Post-classical history

The Peoples of Britain

Britain as a geographical entity was a familiar concept to medieval writers. The Venerable Bede had begun his Ecclesiastical History of the English People with a detailed description of the island and this, suitably revised, was used by two famous (though very different) twelfth-century historians, Henry of Huntingdon and Geoffrey of Monmouth, to preface their own works. In the thirteenth century, the historian and artist Matthew Paris, a monk of St Albans abbey, drew several maps of Britain, the best of them illustrated at the beginning of this book. Bede’s Britain had been populated by gentes or nationes, two terms, used interchangeably, which can best be translated as ‘peoples’ or ‘nations’. That such groupings were fundamental to political and social organization was accepted without question for thus it had been in the book gigantically more influential than any other, the Bible itself. In 1066 there were three principal peoples in Britain: the English, the Welsh and the Scots.

By far the most numerous of these peoples were the English, the descendants of the Angles and Saxons who had arrived in the fifth and sixth centuries and had gradually established political control over a large part of Britain. Their success had been at the expense of the Britons, the original inhabitants of the island (hence its name), but the Britons survived under their own rulers in the area to the west of the great dike built in the eighth century by King Offa. By the English they were called ‘the Welsh’ (Latin,Wallenses), which meant ‘borderers’, hence the use of Wales (Wallia) for the area they ruled. In the north of Britain there were various peoples, of whom the most important were described in Gaelic as Albanaig (‘the men of Alba’) and in Latin as Scotti, hence Scots, and hence also Scocia or Scotland. Scotland’s extent was much smaller than it is today. Indeed in the twelfth century the term was sometimes used simply for the area between the Forth, the Spey and the central highlands, the core of the realm ruledby the king of Scots. Those in the regions outside that core, as we shall see, even if they acknowledged in some way the king’s authority, were not Scots or in Scotland at all.

The peoples of Britain in 1066 were subject to diverse political systems. There was one Welsh people but it was ruled by many kings. There was one king of Scots, but he ruled several peoples. Only the English (apart from those subject to the king of Scots beyond the Tweed) had a single king exclusively their own. All this was soon to change. Between 1066 and the end of the thirteenth century a profound reshaping took place in the identities of the peoples of Britain. The Norman Conquest made England a realm of two peoples, the dominant Norman and the defeated English, yet by the early thirteenth century those two peoples had moulded into one and everyone, whatever their descent, was English. Likewise the various peoples subject to the king of Scots all came to be Scottish, this despite the introduction of a new nobility of Anglo-Norman descent. No comparable remoulding affected the Welsh, for they remained unmixed with any other people, but these years still witnessed important changes in their identity and status.

Peoples or nations, it is often rightly said, are the product of their members’ belief that they exist, and in our period the English, the Scots and the Welsh certainly existed in that sense. Of course, divisions of class, career and education can always cut across the horizontal ties that bind a people together. A medieval prelate would doubtless have defined his nationality very differently from a peasant. Some individuals would have been unable or unwilling to define it at all. Likewise ties of region can on occasion seem far more important than those of nation: ‘I am of the people of the men of Norfolk and it is proper that I defend my native land,’ wrote one twelfth-century monk. Yet horizontal ties of nationality are perfectly capable of existing alongside other loyalties. In this period they worked to give a sense of a shared nationhood to more than simply a small elite. Such ties could include a common history, government and language together with laws and customs; the last three were mentioned by Bernard, bishop of St Davids around 1140, when he affirmed that ‘the people’ of Wales formed a distinct ‘nation’. Faced with external threats, real or imagined, a sense of national identity became a powerful political force in this period amongst the Welsh, the Scots and the English.

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There was certainly a strong and pervasive sense of national identity amongst the English before 1066. ‘It was hateful to almost all of them to fight against men of their own people, for there was little else that was worth anything apart from Englishmen on either side,’ wrote the Anglo-Saxon chronicler about the near civil war of 1052. He was speaking at the very least for churchmen, the high aristocracy and also the 5,000 or so thegns, the country gentry who formed the backbone of English local society. The idea of a single English people, ‘Angelcynn’, had a long history. It had been popularized by Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and strengthened by a single language and a vernacular literature. It had been inculcated by King Alfred and his successors both to defend England from Danish attack and unify the country under their rule. And it had then been solidified by the structures of royal government: a single coinage, a common oath of allegiance to the king, the ‘king of the English’, and units of local administration, the shires, which embraced the length and breadth of the country.

This identity was shattered by the Norman Conquest. The English bishops, abbots, aristocracy and a large proportion of the county thegns were swept away, leaving the English simply as monks, peasants, minor gentry and townsmen. Into the key positions came Normans and others from across the Channel bringing their own language and customs. The division of the peoples in England was now proclaimed in the king’s writs and charters which were addressed to his subjects both ‘French and English’.

The process by which the division cleaved by the Conquest was healed and the inhabitants of England became once more universally English has been much debated by historians. One view is that it was largely complete by 1150; another, perhaps more correct, that it embraced the whole of the twelfth century. The process required both the Normans to see themselves as English and those of Anglo-Saxon descent to accept them as such. For the latter, the wounds of the Conquest remained open well into the twelfth century. In the 1120s, the great historian William of Malmesbury, a monk of Malmesbury abbey and a product of a mixed marriage, could still write that ‘England is become the residence of foreigners and the property of strangers’. That the native population at this time retained its own identity is shown by the circle of townsmen, minor gentry and hermits, men of old English stock and proud of it, who surrounded the English holy woman, Christina of Markyate. Language remained a divisive factor. Sometime after 1125 Brictric, the priest at Haselbury in Somerset, complained of having to remain silent before the bishop and archdeacon because he knew no French. Reactions to the trauma of the Conquest took various forms. English monks in the two generations after 1066 sought both to explain the events in terms of punishment for sin, yet also, in the very brevity of their accounts, to avoid the painful memory altogether. Another reaction was defiance. Sometime in the twelfth century a monk of Ely wrote a Life of the resistance hero Hereward the Wake, a Life which defended the English from allegations of inferiority both by denigrating the Normans and extolling Hereward’s martial expertise and chivalrous conduct. The Life, however, ended with Hereward’s reconciliation with King William. The implication was that the English should not rebel but find an honoured place in the new state. There are, indeed, indications that English attitudes were softening. Between 1125 and 1132 another great historian of mixed parentage, Archdeacon Henry of Huntingdon, wrote of the Normans in much the same tone as William of Malmesbury. Yet later when he came to narrate the defeat of the Scots at the battle of the Standard in 1138, he seems to have regarded the victors, whom he calls ‘the barons of England, the most famous Normans’, as also in some way English. By the 1160s Ailred, the great Cistercian abbot of Rievaulx, a man entirely of old English stock, could declare that the two nations had now been joined together to form once again a single English people. The lead here, so Ailred thought, had been taken by the dynasty itself thanks to Henry I’s marriage in 1100 to a descendant of the old English kings, the daughter of King Malcolm and Queen Margaret of Scotland.

