England until 1066

Conquest and Defense: England until 1066


After almost all Roman troops withdrew at the beginning of the 5th century, power passed to local rulers, some of whom had been recruiting Germanic tribal units, which had been practiced on the mainland since the 4th century, either as mercenaries or as labor – continue. Some of these associations, which v. a. from members of the north-west Germanic tribes of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (Anglo-Saxons), succeeded in stripping off British sovereignty towards the middle of the 5th century and, supported by immigrants flowing in from the continent, to establish their own rulers and later also small, sometimes short-lived kingdoms (e.g. Bernicia, Deira), whereby the Mass of the native population was partly pushed into the impassable highland areas of the country (Cornwall, Wales, Scotland), partly into Brittany. As a result of this land-grabbing process, which was not completed until the end of the 7th century, seven sub-kingdoms emerged (Kent, Sussex, Essex, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria), whose residents gradually grew together to form the Anglo-Saxon people. The Christianization that took place in the 7th century not only promoted this process, but also created the conditions for the cultivation bloom of the 7th / 8th centuries. Century, as their most important representative of the historian and theologian Beda applies. The education, especially cultivated at the monasteries, also laid the foundation for widespread missionary activity (Anglo-Saxon mission) in the still pagan or only superficially Christianized areas of the continent (including Boniface). In the struggle for the supremacy of one part of the empire over the others (Bretwalda), according to Zipcodesexplorer, the centrally located Mercia prevailed in the 8th century under King Offa (757-796), who also succeeded in consolidating his domain against the Celtic marginal rulers (border fortification »Offa’s Dyke against Wales).

From the end of the 8th century, northern pagan people (mostly Danish Vikings), who had already established a foothold in northern Scotland and Ireland, ravaged the east and north of England and destroyed the flourishing religious monastic culture in northern England. Mercia lost its primacy to Wessex, where King Egbert (802-839) had subordinated the surrounding small kingdoms and rose to the recognized Bretwalda.

Under King Alfred the Great (871–899), the mighty Wessex defied the large Danish invasion of 865 and forced the Danes to peace (878); these now turned to Christianity. After that, Alfred extended his rule to the east as far as London and contractually laid down the boundaries of the Danish rule and settlement area, the Danelaw, in the east and north-east of England (around 886). After fierce battles with Norwegians, Danes and Scots, King Aethelstan (924–939) ruled almost all of today’s England. Its administrative structure was linked to the county constitution (Shires) Egberts and laid the groundwork for a national kingship, which was then able to assert itself permanently from 955 onwards. As a result of Alfred the Great’s efforts to revive culture and education, Wessex also took over the spiritual leadership in the covenant with the Church, which under Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, initiated a comprehensive monastic reform and a new coronation ritual including the anointing into kingship mediated additional sacred consecration.

However, the position of power of the kingship was shaken towards the end of the 10th century by severe conflicts with the nobility and dynastic disputes in the royal family as well as by the renewed incursions of the Danes. After the Scandinavians were initially only interested in looting and tribute payments (Danegeld), the Danish King Sven Gabelbart subjugated the country in a large-scale campaign in 1013 and forced King Aethelred II to flee the country. Sven’s second son, Canute the Great (1016–35), continued his father’s work and became Ironside after the death of Aethelred II and his son Edmund (1016) generally recognized as king. Soon the crowns of Denmark and Norway also fell to him, so that England became part of a great Nordic empire.

After the early death of the king and the brief reign of his sons, the younger son of Aethelred II, Edward the Confessor (1042-66), ascended the English throne. Growing up in Normandy, he cultivated close relationships with his home in exile, preferring to call Normans into the country as advisers or officials and, even childless, probably also assuring Duke Wilhelm of Normandy the successor to the kingship. When Edward died in 1066, however, the greats of the country elected the powerful Earl of Wessex, Harold II, whose sister was married to Edward the Confessor, to be king. The Norwegian king and pretender to the throne who invaded Yorkshire with army power Harald III. (“The hard one”), who established his claim to an alleged contract between his predecessor Magnus the Good and Hardeknut, son of Canute the Great, was able to crush Harold on September 25, 1066 at Stamford Bridge; A few days later, however, Duke Wilhelm landed with an invasion fleet on the south coast. In the Battle of Hastings (October 14, 1066, Bayeux Tapestry) the fate of England was decided: Harold was defeated and fell; This paved the way for William (“the Conqueror”) to be crowned King as William I in Westminster.

England until 1066