chapter  8
16 Pages

The Norman Conquest

However m uch dispute there may be concerning the detail o f the N orm an im pact on England, there can be no doubt whatever concerning the general im portance o f the coming o f the Norm ans. T he N orm ans d iffered in many vital respects from the earlier conquerors o f English England, but the two main differences were, first, that their success was m ore complete, and second, that they had m ore to offer. T he Dane represented the barbarian who had moved in from the ou ter fringe to the fertile lands. He was pagan for the most part on arrival; the conquered were Christian. He was a great seaman and som ething o f a trader; the conquered were prim arily agriculturalists. But the Dane was also used to the land and rapidly settled where cultivable land was available. It is a consistent them e o f the sagas that Scandinavian adventurers, noble o f blood and fighters by nature, showed willingness to settle down and help with the routine agricultural work as a m atter o f course du ring their stay in various ports o f call in time of exile. None o f this was true o f the N orm an. H e was a Christian and his leader, Duke William, a devout Christian. T hat great weapon o f assimilation, the possession o f a higher universal faith, was not at the disposal o f the Anglo-Saxons in their dealings with the N orm ans as it had been in their dealings with the Danes. N orm an arrogance became proverbial, and to put the m atter at its mildest the Norm ans clearly felt no inferiority to the Saxons they had conquered. A bounding self-confidence was a hallm ark o f their race, and a principal reason for their success. Assimilated they were in time, but the process did not approach com pletion till the age o f the Plantagenet Edwards. Gower as late as the fourteen th

century still faced the enviable task o f choosing between French and English for his poetic m edium .