Norman Conquest

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Norman Conquest 1066
King Edward had taken a vow of chastity, so upon his death in 1066 there was lack of a clear heir to the throne. There were 3 contenders: * William of Normandy – nephew of Edward, claimed that Edward promised him the throne and that Harold II of had sworn agreement to this. * Harold II – riches and powerful of the English aristocracy. * Harald III of Norway – based on previous agreement between Magnus of Norway and the earlier Danish King, where if either died without a heir to their throne, the other would inherit England and Norway. Harold II was immediately elected as King by the pro-Saxon Witan as they feared there could be invasions from abroad. Harald III of Norway invaded Harold II in the Battle of Stamford Bridge(28th September 1066). Harold II won but lost many in battle. Just days later, William of Normandy invaded Harold II in the Battle of Hastings (14th October 1066). Here Harold II died in battle with an arrow through his eye, leaving the throne to William of Normandy. William became King in 1066 and the Norman Conquest left the Saxons conquered by the Normans.

* Prior to the conquest, all law was written and spoken in English, whilst after the conquest law was to be written in Latin and occasionally French. Slowly English returned to the courts, but many French and Latin terms were adopted. Hence why today, the English language is closer to French/Latin that Old English. * Stronger central government – courts of the King began to take many of the functions that were traditionally used by the hundred moots and shire moots. Legal recordings were taken much more seriously with legal practices being written down and recorded in the Doomsday book. * Feudalism/land ownership – King became the ultimate ruler of all land in England (Crown owned all land). Anyone who owned land, owed their allegiance to the King and if you weren’t loyal to the King, he could take away your land. If you owned land, you really just owned a title to that land which the King lends you. Today Crown still owns all land. * Trial by Battle was introduced – women, King, elderly, could choose a warrior to fight for them. If the warrior was still standing when the stars came out it was seen as not guilty. It rested on the assumption that a divine power would intervene and whoevers case was just would triumph. Over time, people became skeptical and it was abolished.

Norman conquest is seen as the traditional starting point of English Common Law. It ensured that both common law and civil law systems remained. NZ uses this common law system that William retained from Harold. Today in NZ we still buy land in ‘fee simple’ to the Crown. Our legal system still contains some the Latin and French words that were adopted after the Norman Conquest.

Magna Carta 1215
King John was not a popular king as he treated his people very poorly, he was seen as a tyrant. He also caused serious arguments amongst Pope Innocent III and the English Barons. Pope Innocent III wanted Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury but John wanted John De Grey. As John would not accept Langton, the Pope placed England under interdict (suspends all religious life) and declares John’s kingdom forfeit and encourages King Phillip of France to invade. John eventually accepts Langton and surrenders the kingdom back to the Pope and receives it back as a fiefdom. King John is now under the Pope in hierarchy. King John was also unsuccessful in battle, having lost land back to France. This meant less money flowing into England, so John started taxing people of England. It had always been customary that the King consult with the Barons before raising taxes. The Barons agreed to make war on King John if he didn’t sign a charter affirming the rights of the Barons. After attempting to break up the Barons from bribery, John eventually signs. The Magna Carta included promises to protect freedom and rights of the church and to consult with...
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