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The Continuity of the Conquest

Charlemagne and Anglo-Norman Imperialism

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle


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The Continuity of the Conquest

Charlemagne and Anglo-Norman Imperialism

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle

The Continuity of the Conquest further expands the horizons of an already expanding body of work on the medieval Charlemagne legend. That Frankish king and emperor loomed large in the imaginations of the Anglo-Normans, in ways both tacit and explicit. Wendy Hoofnagle forces us to reconceptualize what we think we know about Englishness, and indeed England itself, in the central Middle Ages.”


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The Norman conquerors of Anglo-Saxon England have traditionally been seen both as rapacious colonizers and as the harbingers of a more civilized culture, replacing a tribal Germanic society and its customs with more refined Continental practices. Many of the scholarly arguments about the Normans and their influence overlook the impact of the past on the Normans themselves. The Continuity of the Conquest corrects these oversights.

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle explores the Carolingian aspects of Norman influence in England after the Norman Conquest, arguing that the Normans’ literature of kingship envisioned government as a form of imperial rule modeled in many ways on the glories of Charlemagne and his reign. She argues that the aggregate of historical and literary ideals that developed about Charlemagne after his death influenced certain aspects of the Normans’ ruling approach, including a program of conversion through “allurement,” political domination through symbolic architecture and propaganda, and the creation of a sense of the royal forest as an extension of the royal court.

An engaging new approach to understanding the nature of Norman identity and the culture of writing and the problems of succession in Anglo-Norman England, this volume will enlighten and enrich scholarship on medieval, early modern, and English history.

The Continuity of the Conquest further expands the horizons of an already expanding body of work on the medieval Charlemagne legend. That Frankish king and emperor loomed large in the imaginations of the Anglo-Normans, in ways both tacit and explicit. Wendy Hoofnagle forces us to reconceptualize what we think we know about Englishness, and indeed England itself, in the central Middle Ages.”
“In The Continuity of the Conquest, Wendy Hoofnagle presents a wide-ranging and learned study that will be an important contribution to a variety of fields within medieval studies and beyond.”

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle is Associate Professor of Languages and Literatures at the University of Northern Iowa.



CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

Continuity and Carolingian Kingship: The Case of the Early Normans

An “Obsession with the Continent”: A Reconsideration of Insular Continuity

CHAPTER TWO: Conversion Politics and the Ideology of Imperialism

The Politics of Allurement: Conversion and Charlemagne’s Civilizing Impulse

Conversion Politics: Rituals of Submission and Unification

The Pygmalion Effect: Dudo of St. Quentin and the Rituals of Empire

Converting the British Barbarian: “Sitting at High Table” at the

Anglo-Norman Court

CHAPTER THREE: Making Their Mark: The Imperial Ideology of Topography

Imperial Unification and Sacral Kingship: Henry of Huntingdon’s Via regia

Charlemagne’s Imperial Memory and the Symbolic Landscape:

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Castles

CHAPTER FOUR: Taming the Wilderness: A New Look at the New Forest

Keeping It in the Familia? Norman Forest Law and its Carolingian Ancestry

In the Dreams of Snoring Monks: The King’s Body in the New Forest

Addicted to the Chase: Expressions of Royal Power in Marie de France’s Forests





CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

As William of Malmesbury tells it, on the morning of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 after a long night of prayer, the Norman army took communion and “struck up the song of Roland to fire them as they went into battle with the example of a heroic warrior, ...calling on God’s help.” It is generally acknowledged that the allusion to the great crusade of Charlemagne and the Twelve Peers was meant to represent William the Conqueror and his loyal followers, supporting the righteousness of the duke’s cause in England. Although William of Malmesbury was writing well after Charlemagne’s lifetime and was a couple of generations removed from the Normans who had come to England with William the Conqueror, it suggests that Charlemagne’s legend remained a potent symbol in the eleventh and twelfth centuries for translatio, and for establishing authority both secular and religious. This practice was not original to the Normans, however, and had been in place since the reign of Charlemagne, however, because “Evoking the figure of Charlemagne becomes not only a way of imagining and legitimating one’s origins, but it is also a way of doing so in relation to the Other,” as Robert Morrissey observes. Legendary name-dropping was a favored practice among medieval elites for centuries after his death, even among the pre-Conquest Normans, especially for purposes of validating their authority and sanctioning imperial expansion. In spite of this, the influence of Charlemagne among the Anglo-Normans in particular has not been examined to any great extent, leaving a significant gap in our understanding of their ideals of kingship as well as their desires for legitimacy and imperial sovereignty.

