2The Loss of Normandy.King John (son of King Henry II of England) "lost" Normandy in King John fell in love with a French noblewoman--Isabel of Angouleme.He married her hastily without regard for her other suitor (to whom she was already engaged), Hugh of Lusignan. Hugh was the head of a very powerful and ambitious family, but John chose to ignore these connections and, in anticipation of retaliation for stealing Isabel, attacked Hugh's family. Hugh appeals to the King of all France, Philip, and Philip took advantage of the situation to "embarrass" the duke of Normandy (and King of England), John. Since John was extremely irritating to Philip, it was with great delight that Philip summoned John to appear before him, answer charges, and submit to the judgement of the court.
3John maintained that, as King of England, he was exempt from subjugation and did not appear at his trial. Hence, Philip stripped John of his "dukedom" and invaded Normandy.Philip succeeded, and Normandy returned solely to the French. John lost support: he was viewed as a scoundrel. With the loss of Normandy (some holdings were left in the south of France), many nobles had to decide where their allegiance lay France or England.Philip, and later Louis, helped solve this problem: he confiscated the land of many nobles. Those who still had holdings in both places were forced to give up one or the other. There were some that were divided up by Philip, and in some instances, the nobles kept their larger landholdings in England and gave up the lesser in Normandy.
4By 1250 the holdings had been divided or the choice made to hold land either in England or Normandy, and by 1250, there was no real reason for using French.During the breakup of holdings, an influx of French from the south was also occurring.During the breakup of holdings, an influx of French from the south was also occurring. There were three periods of infiltration by foreigners, all occurring during the reign of Henry the 3rd:Henry the 3ed's reign was full of excesses and liberties. He freely gave to foreigners--land,etc.--and encouraged their influx. The hostilities that ensued were, in large part, due to Henry's catering tothe French. Resentment of the foreigners and of Henry was the attitude of the day.
5Factors Contributing to The Diffusion of English. During this time the upper classes continued to speak French, as they had done in the previous century, but the reasons for doing so were not the same.Instead of being a mother tongue inherited from Norman ancestors French became, as the century wore on, a cultivated tongue supported by social custom and by business and administrative convention.Meanwhile, English made steady advances. A number of considerations make it clear that by the middle of the century, when the separation of the English nobles from their interests in France had been completed (the loss of Normandy), English was becoming a matter of general use among the upper classes.
6The 100 Years War.The Hundred Years' War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 between the Kings of France and the Kings of England and their various allies for control of the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings.Its long duration, it is often viewed as one of the most significant conflicts in the history of medieval warfare.
7Separation of the French and English Nobility After the Norman Conquest a large number of people held lands in both England and France, and a kind of interlocking aristocracy existed. It is true that some steps toward a separation of interests had been taken from time to time, as when William the Conqueror left Normandy to his eldest son Robert and England to William Rufus, and as when Henry I confiscated the estates of unruly Norman barons. But in 1204 the process of separation was greatly accelerated when the king of France confiscated the lands of several great barons, and of all knights who lived in England. For the most part the families that had estates in both countries were forced to give up one or the other.After 1250 there was no reason for the English nobility to consider itself anything but English. This was the most valid reason for ceasing to use English
8Promotion of National Feeling During the reign of John there were calls for a policy of "England for the English". And in the reign of Henry III the antagonism arose immediately after the first stream of foreigners came to England. The king dismissed the foreigners from the important offices they held, but they were soon back.Opposition to foreigners became the principal ground for national feeling. Between the years 1258 and 1265 the foreigners were driven twice from England. When Edward ( ) came to the throne England entered upon a period of consciousness of its unity. The government officials were for the most part English, and the king warned against the purpose of the king of France to "wipe out the English tongue".The effect of the foreign incursions in the thirteenth century was to delay the natural spread of the use of English by the upper class that had begun earlier. It also stimulated the consciousness of the difference between those who participated in English affairs as to consider themselves Englishmen, and those who flocked to England to enjoy Henry's favors.On of the frequent criticisms against the newcomers was that they did not know English. This meant that there was a general felling that some knowledge of English was regarded a proper mark of an Englishman.
