England

England is the wealthiest and most populous realm in Britain. England has a strong monarchy which dominates the whole kingdom. Most large feudal estates are scattered to prevent individual lords dominating particular regions, and barons lack the power to challenge the crown individually.

Structure

England may be said to have three forms of government: the feudal state, the royal bureaucracy and the church hierarchy. All three interweave and are sometimes in conflict as feudal lands are granted to religious institutions, who then owe feudal dues; bureaucrats are rewarded with church positions; religious appointees consider their conscience and their duty, and lords consider their immortal soul, their duties, and their rights.   The King of England heads both the feudal government and the royal bureaucracy. The church heirarchy is technically independent of royal control, answering only to the Pope, but in practice the king exercixses considerable influence over clerical appointments. A dispute over clerical independence between King Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket led to the murder of Becket in 1170, but even this heinous act and King Henry's public penance did little to stop the king deciding who should be appointed to senior positions.  

Feudal Government

  Technically only the king owns land outright, in full sovereign title. Everyone else holds land either directly from the king or from an intermediary as vassals in return for their loyalty, advice and service. Such landholdings are inheritable.   First in dignity among the king's vassals are the earls, a rank equivalent to the continental count. In 1200 AD there were 16 of them, each associated with a provincial county from which they were entitled to 1/3 of royal revenues. The earls were generally the most powerful and infuential members of the baronage.   The baronage is rather more amorphous. In one sense, barons are those vassals who hold their lands by baronial tenure (per baroniam), for which they paid an annual relief of £100. There are around 200 of these. But in another sense, barons hold large estates whether or not they hold by baronial tenure. There are a further 72 large estates of this kind. Some of these baronies are vacant and held or administered by the crown or its appointee, and some barons held more than one large estate. A good estimate os that there are around 200 nobles recognised as barons around 1200 AD. These nobles held multiple knight's fees, some of which they kept as personal holdings, and others of which they subinfeudated to vassals of their own.   Earls, barons and their families are considered noble. Below them ranks the gentry - between 4,500 and 5,000 knightly families who hold smaller estates of up to 5 knight's fees, either from a baron or directly from the king. While knights technically hold their lands by military service, it is becoming increasingly common for them to pay a tax named scutage, allowing their liege to hire a landless knight to serve in their place. At the same time the crown increasingly expects members of the gentry to monitor or administer aspects of provincial government.   Each level of the feudal government has a court, presided over by the lord or his representative, to ensure feudal obligations are being fulfilled and settle differences between vassals. A manor has a hallmoot, a barony a court, all the way up to the royal court.  

The Royal Bureaucracy

  The chief minister of the royal bureacracy is the Chief Justiciar, who acts as viceroy in the king's absence as well as heading the judiciary. The two main administrative departments of the royal bureacracy are the Chancery, headed by the Chancellor; the Exchequer, under the Treasurer. These two departments are based in Winchester. The principal officers of the king's household might also be considered part of the bureaucracy: the steward; the butler; and the constable and marshal, who acts as quartermasters and commanders of the army.  

Provincial Government

  England is divided into counties, each run by a sheriff, who presides over the county court, executes writs, guards prisoners, investigates crimes and, most importantly, collects rents, fines, taxes and other royal revenues.   Royal justice is overseen by itinerant justices who travel the reaches of the kingdom on set circuits.

History

See History of England for a timeline of events.   England emerged as a political unit and sovereign state as wars against Danish and Norse invaders led to the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia and several minor kingdoms and provinces after Aethelstan of the House of Wessex, King of the Anglo-Saxons, defeated the Danish Kingdom of York and annexed Northumbria. The Kings of Alba, Strathclyde and Deheubarth recognised Aethelstan as King of the English on 12 July 927 AD.   A second wave of Danish invations in the early 11th century resulted in England becoming part of Cnut the Great's Danish empire from 1016 to 1042, but the line of Aethelstan was restored in the Norman-raised Edward the Confessor. His death in 1066 sparked the Norman Conquest of England. The descendants of William the Conqueror rule England to this day.

Demography and Population

The total population of England is about 3,300,000 people in 1200 AD.   This includes:   c. 25,000 nobles and gentry (0.7% of total population)
  • c. 200 barons and their families (0.03% of total population)
  • 4500-5000 knights and their families (0.67% of total population)
c. 34,000 clergy (1% of total population)
  • 8,000 regular clergy with benefices (0.2% of total population)
  • 5,000 nuns (0.15% of total population)
  • 13,000 monks (0.39% of total population)
  • 8,000 clerks in minor orders (0.2% of total population)
c. 3,241,000 commoners (98.2% of total population)
  • 130,000 townsfolk (3.9% of total population)
  • 3,111,000 countryfolk (94.3% of total population)
See also Black Knights: Arabs, Moors and Africans in Medieval England.
Sources
Bartlett, Robert: England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, Oxford University Press (2000)
Sanders, Ivor John: English Baronies, A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086-1327 (Oxford, 1960)
Malanima, Paulo: Energy and Population in Europe: The Medieval Growth (10th to 14th centuries), Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies (2010)
  Malanima, Paulo: Decline or Growth? European Cities and Rural Economies 1300-1600, Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies (2007)
  Russell, Josiah Cox: The Clerical Population of Medieval England, Traditio Vol 2 (1944)

Dieu et mon droit

Maps

  • English Markets and Trade Routes, 1192
    Map of England showing potential overland and riverine trade routes, and markets in existence by 1192 rated for size based on the returns of the Lay Subsidy of 1334.
Founding Date
927 AD
Type
Geopolitical, Kingdom
Capital
Alternative Names
Loegria, Logres (archaic, poetic)
Demonym
English
Leader Title
Head of State
Head of Government
Government System
Monarchy, Absolute
Power Structure
Feudal state
Economic System
Mixed economy
Currency
silver penny
Legislative Body
Legislative power rests solely with the reigning king.
Judicial Body
Royal law is judged by itinerant justices who travel to the provinces on a series of set circuits. The judiciary is headed by the Chief Justiciar.   Feudal laws and customs are judged in individual lordly courts and moots.
Executive Body
The royal bureacracy headed by the Chief Justiciar, who is responsible for executing and administering the king's will. In the provinces this task falls to the Sheriffs.
Official State Religion
Subsidiary Organizations
Location
Official Languages
Related Ranks & Titles
Related Ethnicities

Character flag image: by Sodacan

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