Economic factors to Anglo-Norman colonizing impulses, such as the need on the part of William the Conqueror and his heirs to acquire more and more land revenue to reward their followers and to win support, do not account for the importance of the ideological influences that may have affected the way they went about it. As Ann Laura Stoler points out, “the assumption that colonial political agendas are self-evident precludes our examination of the cultural politics of the communities in which the colonizers lived,” which can be an obstacle to our understanding of the politics of Norman expansion and cultural appropriation. A neglected area of scholarly studies about the Normans and their influence in England is the history of their own cultural politics, in particular the underlying importance of Charlemagne for the early Normans as an imperial model, and the effect that their emulation of his kingship might have on post-Conquest England. This perspective offers a complementary reading to the idea that the Normans were predatory opportunists as they sought to expand their economic base, by considering their debt to an idealized, even legendary, interpretation of Charlemagne’s imperium.

By Charlemagne’s legend, I mean the aggregate of historical and literary ideals, which may even be self-contradictory at times, that developed about Charlemagne after his death and shaped medieval definitions of kingship and civilized behavior, such as courtly culture, imperialistic desires and sacral kingship. This perspective is not unlike the idea of King Arthur’s legend, which was also influenced by Charlemagne’s, except for the fact that some of the material for Charlemagne’s kingship, such as cartularies and writs, continued to exist after his death, providing an additional layer of verisimilitude to his more fictive exploits. When considering medieval writers’ use of the legendary Charlemagne in historiography, it is important to remember the medieval premise that truth can encompass what modern readers would consider fiction, such that, in the words of Jeanette Beer, “Truth and facts were polarized, with preference for the former over the latter.” This tendency valorizes legendary material as an illustration of a kind of truth that does not necessarily have to be “factual”; thus, the Charlemagne who destroyed the Saracens at Saragossa in the Chanson de Roland could carry the same ideological weight as the Charlemagne who defeated the Saxons in the eighth century. Materials that include “fiction” are still significant for this study because of the agendas of the authors and audience expectations of these texts. Suzanne Fleischman argues that “there was a concept of history which was distinct from fiction, and which was linked to a particular criterion of truth. But historical truth did not imply, as it does for us, the authenticity of facts and events. ...History was what was willingly believed. Thus the epic legends, even when invented out of whole cloth, were accepted as historically true.” The same holds for the legend of Charlemagne specifically, as brilliantly demonstrated by Anne Latowsky, who shows that many generations following Charlemagne’s reign gave great currency to his imagined life, which was used in a multitude of ways to legitimate authority, including royal biography, res gestae, chronicles, universal histories, relic authentication texts, imperial decrees, and hagiographies.

The influence of Charlemagne’s memory on other western European rulers, such as the Ottonians, Anglo-Saxons, and Capetians, began shortly after his death in 814; indeed, subsequent Carolingian kings would imitate his style of kingship through the performance of rituals, like anointings, crown-wearings, hunting parties, and the giving of tribute, and through building practices, such as Charles the Bald’s evocation of his illustrious grandfather’s memory in his claim to have copied Aachen’s palace chapel at his palace in Compiègne. These practices would remain important for later dynasties of western Europe, whose propagandists would go so far as to rewrite their royal histories to align them with Charlemagne’s bloodline and portray them as his direct descendants, or whose kings would seek out women of Carolingian descent to achieve the same result, as did Philip Augustus when he married Isabelle of Hainaut. Other rulers were keen to associate themselves with Charlemagne’s authority through the appropriation of his physical remains, such as Otto III, who took his ancestor’s relics from Aachen in 1000, or Frederick Barbarossa, who returned the remains to Aachen in 1165 as part of his program for Charlemagne’s canonization. Even in Spain, where Charlemagne’s influence is not typically considered to be as great as it was in France and Germany, Alfonso VI the Brave of Léon and Castile “styled his image in imitation of Charlemagne” to such an extent that Charlemagne became conflated with Alfonso in the development of the Roland legend in northern Spain of the 1090s. In time, the topos of Charlemagne’s kingship would also become “a privileged locus for questioning the nature and limits of power, including cases in which the king is in the wrong, in which the person who embodies sovereignty abuses it.” Thus the versatility of his legend could be manipulated to serve a variety of socio-political needs, especially where issues of royal authority were concerned.

