Normans were and are inhabitants of Normandy, a picturesque western coastal part of France. They are of mixed descendence, much of their blood being of Scandinavian or Viking origin, the rest Frankish (or French). The Vikings occupied most of Normandy in very early medieval times.
The first known important ruler was Rollo, who secured the area from a king of France. We must remember that France as such was much smaller than it is today. Inheritance laws, being much the same as England’s, were inadequate, since younger sons were left without territory in the testament. The reaction was a hunger for more territory, especially a collection of islands directly to the north called Britain, itself divided into many separate (and usually warring) kingdoms. The man to do the job was an illegitimate Duke of Normandy called William. Continue reading →
“An Englishman’s home is his castle” as the old saying has it, and the phrase implies a multitude of meanings. Castles were defendable fortified buildings, increasingly strong as the dark ages moved noisily into the middle ages. They were invariably the homes of barons, those warlike ancestors of our modern aristocrats depended on by the King to help defend the realm and himself in time of civil or national wars. As wars were a constant menace castles were continually being built by the King and his nobles. Continue reading →
Before a Norman Duke successfully invaded England, there had been in the Danish or Viking Line six kings including the last two, Edward the Confessor (started building Westminster Abbey) and Harold II (very much a Viking, killed at the Battle of Hastings). Then it goes as follows:-
Norman Line: William the Conquerer 1066-87 – William II knownasRufus, murderedperhapsattheorderof Henry I followed by Stephen and then Henry II (first of the Plantagenet dynasty, who had four sons, three of whom were revolting for one reason or other – Richard Lionheart, John and Geoffrey who was never King. After these came Henry III (1216 – 72 fifty-six years in which he did not do much for anybody including himself but was father of Edward I who did a great deal and was one of England’s greatest kings whatever Mel Gibson says. He had a son who became Edward II who did unsuitable things with male favourites such as the Despensers, ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a Gascon knight called Piers Gaveston. All three favourites were bumped off by the Barons, as was poor Edward, murdered in Berkeley Castle at the orders of his wife and Mortimer. Then came Edward III 1327 – 77, another long reign and a great King, though he was indeed the son of Edward II. After him came twenty-two years of Richard II, who started well by extinguishing the Peasants’ Revolt, but went wrong, made himself disliked by his barons, and got murdered in 1399 just in time for the – Continue reading →
Even the best examinees in the History papers can become mixed up because of Empress Matilda. She was the English princess, daughter of Henry I, his only legitimate child, and named his heir (there being no Salic Law in England in 1127). She was called ‘Empress’ because she married the Emperor of Germany.
Henry died after a reign lasting thirty-five years and Matilda should have become Queen but her relative Stephen, a grandson of William I (‘the Conquerer’) seized the throne. Stephen was married to a girl with the popular but confusing name of Matilda. Henry I’s first wife was also called Matilda. Stephen had a daughter called Maud, but she was drowned in The White Ship incident; also drowned in this accident was William the Atheling, heir to Henry I – and married to another girl called Matilda! Continue reading →
The Hanoverian dynasty got its name from the city of Hanover, capital of Lower Saxony in Germany. In 1658 the grand-daughter of James I of England (and VI of Scotland), and daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by name Sophia, married Ernst Augustus. He was the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, and became an Elector (Prince of the Holy Roman Empire with the right to elect the Emperor) of Germany in 1692. He took Hanover as his princely title and capital city.
It was Sophia and Ernst’s son (born 1660) who became George I, the first of the House of Hanover to be King of England (actually GreatBritainandIreland). Hanover as a territory contained important towns like Göttingen and Hildersheim. The defence of these places was to become a serious factor in British foreign policy during the eighteenth century.
So how was it that a full-blooded German ascended the throne of England? The answer is because George’s mother Sophia and her issue were recognised as heirs to the throne by the Act of Settlement in 1701, which excluded the Roman Catholic Stuarts. George moved to England to become king in 1714 on the death of Queen Anne – herself a descendent of Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Continue reading →
James II, painted by Sir Peter Lely / thebooksmuggler.com
In most of the recorded history of the British Isles there have only been three ‘civil wars’: the first, known as the ‘Wars of the Roses’ was not a civil war but a gangsterlike struggle between the highest and richest nobles in the land with one aim in mind – the throne of England. Ordinary people in the shires and towns were not involved unless they had been pressganged into battle by their overlords. Continue reading →
Fanciful images of Robert II of Scotland / celticjessica.blogspot.com
Stuart, originally Stewart, is the family name of Scottish kings and queens from nearly the end of the fourteenth century until 1714 – English monarchs as well from 1603 to 1714. It was founded by Walter Fitzallen, Steward of the King of Scotland. He in turn descended from Flald Fitzalan who had been Steward of Dol in Brittany.
Walter’s descendent became King Robert II of Scotland, her first Stuart monarch, ruling from 1371 to 1390. Robert’s son the Earl of Carrick became King Robert III, on the Scottish throne from 1390 – 1406. It was this Robert’s son who became James I of Scotland), who married Joan of the Beaufort family, English descendants of John of Gaunt, and this was the first English connection. Continue reading →
Of all the wars known by duration in years, the least well-known is the Nine Years War (1688 – 97). Nevertheless this conflict has its important side, as it involved the Sun King himself, Louis XIV of France, and Britain under her Dutch-born monarch, William III. Continue reading →
This is more usually a first or Christian name, and sometimes encourages unfair laughter: “Come on Percy, show ‘em wot you got!” As a surname or family name it should inspire respect, possibly awe because the Percy family have figured in British history almost since the damp mists of Time.
The Percys were marcher lords (q.v.) in the far north-east of England. A William de Percy was given vast lands by William the Conquerer in return for helping him conquer England. He fought beside Duke William the Norman bastard at the Battle of Hastings (1066). Continue reading →