Up to a point this was probably wishful thinking. Whether the great barons in the 1160s regarded themselves as wholeheartedly English may be doubted. But Ailred’s remarks none the less do reflect important changes. Powerful forces were moving those of Norman descent in the direction of an English identity, beginning with the smaller landholders and ending with great barons and the royal house.

The Conquest had placed perhaps 8,000 Normans throughout the shires of England. Some had single properties of small size. Others had one or several substantial manors and formed the cream of a new country gentry. However, very few, even of the latter (as a study of twelfth-century Warwickshire and Leicestershire has shown), had any land in Normandy. The lives of such men were largely confined to England, and to an England where they were in daily contact with ‘Anglo-Saxons’, not merely as lords of peasants, but as colleagues of Anglo-Saxon freemen and minor gentry with whom they worked running the hundred and the shire, the basic units of local government. This was the environment The Dialogue of the Exchequer (a book about the running of that office) was thinking about when it declared in 1178 that ‘nowadays, when English and Normans live together and marry and give in marriage to each other, the nations are so mixed that it can scarcely be decided (I mean in the case of freemen) who is of English birth and who Norman’.

The way Normans at this level became English reflected contemporary views about the shaping of nationality. One key element here, as the Dialogue implied, was ‘blood’ or descent. Thus William of Malmesbury declared that he drew his blood from both the Norman and the English people (gens). Intermarriage therefore had indeed the power to mix up the races, making the offspring, in terms of blood, partly English and partly Norman. That was not the same as making them wholly English of course, but other ideas about identity helped the move in that direction. Blood or descent could be superseded by place of activity, upbringing and birth. Very soon after the Conquest, anyone whose working base was England might call themselves English. Even Lanfranc, whom William the Conqueror made archbishop of Canterbury, styled himself in one of his letters a ‘new Englishman’ and later referred to ‘we English’, although by birth he was a Lombard. Closely related to this were ideas about upbringing. In the 1150s, the Book of Ely (a chronicle/cartulary produced at Ely abbey) defined a thoroughgoing Norman as one of Norman parentage (that is blood) and also of ‘education’ in Normandy. The implication was that a person of Norman blood but English ‘education’ would lose something of hisNormanitas, would in effect become partly English. Another related factor was place of birth. That too could affect nationality, so much so that an Englishman was defined in 1258 as someone ‘born of the kingdom of England’. Hence also the constant demand in the thirteenth century for the king’s councillors to be naturales – men ‘native born’. This Englishness acquired by place of birth, upbringing, and work, if maintained from one generation to the next, could become Englishness by blood or descent. Gerald of Wales (1146–1223), churchman, scholar, royal clerk and prolific writer, described himself as ‘by original line’ three-quarters English and Norman and a quarter Welsh. The Englishness here could only have come from the anglicization of his forebears in the way described, for they had no Anglo-Saxon blood in their veins.

Clearly, therefore, place of birth, education and activity combined with intermarriage were all making Norman families based in England English. Of course, it was one thing to be simply labelled ‘English’, another to feel English in a positive, wholehearted way. That too, however, was happening in the first half of the twelfth century, particularly through a growing interest in England’s history. A knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon past had been kept alive after the Conquest in the great monasteries, in part to help maintain their ancient rights. In the twelfth century both William of Malmesbury’s History of the English Kings and Henry of Huntingdon’s History of the English were widely circulated amongst religious houses, thus making their Norman-descended heads and patrons familiar with England’s story. This was the background to Gaimar’s remarkable History of the English, written around 1140, and intended specifically for a secular audience of Norman descent, hence its French verse form. It told the story of England from the Anglo-Saxon invasions through to the reign of William Rufus, celebrating the deeds of the English kings. Here then was encouragement to adopt the English past as one’s own; hence the crusading knight, Richard de Argentan, commissioned a painting of the martyrdom of King Edmund for a chapel in Damietta, an episode of which Gaimar gave a gripping and lurid description. Gaimar also extolled the exploits of Hereward the Wake. Thus if Hereward, in the Life written at Ely, was used to give the English back their self-respect, here in Gaimar he made the English respectable to the Normans. Closely associated with an enthusiasm for history was an attachment to England’s ‘native soil’, to the ‘churches, cities, castles, rivers, meadows, woods and fields which are appraised most highly amongst the delights of all realms’, as Matthew Paris put it. Thus several copies of Gaimar’s History concluded with a Topography (written in the 1150s) giving a detailed description of England’s roads, counties and bishoprics. From the late eleventh century, lords of Norman descent had themselves been adding to England’s ‘delights’, increasingly preferring to found or endow monasteries in England rather than enrich houses on the continent, a clear sign of shifting loyalties.

The move towards an English identity was strong but it was more sluggish in the higher levels of society than lower down the social scale. Among the baronage there was much less intermarriage and thus Norman descent was not obscured in the way mentioned by the Dialogue. There were also much stronger connections with Normandy. Although diminishing during the twelfth century, the number of nobles with lands in both the kingdom and the duchy remained significant (see below, p. 269). Such men probably crossed back and forth over the Channel, like their king. Some were born in the duchy with all the consequences which followed for their sense of identity. As late as the 1220s, the Englishness of William II, earl of Pembroke, was thought by himself and others to have been diluted by his birth on the family estates in Normandy. Twelfth-century noblewomen did not hurry across the Channel so that their children could play for England! The barons of England formed a small but immensely influential group who were naturally aped and courted. Even those who no longer had lands in the duchy had powerful incentives to keep alive their own Normanitas and pause before identifying entirely with England. After all, they served a king who down to 1204 spent at least half his time on the continent and certainly did not regard himself as English: ‘You English are too timid,’ remarked Richard I. The baronage were also well aware of the contrasting fortunes of the Norman and English peoples. The former had been gloriously successful. Before the battle of the Standard in 1138, Henry of Huntingdon imagined the army being encouraged by reminders of how the Norman people (gens) had conquered in France, England, Italy and the Holy Land. Likewise in the 1150s Richard de Lucy, Henry II’s chief minister, a man largely based in England, could still (when it suited him) talk of the glorious exploits of ‘we Normans’ in conquering England. The English, by contrast, for all Hereward’s exploits, were a defeated people, punished by the Conquest for their sins, and, according to some hostile caricatures, reduced to peasants. Far from marking a new start, Henry I’s English marriage was thus ridiculed in some Norman quarters. The one point on identity even the sober Dialogue of the Exchequer had been sure about was that unfree peasants were English. Indeed, the regular imposition of the murdrum fine on local communities kept alive the equation ‘English’ equals ‘unfree peasant’ until the end of the thirteenth century (see below, pp. 102, 413). The lampoon of Gerald of Wales, in an anti-English mood in the 1200s, thus hit home: ‘The English are the most worthless of all peoples under heaven, for they have been subdued by the Normans and reduced by the law to perpetual slavery.’

