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The Kingdoms of England

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The occupation of most of the island of Great Britain by the Romans had been completed by about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. Then a Brito-Roman civilization set up. After the troubles seen everywhere in the Roman Empire by the mid-3rd century A.D., troubles were back again as soon as by about 350 A.D. as the Brito-Roman elites already had distanced themselves from Rome and Picts from Scotland, Scots from Ireland and Saxons from the Continent performing raids. The Great Invasions by about 400, brought Romans to withdraw their legions from Britania to defend themselves on the continent as barely 50 years later, with the obligation to pay Roman taxes no more weighing upon the people, life had returned the island to the rural, self-sufficient point, with innumerable local chieftains like it was when Romans had invaded. Roman influence however seems to have managed to keep during one century, with thumbstones about 550 A.D. still refering to Roman concepts like 'magistratus' or 'civis.' Remarkably, Constantine I the Great began like a Roman emperor in England when the legions of Constantius Chlorus, after the death of the latter, elected him in York. The German settlement strengthened then since about 450 A.D. Those Germanic people settled thus in Great Britain, in what they called "Angleland", the ancestor for "England". The Jutes, a Frisian tribe, the Saxons and the Angles made their way there, as the Jutes settled in Kent and the Isle of Wight, the Saxons in the South and the East -eventually founding, after the ones of Sussex and Essex, the large kingdom of Wessex in the West which gradually absorbed most of the country South of the Thames- and the Angles in Norfolk and Suffolk, the Midlands, and Yorskshire, where they founded the kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia and Deira respectively, with the one of Bernicia farther North. Deira and Bernicia, although separate kingdoms, were part of the kingdom of Northumbria. Some Celtic kingdoms seem to have survived the settlement of the Germans. It is likely that such a fragmentation of England into varied kingdoms brought to different characters. Later in the Middle Ages, they will evoke the 'impatient dignity of the men of Canterbury' or the 'violence and harsh speech of the men of Northumbria,' for instance. Contrarily to what happened on the Continent, where Germans settled had the aboriginal people to evacuate. All the German invaders were pagans. The surviving original, Celtic, people, who had been christianized, were in a too small number to convert the conquerors, as it was not until the mission of St. Augustine by the end of the 6th century that Christendom came back in England. It was the kingdom of Kent, with its population of Jutes, which was first converted. It's the Pope St Gregory the Great, feeling a deep compassion for the angel-faces of some Angle captive children at the Roman slave-market (the famed "Angeli, not Angli", "Those people are angels, not Angles"), which triggered the mission. Albeit somehow threatened in 616, at the death of King Ethelbert who had allowed Augustine to missionarize, Christendom eventually got into the other English kingdoms. The last Anglo-Saxon pagan king, Penda of Mercia, died in 655. Anglo-Saxons, generally, as far as the construction of churches is concerned, cared about the plurality of sanctuaries, which limited large Church buildings in number. Anglo-Saxon Britain remained long a northly world which stood still relatively near of the Germanic origins of new Europe. England, in the Early Middle Ages, like Germany, maybe remained late with only some aspect of civilization developed

As Kent was dominant by the end of the 6th century, power then shifted North to the kingdom of Northumbria, maybe leading to a rule over the whole of England. Power in England, after the battles of the Trent (679) and Nechtanesmere (685) against Mercia and the Picts, respectively, shifted again. This time to Mercia, during the 8th century A.D. The two most powerful kings of Mercia were Aethelbald and Offa, as the latter was considered the lord for all of south Britain by Charlemagne. Such a supremacy swiftly led to some discord in the relations of Offa with the Franks, as the king of Mercia wanted to be considered the equal of Charles. As a example, Charlemagne tried about 789 to arrange the marriage of one of his sons to one of Offa's daughters. Offa however wanted, first, that his own son to marry one of Charlemagne's daughters. Charles took that for a affront and temporarily closed Frankish ports to English merchants, as the court of Charlemagne harboured a number of English refugees. King Offa of Mercia was the first ever to use the title 'rex Anglorum,' 'king of the Angles,' as, in competition with the coinage reform in the Frankish kingdom, he carried on the reformation of the silver coinage in England. King Offa had built a massive, linear, 64-mile long earthwork to delineate the border of its kingdom with a a Welsh one. The power of Mercia was checked by rising Wessex and some smaller kingdoms, bringing to the end of the Mercian supremacy by the end of the 8th century. During the Anglo-Saxon period the different groups which migrated to England created fine works of art such as complex stone carvings. Literature also flourished at this time, the poem 'Beowulf' being one of the most famous works

