cardinal Stephen Langton, an Englishman, elected by the Canterbury monks. The powers wielded by the Papacy are well illustrated in the "Interdict" which ultimately forced John to yield. In 1208 the realm, under the above ecclesiastical penalty, designed to awaken the national conscience to the nature of the sovereign's crime in resisting the Pope, was deprived of all the solemnities of public worship, but not, as has been supposed, of the bare forms of baptism, marriage, burial, confirmation, ordination, and the eucharist. If John had been a different kind of man and ruler, he might have defied the Pope to the last, but, devoid of friends alike among nobles and people, he was helpless in face of probable deposition. As it was, he held out for five years, until 1213, when he consented to receive Langton as archbishop, and did homage to Pandulf, the Papal legate, representing Innocent, as vassal to the Papacy, paying tribute or rent for the holding of his kingdom.

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Pictures for Northern and Western Europe: the British Isles; Denmark, Sweden, Norway; France; Spain; the Byzantine Empire.

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