Friday, July 30, 2010

A Study in War and Dominion

The Norman Conquest was perhaps the most significant event in Western History for several centuries, perhaps more. Troy Southgate argues here that the Conquest lead to a general desecularization and "reform" of the monastic orders in England, which had become quite lax. The monks literally hunted, diced, etc., etc. However, it is also undoubtedly true that such artifacts as the missal of St. Guthlac (preserved by William of Jumieges) went the way of all flesh as well. The freedom of Saxon Christianity was regularized, preventing excess but also rounding up the "hermitic" tradition. New administrators were able, however they were sometimes chosen purely for their loyalty and adminstrative facility. Lanfranc would have been a notable exception, but not too much of one. I can't find it just now, but there was actually a prominent Norman cleric (from Normandy, not Anglo-Norman) named Guillame (I believe) who argued in an extended Latin treatise portraying William I (Guillame le Batard) as a predator and violator of God's peace and the rights of Englishmen. What is interesting is that it appears that the waves of depopulation during the Black Death (1348) significantly advanced the class integration and racial inter-mingling of Saxon and Norman. After this period, it was difficult to distinguish anyone but "Englishmen". My suspicion is that the Norman Conquest is part of the Papal rise to power, yet also part of the irrevocable change to England into a fundamentally forward-looking, dynastic, energetic, royal state, a paradox later embodied (and resolved) in the person(s) of Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More. There is still something special about "Albion" today. Certainly, the shadows and ghosts of England are not dead, nor are they quiet. The fact that England retains more actual safeguards on personal liberty (as opposed to theoretical American ones that could mean nothing in practice) is of tremendous importance, as is the survival of the Anglican Church, the High Church movement, the monarchy, and other salient facts of English national life.

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