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The Middle Ages

By the reign of Edward the Confessor the country was effectively divided into competing earldoms. Harold, the most powerful of the earls, claimed the throne when Edward died in 1066. His claim was disputed by William, Duke of Normandy. William invaded England, defeated Harold at the battle of Hastings, and was crowned king on Christmas day, 1066.
The Norman conquest brought a new ruling class and a new language to England. The church was reorganised under new leadership. Disputes began between kings and archbishops, going as far as murder in 1170 when Thomas Becket was killed before the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral by knights of Henry II. Participation by Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades helped to ease tensions, but the Pope was upset with both King John and the Archbishop of Canterbury when the Magna Carta, limiting the power of the sovereign, was signed in 1215.
In the late 14th century the Oxford theologian John Wyclif and his followers the Lollards gave early warning of the religious upheaval to come, attacking the power and doctrine of the church. Their impact was relatively limited, however. English kings were engaged in trying to rule France (but by 1453 only Calais remained under their control) and then in the Wars of the Roses (1455-87), fought between the rival houses of Lancaster and York.

D 11 September 2012    ADavid Voas

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