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The Norman Conquest. Back when the French weren’t sissies. The Norman Conquest. Toward the close of the Old English period an event occurred that had a greater effect on the English language than any other since. The Norman Conquest in 1066

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the norman conquest

The Norman Conquest

Back when the French weren’t sissies

the norman conquest1
The Norman Conquest
  • Toward the close of the Old English period an event occurred that had a greater effect on the English language than any other since.
    • The Norman Conquest in 1066
  • If William the Conqueror (A French Speaking Dane) had not claimed the English throne then, the English language might still more closely resemble it’s Germanic roots.
the origins of normandy
The Origins of Normandy
  • Normandy is on the northern coast of France
    • Derives it’s name from the bands of Northmen who settled there in the ninth and tenth centuries.
    • As part of a peace agreement between Rollo (the leader of the Danish settlers) and Charles the Simple (king of France), the right of the Danes to occupy France was recognized.
      • Rollo became the first Duke of the Normans
      • Some of the Dukes that succeeded him rose in power to the extent that they rivaled France’s kings.
  • In 1066 when Edward the Confessor died childless, England had a choice of successor.
    • Harold became king
    • William, a powerful Duke of Normandy at the time, was Edwards cousin, and challenged Harold’s claim.
      • He staged an armed invasion and took control of the country
  • Basically, what you need to understand, is that a French speaking Dane became King of England.
the aftermath
The aftermath
  • William put Normans into all important government positions.
    • Normans also ascended into important positions in the church
  • French became the prestigious language of England’s ruling class.
    • This lasted 200 years
    • During this period of time, English became the language of the socially inferior
    • Much of the “English” Literature of the era was written in French.
      • Mort De Arthur = compiled from French sources by Sir Thomas Malory in the 1400’s
      • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight = Middle English English


    • During the Norman occupation, about 10,000 French words were adopted into English
      • three-fourths of which are still in use today.
      • Government, law, art and literature
    • More than a third of all English words are derived directly or indirectly from French
    • It's estimated that English speakers who have never studied French already know 15,000 French words.
king arthur
King Arthur
  • legendary king of Britain
  • historically perhaps a 5th- or 6th-century Romano-British chieftain or general.
    • But probably NOT real
  • Stories of his life, the exploits of his knights, and the Round Table of his court at Camelot were developed by medieval writers and became the subject of many legends.
the earliest story
The earliest story
  • first appears in the HistoriaRegumBritanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Arthur is the son of UtherPendragon and Ygaerne (Igraine), wife of Gorlois of Cornwall, whom Uther wins through Merlin's magic.
  • At 15 Arthur becomes king and, with his sword Caliburn (Excalibur), slays Childric, conquers Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, and Orkney.
  • Marries Guanhamara, a noble Roman lady, and holds his court at Caerleon on the Usk.

He is summoned to pay tribute to the Emperor Lucius of Rome, resists, and declares war.

  • Guanhamara and the kingdom are left in the charge of Arthurs nephew Modred
  • On his way to Rome he slays the giant of St Michael's Mount; his ambassador Walwain (Gawain) defies the emperor and fights him bravely
  • When Arthur is about to enter Rome he is warned that Modred has seized Guanhamara and the kingdom
  • He returns with Walwain, who is slain on landing; Modred retreats to Cornwall where, with all his knights, he is slain in a final battle
  • Arthur is mortally wounded and is borne to the island of Avalon
  • Guanhamara becomes a nun
the stories we know
The stories we know
  • Stories of Saint Patrick represent the coming of Christianity to Ireland
  • The Arthurian story too became central to the Christian mythological system as applied to Great Britain.
joseph of arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea
  • provided the burial place for Jesus after his Crucifixion (Luke 23)
  • according to tradition, traveled to England after Jesus' resurrection, bringing with him the Holy Grail
    • Arthurian Hero-knights quested for the grail.
  • Said to have built the church at Glastonbury
  • It was at the great abbey at Glastonbury where King Arthur was said by the monks to have been buried
a miraculous conception
A miraculous conception
  • UtherPendragon (UthrBendragon), king of Britain, was assisted in his wars the invading Saxons by the aging Duke of Cornwall.
  • Uther fell in love with the duke's wife, Igraine, and made his love so evident that the duke became offended and took his wife away to his castle at Tintagel on the Cornish coast.
    • The castle was impregnable.
  • Merlin agreed to use magic to help Uther obtain Igraine.
    • While the duke was away fighting a battle, the magician made Uther look like Igraine's husband
    • The night Arthur was conceived, the Duke of Comwall was killed in battle.

