Before getting to the ban and the machinations of different kingdoms and individual men, it is worthwhile to look at the land, people and government. Early in the 5th century, the Romans withdrew from England, which at the time was a province called Britannia. While geographically on the far western and northern edge of the Roman Empire, it is a point to note that Constantine was proclaimed augustus in 306 in the city of York. The Romans were successful at bring their civilization to England as they were elsewhere on the continent, with vinyards showing up on cue. The island’s relatively gentle climate made agriculture productive there. The Romans were drawn to crossing the channel by the knowledge of coinage on the island in Julius Caesar’s time. Coinage signified that trade was advanced enough for a medium of exchange to rise and an area worth plundering. The Romans spent several centuries on the wonderful island. In the early 5th century, the Romans packed up and withdrew to the continent as the Empire itself was collapsing. The Romano-Britains and, who we call, Welsh were left behind, but gone was the Roman way of administration, security and conversion to Christianity had been limited in nature.
That power vacuum was filled shortly thereafter, in the mid 5th century, by Angles, Jutes and Saxons from the Low Countries. This was not a friendly arrival and not small in numbers. After the Romans left the isle, the island’s population stood at roughly 2 million. Over 200,000 Anglo-Saxons would wash up on the shores of Britain. These were warrior barbarians come for land to raise crops and multiply. The social structure of the invaders was relatively flat with fewer social distinctions between the seafaring immigrants. Multiply they did on the island. Men made up 2/3 of all arrivals. These are conservative numbers as it possibly was as high as 500,000 in total and more male with an upper limit of female migration at 20%. We do not have matrilineal DNA data, but we do have Y chromosome DNA to show that displacement of the original inhabitants was up to 90% in some regions. There is no DNA evidence to back it up, but with 2/3 of arrivals being men, burning the villages and taking thousands of women as prisoner-brides would be a safe assumption. This was ethnic cleansing mixed with a long tradition of marry the locals on the back end. Henry V would attempt to link his French conquests closer to England by having the soldiers garrisoned in France marry locals. That classic strategy requires time.
This was not an instantaneous event, taking decades to set up. After the Romans left, small chiefdoms popped up with local warlords who were no match for the invaders. Over a century of clan warfare and growing in numbers in relation to their opponents, the Anglo-Saxons gained the upper hand on the inhabitants and assumed the status of the former Roman overlords. Consider the population being 2 million for the island at the time of invasion and 200,000 new inhabitants settling mostly in the south. Over the centuries, they developed a situation on the island (south of the Hadrian Wall) that was called by historians, but is now out of favor, the heptarchy. It is out of favor because modern historians, needing to earn their PhDs, say heptarchy does not recognize the level of control and autonomy some smaller chiefs had (full academic autism). There were sub-chiefdoms within the kingdoms, and there was constant warfare between them. These lands were also led by men who were warrior chiefs.
These chief-kings were from a slightly different concept from what we would view today as a king and were products of Germanic kingship. These kings were not simply born into the role but elected. Tacitus remarked on the elective monarchy and the concept that the king or chief needed the consent of his people. An even earlier form of this leadership is briefly mentioned in Julius Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars” writing where he mentioned that the tribes east of the Rhine chose their leaders for war and decision making. The chronicler of early England Bede also noted how the invaders’ kings were chosen. This concept of picking their leader still held as the tribes that migrated from this same northwestern Germany-Low Country area became the Anglo-Saxons kings, the Merovingian kings of Austrasia (later France), and later the Carolingian kings. These kings conquered areas formerly under Roman rule to rule as usurpers. There is an important distinction that dates back even to Greek days with the split between a tyrant and a king. The play Oedipus Rex is sometimes called Oedipus Tyrannus. In the play, Oedipus is a tyrant because he was not born the king but became the king through defeating the sphinx. The play can be called king because we learn through the great reveal of the play that he actually was born the king of Thebes. The Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic tribesmen conquered and consolidated their positions, but what did they have for authority? They were warrior chiefs, but had conquered what they wanted. They were also just men. The Roman autocrats had been revered as gods on earth with the idolization and deification process beginning even when they were living. The Byzantines had a process whereby they were imbued with the Holy Spirit, made a sacred vessel and an earthly king and considered on par with the apostles.
