Medieval London. Tiahna Gillon Period 2. Norman Invasion.
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In 1066 William, the Duke of Normandy, invaded Britain, ushering in a new era in English history. The city of London was surrendered by a delegation of representatives, who also recognized him as king. He granted London a charter that upheld previous Saxon rights, laws and privileges. Under the commission of William, several royal ports were constructed along the river front of London to defend against Viking attacks and for the prevention of rebellions.
William, Duke of Normandy
Religious belief was central to the lives – and deaths – of medieval Londoners. It was fully integrated into the social and political order, providing the population with an understanding of their place in the world and inspiring artists, architects and craftspeople. Belief motivated progressive acts such as early forms of social provision and medical care, but was also used to justify wars of conquest and the brutal repression of diversity.
French merchants brought the idea that towns should manage themselves independently from the king. Londoners gained some independence and around 1189 they chose their first mayor, although the wealthiest men still controlled the city as aldermen. When the Common Council was set up in the 14th century, most people couldn’t vote for it as all women and most men had no vote. Only ‘freemen’ could vote – usually those who had served an apprenticeship of at least seen years in a recognized business or craft.
London’s guilds controlled apprenticeships and therefore entry to the ‘freedom of the city. Each trade and craft had a guild – whose rules encouraged and protected their craft – and a special feast day. As they grew in wealth and power, the guilds acquired royal charters and coats of arms.
Medieval London was made up of narrow and twisting streets, and most of the buildings were made from combustible materials such as wood and straw, which made fire a constant threat. Sanitation was also very poor throughout the city. London lost at least half of it’s population during the Black Death I the mid-14th century. Between 1348 and the Great Plague of 1666 there were sixteen outbreaks of plague that threatened the city.
Trade and commerce grew steadily during the Middle Ages, and London grew rapidly as a result. London served as England’s most important port city during the 14th century due to its: 1) geographical location, 2) large population and 3) skill and wealth of the merchants and traders.
Trade was organized into various guilds, which effectively controlled the city, and elected the Lord Mayor of London.
The First Baron’s War, during the year of 1216, was the last time that London was truly occupied by a continental armed force. Louis VIII was celebrated as the new ruler throughout the city.
During the Peasants’ Revolt of 1382 led by Wat Tyler, London was invaded again. A group of peasants stormed the tower of London and executed Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, and the Lord Treasurer. The peasants looted the city and set fire to numerous buildings. Tyler was stabbed to death by Lord Mayor William Walworth in a confrontation at Smithfield, thus ending the revolt.
During the War of Roses there was strong support in London for the Yorkist cause. the Lancastrian Henry VI was forced to leave London in 1456 due to hostile attitudes in the capital. He was later captured and kept for five years in the Tower of London. London was eventually captured by the Yorkist Edward IV in 1471, and Henry executed. This established the Yorkist claim on the throne and ended the first phase of the Wars of the Roses.