Merlin predicted that Igraine's child would be the greatest of the kings of Britain.

  • Igraine marries Uther, Arthur is born.
  • When Uther asked Igraine who the child's father was, she admitted to having slept with a stranger who resembled her husband.
    • Delighted by her honesty, Uther revealed that he was that stranger.
  • For his own protection, the baby Arthur was given to Merlin, who gave him to the trusted knight Sir Ector to be raised.
call to adventure
Call to Adventure
  • When Uther Pendragon died, the British kingdom was threatened by dissent and disagreement.
  • Realizing the danger, Merlin had the Archbishop of Canterbury call together the nobles of the kingdom to decide who would be king.
  • A stone with a sword in it suddenly appeared in a churchyard. These words were written on the stone: “Whoever pulls out this sword is the lawfully born king of Britain”.

At Christmas time and again at New Year's, various nobles attempted, without success, to remove the sword.

  • At that time, Arthur arrived at the stone with Sir Ector and his foster brother Sir Kay, whom he served as squire.
  • There were jousts and other knightly competitions.
  • Sir Kay asked Arthur to return to their camp to fetch a new sword for him.

Arthur returned without having found one, but while passing by he noticed the sword in the stone, and while everyone was off at a tournament, he easily removed the sword from the stone and took it to Kay.

  • Recognizing the sword, Kay decided to claim it and the throne. Sir Ector demanded to see for himself that his son could remove the sword from the stone.

But when Kay replaced the sword in the stone, he could not remove it. Moved by his father's questioning, he revealed that Arthur had given him the sword.

  • When Arthur once again removed it from the rock, Sir Ector and Sir Kay knelt before him as their king.
  • After much resistance, the nobles accepted Arthur as the lawful monarch, and Merlin revealed the details of his parentage.
later life
Later Life
  • Receives Excalibur from the lady in the lake
  • Has son with half-sister Morgause
  • Marries a Guinevere or two
  • Dies at the hand of his son Mordred
  • Taken to Avalon
  • King Arthur remains the most popular of heroes in the British Isles.
  • Associated with him is the heroic quest undertaken by his Knights of the Round Table— Percival, Lancelot, Gawain, and others who, among other adventures, seek the Holy Grail.
  • While he likely had pagan roots, Arthur was one of many warrior heroes who emerged from the establishment of Christianity in Europe.

Pagan heroes were all assimilated in one way or another by the retelling of their stories by Christian writers such as the Beowulf poet

  • Central to the Arthur myth is his role as the “once and future king” who, although dead, would return one day.
  • In this role, Arthur follows the monomyth model of the hero's return from the depths and, specifically, of Jesus, who went to heaven with the promise of returning one day “in glory”.
knights of the round
Knights of the Round
  • One hundred and fifty knights sat around the table at Camelot, which had been made by Merlin for Arthur's father.
  • Percival, the virgin knight
  • Chrétien de Troyes' late- twelfth-century Perceval, ou le conte du Graal and Sir Thomas Malory's fifteenth-century Morted'Arthur.
  • Per means “bowl” in Brythonic Celtic
  • Percival-Parsifal-Parzifal is always a hero who searches for the Holy Grail.
percivale s story
Percivale’s Story
  • Percival arrived at Arthur's court unmannered
    • is trained as a knight.
  • There are many versions of the story of Percival's quest for the Grail.
    • In one of the most famous, he acts out the role of the hero who refuses the call.
      • In this version, he arrives at the castle of the Fisher King, who is languishing under a terrible spell with a seemingly incurable wound.
      • For the king to be cured of his wound and his land to be freed of infertility, the questor must ask certain significant questions.