It was the kingdom of Wessex which took up after Mercia's decline. King Egbert defeated Mercia in 825, with the Northumbrians accepting its sovereignty. Egbert, at the time of the supremacy of Mercia, had been harboured at the Carolingian court like a refugee from Offa. Charlemagne attributed to Egbert functions which matched the warrior's inclinations of him. As he made in those such a proof of his value, the Frankish king had him 'to the number of the barons who usually fought close to his person.' Egbert was present at the council of Frankfurt and them at the coronation in the year 800 A.D. Egbert, in 829, is considered the first real king of a unified England. His grandson was Alfred the Great (about 849-899). While traditional scholarship holds that institutions innovations were rooted in the age of Alfred (871–899) and Aethelstan (924–939), those 'Cerdicings' rulers, there is little evidence for a centrally directed royal administration or a precisely defined territorial kingdom before at least the 960s A.D. It was only under Edgar’s reign (959–975) that England could coalesce into a stable, governable, and precisely-defined territorial kingdom. England shifted from an ethnic or pan-Britannic concept of rulership to a territorial model, which was consolidated under the time of Domesday England. Concepts of 'kingdom' however, manifested across the later Anglo-Saxon period, especially as royal power and administration evolved. Cerdigings had the ability to implement ideals of strong kingship over a cohesive political unit as Bishop Aethelwold was a strong ally to king Edgar as ethnic concepts of 'Anglorum Saxonum,' the 'Angelcynn,' po the 'Englisc', kept consistent all the period along. Initiatives of Cerdicing kings, on a other hand, were neither typical nor exceptional when one considers the wider area of Europe. As the end of Mercia had been coincident with the first Viking attacks against Britain, the power of Alfred was built upon that he was the defender of England against the new invaders. Alfred the Great managed to contain the 'Danes' in the northeastern part of England -which came to be known as 'Danelaw.' The Danish-generated disorders kept however, leading King Alfred to a long campaign, ending about 897 A.D., to submit them. To further protect England, King Alfred increased the royal navy and established permanent garrisons into fortress-towns. Due to the decline of learning in England subsequent to the Viking attacks, Alfred the Great took on the same task Charlemagne had undertook on the continent, of restauring scholarship. He established a court school and imported scholars from Europe (like Grimbalde and others he took from Sithiu -also named St-Bertin) or South Wales. He himself performed a number of translations for his clergy and people. Viking attacks, generally, had wrecked havock into England with kingdoms destroyed, splitted, or replaced by Viking ones. Wessex by 950 A.D. had reinforced its links with the Continent through a policy of marriages as five of the daughters of Edward the Old had married rulers or Grands like Otto I, Charles the Simple or Hugh the Great. Church in England had much been affected by that period as it was restored by the end of the 9th century A.D. by St Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury on the ground of monasteries -with 60 of them built at the time- and with the help, for examle, of Abbo of Fleury. The prominence of Wessex, despite the reign of Alfred's grandson, Athelstan, came in turn to a end. Due to the decline and changes of rule in continental Europe, England, during the 10th century, retained certainly the most developed kingdoms of the period. The main history of coinage in England, on a other hand, started by 973 A.D. when a decree ordered that there should be a single currency in the whole of England, in order to bring about political unification. But by concentrating bullion production at many coastal mints, the new rulers of England attracted a new wave of Viking invasions.The availability of coin fell from a peak of between three and eight pence per capita under the late Anglo-Saxon kings to between one and four pence under the Anglo-Norman rulers, before recovering later in the Middle Ages. The role of coins in the economy however mostly started during the 11th century A.D. only as noblemen journeying into a pilgrimage, for example, mostly took gifts and bequests for their needs. Vikings, by the end of the 10th century A.D., showed a renewed interest to the island of England. Canute, one of their kings, eventually became king of England, as part of a mighty Viking empire stretching across the North Sea. The alternance between English and Viking sovereigns finally lead to the famed situation of 1066, where William of Normandy, current chief of those Northmen who had eventually settled in Normandy, France as a grant by the Carolingian emperor, won over -and supported by the pope- and he became the new king of England. By that time, England had a population of 2 millions, half of those were serfs as the English language then counted 25,000 to 30,000 words -to which 10,000 French words added- and that bishopric of York was holding one sixth of lands in the northern part of the country. English people at that time still considered themselves close to Danes or Norwegians