Not surprisingly, therefore, a hesitation over adopting English identity is still powerfully reflected in Jordan Fantosme’s account of the victory over the Scots in 1174, written very much for the baronial elite. While the victory was no longer portrayed as a Norman triumph as in 1138, no effort was made to celebrate it as an English one either. Indeed, the only Englishman to appear eo nomine was one of Anglo-Saxon descent, Cospatric son of Horm, old and grey-haired, who rather tamely surrendered Appleby to the Scots. Members of the baronial elite were perfectly able to take an interest in England without necessarily acknowledging that they were English. Thus the Topography added to Gaimar’s History in the 1150s specifically referred to ‘we French’. Uncertainty about identity is also reflected in labels applied by contemporary historians. While most spoke of the English conquering Ireland in the 1170s, the dean of St Paul’s, Ralph of Diss, could still write of a famous victory over the Welsh as late as 1198 as a victory of the French. Perhaps increasingly in the twelfth century members of the baronial elite, in so far as they thought of the matter, regarded themselves as having a kind of dual nationality. They were Norman and proud of it in terms of their ultimate descent, but English in varying degrees, depending on whether they still had estates in Normandy, in terms of place of birth and activity. Some writers made brave efforts to describe the resulting mix. As early as 1130 a Norman monk of Lewes wrote of the ‘Norman-English’ (Normanangli). Henry of Huntingdon himself, while he thought of the 1138 army as in some ways English, also described it as made up of ‘the people (gens) of the Normans and the English’. In another formulation he called its leaders ‘the barons of England, the most famous Normans’, probably there getting closest to how they thought of themselves. The term ‘Anglo-Norman’ often used by modern historians does perhaps best describe England’s baronial elite in the twelfth century.

The final loss of Normandy in 1204 was thus of great importance. ‘The barons of England’ lost their lands across the Channel. Henceforth they would be born, brought up and based exclusively in England. So would the king. Families might still retain memories of their Norman ancestry, but the logic of embracing an entirely English identity was now overwhelming. Fittingly King John (1199–1216) was the first king to drop altogether the ‘French and English’ form of address in his documents. His subjects were now all English.

Underlying these changes was another important phenomenon which gradually strengthened the development of an English identity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This was the revival of the English language. Linguistic divisions were still important in separating English from Normans after 1125, as we have seen. Indeed they were still socially divisive in the thirteenth century. The great bulk of the population, the peasantry of Anglo-Saxon descent, spoke only English. French on the other hand remained, as the knight Walter of Bibbesworth put it around 1250, the language ‘that any gentleman should know’, being used both for polite conversation and for politics and business. Yet the use of English was gradually moving upwards, ultimately creating a bilingual gentry and nobility. For those of Norman descent living and working in close proximity to the English, speaking the language must have been as necessary as it was natural. The knightly lord of Clopton in Northamptonshire, William de Grauntcourt, according to a family history written in the thirteenth century, ‘was called William of Clopton by inferiors, since it was easier to have an English name in their own language rather than a Norman one’. The family’s consequent replacement of ‘Grauntcourt’ with ‘Clopton’ may well reflect a change in the everyday language it spoke. English was certainly spoken in the household of one Suffolk knight in the 1190s for it was in English, indeed in the local Suffolk dialect, that a spirit (according to one story) made known its presence. By the mid thirteenth century there seems little doubt that even the highest aristocracy could speak English. Henry III’s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall, certainly did so. So indeed did Edward I.

There is also evidence that French was losing ground as a naturally acquired mother tongue and was having to be formally taught (in the same way as Latin). Walter of Bibbesworth’s comment quoted above came in a treatise he wrote to help Denise de Montchensy teach her children French. Yet Denise was the wife of a great magnate of Norman descent. The fact that the history of England written by Robert of Gloucester around 1300 was in English verse suggests that this was the most natural spoken language of high knightly families like that of Bassingbourn which formed part of the audience. This was the future. Of the many copies made after 1300 of the history of England called The Brut (after Brutus, Britain’s eponymous founder) there are 30 in French and Latin and 168 in English. Since much of the Brut was based on Gaimar, it was in the English language that the latter’s English history became best known, a powerful combination. By 1300 there was a growing sense that English unified the people in a way French, for all its status, did not. ‘These gentlemen use French, but every English person knows English’ ran lines in the poem Arthour and Merlin. In 1295 Edward I, galvanizing the nation for war, proclaimed that the French wished to destroy the English tongue. Here the English language was being used as synonymous with the English people in a way that would have been impossible even a hundred years before.

