THE NORMAN CONQUEST In 1066, as every school child knows, England was invaded and conquered by William, Duke of Normandy, commonly called "the Bastard." He used as pretext a doubtful claim to the English crown after the death of Edward the Confessor, "last of the Saxon Kings." The army attendant upon William was chiefly composed of Normans, men speaking a provincial dialect of French but related by blood to the Danes. Their forefathers, most of them, had migrated from Scandinavia and conquered the land of Normandy even as they themselves were now proposing to conquer England. Their success meant more than a mere change in dynastic rule for the inhabitants of Britain. The old local kingdoms and tribal organizations were swept away—such as had survived the period of unified Danish rule. In their stead the whole of England, excluding Scotland and Wales, was placed under a single complex feudal system of administration. FEUDAL ISM IN ENGLA ND ■B Feudalism of course was a highly stratified organization of society. In France there were already many ranks or orders of men, from the lowly unfree serf, up through free traders and workers, landless knights, landowning knights, little barons, big barons, and recognized kings. Military service and other obligations were the basis of land ownership. Rights and prerogatives were at times vague or conflicting, and hence gave rise to fierce combats. Feudal France was divided into great duchies, each with a hereditary overlord at his head. Roughly speaking the dialects of medieval French corresponded to these feudal divisions. Within the confines of each duchy there was not a great deal of difference between the language of the lower and the higher orders, except insofar as differences of interest and preoccupation tended to mark off the stores of words used. The husbandman talked about agricultural matters, using more or less simple sentences studded with the technical terms of his job; the knight employed a more aristocratic vocabulary referring to tournaments, etiquette, literature, and art (within l i m i t s ! ) , terms of inheritance, and the techniques of warfare; but in general they spoke the same dialect within the same region. The regional dialect divisions were probably much more noticeable than class divisions, apart from limited items of specialized vocabulary.
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