Kingship, a family business - Magna Carta referat

Kingship: a family business

William controlled to large areas: Normandy, which he had been given by his father, and England which he had won in war. When William died in 1087 he left the Duchy of Normandy to his elder son, Robert. He gave England to his second son, William, known as Rufus. When Robert went to fight the Muslims in the Holy Land, he left William Rufus in charge of Normandy. After all, the management of Normandy and England was a family business.

After the death of Rufus, their younger brother Henry crowned himself king three days later. Robert was very angry and prepared to invade. But it took him a year to organize an army. Robert’s invasion was a failure and Henry invaded Normandy and captured Robert. Normandy and England were united under one ruler. Henry I’s most important aim was to pass on both Normandy and England to his successor. Thus, he married his daughter Matilda to another great noble in France, Geoffrey Plantagenet, the heir to Anjou, a large and important area southwest of Normandy. Henry hoped that the family lands would be made larger by this marriage. After Henry death, his nephew, Stephen of Blois, raced to England to claim the crown. Matilda invaded England four years later and their conflict led to a terrible civil war. Neither side could win, so they both agreed that Stephen should keep the throne if Matilda’s son, Henry could succeed him. Henry II was the first unquestioned ruler of the English throne for a hundred years. He destroyed the castles, which many nobles had built without royal permission during Stephen’s reign, and made undefended. The manor again became the centre local life and administration.

Henry II was ruler of far more land than any previous king. As lord of Anjou he added his father’s lands to the family empire. After his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine he also rules to the lands south of Anjou. His empire stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees.

Henry was followed by his son Richard I, one of England’s most popular, nicknamed Coeur de Lion, ”lion heart”. Richard was everyone’s idea of the perfect feudal king. He went to the Holy Land to make war on the Muslims and fought with skill, courage and honour. On his way back from the Holy Land, Richard was captured by the duke of Austria, with whom he had quarreled in Jerusalem. The duke demanded money before he would let him go, and it took two years for England to pay. Richard had no son and he was followed by his brother, John. John already made himself unpopular, because he was greedy, with the three most important groups of people: the nobles, the merchants and the church. The king took land for himself, in order to benefit from its wealth and increased the amount of the taxes that people had to pay.

King John became even more unpopular with his nobles when he invaded Normandy and English nobles lost their lands there. John had also quarreled with the pope over how should be Archbishop of Canterbury. John was in a weak position in England and gave in, accepting the pope’s choice of archbishop. In 1215 John hoped to recapture Normandy, but on his way to London, at Runnymede was forced to sign a new agreement.

MAGNA CARTA –This new agreement was known as Magna Carta, the Great Charter and it was an important symbol of political freedom. The king promised all “freemen” protection from his officers and the right to a fair and legal trial. At the time perhaps less than one quarter of the English were “freemen”. Most were not free, were serfs or little better. But the nobles who made John sign it had another aim: to make sure that John did not go beyond his rights as feudal lord.

Magna Carta marks a clear stage in the collapse of English feudalism. Feudal society was based on link between lord and vassal. At Runnymede the nobles were not acting as vassals but as a class. They established a committee of twenty-four lords to make sure John kept his promises. That was not a “feudal” thing to do. In addition, the nobles were acting in co-operation with the merchant class of towns. Feudalism, the use of land in return for services, was beginning to weaken. But it took another three hundred years before it disappeared completely.

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