Under Edward’s leadership in 1295 king and nation stood at one in resisting a foreign threat, just as they had under Alfred. Kingship after 1066 had indeed continued to play a vital part in shaping national identity. Yet it did so in a new way. A sense of community and identity was now not merely shaped by and for the king, as it was in both Scotland and Capetian France. It was also shaped in opposition to him. The twelfth-century kings continued, in Anglo-Saxon mode, to give the nation a real and positive sense of unity under the crown, notably by the formation of the common law. The title they adopted was unambiguous: ‘king of the English’. Yet while royal government gave with one hand, it took away with the other, imposing huge financial burdens on the nation in an effort to sustain its continental possessions. The extraordinary power and sophistication of central government in England became matched by an equally remarkable and unique critique of that government from below. Opposition to royal exactions dated back to before 1066, but it was now voiced on an entirely new scale, and out of common grievances came a new national solidarity, this time formed in opposition to the crown. In 1215 everyone was to take an oath to support the enforcement of Magna Carta, thus forming ‘the community of the land’, a community formed for no other purpose than to take action against the king. In 1258 likewise ‘the community of England’ swore to support the revolution of that year which reduced the king to a cipher. In all this there was one further factor which did more than anything else to string and solidify through society a sense of universal Englishness. This was the growing belief that the English were a people under threat, under threat from the foreigners introduced into the country by the king himself. In the early thirteenth century all the king’s subjects were once again English. But the kings continued to employ officials and give patronage to ministers and favourites who came from overseas, thus offering their native subjects not merely oppression, but oppression at the hands of foreigners. The very survival of the English people was in danger, or so it was proclaimed. More than anything else it was this threat, reaching a climax in the 1260s, which bound the English together, appealing to churchmen, peasants, knights and barons alike. Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester’s demand in 1265 that office be confined to Englishmen would have seemed ludicrous to his kinsmen 150 years earlier, lords of Orbec and Bienfaite in Normandy, and not English themselves. It was only with Edward I (1272–1307) that king and kingdom were once more at one.

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Just as English national identity was refashioned in this period so was that of the Scots. In the first half of the twelfth century the racial mix within the king of Scotland’s realm had become even more complex. This was thanks to the way King David (1124–53) had introduced a new ‘French’ nobility, as it was called, into his kingdom, one of Norman or Anglo-Norman descent. There was also, as we have mentioned, a sense in which the Scots themselves were simply the inhabitants of the core of the kingdom between the Forth, the Spey and the central highlands. Thus David could refer in a charter to ‘the worthy men of Moray and Scotland’, clearly seeing a distinction between the two. Likewise a topographical survey as late as 1200 mentioned ‘the mountains which divide Scotland from Argyll’. Place names in Argyll like ‘the hill of Scot’ suggest that it was not as Scots that the indigenous inhabitants saw themselves. The same was true of the men of the largely Norse province of Caithness in the far north, of the ‘Galwegians’ or men of Galloway, the ‘English’ in Lothian (the area between the Tweed and the Forth), and the ‘Cumbrians’, who inhabited the old British kingdom of Cumbria running south from the Clyde to the southern edge of the Lake District. Galwegians, Cumbrians, English and French, as well as Scots, were all sometimes addressed by name in David’s charters. By the end of the thirteenth century, all this had changed. The people in the king’s realm were described as Scots and Scotland was the whole area acknowledging the king’s authority, broadly the area of modern Scotland.

Exiguous evidence makes this process hard to chart. As late as 1216, the chronicle of Melrose abbey (situated in the heart of Lothian) viewed the Scots as barbaric aliens, ‘devils rather than soldiers’. The attitude was much the same in 1235 – certain Scots, ‘knaves rather than knights’, being accused of pillaging the churches of Galloway. Yet in the section of the chronicle covering the years 1265–6 (transcribed between 1285 and 1291 though perhaps composed earlier) the attitude is different. Guy de Balliol, who died fighting for Simon de Montfort at Evesham, clearly a man of Norman descent, was now described as a ‘valiant Scottish knight’. Likewise the achievements of the abbot, Reginald of Roxburgh in Lothian, were said to be unequalled by other ‘children of the Scots’. Clearly by this time it was as Scots that the men of Lothian thought of themselves. This was in line with the universal Scottishness asserted by the Guardians of the realm after King Alexander III’s death in 1286. The seal made for the government of the kingdom bore on one side the legend ‘the seal of Scotland appointed for the government of the kingdom’ and on the other ‘St Andrew be the leader and compatriot of the Scots’. The assertions of the Guardians show that those of Anglo-Norman descent among the political elite now regarded themselves unequivocally as Scots. How well those assertions played in Caithness, Sutherland, Argyll, and Galloway is less clear, but probably there too a sense of Scottishness was becoming preponderant. A declaration in 1284 about the royal succession was agreed by the earls of Sutherland and Orkney, as well as three rulers from Argyll and the Isles. All were described (with many others) as ‘barons of the realm of Scotland’. Later in 1320, the most famous of all statements of the independence of the Scots, the Declaration of Arbroath, was made in the name, amongst others, of the earl of Sutherland and the earl of Caithness and Orkney, as well as ‘the freeholders and the whole community of the realm of Scotland’.

How then had the meaning of the ‘Scots’ and ‘Scotland’ become all embracing in this way? It had nothing to do with a common language. While the king’s court probably spoke French, the use of English was steadily advancing in the lowland towns at the expense of Gaelic, spreading from Perth in a narrow coastal strip up the east coast and round towards Banff and Elgin. That, of course, merely accentuated the differences with the Gaelic-speaking highlanders, a division made much of by the chronicler Fordun, writing in the fourteenth century. The introduction of the Anglo-Normans had also been divisive. One of the best early thirteenth-century English chronicles (which survives in a copy made at Barnwell abbey in Cambridge) commented that the ‘modern’ kings of Scotland appeared as ‘French in race, manners, language and culture’. They only maintained Frenchmen (meaning Anglo-Normans) in their entourages, and had reduced the Scots to servitude. All this, however, was only part of the story. Members of the native Scottish nobility were themselves becoming ‘Frenchified’, thus making their race far more joinable. (For further discussion see below, pp. 330–31, 424.) At the same time the Anglo-Normans, in important ways, accepted aspects of Scottish ‘culture’. It was not simply one-way traffic, giving but not receiving. One aspect of this was the cult of St Andrew. It was Andrew, the brother of St Peter, who, it was believed, had converted the Scots to Christianity. The cult was vigorously developed by the bishop of St Andrews, the self-styled ‘bishop of the Scots’, with a success seen both in the Guardians’ seal and the Declaration of Arbroath which told how Christ wished Andrew ‘to protect [the Scots] as their patron for ever’. Accounts of Scottish origins, moreover, by ‘Frenchified’ Scots probably close to the ruling elite suggest that the latter not merely saw itself as Scots, but Scots in a way congenial to the native population. The accounts showed an acceptance of the Scottish people’s Celtic roots, stressing that Ireland was its divinely ordained homeland, having been settled by the Scots, descendants of Gaythelos, a Greek prince, and his wife Scota before they had arrived in Albion, as Britain was then called. The stone on which the Scottish kings were inaugurated at Scone had come from Ireland’s royal site of Tara.