It should be noted here that the idea of “empire” throughout the Middle Ages was not a homogeneous one and medieval propagandists employed several models of authority for conveying translatio imperii; for instance, Charlemagne’s biographers followed Merovingian practices for using Old Testament exemplars such as David and Solomon for defining good kingship. The Roman emperor Constantine also served as an archetype for a Christian emperor, as evidenced by Gregory of Tours’s imitation of his baptism for his description of the baptism of Clovis, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty. Although Charlemagne was nicknamed “David” during his reign, references to him as a “new Constantine” are a common feature of the tributes written in his honor. The importance of Constantine’s image to Anglo-Norman secular authority is problematic in several ways, however. Although he appears in some Anglo-Norman historiography with a British pedigree and his mother, Helena, enjoyed great popularity as a saint in England from the time of the Anglo-Saxons for her discovery of the True Cross, Constantine himself did not achieve great prominence in the writing of Anglo-Norman scholars and poets and would not be considered important as an imperial model until well after the Middle Ages. Indeed, in the first half of the twelfth century, William of Malmesbury mentions his origins as a British king, an idea which is taken up shortly thereafter by Henry of Huntingdon and others, who nevertheless lose interest in Constantine’s history after he leaves Britain. Another reason for this is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s conflation of two historical persons named Constantine into a king of questionable morality who was only briefly in Britain and later alienated his subjects by crushing a native rebellion against the Romans. As a result, not all writers considered the figure of Constantine as attractive a source for translatio imperii as other historical kings; moreover, his authority was further complicated by the Church’s exploitation of his memory, through hagiography such as the Vita Silvestri and the legend of the Donation of Constantine which bestowed the temporal rule of the empire upon the Pope, for purposes of promoting its own power—a power of which secular rulers were justifiably leery. John Cowdrey especially notes that Constantine was a primary source for upholding the pope’s temporal power as well as spiritual, “as an ideal secular ruler who knew his place before God and the clergy.” Thus, perhaps because Constantine was more historically remote than other legendary personages and associations with the Roman emperor came with potential strings attached, Charlemagne was viewed by many later writers as a more suitable imperial model for Anglo-Norman kings who were striving to establish their legitimacy.

The Continuity of the Conquest, therefore, is meant to complement previous studies of these questions for a fuller understanding of the development of the ideologies of kingship and identity formation in medieval Europe. I explore the Carolingian aspects of Norman influence in England after the Conquest and demonstrate that the Normans’ literature of kingship envisioned government as a form of imperial rule modeled in many ways on the legendary glories of Charlemagne and his reign, which endures to this day as a celebrated example of political and intellectual rebirth that reversed the cultural decline of the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome in the west. To do this, I attempt to discern the ways that Charlemagne’s kingship may have affected the Normans in particular and informed certain aspects of their approach to rule independently of the Carolingian-inspired institutions that they inherited after the Conquest. As is well known, the Anglo-Saxons maintained a long-standing connection with Carolingian kings—for example, King Alfred’s interest in the revival of learning, especially among the clergy, was influenced by Charlemagne’s similar program—but the Anglo-Saxons’ emulation focused more on the sacral aspects of Charlemagne’s rule. In contrast, the Normans concentrated on imperial expressions of power in their propaganda of kingship. At times, the portraits of kingship that they imagined in these expressions might diverge considerably from the behavior of real kings; for their purposes, however, the fiction was just as relevant and useful as the reality and reveals more about contemporary values and practices than historical details of Charlemagne’s kingship alone. By studying both factors, therefore, we can better appreciate how the Normans’ manipulation of Charlemagne’s idealized legend was adapted to new meanings, which would ultimately change the course of Western medieval history and literature following the Conquest.

The idea of Charlemagne’s legend for the purposes of this study, therefore, is significant: it is important to remember that the Normans, like William of Malmesbury in his account of the Battle of Hastings, called upon the memory of Charlemagne in order to sanction their political pursuits, even though specific details of his memory may not have had a solid footing in reality. In fact, Charlemagne’s myth was constantly in flux, and like all good lies, was often partially grounded in fact. Consequently, it is possible to examine the ways in which post-Conquest rhetoric drew upon the Carolingian past and the models it offered for propaganda, even as it claimed fidelity to its predecessor but differed sharply from it in actuality. Moreover, one could argue, as Gilduin Davy does, that the Normans deliberately used the power of the written word to promote their authority during the course of Normandy's development and their evolution from barbaric Viking to legitimate duke (as they would later do in England for the purposes of kingship), using a “neo-Carolingian archetype.” When royal power weakened during the course of the tenth century and the dukes began to claim more of it for themselves, the use of quasi-royal titles derived from Carolingian sources, such as princeps, dux regni and Dei gratia dux, became an important tool for demonstrating legitimacy in official documents. Furthermore, the promotion from duke to king must have been one of the appeals of conquest for William I, especially as it augmented his ability to exercise power in Normandy as well as in England; he was certainly keen to publicize his royal authority there using rituals derived from Carolingian exemplars, such as the coronation ordo and laudes regiae. As Janet Nelson has shown, William was “aware of the propaganda-value of ritual, and that awareness was heightened by his situation as Conqueror of the English kingdom.” This recognition is further suggested, according to Nelson, by the laudes regiae of 1068, where we see the use of the imperial epithet serenissimus; combined with regular crown-wearings, William was able to exploit the imperial image of these rituals to support his claim to divine appointment as king of England.