Percival, out of politeness or naiveté, fails to ask any questions about the Grail when, at a feast, it passes by him in procession. As a result of this failure, the king and his land remain under the terrible spell.

  • In other versions of the tale it is Percival's essential innocence and the guidance of a young maiden relative that make it possible for him to see the Holy Grail.
  • One of the greatest of the heroes of King Arthur's Round Table
  • Best known as the hero of the fourteenth- century Middle English romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    • Gawain's quest is colored by the theme of decapitation in relation to the presence of a figure in the tradition of the sacrificial green man
    • A source for Gawain tale is the Irish Celtic myth of “ Bricriu's Feast,” the decapitation challenge of a giant plays a central role along with the reactions of the hero, Cuchulainn.
the green man
The Green Man
  • Green men are still to be found carved in churches throughout Britain, spewing foliage from their mouths.
gawain s shield
Gawain's Shield
  • Ideals of chivalry derive from the Christian concept of morality
  • The pentangle represents the five virtues of knights: friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety
  • offspring of an incestuous relationship between King Arthur and his sister Anna (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia) or his half sister Morgause, or Morgan Le Fay (according to Sir Thomas Malory in his Le Morted'Arthur).
  • left in charge of Arthur's kingdom when the king went to France to fight Sir Lancelot, who had committed adultery with Queen Guinevere.
  • attempted to take the throne, forcing a war between father and son and the death of both.
sir lancelot of the lake
Sir Lancelot of the Lake
  • greatest and most romantic of the knights
  • son of King Ban of Benwick in Brittany, father of Galahad by Elaine Sans Pere (daughter of King Pelles ), and the lover of Guinevere .
  • A late development in the English Arthurian tradition, not appearing at length before the 14th cent.,
  • abducted at birth and brought up by a lake-lady, before being brought by a hermit to Arthur's court.
lancelot s story
Lancelot's Story
  • The love of Lancelot and Guinevere, a courtly love affair?
  • Lancelot's love for the queen is central; it is strained by his relations with Elaine the Fair Maid of Astolat whose death ends Guinevere's jealousy.
  • Their love is betrayed by Agravain ; the lovers flee to Lancelot's castle of Joyous Gard and, after a siege, the queen is restored to Arthur.
  • Lancelot withdraws to Brittany where he is pursued by Arthur and Gawain; in the ensuing clash Lancelot injures Gawain.
  • Arthur returns to Dover to fight the usurping Mordred ( Modred ) and Gawain is killed.

Lancelot comes back to help the king, but arrives too late for the final battle in Cornwall in which both Arthur and Mordred die.

  • He finds that Guinevere has become a nun, so he becomes a priest.
  • On his death he is carried to Joyous Gard where visions suggest that he is taken to heaven.
  • He is very prominent in Malory who stresses the tragedy of his imperfection (his courtly amour with the queen) which prevents his full achievement of the Grail , though he has glimpses of it. Malory also makes much of his later bitter hatred by Gawain because of his killing of Gawain's brothers
  • Gawain's hatred prevents Arthur from making a peace with Launcelot which might have enabled them to ally to defeat Mordred.
other characters
Other Characters
  • The Fisher King – an ambiguous figure who is encountered in various conflicting versions by hero-knights of the Round Table— particularly Percival—during the quest for the Holy Grail.
  • Morgan Le Fay – Arthur's half sister, the daughter of the king's mother, Igraine, and her first husband. Usually she is depicted as Arthur's enemy, but it is said that she led the party of women who took the mortally wounded “once and future king” off to Avalon to be healed.
  • Guinevere - The wife of King Arthur and the beloved of Sir Lancelot. Their love led to the disruption of Camelot and the fellowship of the knights of the Round Table, and eventually to Arthur's death. Some say she married Mordred after Arthur's death. More often it is said that she retired to a nunnery.
  • The Welsh Otherworld, Land of the Dead
  • a paradise where fallen heroes live as immortals.
  • For some, Avalon was a mysterious island, also called the “Isle of Apples” by Geoffrey of Monmouth and the “Isle of Women” in older Celtic tradition.
  • King Arthur was taken to Avalon after his defeat. It was from Avalon that he was to one day return to save Britain.