According to the Declaration of Arbroath, if Robert Bruce was not prepared to continue the fight for independence (which of course he was), ‘we would make king some other man who was able to defend us’. The implication was that the Scottish people had an existence separate from its kings. Yet the reality was different. It was above all the kings who had refashioned the people in the years after 1100. They had introduced the Anglo-Normans and had asserted (in varying degrees) royal authority in Moray, Sutherland, Caithness, Argyll, Galloway, Man and the Western Isles, thereby expanding the effective boundaries of the kingdom and with it of Scotland itself. The title the kings bore from the early twelfth century onwards, modelled on that of the English kings, was emphatically ‘king of the Scots’. The indication that all the king’s subjects were Scots became unambiguous once William the Lion (1165–1214) addressed his charters simply to ‘all his upstanding men of all his land’, abandoning altogether the occasional ‘to all his men… French, English, Scots and Galwegians’. It was likewise King Malcolm about 1161 who used for the first time the expression ‘the kingdom of Scotland’ in a context which shows that Scotland included Lothian as well as the land north of the Forth. The impact of this royal rhetoric can be seen in increasing numbers of private charters from the 1170s onwards, covering transactions in Lothian, Galloway, and elsewhere, which speak of ‘the kingdom of Scotland’ or ‘the kingdom of the Scots’. Scotland had grown as the kingdom had grown and the Scots were simply all those who were subject to the authority of the king. The king’s role in refashioning national identity was thus significantly different from that in England. Whereas the English were bonded, in part at least, by their opposition to the crown, the Scots, enjoying a monarchy far less intrusive and exacting, were bonded at its behest and in its support.

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In Wales there was no integration of peoples as there had been in England and Scotland. The Welsh absorbed no one. The Normans arrived in Wales as conquerors, yet they never became integrated within the existing Welsh kingdoms, becoming Welsh in the process. Instead they carved out their own polities, subjecting the native Welsh in the areas they conquered and leaving them under their own rulers in the areas they did not. The crucial difference here lay in the political constitution of the host nation. Both in England and Scotland the newcomers were installed within a single polity and soon felt part of it. That was impossible in Wales, where a whole series of disparate political units constantly changed shape through warfare and family settlement. With no large political unit to subdue and in which they could ultimately be assimilated, the Normans conquered piecemeal and set up their own political units in the form of the marcher baronies. (Much the same happened in Ireland.) The Normans quickly married into Welsh noble families, but the descendants of such unions (like Gerald of Wales) felt at most ambivalent about their nationality. By descent they might be partly Welsh, but brought up in the marcher baronies and with many contacts with the wider Anglo-Norman realm, this Welshness by descent could never be completed by Welshness through ‘education’. The upbringing and active life of such men, as Gerald of Wales observed in his own case, remained very much with the English.

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Significant changes had therefore taken place in the make-up of the peoples of Britain, or at least of the English and the Scots, in the two centuries after the Norman Conquest. At the same time, partly as a result, there had been equally significant shifts in English attitudes, or the attitudes of writers in England, towards the Welsh, the Scots and also to the Irish. In the twelfth century such writers had begun for the first time to express contempt for the other peoples of the British Isles, regarding them as barbarians and justifying conquests (notably in Ireland) in the light of a civilizing mission. As John Gillingham has put it, this period seems to witness ‘the beginnings of English imperialism’. Such attitudes first appear with William of Malmesbury in the 1120s – the Welsh, ‘all that barbarianage’; they are later found in the Gesta Stephani (‘The Deeds of Stephen’), written in the 1150s, where the Welsh are described as a ‘barbarous people’ of ‘untamed savagery’. Likewise towards the end of the century William of Newburgh thought the Scots were ‘a barbarous nation’, while Gerald of Wales described the Irish as ‘so barbarous, they cannot be said to have any culture’. Ralph of Diss thus saw Henry II’s invasion of Ireland in 1171 as very much a civilizing mission, bringing law and order to a people hitherto untamed by ‘public power’.

At the root of these attitudes were major contrasts between the economy and society of England and those of the rest of Britain (discussed in the next chapter). Gerald of Wales described the frugal diet of the Welsh, based more on meat than bread, and the skimpy clothes worn even by the rulers. Walter Espec (in a speech put into his mouth by Ailred of Rievaulx) ridiculed ‘the worthless Scot with half bare buttocks’. King John in Ireland in 1210 laughed at the badly dressed kings riding without saddles on poor horses. These contrasts had existed before 1066 but they were accentuated by the Norman Conquest and rendered far more noticeable. Thus English ecclesiastics, now brought within the mainstream of continental reform, looked increasingly askance at the divorce and concubinage common in Wales, and in Ireland where it was alleged men exchanged wives like horses. And likewise there was an increasing contrast in the area of political conduct. After the Conquest, again in line with continental practice, political murders, executions and mutilations had virtually ceased in England. In Wales, on the other hand, disputes over succession continued to lead to ‘the most frightful disturbances… people being murdered, brothers killing each other, and even putting each other’s eyes out’, as Gerald of Wales described it. It was the same in Ireland where one reason why the Irish submitted to Henry II’s ‘peace’, according to Ralph of Diss, was because they lamented the way their fathers had so often been killed by mutual slaughter. Warfare in England came to resemble that on the continent, where the aim was to capture and ransom rather than kill a noble opponent. Celtic customs were very different. As Gerald of Wales observed: ‘The French ransom soldiers; the Irish and Welsh butcher them and decapitate them.’ Even more fundamental, the Welsh and the Scots took slaves. This was why the Scottish invasion of 1138 was such a profound shock for it revealed the appalling face of war as slave hunt. As one Hexham chronicle put it:

Old men and women were either beheaded with swords or stuck with spears like pigs destined for the table… Young men and women, all who seemed fit for work, were bound and driven away into slavery. When some of the girls dropped to the ground exhausted by the pace of the slave-drivers, they were left to die where they fell.

Not surprisingly the invasion of 1138 seems to have been crucial in establishing the reputation of the Scots and Galwegians as barbarians.

* * *

Racial stereotypes are often obstinately difficult to shift and it is natural to think those appearing in the twelfth century would be no exception. Henceforth the view of the Scots and the Welsh as barbarians would be entrenched, a development of fundamental importance for the future of Britain. Yet in fact nothing like that happened. One of the most significant features of British history in the thirteenth century is the way such hostile opinions were replaced by others far more positive.