For our understanding of the Norman approach to ruling, therefore, the variety of potential uses of the Charlemagne legend for legitimizing authority is more important to understanding the Normans’ self-promotion than the documentary evidence alone can indicate. Instead, we must also turn to other, non-documentary sources for support of the Norman interpretation and appropriation of Charlemagne’s legend for purposes of realizing their political ambitions. Their methods all too often involved the creation of fictional reality, which was no less real or effective for its audience because of its legendary qualities than documentary “reality.” We might even speak of a iconography of Carolingian kingship that requires analysis of such media as literature, art, and landscape; as a result, I employ a wide range of materials for my argument, encompassing literary fiction, historiography and landscape studies as well as documentary evidence and legal practices. Like so many before them, the Normans’ production of propaganda can involve conscious imitation as well as a lack of awareness of their own purposes for invention; frequently, these writers tap into a contemporary idea or feeling without a conspicuous agenda, but when considered in toto these texts demonstrate patterns of thought and behavior beyond the obvious—the general temper not only of our authors or even their commissioners, but also of contemporary audiences and those audiences yet to come. The written word is not only “an exercise in rhetoric, elaborating purely literary and aesthetic effects... it is a version of the world, which is to say an interpretation, an ideological statement.” It is necessary, therefore, to look as fully as possible at the socio-cultural picture that Norman political ambitions paint for us in their texts, through the manipulation of “history” and “legend” for their self-promotion on the medieval political stage.

Continuity and Carolingian Kingship: The Case of the Early Normans

The question of continuity in Normandy with regard to Carolingian traditions and rulership is one fraught with controversy, due in part to the debate over the point at which the invading Vikings began to turn their focus away from their Scandinavian heritage and adopt the culture and mores of the Frankish world they inherited when taking control of the erstwhile duchy of Neustria. Scholars such as David Bates and Karl Ferdinand Werner argued for a swift assimilation into Frankish society, in which the Scandinavian newcomers quickly sought to adopt the Carolingian institutions that the Church had struggled to preserve in the days of chaos wrought by the Viking depredations; on the other end of the spectrum, Eleanor Searle and others after her model claimed that the Scandinavian social structure of independent war-bands continued to exist in Normandy, along with their Viking identity, far longer than Bates and Werner had assumed, indeed well into the eleventh century. One of the challenges to this discussion for both interpretations is the lack of a clear connection in documentary evidence from the late ninth- into the mid-tenth century, which would demonstrate without a doubt what structures Rollo and his followers adopted in their new duchy. It is possible, however, to look elsewhere to study the persistence of Carolingian traditions in early Norman affairs. As David Bates notes, “The long-term perspective more than justifies the general conclusion that the first settlers must have taken over many existing institutions, since, by the eleventh century, when documents become available, it is clear that rural estates had preserved essentially Carolingian features and that ducal government operated largely through mechanisms which were inspired by Carolingian notions of authority.” These views suggest that enough of the Carolingian approach to estate management and government survived (especially with regard to legal practices) to enable the new duchy to begin to function effectively soon after the establishment of Rollo as duke of Normandy. This perspective also advocates that the new Normans found it advantageous to cooperate with and even assimilate Frankish norms and customs in order to survive in their new environment and create the kind of political networks that would be necessary to protect and promote their interests.

Musset proposes that the preservation of Carolingian authority and institutions is due, in part, to the continuity of some episcopal hierarchies in the region, and Felice Lifshitz later follows his argument by demonstrating how the bishops of Neustria governed the large majority of the towns and their administrative territories in the Carolingian style of the pagi around the end of the ninth century. As a result, according to her research, « aucune rupture n’eut lieu à Rouen vers cette époque… en ce qui concerne la pratique administrative carolingienne. » Musset also argues that it was the preservation of Carolingian traditions, « les héritages carolingiens, » that made life less difficult in Normandy than elsewhere during the upheaval of the tenth century. As a result of the continuance of Carolingian institutions in Norman government, this interpretation sees the new duchy stabilizing surprisingly quickly, which fostered prosperity and expansion under subsequent generations of Norman dukes, and a more recognizable Carolingian style of government. The vexing question remains, however, to determine exactly when this adoption occurred. On this point, however, the pendulum seems to be swinging back to the side of early continuity in studies such as those by Pierre Bauduin and Mark Hagger. Although Bauduin is somewhat cautious in his treatment of the argument for continuity, acknowledging the fluidity of territorial boundaries and aristocratic fidelity that indicated a process of assimilation that was not uniform throughout the duchy, Hagger strongly claims to join “the debate about continuity or change in post-Carolingian Normandy very much on the side on continuity” by examining the preservation of legal terminology and usage.

