Danegeld and heregeld

King-Cnut-stowe_ms_944_f006r.jpgIn 1066 the total population of England was somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million.  North and East of the A5 – or Watling Street- a good chunk of the population was of Scandinavian (largely Danish) descent being in the Danelaw part of the country.  Localhistories.org state that the population was much smaller than it had been in Roman times given that they identify a figure twice that of Anglo-Saxon England. 90% of the Anglo-Saxon population  in 1066 were involved in agriculture.

We know that England was one of the wealthiest countries in Europe at the time – in part we know this because of the collection of Danegeld during the period when Ethelred the Unready was king. In 1018 the Saxons gave King Cnut £82,000 which is a staggering sum of money.  In total the Vikings netted something in the region of £137,000 between 991 and 1012.  Clearly things were going from bad to worse for the Saxons.

Essentially following the second wave of Viking incursions from 1012 onwards Ethelred paid the Vikings money to go away – not understanding that they were freelancers and that once word spread that the Anglo-Saxons were handing out cash that more Vikings would turn up to benefit from the bonanza.  In later years Danegeld became heregeld or Army Tax.  Somewhat ironically we know that one of Ethelred’s mercenaries was the very nordic Thorkell the Tall who signed up in 1014 for £21,000.

Since 90% of the population were required to work the land it stands to reason that the heregeld was not to pay for new weapons or to pay homegrown soldiers but to pay a largely mercenary force to send the Vikings on their way.  This was not an entirely successful policy on the Saxons part as the Danes led by Cnut occupied England between 1016 and 1042.   They continued to levy the tax. Cnut died in 1035 and was succeeded by his sons Harthacnut and then Harold Harefoot.

Notwithstanding the change in rulers from Saxons to Vikings to Saxons and then Normans, heregeld continued to be collected until 1162 with a slight interruption during the reign of Edward the Confessor who discontinued its payment in 1051.  It was noted by Florence of Worcester as paying for a vessel and eighty warriors.

It is not surprising that the value of a penny in terms of its weight declined until Edward the Confessor placed a halt, albeit a temporary one, on the tax.  Every village was required to pay.  Bartering and exchange of good was not an option.  Thus the mint had to produce more coins and didn’t have sufficient metal of the job.

Rather uncharmingly, heregeld was the first nationally collected tax in Europe.  It also demonstrated that Ethelred was capable of levying a tax because he had the necessary bureaucracy in place to do so.  It was during this time for instance that the office of sheriff first appears in the written record.  Unsurprisingly the Normans kept the system in tact.  We know that Norman sheriffs usually paid a fee in order to acquire the job – these so called “farms” demonstrate that not only was the sheriff an important administrative official representing the monarch but that it was a highly lucrative job.  The person who was sheriff could control the other local magnates because it was his job to collect the heregeld and could thus dominate his locality as well as pocketing part of the taxes that he collected.

One of the problems of the taxation during Saxon times was that smallholders often found it difficult to pay the tax so during this period the make up of Saxon hierarchy changed so that there were fewer free holders and more villeins.

The image at the beginning of this post comes from the British Library

 

Lambert, Tom. Law and Order in Anglo-Saxon England.

Lawson, M.K. The collection of Danegeld and Heregeld in the reigns of Aethelred II and Cnut  The English Historical Review, Volume XCIX, Issue CCCXCIII, 1 October 1984, Pages 721–738, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/XCIX.CCCXCIII.721

William Clito, Count of Flanders

 

william clitoWilliam’s parents were Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, and Sybilla of Conversano.  She died in 1103 when William was just two. Robert was at that time the Duke of Normandy.   Clito is a latinised form meaning man of royal blood – so similar to prince. He was Count of Flanders by right of his grandmother Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror.

Alison Weir identifies a legitimate son of Robert Curthose’s called Henry who was killed in a hunting accident in the New Forest but there is no further information and for the most part William Clito is usually identified as Robert’s only legitimate issue.  Robert also had illegitimate sons.  One was called Richard who was killed in the New Forest in 1100.  Richard had a full brother, confusingly enough, also called William and he became the Lord of Tortosa.  It is assumed he was killed around 1110 at the Battle of Jerusalem as there is no further record of him after that.

battle of tinchebraiAfter the  Battle of Tinchbrai in 1106 which saw Henry I of England defeat Robert Curthose the two brothers travelled to Falaise where William Clito was staying.  Henry had never met his nephew before and he placed the boy in the care of Hélias of Saint-Saëns, Count of Arques who was married to William’s illegitimate half-sister (history does not know her name.)    William remained in their custody for the next four years.  In 1110 Henry sent for his nephew. Hélias was not in residence but his household concealed the boy from Henry’s men and then smuggled him to Hélias who fled Normandy with the boy.

BremuleHélias and William became fugitives.  At first they stayed with Robert de Bellâme but he was captured in 1112.  From there they went to  Baldwin VII of Flanders.  By 1118 many of the nobility of Normandy were sufficiently fed up of Henry I to join William Clito and Baldwin in a rebellion.  However, in the September of that year Baldwin was injured and eventually died.  William  found another sponsor in the form of  King Louis VI of France who invaded Normandy but was comprehensively beaten at the Battle of Brémule on 20th August 1119. Even the Pope interceded on William’s behalf. Despite this the so-called First Norman Rebellion did not improve William’s position.

Disaster struck Henry I when the White Ship sank off Harfleur on the 25 November 1120 drowning his only legitimate son – another William.  This meant that William Clito became a logical successor to his uncle.  He was, after all, the legitimate son of the Conqueror’s eldest son.

In addition to the change in Clito’s  perceived status Henry I  also refused to return the dowry that had come with Matilda of Anjou upon her betrothal to his son.  Matilda’s father, Fulk V Count of Anjou now betrothed his daughter Sybilla to William Clito and gave him as Sybilla’s dowry the county Maine- an area between Anjou and Normandy.  Henry I appealed to the pope and the marriage was ultimately annulled in 1124 because the pair were too closely related.

Meanwhile the Normans had rebelled against Henry for a second time in 1123-1124.

And so it continued, with the French king taking the opportunity to add to Henry I’s discomfort by providing men and money for William in 1127.  It was at this point that William married the french queen’s (Adelaide of Maurienne) half sister Joan of Montferrat.  Louis VI was using William as a pawn against Henry’s claim to Maine.

 

On the 12 July 1128 William was at the Siege of Aaist.  He was wounded in the arm.  The wound became gangrenous.  He died on 28th July.  Amongst his followers was his brother-in-law Hélias of Saint-Saëns, Count of Arques who had been at his side for most of his life.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is no portrait of William – his uncle  Henry I made a rebel of him and did not want him to inherit either Normandy or England after the death of his own son (also William). Clito’s father, Robert Curthose, survived him by five and a half years.

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families: the Complete Genealogy