There was, in fact, nothing very deep rooted about the new critique of the Celtic peoples. Resulting from perceived differences between England and the rest of Britain, it was perfectly capable of moderating in the light of new information. Indeed some of the accusations of barbarism were qualified almost as soon as they appeared. Thus Ailred wrote that thanks to the policies of David, king of Scots, ‘the whole barbarity of that nation was softened’. The Gesta Stephani noted how Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare had brought such peace and prosperity to his part of Wales that ‘it might very easily have been thought a second England’. Most striking of all were the changing opinions of Henry II’s clerk, the historian Roger of Howden. When he described the invasions of England in 1173–4, he seems to have agreed with William of Newburgh’s view that the Scots were ‘bloodthirsty barbarians’. But later, when his diplomatic work for Henry II gave him a closer knowledge of Scottish affairs, he began to sympathize with the demands of the Scottish church and kingdom for independence. Of imperialistic attitudes to the Scots (or the Welsh) there is no trace.

By the mid thirteenth century a more sympathetic approach to the Welsh and the Scots was much in evidence. Matthew Paris in his Chronica Majora wrote a voluminous history of the years 1235 to 1259 (in a modern printed edition it takes up 1,700 pages). He inherited from his predecessor at St Albans, Roger of Wendover, an intense hostility to continental aliens introduced by the king into England. Had he likewise imbibed twelfth-century attitudes to the Scots and the Welsh, it would certainly be apparent. Yet there is little sign that this was the case. In 1244 King Alexander of Scotland mustered a large army to invade England, yet for Paris this awoke no memories of the brutal invasions of the twelfth century, which had done so much to turn the English against the Scots. The army was led by Alexander, ‘good, just, pious, bountiful, and loved by everyone, both the English and his own subjects’. The large numbers of foot soldiers (put at between 60,000 to 100,000), far from being a bare-buttocked, bloodthirsty rabble, were ‘all unanimously confessed and consoled by preachers, fearing not to die since they were about to fight justly for their country’. Three years later Paris reported that no one could understand why the pope wished to send a legate to Scotland ‘since the Catholic faith flourished there uncontaminated and the peace of clergy and people was absolutely firm’. It could only have been, he concluded, because of greed for the wealth of ‘the Scots’. Far from supporting Henry III’s intervention in Scottish affairs in the 1250s, Paris reported how the ‘indigenous and native born men’ were indignant at the way aliens (that is English) were promoted over them. The expulsion of the latter thus meant ‘the magnates of Scotland could control the reins of the kingdom more freely and safely’.

When it came to Wales, Paris commended the famous native scholar Thomas Wallensis for returning home as bishop of St Davids, observing that such love for one’s native land was absolutely natural. When the Welsh rose against English rule in the 1250s, his attitude was the same as to events in Scotland.

Their cause seemed just, even to their enemies. And this especially comforted them that they fought constantly in the fashion of the Trojans from whom they were descended for their ancient laws and liberties. O miserable English, crushed by aliens and with their ancient liberties extinguished, draw a lesson from the example of the Welsh.

Here then it is the Welsh who are to educate the English. The last thing Paris wrote about the Welsh just before his death in 1259 was to lament the king’s rejection of terms which would have allowed them to live ‘in peace, tranquillity and liberty’.

Paris, therefore, had no feeling that England should exert a hegemony over the rest of Britain. On the contrary, he believed that the Welsh and the Scots should enjoy peace and independence free from English interference. In taking these views, he was not out on a limb. For the Tewkesbury chronicler in the 1250s Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the future prince of Wales, was fighting vigorously to preserve his ‘paternal liberties’. The Dunstable annalist thought the revolt had been provoked by the attempt to subject the Welsh to English law. Despite the propaganda of Edward I, several chroniclers took a remarkably measured view of his eventual conquest of Wales in the 1270s and 1280s. Thus the Dunstable annalist gave a full list of the grievances which had provoked the Welsh ‘to stand together for their laws’.

Up to a point Paris’s own views were shaped by his political agenda. The Welsh and the Scots were standing against an English king whom he regarded as both oppressive and incompetent, just as the English needed to do. It was when it suited this critique that the Welsh became momentarily ‘the dregs of mankind’ – the king could not defeat even these unworthy enemies. But there was more to it than that for Paris’s positive attitudes were also founded on good information about Wales and Scotland. St Albans had a daughter house in the north at Tyne-mouth, and its prior was active in Anglo-Scottish affairs, supplying Paris with several important documents. Paris knew Wales well through Richard, bishop of Bangor who, as a result of a series of local quarrels, resided at St Albans between 1248 and 1256. Essentially what had transformed the English attitude to the Scots and the Welsh was that the twelfth-century view of them as barbarians no longer seemed to correspond with reality.

This was partly the result of developments in economic and ecclesiastical organization which will be discussed in chapters 2 and 14. Also important was the transformation in the identity of the Scottish people. In 1150 the Scots were only one of several peoples within King David’s realm. English historians were well aware of the fact. When they spoke about the atrocities of 1138 they were clear that the blame lay with the Scots, that is Gaelic speakers from north of the Forth, and with the even more bloodthirsty Galwegians. They did not blame King David himself, who was a perfect Anglo-Norman gentleman, nor his Anglo-Norman followers, who were as civilized as anyone on the other side. A hundred or so years later the descendants of those Anglo-Normans were themselves being called Scots. Where the latter in 1138 were bare-buttocked highlanders, in 1265 they included the knight Guy de Balliol who died a hero’s death at Evesham. It was ridiculous to call him a barbarian. The same was true of members of the native nobility, who had become as ‘French’ (to use the term of the Barnwell annalist) as their Anglo-Norman colleagues. Under pressure of the Edwardian wars, the old lampoons reappeared. One ballad on the battle of Dunbar in 1298 described the Scots as a ‘barbarous, brutal and foolish people’. But this was manifestly to attack one group of Scotsmen, not the people as a whole, a point made clear by the ballad’s further description of the Scots as ‘a kilted rabble’. That was not how the Scottish nobility appeared in battle. Indeed, in 1244 Matthew Paris commented favourably on the quality of the thousand-strong Scottish cavalry.