9Black DeathThe Black Death, an epidemic of bubonic plague that spread over the whole of Europe, arrived in England in 1348 and killed as much as a third to half the population.The first outbreak of plague swept across England in It seems to have travelled across the south in bubonic form during the summer months of 1348, before mutating into the even more frightening pneumonic form with the onset of winter. The foul conditions was as true of Bristol as it was of any other medieval town, if not more so because of its size and importance. People had a tendency to empty their chamberpots out of their windows into the street.On average, between 30-45% of the general populace died in the Black Death of But in some villages, 80% or 90% of the population died (and in Kilkenny at least, it seems likely that the death-rate was 100%!). Nor was 1350 the end of it. Plague recurred! It came back in , 1368, 1371, , 1390, 1405 and continued into the fifteenth century.
10The Rise of the Lower & Middle Class. Life in Britain in the fourteenth century was 'nasty, brutish and short', and it had been that way for the peasantry since long before the Black Death. Britain in the early fourteenth century was horrendously overpopulated. This was very good for the land-owning classes, since it meant that they had a vast reserve of inexpensive manpower upon which they could draw. This changed after 1348.
11We can see in the example of the immediate consequence of the plague, the Black Death: a slash in the cost of livestock and inflation in the cost of labor. The poor started to demand more for their work. The immediate reaction of the elite was to legislate against this. The Ordinance of Labourers was published on 18th June 1349, limiting the freedom of peasants to move around in search of the most lucrative work.It failed. Skilled manpower was so short that no landlord could afford to ignore the strictures of the market. In fact, to those with the opportunity and ability to seize it, the Black Death presented a golden opportunity for advancement.
12With the de facto (if not de jure) freedom to move around and sell their labor, and the horrendously deflated prices of goods and land, those with the enterprise to do so were able to lift themselves out of the bonds of villeinage and make something of themselves.n 1371, an academic Oxford cleric called John Wycliffe was promoted into the government service of King Edward III.Wycliffe was a reformist clergyman who had evolved a theory that the bible was the only truly religious authority, rejecting the teachings of the Pope and the Catholic Church. He believed that it was impossible to know whose souls would ultimately be saved, and that it was entirely possible for those of the clergy and the Pope not to be among them. His teachings were vilified by the Church, and he was tried for heresy in However, John of Gaunt literally stood by him in court, causing the trial to break up in confusion.
13Yet Wycliffe's teachings had struck a dangerous chord amongst the populace. Thanks to the new social freedoms released by the Black Death, the Commoners had become more confident in demanding their rights.The followers of Wycliffe's ideas, known as Lollards, were vociferous in support of such demands. Such words struck a deep chord among the men of Kent; more so than in other places like Durham, where feudal lordship still held strong sway.This was because the Kentish peasantry had been able to improve their lot considerably in the wake of the Black Death.This was the outcome of simmering resentments and the surprising social shifts, in part caused in part by the Black Death. The Peasants Revolt is the only truly popular uprising in English medieval history.
14The Status of English in the 14th Century The General Adoption of English, at the beginning of the fourteenth century everyone in England knew English.Until a generation or two before that time so much of the polite literature of England had been in French.When writers used English they felt called upon to justify their decision. They frequently did this in a prologue, and incidentally made interesting observations on the linguistic situation. One prologue to a work written in 1300 tells us that both the learned and unlearned understood English at that time.In another prologue written in 1325 the writer acknowledges that some people who lived at court know French, but he specifically states that old and young, learned and unlearned, all understand the English tongue.
15In a third introduction written not later than 1325, and probably earlier, the author makes the expected statement that everybody knows English, and additionally asserts that at a time when gentlemen still "used" French he had seen many nobles who could not speak it. At this time England had a king, Richard II, who spoke English fluently. Edward III also knew English. Outside the royal family, among the governing class English was the language best understood.And in 1362 the Parliament was opened with a speech in English for the first time. In the last year of the century the order deposing Richard II was read in English, and Henry IV's speeches claiming the throne and later accepting it were delivered in English. Such instances show that in the fourteenth century English was again the principal tongue of all England.
