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1.3.4 The Norman Invasion

The Normans were Viking and Slav settlers in France who had become the rul­ing elite, displacing the Gallic and Celtic tribes of France from power. A long series of disputes between the Normans and the English resulted in the invasion of England.

The defeat of King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 at the hands of William of Normandy, later styled William I of England and the subsequent Norman takeo­ver of Saxon, Celtic and Viking England led to a major turning-point in the history of the small, isolated, island state.

The tapestry kept at Bayeux in France recor­ds the invasion. A small section is shown right.

The Normans kept written records and record­ed all aspects of life in England. In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey of the entire population and their lands and property for tax purposes. This remains the most comprehensive survey of a country in medi­eval Europe.

The Normans also built in stone: in the 11th and 12th centuries, many hundreds of small churches were built across England and most not only still stand, but remain in use.

The Norman church left is in the village of Stoneleigh, near Coventry and is very typical of a church and churchyard in England.

The English Middle Ages were to be characterised by civil war, international war, occasional insurrection, and widespread political intrigue amongst the aristo­cratic and monarchic elite.

At the same time, a ruling elite was being formed in England that began in the 13th century to move England away from a feudal system ruled by an autocratic monarch to the beginnings of democracy. Simon de Montfort was instrumental in forming the first English Parliament in 1265, as commemorated on the British stamps above, showing the original parliamentary seal and the first House of Parlia­ment next to Westminster Abbey in London.

1.3.5 Norman and Other English Castles

The Normans, after the Conquest, began to build castles in stone, using the standard features of castle walls and other defensive features include towers as part of the walls, moats, battlements, drawbridges and a portcullis.

By their very nature they were very permanent structures and many survive through to the modern day; they are considered monuments and almost all the 200 surviving major castles are open to the public.

Generally, a Castle is a fortress, an enclosed camp or any logical development of a fortified enclosure. Castles have been crucial to many episodes of England's history.

The very earliest are prehistoric earthworks where wooden buildings were defended but no structural rem­ains survive of any such castle built before the 10th century.

There are many theories that Ca-dbury Castle right in Dorset was the Camelot of Arthurian legend, althou­gh the original site of Tintagel dates back to the same era.

As the size of local communities grew, it became necessary to provide both a larger and stronger fortification, which would provide for a very strong perimeter defence of castle walls together with lodgings (Keep) suitable for a King, Earl or Duke and lower grade housing within the walls to accommodate some of the key population of the local area.

In later years, castles became more stately homes than fortresses. Although many fortifications remained they increasingly became decorative rather than protective.

Warwick Castle. Legend has it that the first fortifications of significance at War­wick castle were erected by Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great in the year 914. These almost certainly replaced even older wooden fortifications, and were part of a network of fortifications built to protect the Kingdom of Mercia.

After the Norman conquest William the Conqueror appointed Henry de Ne-wburgh as Earl of Warwick, and he pro­ceeded to enlarge the site and created a Norman motte-and-bailey castle, work continuing for the next 180 years.

Warwick left is said to be the best pr­eserved castle in Britain.

The Tower of London is officially named Her Majesty's Palace and Fortress, The Tower of London, although the last ruler to reside in it as a palace was King James I (1566-1625).

In 1078, William the Conqueror ordered the White Tower to be built, as much to protect the Normans from the people of the City of London as to protect Lon­don from anyone else. Earlier forts there, including the Roman one, had primarily wooden buildings, but William ordered his tower to be of stone that he had spe­cially imported from France. It was King Richard the Lionheart who had the moat dug around the surrounding wall and filled with water from the Thames.

The White Tower, shown right, is actually in the middle of a complex of several buildings along

the River Thames in London, which have served as fortress, armoury, treasury, mint, palace, place of execution, public records office, observatory, refuge, and prison, particularly for "upper class" prisoners." Elizabeth I was imprisoned for a time in the Tower during her sister Mary's reign; the last known use of the Tower as a prison was dur­ing World War II, for Rudolf Hess.

Windsor Castle is, along with Buckingham Palace in nearby London, one of the principal official residences of the British monarch, who always stays there at Easter and during "Royal Ascot" week in June, the Ascot Racecourse being not far; as well as for various weekend retreats throughout the year. It is the largest occu­pied castle in the world, and among the oldest.

It was also originally built by Wil­liam the Conqueror to act as a line of defence for London and has since had many additions and improvements. King Edward III made its St. George's Chapel the home of the Order of the Garter in 1348. Today the inhabited wing of the castle mostly dates to within the last two centuries, much of it built under George IV.

Even when the Queen is in resi­dence, the castle left is one of England's major tourist attractions