In the event, the Scottish army of 1244 never went into action, a fact which points to the wider context which permitted the development of favourable views of the Scots, namely the long period of unbroken Anglo-Scottish peace between 1217 and 1296. This gave plenty of time for the atrocities of 1138 and (on a smaller scale) 1173–4 to be forgotten. The invasion of 1216 by comparison was a tame affair, reflecting the fact that the Scots had long since given up war as slave hunt. Paris’s view of the Scottish foot soldiers in the army of 1244, as we have seen, was not as a kilted bloodthirsty rabble. Apart from being properly confessed, they were ‘ready for action and effectively equipped with axes, lances and bows’.

* * *

The Welsh, unlike the Scots, did not rise in the world through absorbing a new Anglo-Norman nobility. Indeed, Gerald of Wales alleged that by accepting the very designations ‘the Welsh’ and ‘Wales’ in the twelfth century, the Britons (as they previously called themselves) had actually been diminished since they had adopted the labels given them by the English. This, however, did the Welsh less than justice. ‘Wales’ and ‘the Welsh’, Wallia and Wallenses were respectively English and Latin words. They were not taken into the Welsh language itself. In their own tongue the Welsh replaced ‘Britons’ (Brytanyeit) with a word of their own, Cymry, one which evoked both the community of their people (it meant ‘compatriots’) and its long history, for it had been used as a word of self-description since the seventh century.

It was indeed through the discovery, or more exactly the invention of their history, that the Welsh went up in the world in this period, in the process becoming far less easy targets of condescension and abuse. This was thanks to one of the most famous books ever written, namely Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which came out a little before 1139. Geoffrey was a Welshman and one of his purposes was to give respectability to his race, faced with the growing perception that they were barbarians. Henry of Huntingdon had argued that it was a knowledge of history which distinguished rational men from brutes, and Geoffrey’s fertile imagination, with little more to go on than what could be gleaned from Bede and vague tales about Arthur, supplied the Welsh with a glorious one. He told how Brutus, grandson of the Trojan Aeneas, had conquered the island of Albion and named it Britain after himself. He and his successors had founded towns, made laws and were manifestly highly civilized. Their line had culminated in Arthur, greatest of all warrior kings, who had driven out the Saxons, conquered the Scots, Picts and Irish, subdued Gaul and defeated the Romans. Ultimately, of course, ‘the power of the Britons came to an end… and the Angles began to reign’, yet Arthur had gone to the isle of Avalon to be cured of his wounds, and Merlin had promised that one day the Britons would rule again.

Of course, it was perfectly possible to enjoy Geoffrey’s enthralling tale without imbibing its Welsh message. Ultimately the English adopted Arthur for themselves. Yet the message did go home, inspiring the Welsh and impressing those in England. ‘Openly they [the Welsh] go about saying that in the end they will have it all. By means of Arthur, they will get [Britain] back,’ declared the author of the description of England at the end of Gaimar’s History. The Welsh revival in the second half of the twelfth century seemed directly related to a new sense of origin. As Gerald of Wales put it, ‘Our British people, now known by the false name Welsh, is, like the Romans, sprung from Trojan blood, and defending its freedom against both Saxons and Normans, has shaken the yoke of slavery from its back.’ Likewise in the mid thirteenth century Matthew Paris included references to Brutus and Merlin in his map of Wales, and spoke, as we have seen, of the Welsh fighting for their freedom ‘in the manner of the Trojans from whom they were descended’.

Attitudes were also changed by an increasing accommodation between the peoples in Wales, one comparable to that taking place in Scotland, although in this case it did not lead to any merger. The Norman barons admired the ‘innate nobility’ of the Welsh rulers, and married their daughters, sometimes giving Welsh names to both male and female offspring. Gerald of Wales himself was descended from the marriage between Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, and Gerald of Windsor, Henry I’s castellan of Pembroke. The Norman barons had also been less bothered than clerical commentators by the charges of barbarism, and indeed had briefly indulged in taking slaves themselves. They also imbibed more positive aspects of Welsh culture, notably the devotion to St David and other native saints. ‘St David’ indeed was one of their battle-cries as they conquered Ireland. The native rulers, for their part, quickly adopted castles, armour and cavalry. In 1257 Matthew Paris was highly impressed by the Welsh cavalry, the riders in two large contingents being ‘finely armed’, and the horses themselves protected with metal. Thus the English and the Welsh had more and more in common. In 1188, during a pleasant day in Hereford culminating in a stroll round the bishop’s garden, the Lord Rhys, the ruler of Deheubarth, and members of the great baronial house of Clare paid compliments to the ‘high birth’ of each other’s families, amidst much good-natured banter. The banter itself implied that war might at any time break out again, but that did not alter – indeed it enhanced – the respect in which the two groups held each other, which was also why occasional atrocities seemed so shocking and like a breach of trust.

Welsh warfare itself was coming into line with best ‘modern’ practice. A letter from the king’s camp at Deganwy in 1245 makes no complaints about its barbarism. On the contrary, it criticized the English for plundering the Cistercian abbey of Aberconwy, and felt the Welsh were thus quite justified in killing the culprits. Even so the Welsh, in correct chivalric manner, while dispatching the ordinary soldiers had taken the knights alive, intending to imprison them (doubtless for ransom), only changing their minds when some of their own nobles were killed by the English. Welsh politics too had become less violent, largely through contact with the English. The prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, imprisoned rather than killed or mutilated his brothers, dangerous rivals though they were. In the end, by a telling irony, the youngest, Dafydd, having caused trouble for over twenty years, was finally executed by Edward I. (For further discussion see below, pp. 428–9.)

When the chronicler Thomas Wykes, writing after the Edwardian Conquest, described the Welsh as a ‘savage people’ who lived on meat and milk and did not eat bread, his remarks might have applied to the lower classes, but hardly to the rulers for whom wheat was grown and bread baked daily (as Gerald of Wales’s own remarks suggest). English writers when describing Welsh nobles, far from making suggestions of savagery, praised them in much the same terms as they did members of their own elite. Thus one of the Welsh nobles killed in the fighting of 1245 was described in the letter quoted above as ‘a young man most elegant and strenuus’, the last a word hard to translate but with connotations of both martial strength and chivalric behaviour. According to Matthew Paris, Gruffudd of Bromfield (a ruler of northern Powys) was Welsh by nation, gens and language, and also ‘noble, strenuus and powerful’. Likewise Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales, for the Dunstable annalist was ‘a most handsome man and strenuus in war’. Llywelyn was acknowledged by the English to bear a coat of arms, indeed one which was a modified version of the royal arms of England, this the result of his grandfather’s marriage to King John’s illegitimate daughter.

