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Origins of Royal Britain. What do we mean by Britain? - 7th c. BC Brythons, Celtic people moved from continental Europe to British Isles. - 1st century.

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Presentation on theme: "Origins of Royal Britain. What do we mean by Britain? - 7th c. BC Brythons, Celtic people moved from continental Europe to British Isles. - 1st century."— Presentation transcript:

1 Origins of Royal Britain

2 What do we mean by Britain? - 7th c. BC Brythons, Celtic people moved from continental Europe to British Isles. - 1st century BC Roman “Britannia” (largely England and Wales); Scotland was "Caledonia"; Ireland, "Hibernia" union of crowns of England (included Wales) and Scotland (Great Britain) Act of Union unification of the states of England and Scotland; 1801 United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales)

3 Britons/Celts? - Celtic language group - date of arrival in British Isles unknown - British Isles inhabited for 200,000+ years Paleolithic hunters and gathers Neolithic peoples (first farmers) ca BC (Salisbury Plain) - Celts in several waves over long period introduced use of iron traded with the Continent used gold coinage (by 1st c. BC)

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5 Social & Political Organization of Celtic Britain - dominated by warrior aristocracy and priests (Druids) - ruled by small tribal kingdoms - experienced intertribal warfare (fortified settlements on hilltops) - Belgae created unified kingdoms in Hertfordshire and Essex (1st c. BC on); Cunobelin (Shakespeare's Cymbeline) entitled "rex Britannorum" introduced heavy plow (grain major exporters)

6 Although the Romans conquered what is now England and Wales by the end of the 1 st century AD, they were not seeking a homeland but tribute. British kings submitted to the emperor and ruled their former kingdoms in his name.

7 In the 4 th and 5 th centuries, Roman Britain was threatened by Germanic invaders and Rome itself was sacked by the “Barbarians” in 410.

8 The Anglo-Saxons were looking for loot and land and they pretty much ignored Roman urban cultural and political institutions. As the Roman legions returned to Italy, the Britons were left defenseless. By the 6 th c. AD, Britons were pushed to the fringes of the island – to Wales, Cornwall, and Southwestern Scotland. Many who remained were killed or enslaved.

9 Kingship Celtic and A-S concepts of kingship similar - oldest political institution in Britain - word king OE cyning/cyng (title used for A-S chiefs 5th and 6th c. AD) means scion or offspring of race or tribe - A-S leaders warlords - personal bond between man and man main cement

10 First King? Modern concept of kingship – one who has chief authority over a country or people - 7th c. Edwin, A-S leader in Northumbria, Bretwealda or lord of the Britains - 8th c. Mercian ascendancy (kingdom stretched from Trent River to Wales) - 9th c. Alfred the Great first used title King of English (ruled Wessex 871 to 901) - 10th c. Danes conquered N. England -- first real King of England probably King Swein of Denmark

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12 Nature of A-S Kingship - A-S kings selected (in theory) - defend people and maintain law and order - promulgated law (with Witan ); law lay in memory of folk - was commander-in-chief; army (fyrd) composed of peasant fighters commanded by retainers - thanes owed king service in army, maintained roads, and built military fortresses - one tax – the danegeld (to restrain the Danes), a tax on land (dated from 991) - king was expected to live off his own

13 Royal Justice - initially dealt only with greatest men and offenses committed in precincts of court - but “Justitia est magnum emolumentum” king’s frith or peace oferhynes or special fines to king (crimes against the king, not the group) - enforced by ealdorman (alderman) and shire reeve (sheriff) Ealdormen were wealthy landowners; filled important offices of royal household in rotation; attended meetings of Witan; carried out the king’s personal business in the region; title changed to Earl (continental equivalent of a Count) under Canute Sheriffs were lesser men in shire (easier to control); by 11th c. became chief administrators in shire; collected revenues from royal estates; presided over shire and hundred courts

14 An Anglo-Saxon democracy? - government employed 2 percent of adult male population - most peasants unfree tenants or slaves - free peasants or ceorls served in the fyrd but were small proportion of the peasantry and their primary occupation was farming


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