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England-Norman Life

995

William the Conqueror could not write his own name, you may be sure that few of the knights surpassed him in book-knowledge. Learning was confined to the clergy, and the meagre schools were connected with the monasteries and nunneries. Few books were written, the principal ones being histories. The old Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was continued in English, and the Chronicles of William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntington were written in Latin. The best account of the Norman conquest is the Bayeux Tapestry, worked in colored worsted and done by a woman, supposed by some to have been Queen Matilda. The length of the canvas is two hundred and fourteen feet, the width about twenty inches, and it consists of seventy-two scenes or pictures from which a clear knowledge can be gained of the armor, dress, and weapons of the period.

The Normans were fond of fine attire. Under Henry I. the fashion prevailed among the nobility of wearing the hair very long and curling it, after the style of the women. The clergy indignantly denounced the silly custom, and it is said that one Easter Sunday the priest, after thundering against it, strode down the aisle, and with a pair of shears cropped all the curls in sight, including those of the King.

The curfew required the ringing of a bell at sunset in summer and at eight in winter, which was notice from the authorities to put out the lights and cover up the fires. It galled the English to submit to this Norman practice, but it was a necessity, since the towns were mere gatherings of wooden structures, that were continually liable to destruction by fire. The chief amusements were hunting and the catching of small 'birds by means of trained hawks (termed "hawking"). Tournaments, or mock combats between knights, were introduced, but did not become common until later. The churches invented theatrical plays, which were written and acted by monks, and generally represented scenes from Scripture history.

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ENRY II., he who was fond of wearing the sprig of broom-plant in his helmet, and who came to the English throne in 1154, was the first Plantagenet. He was twenty-one years old, strong, coarse, and determined to do right. When he took the reins of government in his big, horny hands, it was with the resolve to check the growing power of the clergy, to bring the country into order, and to make all

his subjects obey him.

Before Henry was crowned, he was one of the most powerful of princes. Although a vassal of the King of France, he was the owner of so many fiefs that he was stronger than his king and all the other vassals. From his father he received Anjou, from his mother Normandy and Maine, and he gained the county of Poitou and the duchy of Aquitaine by marrying their heiress Eleanor, directly after her divorce from Louis VII. of France.

England contained more than a thousand castles, which, in the language of the early chronicle, were "nests of devils and dens of thieves." All these, with such few exceptions as Henry chose to make, were levelled to the ground. He told the great landowners they need no longer bind themselves to fight for him, but could pay him "scutage," or shield money, in lieu of military service. His cunning motive was to hire foreign soldiers with this tax, and thus cause

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