The Normans’ integration into Frankish society would result in a slow evaporation of their Scandinavian attachments; Lucien Musset remarks, « ces survivances carolingiennes se laisseront mieux intégrer par l’Etat feodal que la Normandie deviendra au XIe siècle, alors que les apports nordiques seront victimes de reactions de rejet. » The fading connections with the Scandinavian North throughout the tenth century can be observed, for example, in the decrease in the amount of Norman money in Scandinavian coin hoards. In William Longsword’s reign, the Rouen mint was revived in “a direct recreation of an institution of Carolingian government” by producing money “in a typically Carolingian style,” with only the names changed from that of Frankish kings to William’s own. Bates concludes, “From the very beginning the counts of Rouen made very definite efforts to rule in a Carolingian tradition.” Until 1204, in fact, the French kings had no jurisdiction in Normandy: they did not possess land, or patronize churches, abbeys, or dioceses; instead, « tous les droits utiles du souverain carolingien se retrouvent, du Xe au XIIe siècle, entre les mains des ducs. » Scandinavian influences did not linger long among the Normans as the ninth century waned and they found themselves further embroiled in Frankish affairs. Other studies of architecture, literature, art and patronage bear this out. From as early as William Longsword’s reign (927-42), moreover, religious architecture such as the abbey church of St. Pierre at Jumièges strove to emulate that of Carolingian buildings in scale, style and structure. Manuscripts produced at Jumièges and Fécamp during the course of the tenth century and into the eleventh were remarkable for their conformity to Carolingian classicism. Many legal practices were also a holdover from earlier Carolingian usage. Whether or not a significant rupture in the continuity of Carolingian authority and customs resulted from the Viking attacks in Neustria, by the end of Richard I’s tenure as duke in 996, most scholars agree that the Normans had reinstated many of the prerogatives and trappings of their Carolingian inheritance. The Continuity of the Conquest, therefore, is intended to enhance these studies, by showing how the influence of Charlemagne’s memory played into Norman identity and shaped their conceptualization of authority and ultimately their relationship to England and the English.

An “Obsession with the Continent”: A Reconsideration of Insular Continuity

As the controversy surrounding the studies of Carolingian continuity in early Normandy suggests, the development of Anglo-Norman kingship as a consequence of the far-reaching influence of Carolingian culture demands further study to better understand its impact on later English society and culture. As R. W. Southern once observed, “Culturally the most obvious thing about England in the twelfth century is its dependence on France.” Thus this study founds many of its insights on a reassessment of eleventh- and twelfth-century Anglo-Norman historiographers and writers, for an increased awareness of the English experience after the Normans applied continental mores and ideology to the Anglo-Saxon political and culture framework they inherited. Today, scholars apply the term “hybridity” to this phenomenon in medieval societies. Kathrin Audehm and Hans Rudolf Velten define hybridizations as “innovative and creative processes within in-between spaces, in which heterogeneous entities are linked and fused and, therefore, become indeterminate and ambivalent.” New identities often emerge in this “in-between” space, but it is necessary to renegotiate their composition repeatedly over time, and with each new encounter. Certainly, the Anglo-Norman “obsession with the Continent” could be said to have co-existed with an “obsession with the Anglo-Saxons”: on the one hand, the perpetuation of the legend of Charlemagne and the Norman identification with him elevated their royal prestige in the rest of Europe, but their fascination with the Insular cultures and kings that existed before their arrival was equally strong. Indeed, were they to deny this connection, it would have certainly undermined their legitimacy and claims to sovereignty in England. The duality of this inheritance must be stressed: before the Conquest, Normans such as Dudo of St. Quentin publicized their strong association with the idealized Carolingian past, and this legacy would endure in the Norman approach to kingship in England. The answer for the Anglo-Normans, therefore, was an elevation of their Anglo-Saxon inheritance to put them on an equal footing with continental emperors, Charlemagne in particular. Studies regarding the socio-political continuity or rupture in England, therefore, must consider the influence that Charlemagne’s kingship had on post-Conquest peoples and their anxieties about authority and identity.

The Anglo-Normans were eager to promote themselves in the European political world as a highly sophisticated and urbane imperial society and establish their authority in England as well as on the continental stage. For that reason, it is important to recognize the nature of the Anglo-Normans’ continental inheritance in the political and cultural environment that they redefined upon taking the throne of England. We do know that William was very practical and forthright in his administration of his new kingdom, as his establishment of the Domesday survey can attest, and one can hardly imagine that his approach to kingship was created out of whole cloth upon stepping on English soil. Some of the early charters and writs that remain express his desire for the continuity of English practices, but this continuity was fundamentally married with elements of the Carolingian approach to kingship to create a hybrid entity that would ultimately absorb the ideals of both cultures; thus the “Englishness” that would develop by the end fourteenth century would differ greatly from that of the tenth, while still retaining traces of its former identity.

