Tag Archives: Doomsday Book

William the Bastard

William, the son of the Duke of Normandy (in France), a descendent of Norse invaders, decided to pursue his claim to the throne of England as the grand-nephew of King Alfred the Confessor’s mother. After a tumultuous childhood in which three of his guardians were murdered, William secured his dukedom and married into one of the most noble families of Europe. William showed a “magnificent appearance, possessing a fierce countenance” and stood about 5’10″. Pic shows William (center) in the center with his brothers, Bishop Odo (left) and Robert (right).

After he defeated King Harold Godwinson at Hastings, William was crowned king of England on Christmas Day, 1066 in Westminster Abbey. William rewarded his allies well and punished his enemies viciously. In the “The Doomsday Book,” a survey of land ownership taken in 1085, only two Anglo-Saxon barons that held lands before 1066 retained those lands twenty years later. About 4,000 nobles were displaced. The Norman landowners built primitive castles to defend their new territories. William built and improved numerous castles. Though extremely obese, William enjoyed excellent health until old age when he was impaled on the saddle of his horse in 1087 after a battle. The coffin was too small for his bloated corpse and when the attendants attempted to force it inside, the body burst. What a mess!!

Tomorrow, The Aftermath of Hastings      Rita Bay

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Slavery in the British Isles

Celtic slavery resembled that of ancient Greece and Rome. Slaves were acquired from war, raids, and penal and debt servitude. The word slave in Celtic languages was similar the Latin word for captive which may indicate the early origin of slaves. Slavery was hereditary, though manumission was possible. Manumissions were discouraged by law and the word cumal, meaning female slave, was used as a general unit of value in Ireland.

Slavery in Britain and Ireland dated from before Roman occupation. Parts of northern Britain and Scotland had large slave populations. Taken in war or raids the slaves were racially similar to their masters and were often integrated into the society. Some gained their freedom and became clients of their former masters as in Rome.

Anglo Saxons continued the system of slavery, often working with Norse traders who sold slaves to the Irish. They routinely exported slaves for trade. Dublin was a major slave trading center for centuries. St. Patrick was captured in England by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. St. Brigit was the daughter of a Chritian Pictish slave.

In the Doomsday Book of 1086 about 10% of the English population were slaves. Legal penalties and economic pressures that led to default in payments maintained the supply of slaves, and in the 11th century there was still a slave trade operating out of Bristol. Chattel slavery gradually disappeared after the Norman Conquest to be replaced by the villeins who were tied to the land. In England, however, beggars could be enslaved until the middle of the 16th century. Tomorrow, The Vikings. Rita Bay

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