16English in the Law Courts & Schools. Law Courts; Soon after the Norman Conquest, French was the language of all legal proceedings. But in 1356 proceedings in the courts of London and Middlesex were ordered to be in English. And in 1362 the Statute of Pleading was enacted in the Parliament, and was to go into effect in the following year. According to this statute all lawsuits were to be conducted in English, because "French is much unknown in the said realm," i.e. in England.Schools; Shortly after the Conquest, French replaced English as the medium of instruction in the schools. In the twelfth century there were complaints that former education was in English, but was now in French, because "other people now teach our folk". Until the fourteenth century the use of French in the schools was quite general. Some writers of the period attributed the corruption of the English language partly to this fact.However, after the Back Death, two Oxford schoolmasters were responsible for a great innovation in English education, namely John Cornwall and Pencrich. These two schoolmasters introduced English as the vehicle of instruction in their schools, probably because of a scarcity of competent teachers. Anyhow, after the middle of the fourteenth century English began to be used in the schools, and by 1385 the practice became general.
17The Use of English in Writing The last step in the gradual ascent of the English language was its employment in writing. This is because in this respect it had to compete with both Latin and French. French was the first language in England to break the monopoly of Latin in writing.It was only in the fifteenth century that English succeeded in replacing both. About 1350 French was at its height as the language of private and semi-official correspondence. The earliest letters written in English appeared in the latter part of the fourteenth century, although there were few before eventually, after 1450 English letters were used everywhere. The situation was rather similar with wills. The earliest known English will after the Conquest dates from 1383, but wills written in English were rare before in 1397 the earl of Kent made his will in English, and in 1438 the countess of Stanford did likewise. The wills of Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI were all written in English.
18In the fifteenth century English was adopted for the records of towns and guilds, as well as in some branches of the central government. About 1430 some towns translated their ordinances and books of customs into English.English became generally used in their transactions after It was likewise with the guilds, in some of which English was used along with French in their ordinances. This was the case in a London guild as early as 1345, and later at York in 1400.The records of Parliament are a similar case. The petitions of the Commons, on which statutes were based if they were approved, were usually in French until These petitions were enrolled in French even when they had been originally presented in English.As for the statutes themselves, they were generally in Latin until about 1300, then in French until the reign of Henry VII. It was in 1485 that they began to appear in English side by side with French, until French entirely disappeared in 1489.
19The reign of Henry V ( ) marked the turning point in the use of English in writing. The king set an example in using English in his correspondence, and exerted certain efforts to promote its use in writing.Apparently his victories over the French gave the English a pride in things that were English. The end of the reign of King Henry V and the beginning of the next mark the period at which English began to be generally adopted in writing.The year 1425 represents the approximate date of the general employment of the English language in writing.
20Middle English Literature The separation of the English nobility from France around the year 1250, and the spread of English among the upper class is reflected in the next hundred years of English literature. Polite literature that had until that time appeared only in French now appeared in English.The most popular type of this literature was the romance. Only one English romance exists from an earlier date than but from this time on translations and adaptations from French began to appear, and their number increased largely during the fourteenth century. Although the religions literature characterizing the previous period continued, there appeared now other types. Thus the hundred years between 1250 and 1350 is labeled the Period of Religious and Secular literature in English literature. This period indicates clearly the wider spread of the English language.The general employment of English by all cases, which took place by the latter half of the fourteenth century, resulted in a body of literature that represented the high point in English literature during the Middle Ages. The period from 1350 to 1400 is called the Period of Great Individual Writers.
21The chief name among these writers was Geoffrey Chaucer ( ), who is considered the greatest English poet before Shakespeare.In addition to delightful minor poems, Chaucer composed a long narrative poem called Troilus and Criseyde, but his most famous work is the Canterbury Tales, which constitutes in its variety of tales an anthology of medieval literature.To this period belong William Langland, John Wycliffe, and other prose writers and poets, who made the latter part of the fourteenth century an outstanding period in Middle English literature.The fifteenth century is sometimes called the Imitative Period because so much of the poetry written at that time was imitating that of Chaucer. The same century is sometimes also referred to as the Transition Period, because it covers a large part of the time between the age of Chaucer and that of Shakespeare.To this period belong the writers Lydgate, Hoccleve, Skelton, and Hawes. At the end of the century English literature had the prose of Malory and Caxton. Scottish imitators of Chaucer, e.g. Henryson, Dunbar, Gawin Douglas, and Lindsay, produced significant work.These authors carried on the tradition of English as a literary medium into the Renaissance. Thus, English literature during the Middle English period sheds interesting light on the status of the English language.