The Norman ideology of sovereignty was one developed by William I’s ducal predecessors and revolved around the Carolingian notion of a king’s stewardship of the land and its people, of his responsibility for their betterment and salvation. However William may have envisioned a continuation of English custom in his reign as he claimed in his early writs, the reality remained that he initially applied the veneer of Carolingian authority—borrowed from a pastiche of laws, administrative practices, and even legend—to several aspects of the governance of his duchy and later his kingdom as did his predecessors, which would ultimately have an impact on the Norman pursuit of imperium throughout Britain. Policies such as the introduction of the Forest Laws and the Domesday Survey, traditionally attributed to William I’s rapacious greed by chroniclers and historiographers, and the development of elaborate, hybrid historical and legal texts, which created composite myths such as that of the via regia, take on new meaning when one examines the Carolingian legacy that informed Norman ideals of sovereignty and helped shape their practical approach to governing their new empire. At the time of the Conquest, Norman law “was basically Frankish in origin and substance,” and “all judicial authority in the duchy was the duke’s or derived from him… [such that] there was a duke’s justice in Normandy in a sense in which there was not a king’s justice in England before 1066.” What evolved in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was a codification of these ideals, and thus the responsibility for stewardship became vested in the very person of the king.

Norman involvement and personal investment in Carolingian affairs began, of course, with the series of agreements after AD 911 between the Northmen (invading Scandinavians) and Charles the Simple and his successors. This association would later become a cornerstone of Norman identity and perpetuated in chronicles and other contemporary texts; indeed, the Chanson de Roland makes two allusions to England having been part of Charlemagne’s domains. David Douglas also observes that “for such writers, it would seem, it was the loyalty of a Norman Duke to a successor of Charlemagne… that precipitated the most spectacular murder of the tenth century,” that of William Longsword in 942. The Duke would be shortly thereafter praised in a rhymed Latin dirge, where any questions about his Christianity and feudal virtues would be quickly laid to rest by his image as a “Christian champion and as a martyr for his loyalty to the Emperor,” notions which would be perpetuated by successive historians such as Dudo of Saint Quentin in the early eleventh century and Wace in the twelfth. Inherent in the association of Charlemagne’s imperial role is the concept of sacral kingship, of his gemina persona as earthly king and the Vicar of God that was first mentioned by Cathwulf in a letter to Charlemagne and subsequently elaborated by influential writers such as Alcuin. The Normans “were most conspicuously active in promoting the notion of the priest-king” and the “divine sanctions of royalty.” Bates has argued that this was evident in the formulae of early Norman charters, for instance, which “show that princely power was exercised Dei gratia. Although the notion that this implies divine favour has been questioned on the grounds that it may simply be a reference to providence, the point remains that the princes are shown as considering themselves to have a place within the divine scheme.” We see this further after the Conquest in the tractates of the York or Norman Anonymous in 1100, who was “one of the staunchest defenders of the spiritual essence of a Christ-like kingship” and in whose writing “the sacerdotal qualities of kingship were emphasized to an unprecedented degree.”

Perhaps Anglo-Norman writers found like minds in the Anglo-Saxon reformers of the tenth and early eleventh centuries, a period in which M. J. Silverman notes that “a Christ-centered theory of kingship” flourished that was derived from Carolingian and Ottonian models, notably in Edgar’s coronation ordo, the Golden Charter for the New Minster at Winchester and the writings of Æthelwold and his student, Ælfric. It is apparent, in any event, that those Anglo-Saxon kings whose reigns were closely associated with the Carolingian court, such as Æthelstan, or strongly resembled the Carolingian ideals of sacral kingship, such as Alfred and Edgar (with some emendation of course), seem to have resonated for the Anglo-Normans and figure prominently in the explosion of literary output in the twelfth century. The Anglo-Normans, it must be noted, reconstructed the history of their Anglo-Saxon forebears to better align them with continental events and mores. Thus in the early twelfth century, Symeon of Durham provided “unique” historical details in his writing and “was at pains to correlate what he knew of Frankish history with his information about the Anglo-Saxon past,” possibly because he was of Norman origins himself. In his entry concerning Eadberht, for example, which contains details that cannot be corroborated elsewhere, Symeon demonstrates a concern to show Anglo-Saxon kings on an equal footing with Carolingian kings. To do so, he emphasizes the respect that the Frankish rulers had for the good kingship of their Anglo-Saxon brethren: “[News of] Eadberht’s excellent fame and virtuous works spread far and wide, and even reached the king of the Franks Pippin, who became his friend because of this and sent him many and varied royal gifts.” Another roughly contemporary example is from William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum from 1125, in which he directly compares Æthelstan to Charlemagne by calling him “Magnus Adelstanus” in an elegiac verse resembling Carolingian royal epitaphs.

