Lecture: The Norman Church – Empress Matilda – Henry II – Common Law

No opening joke or story today, we’re just going to dive right into today’s lecture.

In the Gregorian Reforms of the Norman Church, all the good jobs went to Normans and Anglo-Saxons. Pope Gregory also wanted to enforce clerical celibacy, so that his priests would stop having kids with non-Normans.

Side note: I just watched The Little Hours which was based shortly after this time period. You should watch it because there is a lot of clerical celibacy laws being broken.

The Ontological Proof of the Existence of God was created in this time period. The logic goes something like this: God is the most perfect conceivable entity; if two entities are alike in all respects except that one exists and one does not exist, then the entity which does exist is more perfect than the one which does not; a non-existent God would not be the most perfect conceivable entity, as an existent God would be more perfect; so God exists. It makes sense on the surface, but all it really proves is that circular logic is circular.

The Norman Church expanded a lot. At the end of this time period, there were 1000s of monasteries. Monks tended to be rich people who gave their money to the church so that they could become a monk. People without money became general laborers for the church (another great part of The Little Hours. Seriously, go watch it).

Henry I’s eldest son died before Henry I, so that made his daughter, Matilda, heir to the throne. The issue is that Matilda is a woman, so a lot of people thought she was unfit to lead. She was also kind of mean to a lot of the Noble, so that didn’t help. In 1135, when Henry I died, Matilda wasn’t around, but the count of Blois, Stephen, was around. Stephen moved very quickly to seize power and money. He just started acting like hes was king and it actually worked.

At first, the church supported Stephen because at least he was a man, but then he started to make some bad moves. Stephen started arresting churchmen that he didn’t like. The church, and the public in general, started to not like Stephen so much.

Matilda came back and started a Civil War. This period is known as “the anarchy”. It wasn’t that bad, there just wasn’t a lot of law and order beyond the sheriffs of the towns.

Matilda and her husband Stephen (not the same dude), had a kid named Henry. When Henry grew up he became Duke of Normandy (1150). He married Eleanor of Aquitaine who held a ton of land. Together, they had power over more than half of France.

Stephen saw how power Henry was getting and decided to make a deal: Henry could take the throne as long as Stephen got to keep it for the rest of his life. Henry accepted the deal and Stephen died less than a year later. Henry restored order to England.

At this point in the lecture, the slide changed and the title was “Henry II and Thomas Becket”. We were then given a brief interlude regarding films made about this conflict. Anyway, Becket was seen as a champion of the underdog by the people. Henry II mostly saw him as a pain in the neck. Becket wanted more separation of the church from the rule of the crown. Henry II didn’t want that, so Becket was exiled. Henry II’s eldest son was crowned while he was still alive so that when Henry II died, the “Young King” could just slide right into the throne. The archbishop of York performed the crowning. One day, Becket just showed up again and started acting like the archbishop. He excommunicated the archbishop of York. When Henry heard about this, he was eating his Christmas dinner and in a drunken slur, he asked: “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” Some Knights heard him say this and decided to do their king a solid. Turns out that Becket was a bigger problem to the king when he was dead. The murder was seen as a “horrendous crime”.

We talked a little bit about Common Law, but it seems like there’s more to it, so I think there will be some more information next lecture.

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