Lecture: Late 900s – Late Anglo-Saxon Society

We start off talking about Edgar the Peaceable. Strangely enough, there wasn’t much fighting during his reign. He made the rules the same for all the monasteries in England. Things were going well until he had a child with a woman that was not his wife… I know, crazy how life be. The child’s name was Edward the Marter. Edgar also had a child with his wife. That child’s name was Ethelred the Unready. Because Ethelred was the offspring of both Edgar and his wife, he had a more legitimate claim to the throne. Ethelred mad Edward’s life very difficult and we don’t hear from him for a while. Despite having the throne, no one respected Ethelred (this makes it hard to lead them). All the while, the Vikings are back and they’re still looking for money. They found a new way to steal though.

All the while, the Vikings are back and they’re still looking for money. They found a new way to steal. Basically, they would enter a town, start destroying the place, and demand payment for them to leave. This method started becoming more effective, so they would keep coming back and demanding more money each time.

The Vikings were a pain in the butt for the Normans as well, so Emma of Normandy married Ethelred to form an alliance between the two countries. The leader of the Viking forces, Forkbeard (totally a pirate), wanted to kill Ethelred, so Ethelred and Emma ran away to Normandy where they had a son named Edward the Confessor. We’ll come back to him. Forkbeard died, so the Viking Cnut took power. He didn’t want to have to deal with all of the minutia of running a country, so he divided England into four chucks and appointed English people to govern them.Cnut

Cnut’s son, Harold I, took power after Cnut died. However, Cnut also had a child with Emma of Normandy (Yes… the same Emma) who took power after Harold died. So now Harthacnut is sitting pretty as the king of England, so he’s feeling pretty confident. So confident that he invites Edward the Confessor (the son of Ethelred and Emma) back to England for dinner. Long story short: Harthacnut died that night with no visible trauma. Edward pretends to look horrified, but then turns around and says “so… ahh… do you need a king? Because I’m totally his half-brother.”

Also, according to my professor, we will not be coming back to Ethelred’s brother Edward…

Edward the Confessor was not a good politician. He also had to compete with the house of Godwin which was a group of very rich nobles with lots of power. So to fix that issue, Edward married Godwin’s daughter… Wow, how do these people come up with these fantastic solutions to problems? This marriage made Harold Godwinson Edward’s brother in law. This gave him exactly 0% more right to the throne than he had before. Regardless, immediately after Edward died, Harold claimed that Edward, with his dying words, appointed him king. There were probably some murmurs along the lines of “I don’t think that happened…” or “I don’t think Edward even can appoint a successor…” Harold paid these comments no mind at all which was a mistake because he ended up having to fight like half the nobles at once.

Meanwhile, William, Duke of Normandy, was invading from across the English Channel. He built a castle from wood as soon as he got there and he and his forces entrenched themselves deeply. Harold was like “Oh no!” and marched all of his troops south to where the Normans invaded. That’s a long time to be marching, so Harold and his men were exhausted by the time they got there and lost the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066.

It took a long time for William to take over the rest of England. He wasn’t only trying to rule the Anglo-Saxons, he wanted to make them Normans. The Anglo-Saxons didn’t like that very much so there was a lot of rebellion. That rebellion made William pretty much destroy the entire north side of England. Apparently, it took like 90 years to recover. I don’t think they were trying very hard.

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