Sacral kingship wasn’t the only Carolingian institution that appealed to the Normans before the Conquest, as John Le Patourel remarks, because the variety of titles attributed to their rulers suggests that “their government had been scarcely less than royal. It can be argued that more rights and prerogatives derived ultimately from Carolingian royalty had survived or been revived in the hands of the dukes of Normandy than most other princes in Western Francia had managed to preserve.” Inherent in these “rights and prerogratives” is the establishment of justice in the person of the Duke, and later the king. This development is two-fold: first, we have examples of Charlemagne as judge and lawgiver in an echo of Old Testament kings. Sections of Alcuin’s Rhetoric in particular, which Luitpold Wallach has identified as “a tractate on kingship or good government,” represent “legal and juridical elements of Frankish procedures of law [that have] definite bearing on the functions of Charlemagne’s kingship.” Historiographers would later apply this image to Anglo-Norman kings in reference to their “Solomon-like” kingship. During the twelfth century, Anglo-Norman kingship would further transform to incorporate a second, more secular, dimension to the sacerdotal Carolingian ideal and be “transferred from the theological to the legal sphere” in the role of the king as iustitia or lex animata that evolved in place of his former sacral status, as Ernst Kantorowicz has shown. As “the very Idea of Justice,” the king embodies the law and he represents, in a very physical sense, the peace of the land he rules through the administration of justice.

For Anglo-Norman kings, there could be many practical applications of this new component to the Carolingian ideals, and some stemmed from their experiences with the early tenth-century continental “peace movement,” which began as an ecclesiastical response to the weakness of the Capetian dynasty. The proclamation of the “Truce of God” was intended first to proscribe fighting on days of religious significance, but was later extended to encourage “the idea that combat pleased God only in defense of Christendom” and gained momentum in conjunction with crusading fever. The idea was eventually appropriated by secular leaders and, as Thomas Head and Richard Landes note, “became part of the emerging constitutional order of governance and peacekeeping. By the mid-twelfth century in France, the Peace of God had become the king’s Peace. In fact, truce days constituted the first moments which, at least in theory and by legal definition, public authority held a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.” The Norman Dukes were especially precocious in this regard, however, as Howard Bloch emphasizes: “William I had enacted, as early as 1075, a ‘Duke’s Peace’ limiting blood feuds and placing numerous restrictions upon the conduct of any but his own expeditions.” These restrictions were intended to severely hamper the nobles’ pursuit of personal vengeance but also effectively enhanced the duke’s/king’s role in the dispensation of justice. When Henry I stated in his Coronation Charter, “‘I place strong peace on all my kingdom and order it to be held henceforth’,” John Hudson concludes that “he was deliberately invoking something more than general peacefulness, and something different from his protection specially given to individuals. Rather he was placing his power behind a strong peace closely associated with kingship.” It is this Carolingian ideal of iustitia animata envisioned for Norman kingship that would become a significant focus of the substantial legal and literary developments of the twelfth century.

Paul Hyams has observed that the “early medieval collections of leges are a distinct genre of legal writing, oriented towards a Carolingian kind of ideal written law.” Of later legal developments in Henry II’s reign, Hyams claims that the “greatest Angevin achievement was to bring royal law within the sphere of noble interest,” and this expanding awareness would echo in a variety of literary output. Some of the legal texts produced in the twelfth century reflect Anglo-Norman desire to preserve Anglo-Saxon history and culture, with the added authority of Carolingian precedent. The Leges Henrici Primi is a curious text, an early twelfth-century hodgepodge of English and Carolingian codes and even legal proverbs that purports to record laws during the time of Henry I. According to Patrick Wormald, the results of this combination were “bizarre,” with over ten percent of Leges incorporating clauses from sources with little or nothing to do with English law, including instead Frankish codes and Carolingian capitularies, and an entire chapter “lifted almost word for word from Lex Ribuaria,” a Merovingian collection written five centuries earlier and still in use during the Carolingian period. Wormald claims that “these clauses owed their presence to something other than a wish to describe English law as it currently functioned,” because they “contributed to the work’s coherence as an intellectual exposition.” I would argue that in light of the literary trends during the twelfth century of revising history to suit Norman ideals and tastes, these inclusions are not surprising or “bizarre” but confirm an abiding interest in the Carolingian ideology and practice of kingship.