A famed legend is dating back to the era of the Barbaric Invasions into the island of Brittany, by the 5th or 6th century A.D. It is the one of King Arthur -or 'Artus'! Or, at least, it was from that era that a set of historical events which might have founded the legend took place. The legend itself emerged during the 10th century during a renewed era of transition occurring for England. The stability brought back to the island by Alfred the Great and his first successors did swiftly, then, let place to the renewed invasions by the Northmen. Lord Monmouth, a English lord, at the time wrote down the legend of King Arthur, a figure of the resistance against any invader of the island of Brittany. Arthur is presented like a king of Cornwall and Wales, by the end of the 5th century A.D. He first fought against the raids of the northern Picts and, to counter them, he even would have called to the rescue those people of Germany, the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons. Those, in turn, quickly became the new invaders, as Arthur turned his forces against them. King Arthur had Merlin, a wizzard, like a counselor, and he was using a sword called Excalibur as, eventually he assumed a doomed fate, from an illegitimate son he had had. Arthur, during a last fight against him, eventually killed him but the latter had the time to make the king a wound with a poisoned spear. The body of Arthur was then taken by the fairies into a island called Avalon whence, according to the legend, the king will be back one day, to bring a era of peace on Earth. Most recent theories think that the famed 'Round Table' about which Arthur and his knights were gathering was indeed a old Roman, 40-ft tall amphitheater, which Arthur transformed into a fortified camp. Noblemen sat on the lower seats of the arena as lower-ranked on the other stone benches. A sanctuary was found in the amphitheater, which is located in Chester, England. Such views are comforted by the first life of Arthur, like written in the 6th century A.D. by a monk, Gildas, who is refering to a 'City of the Legions' with a martyr's sanctuary. Of the 12 large battles fought by king Arthur along 40 years, at last, one of his main victory took place in Chester. The deeds and feats of the Arthurian legend, since the 11th century, then mixed, on the European continent, with the varied trends of the romances. The romances wrote down, then, the legends of the great founding heroes of Europe of the past as they celebrated them and perpetuated their memory. That litterature mostly was written at the intention of the knights of the Middle Ages. The poet-writer Chrétien de Troyes, in the court of the counts of Champagne, by the 12th century, did inserted the Arthurian legends into the 'roman courtois,' a more elaborated trend of the early chansons de gestes, or 'romances.' The legend of King Arthur was, along with the legend of Charlemagne, the main source of inspiration for that litterature. As, however, the chansons de geste of the 'Caroline cycle' are mostly relating to the German culture, the ones of the 'Arthurian cycle', as far as they are concerned, are much more related to the Celtic culture. That is obviously linked to that the facts upon which they were built are taking place in the Celtic island of Brittany, by the 5th century. Thus, the Arthurian chansons de geste are actively including fairies, dead heroes carried away, West, on the endless ocean, philtres, miraculous fontains, etc. One likely has to link with the historical facts upon which the Arthurian legend built, the massive migration of Britons of Brittany, by 460 A.D., into continental Brittany due to the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons. The migrants mostly came from Cornwall and the nearby Devon

As far as Wales is concerned, it is a hill-country portion of Great Britain, West as the name 'Welsh' was coined by the Germanic invaders to term that portion of England where they had driven the earlier Celtic occupants. People there termed themselves 'Cymry' or 'compatriots', or 'Welshmen.' Welsh people were a mix of a pre-Celtic people and two waves of Celt immigration and thus did not term themselves Britons as original pre-Celts might have a strong parenthood to the Basques of the Pyrenees, the Iberians of Spain and Portugal, or the Berbers of North Africa. Like England, Wales was thoroughly influenced by the Roman occupation during 360 years and alike became Christian. The Welsh Church remained in communion with Rome, albeit the Germanic invasions cut any personal communication however, and abuses developed. It took until in the 9th century A.D. that the Welsh Church renounced all such national customs and accepted the metropolitan jurisdiction of Canterbury. The boast of Welshmen thus is that their countrymen never swerved from the true profession of the Catholic and Roman Faith. By the time St. Augustine had come to evangelize the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, he had asked the cooperation of Welsh clerics as the latter refused and condemned Augustine as the apostle of their Saxon foe, refusing to have hand in their conversion

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, http://schoolsempire.6te.net. Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 2/16/2015. contact us at ggwebsites@outlook.com
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