The positive light in which the English nobility regarded their Welsh counterparts also emerges in the late thirteenth-century ‘Legend of Fulk fitz Waryn’, a work of fact, fiction and romance which narrates the exploits of the Shropshire knight Fulk fitz Waryn and his ancestors. Here a Welsh ruler might appear sporting a coat of arms, fighting valiantly with his retinue alongside a baronial ally, spending time as a youth at the king of England’s court, marrying a royal or baronial wife, and even having contacts with the king of France. These men all passed as members of the same chivalric society.

* * *

There was another factor which served to moderate English attitudes to the Welsh and the Scots. While the latter had risen in the world, the ‘barons of England, the most famous Normans’ (as Henry of Huntingdon had called them), had in a way gone down in it – gone down, that is, by becoming English. Around 1280 the Earl Warenne, according to one story, recalled how his ancestors had conquered the land with Duke William, and produced a rusty sword to prove it. But there was no escaping the fact, as we have seen, that Warenne too was now a member of the very people his ancestors had reduced to servitude, however glorious its previous history. The problem of how to view the Conquest is evident in the ambivalent accounts offered both by Matthew Paris and subsequent historians. Should one celebrate William’s victory, or sympathize with the oppressed English? The barons of England in the thirteenth century could no longer have the same unalloyed confidence in their pedigree as ‘the most famous Normans’ of a hundred years before. It was correspondingly less easy to view the other peoples of Britain with contempt.

This view had also been moderated by changes in the barbarian league table. For William of Malmesbury, in the early twelfth century France was the home of civilization. A hundred years later it was also the home of less attractive things. For during the invasion of Louis, eldest son of the king of France, in 1216 appalling atrocities were perpetrated by his followers, ‘barbarous aliens’ as the Waverley annalist called them. ‘The routiers and other wicked plunderers from the kingdom of France set villages alight, did not spare churches or cemeteries, took and despoiled all kinds of men, and by harsh and hitherto unheard-of bodily tortures, compelled them to pay the heaviest ransoms,’ wrote Roger of Wendover. This ‘great tyranny’ was long remembered. Matthew Paris’s standard of barbarism was not that set by the Scots or the Welsh but by Louis’s Frenchmen: ‘even Louis never brought such sordid and violent followers to England as [the king’s son, the future Edward I] nourished in his household,’ he remarked.

From the political standpoint, these changing ideas in England about the other peoples of Britain point to a conclusion of cardinal importance. The ground for the eventual conquest of Wales and attack on Scotland at the end of the thirteenth century was not laid by long-standing and intensifying English hostility to the Welsh and the Scots. Quite the reverse. The harsh and pejorative opinions of the Welsh and Scots expressed by the English in the twelfth century had largely vanished a hundred years later, changing with changing reality. The English attitude to the Irish, on the other hand, remained unchanged precisely because the Irish rulers seemed much as they had been in the twelfth century, killing opponents and not improving their marital practices. The sketch of Ireland offered to the historian Froissart in the 1390s by one of Richard II’s esquires (who had spent time there in captivity) was still of a land without towns, ransoms, stirrups, proper armour and decent saddles. Its kings knew nothing of courtly behaviour, and had to have a crash course in English ways before they could be knighted by Richard II.

There was also no sense in which the emergence of these new identities had rung down nationalistic blinds, making the peoples of Britain more separate as they became more similar. Instead there were numerous contacts which crossed both race and border. The number of Welshmen called Sais, a Welsh designation meaning Englishman, multiplied in the thirteenth century even in areas subject to native rulers, which reflected extensive contact with the English, often including marriage to an Englishwoman. At the highest level the number of mixed marriages increased. If these never prevented conflict, their tendency was certainly to sedate it. In 1262 the marcher baron, James of Audley, was asked by the king to ensure the loyalty of Gruffudd of Bromfield, Gruffudd being his brother-in-law. Llywelyn the Great himself described the English baron Ralph Mortimer, who had married his daughter Gwladus, as ‘his dearest son’, while Roger Mortimer, fruit of the union, both made an alliance with his cousin, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the Prince of Wales, and included his coat of arms in a heraldic roll which he commissioned. Meanwhile in the north of Britain there was a substantial cross-border nobility, constantly replenished by marriage, which held lands both in England and Scotland (see below, p. 425). Such men probably thought of themselves as Anglo-Scottish, much as the cross-Channel elite of the twelfth century were Anglo-Norman.

Nor did the reshaping of national identities in the two centuries after the Conquest sever Britain from the rest of Europe, however intense and significant English hostility to foreigners was at times in the thirteenth century. In origin the aristocratic culture, which came in varying degrees to embrace the whole of Britain, was very much that exported from France – France in the wide sense of the French royal lands and the surrounding principalities. Hence in a most telling passage the Barnwell annalist said that in culture the king of Scotland and his nobles were French. He did not say they were English, although it was directly from England that the culture came. The two fundamentals of aristocratic life, the castle and the cavalry knight, had both been brought from France by the Normans, as they had brought chivalric modes of warfare and politics. France in the twelfth century was the home of troubadours and tournaments, and it was in tournaments across France, not in Britain, that William Marshal, the future earl of Pembroke and regent of England, made his name in the 1170s and 1180s as ‘the greatest knight in the world’. The loss of Normandy in 1204 made the barons of England finally English but did not confine them to Britain. Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and the heir to the throne, the future Edward I, both frequented the European tournament circuit in the 1250s and 1260s. Earlier a Scottish noble, Duncan, earl of Dunbar, had died in 1248 on the crusade of Louis IX, the king of France who was later canonized. The foreign friends and relatives whom Henry III established in England in the mid thirteenth century kept alive something of the internationalism of the old Anglo-Norman baronage. Thus Meath in Ireland and Ludlow in Wales eventually passed through marriage to Geoffrey de Joinville, lord of Vaucouleurs in Champagne, and younger brother of Jean de Joinville, who had also crusaded with Louis and had later written a life of the Saint. Geoffrey was summoned to the armies of the king of France, crusaded with the future Edward I of England and ended his days in the house of Dominican friars at Trim in Ireland.

Matthew Paris’s map of Britain itself had a wider context for it was almost certainly drawn from Britain as it appeared on a map of the world, rather like the Mappa Mundi preserved in Hereford cathedral, which has Jerusalem at its centre. In the Hereford map Britain is placed on the world’s outer rim, yet it still appears large and impressive. It was in many ways a wealthy island, as the next chapter will show.

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