The Leges Edwardi Confessoris, for instance, compiled soon after 1136 for “a private collection not intended for any official purpose,” demonstrates a “more purposeful bias” than the Leges Henrici. Bruce O’Brien, in his recent edition of the Leges Edwardi, notes that the author, like that of Leges Henrici, transplants Carolingian passages into his text because he “sought more venerable or respectable literary vehicles to give his laws an authoritative birth.” As well as including lengthy discussions of iusticia regis and pax regia, the Leges Edwardi breaks off in the midst of a detailed discussion of murdrum fines to integrate a direct reference to the Carolingian ideal of sacral kingship in his explanation of the king as the Vicar of God, represented by Charlemagne himself:

The king, moreover, who is the vicar of the highest King, was established for this, that he rule and defend the kingdom and people of the Lord and, above all, the Holy Church from wrongdoers, and destroy and eradicate evildoers. If not, moreover, he loses the name of king, as Pope John testifies, to whom Pippin and his son Charles, not yet kings but princes under the foolish king of the Franks, wrote asking if those who were content with just the name of king ought to remain kings of the Franks? He responded: “Those ought to be called kings who vigilantly defend and rule the church of God and his people,” echoing the royal psalmist’s saying, “He who works with pride will not dwell in the midst of my house,” etc.

O’Brien cites Ado of Vienne’s Chronicon, written in the third quarter of the ninth century, as the source for this paragraph, but its tone and sacral imagery also recall the writing of Alcuin from a generation or two earlier. Certainly, the author of the Leges Edwardi considered Charlemagne to be the ideal model for kingship and his treatise demonstrates that the paradigm persisted well into the twelfth century.

The few examples that I have mentioned thus far suggest that the socio-political legacy of imperium was complex and varied, requiring attention to the vast networks of influence and power that the Normans inherited when they took control of the duchy in the early tenth century. In The Continuity of the Conquest, therefore, I ask new questions about the interplay of historical events, historiography and imaginative literature in order to illuminate the connections between the much-admired legendary Carolingian past and the conflicts that the Anglo-Normans faced as they took on the role of colonizers of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Because of this, to some extent I employ literary approaches such as post-colonial theory to achieve this end, but by and large I attempt to avoid distraction from the pertinent issues by relying on close-reading techniques to arrive at my conclusions, rather than the use of overcomplicated terminology. Thus the next chapter, “Conversion Politics and the Ideology of Imperialism,” examines the work of such writers as Dudo of St. Quentin and Geoffroi Gaimar, who extol a more civilized approach to kingship similar to that developed during Charlemagne’s reign, in order to promote the idea of conversion politics for successful colonization. In these kinds of narrative, kings entice subjects with the promise of economic or political gain and inclusion in a more civilized way of life, rather than dominate them by the sword alone, by manipulating royal rituals to reinforce authority rather than bloodshed. The Anglo-Normans justified expansion into neighboring regions by focusing on the importance of converting other so-called “barbaric” territories to bring them within their ostensibly “civilizing” sphere of influence, projecting an image of themselves as the legitimate inheritors of a pan-British empire.

Chapter Three, “Making Their Mark: The Imperial Ideology of Topography,” continues the exploration of Norman representations of civilized imperium by considering the importance of the symbolic landscape for projecting authority, underscored by the ideological reasons behind the Norman program of building castles and restoring roads across Britain. The Normans created an enduring image of their authority in stone, in imitation of Charlemagne’s building program from the late eighth century for his palaces at Aachen and elsewhere that established his new empire as a “second Rome” and his kingship as the unifying via regia. Charlemagne’s intentions for appropriating the symbolic landscape, therefore, became a key mechanism for the projection of Norman power. The importance of the symbolic landscape for imperial ideology is further investigated with regard to the notorious New Forest in Chapter Four, “Taming the Wild Beast: A New Look at the New Forest.” This chapter considers the impact of Charlemagne and his imperial governance on the day-to-day routines of Norman kingship, which resulted in a sophisticated system of administration that reinforced a vertical social hierarchy, with the king at the top, and maintained strict control of the fiscal administration of the kingdom. The Carolingian legacy that can be found in capitularies and other legal texts shaped the Anglo-Norman kings’ practical approach to governing, especially evident in their introduction of such prerogatives as the creation of the Domesday Survey and especially the Forest Law. The Forest, consequently, as a significant extension of royal authority in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, becomes a symbolic landscape for the exploration of literary tropes, as well as the exercise of royal power, and an ideal space for understanding conflicts resulting from abuses of royal authority that were rife in the twelfth century. The Epilogue briefly considers the evolution of “Englishness” during the twelfth century by looking at some late treatments of Charlemagne’s legend that point to an emerging pro-English sentiment in the wake of political and social unrest due to conflict with the French king. Here, I examine some early thirteenth-century texts that are critical of the legendary Charlemagne, as well as those which value him, as evidence of a renewed connection with an English past. A continued recognition of the socio-political advantages that can come from contact with the Carolingian mythical past remains in these texts, however: the symbols of Charlemagne’s kingship are appropriated for the use of English kings, resulting in a connection that remains alloyed to images of his legendary authority. Thus the resurgence of an idea of “Englishness” in the later Middle Ages must be viewed in its context as a consequence of the Anglo-Norman imagination and experience, as much as a reaction against it.