England in the High Middle Ages
England in the High Middle Ages includes the history of England between the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the death of King John, considered by some to be the last of the Angevin kings of England, in 1216. A disputed succession and victory at the Battle of Hastings led to the conquest of England by William of Normandy in 1066. This linked the crown of England with possessions in France and brought a new aristocracy to the country that dominated landholding, government and the church. They brought with them the French language and maintained their rule through a system of castles and the introduction of a feudal system of landholding. By the time of William's death in 1087, England formed the largest part of an Anglo-Norman empire, ruled by nobles with landholdings across England, Normandy and Wales. William's sons disputed succession to his lands, with William II emerging as ruler of England and much of Normandy. On his death in 1100 his younger brother claimed the throne as Henry I and defeated his brother Robert to reunite England and Normandy. Henry was a ruthless yet effective king, but after the death of his only male heir in the White Ship tragedy, he persuaded his barons to recognise his daughter Matilda as heir. When Henry died in 1135 her cousin Stephen of Blois had himself proclaimed king, leading to a civil war known as The Anarchy. Eventually Stephen recognised Matilda's son Henry as his heir and when Stephen died in 1154, he succeeded as Henry II.Henry, considered the first Angevin king of England, had extensive holdings in France and asserted his authority over Wales, Scotland and Ireland. He clashed with his appointee to the Archbishopric of Canterbury Thomas Becket, resulting in Becket's murder and Henry making a dramatic exhibition of penance. The later part of his reign was dominated by rebellions involving his sons and Philip II of France that forced him to accept his son Richard as sole heir. Richard acceded to the Angevin inheritance on Henry's death in 1189 and almost immediately departed on a Crusade. On his return journey he was taken hostage in Germany and a huge ransom was paid in order to secure his release in 1194. He spent the remainder of his reign restoring his lands in France, dying in 1199. His younger brother John succeeded in England, and fought a successful war against Richard's nephew Arthur for control of the French possession. John's behaviour led to rebellions by the Norman and Angevin barons that broke his control of the continental possessions. His attempt to retake Normandy and Anjou was defeated at the Battle of Bouvines. This weakened his position in England, eventually resulting in the treaty called Magna Carta, which limited royal power, and the First Barons' War. His death in 1216 is considered by some historians to mark the end of the Angevin period and the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty.The Normans adopted many Anglo-Saxon governmental institutions, but the feudal system concentrated more power in the hands of the king and a small elite. The rights and roles of women became more sharply defined. Noblewomen remained significant cultural and religious patrons and played an important part in political and military events. During the twelfth century divisions between conquerors and the English began to dissolve and they began to consider themselves superior to their Celtic neighbours. The conquest brought Norman and French churchmen to power. New reformed religious and military orders were introduced into England. By the early thirteenth century the church had largely won its argument for independence from the state, answering almost entirely to Rome. Pilgrimages were a popular religious practice and accumulating relics became important for ambitious institutions. England played a prominent part in the Second, Third and Fifth Crusades.Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries England went through the Medieval Warm Period, a prolonged period of warmer temperatures that allowed poorer land to be brought into cultivation. Agricultural land became typically organised around manors. By the eleventh century, a market economy was flourishing across much of England, while the eastern and southern towns were heavily involved in international trade. Many hundreds of new towns, some of them planned communities, were built, supporting the creation of guilds and charter fairs. Anglo-Norman warfare was characterised by attritional military campaigns of raids and seizure of castles. Naval forces enabled the transportation of troops and supplies, raids into hostile territory and attacks on enemy fleets. After the conquest the Normans built timber motte and bailey and ringwork castles in large numbers, which were replaced by stone buildings from the twelfth century. The period has been used in a wide range of popular culture including William Shakespeare's plays. Walter Scott's location of Robin Hood in the reign of Richard I and his emphasis on the conflict between Saxons and Normans set the template for later fiction and film adaptations.