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British history

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Their second battle took place just outside the town of Hasting on the 14th of October 1066. For most of the day the fighting was fierce and William’s men could not take hilltop positions which earl’s men occupied.

When showing the miliatry genius for which he became famous, William ordered his men to retreat. Believing the battle was won the Saxons run down the hill in order to finish off the Normands. Once both sides were on level ground William gave the order to attack .

Harold’s men were taken by surprise by the well trained Normands. By the end of the day Harold lay dead on the battlefield struck in the eye by and arrow.

The Normands were victorious, the Saxons had fought their last great battle in English History.

From Hastings William marched his men to Dover, then to Canterbury and finally onto London , terrorising the Saxons towns and villages on his way .

The Londeners offered no resistance. On Christmas day 1066 William the Conqueror , duke of Normandie was crowned king of England.

The Anglo-Saxon period had come to a dramatic and abrupt end .

William’s successors :

Following the death of William the Conqueror the English throne went to his son William Rufus while an other son Robert became duke of Normandie.

A third son Henry was waiting for the throne. The normand barons did not like the division of their empire and there was a period of unrest as William and Robert fought each other for control of both England and Normandie.

However events were to take a dramatic turn . In August 1100 William was shoot through the head while hunting in the new forest in Southern England. Within 3 days of William’s death the third son of the Conqueror was crowned king Henry the 1st of England.

Robert renewied the family quarrels until 1106 when he was captured by Henry and imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Henry was now able to reunite England and Normandie under one master, himself.

King Henry the 1st died on the fisrt of December 1135 . He had hoped that his only surviving legitimate child Mathilda would succeed him, however she was in Anjou having married Geoffrey count of Anjou in 1125 .

Henry’s nephew Stephen was in Boulogne when he heard his uncle’s death and he rushed to England in order to claim the throne . Mathilda was forced at least temporarily to give up any hopes of becoming queen .

However Stephen was a tactless king and soon succeeded in offending some of his most important men including his own brother called Henry, the bishop of Winchester. He was angry because he had not been made archbishop oh Canterbury.

Mathilda aware of this decided to ac, in 1139 she arrived in England and declared herself Lady of the English. However she also succeeded in annoying many other potentials supporters and she was never crowned. In 1148 she left England never to return.

In August 1153 Stephen’s son Eustace died , Henry Plantagenet, son of Mathilda and Geoffrey , saw his chance, he sailed to England and succeeded in persuading Stephen onto signing the treaty of Westminster in December 1153.

By this treaty Stephen was to rule for life but accepted Henry as his legitimate heir . Henry did not have long to wait because Stephen died the following year, in 1154.

By the time Henry became king ,the barons were desperate for peace and stability, a retruned to rule of law and order under which they could live and enjoy their considerable richness and die secure in the knowledge that it would be passed onto their sons

King Henry the Second : 1154-1189

Henry Plantagenet, duke of Anjou became king Henry the second of England without any difficulty, indeed it has been the most peacefull accession to the throne of England for over 100 years . His empire was enormous , it included Normandie, Maine, Touraine, Anjou and Aquitaine. England was simply the northern outpost and Henry spent a total of just 14 years there during his reign.

Anjou and Aquitaine supplied him with 2 of the most important medieval comodities mainly salt and wine .

England was famous for its woolen clothes.

As lord of all these regions Henry benefited financaly from the taxes they provided. However Henry was not content, two of his sons died, leaving just Richard and John, the youngest whome Henry prefered. Alerted by this Richard made an alliance with king Philippe the second of France against his father.

On the 6th July 1199 king Henry died at Chinon from wounds sustained in battles . He died believing he had failed in everything but he was one of the most influencial kings in english History . The problem was that his achievements were of a long term nature , for example his reforms in the judicial system and in the structure of society .

The Judicial Reforms :

King Henry took over a country which was weak and exhausted by years of war and anarchy. But when he died he left a country with an organized judicial and administrative system and a tradition of obediance to government .

During king Henry’s reign royal judges in England began to hold local sessions open down the country on a much more regular basis .

Thus the law was applied more uniformly and the power of central government was increased as the authority to anforce and interpret the law coming from the king’s court,and as a result the practice of common law was able to developp. But this did not apply to the serfs who remained as real slaves of their lord.

Because king Henry and his judges spoke french its influence upon the developpment of english law was enormous. It can be seen in such legal terms as « court, judge,contract ». The concept of a jury was also developped during the reign of king Henry


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