Even as the Anglo-Saxons settled into their island, they still had the customs of Germanic kinship chipping at individual kings’ authority and legitimacy. The Anglo-Saxons carried with them traditions of the moots from their Germanic tribal days that developed into thewitenagemot. This witenagemot was a cadre of secular leaders that helped legitimise the king as well as keep that connection between the concerns of the king and his people. That issue of consent of the governed pops up again here, as these kings were not autocrats. One could argue that the Germanic kingship tradition is the underlying tension that ebbs and rises through centuries of English history between powerful and wealthy land owners and kings. Henry II subdued the land barons and grew wealthy, yet decades later the land barons would force John to sign the Magna Carta. Magna Carta being a document that explicitly listed the need for the King to have the consent of the elite to govern, as well as the common man. One could argue that the other end of the pendulum in that battle was the Rule of Henry VII and Henry VIII, which amassed fortunes for the men and culminated in the1534 Act of Supremacy making Henry VIII king and head of the church.
The Anglo-Saxon problem was an issue of being outsiders and consolidating rule. Henry Kissinger wrote that legitimacy only comes from acceptance. It cannot be imposed. These were illiterate, barbarian warlords ruling over foreigners. The concept of succession in England was something that would not be settled for hundreds more years after the Anglo-Saxons invaded England. They did not have the numbers to completely eliminate the natives. Fortunately for them, there was an infrastructure and society in place that they could use to legitimise their rule that their people could coalesce around in their lifetime and in the next generation: the Church. Aside from creating institutions and a society within the crumbling Roman Empire for people to exist in and exit Roman society in the West, the Church held sway. It was the source for scholars, educated men and able administrators. The Church was also a revenue generating machine and had wonderful rituals with plenty of flash and sizzle that barbarian chiefs might want to associate with or borrow for prestige. The Church was set up in a wonderfully hierarchical system from Pope on down through cardinals, bishops, priests etc. The Pope was like a king himself. The bishop of Rome’s transformation from bishop to pope was a long process that was actually helped by the elimination of the Western Emperor. Locals elevated the Pope’s symbolism and power in Italy, and the Anglo-Saxon kings wished for a similar transformation.
The Merovingians were earlier than the Anglo-Saxons to convert to Christianity. This is most likely due to the geographic location of their continental Europe domain versus the island across the channel. Vestiges of Rome and the footprint of the church were in northern France. The Merovingians also consolidated power before the Anglo-Saxons kings. The Merovingians used the infrastructure of the church to secure their hold on the newly won lands. Their model though was important for the Anglo-Saxons kings to view as they settled into England. At the roughly contemporary site of Merovingian consolidation but in England is the burial site Sutton Hoo. The ruler Raedwald of East Anglia is buried there. While reminiscent of Scandinavian burial sites, it contained many goods from across Europe, signifying contact with a wide area. The burial site also does not contain a crown but a helmet for the buried chief-king. The warrior chief idea still held. Raedwald was also a pagan chief who was baptized, yet his baptism was hotly contested by his community and even his family. The pagan-Christian divide could be best displayed by these warrior-chiefs who would boost their claims to authority by attempting to trace their family line back to Wotan. It resembles the attempts centuries later by Christian kings to link their families to Adam (Alfred the Great did this). From the individual leader’s perspective, how could they change that so that they linked their legitimacy and right to rule not simply by the sword.
In the 6th century, an English ruler rose who was involved in the island wide games of supremacy and considered a ruler of the entire island: Aethelberht of Kent. He was one of these warrior-chiefs of the Germanic kingship mode, attempting to elevate himself and protect his line. Aethelberht of Kent had contact with the northern coast of France, which is where the Merovingians had controlled territory the longest (Austrasia). Aethelbehrt could see the advantages to aligning with the Church as the Frankish kings enjoyed legal codification (Salic Law), competent administrators, and papal titles, support and recognition. Aethelberht engaged in a strategic marriage that changed the island as well as western history when he married the Frankish princess, Bertha. One condition: she had to be allowed to practice her religion, Christianity, unlike the pagan Aethleberht. Aethelberht, a bretwalda over England, now had a wife who would change the political, social and religious game on the island.
The tradition of Anglo-Saxon rulers had been that they had consorts. Bertha was considered a queen. Bertha was pretty connected to continental culture being Frankish, a princess and a Christian of high status. It was through her correspondence (as well as her personal chaplain) with Pope Gregory I that the pope sent Augustine of Canterbury on a mission to preach the Gospel and convert the pagans. Aethelberht was not dumb nor inactive. Possibly aware of the issue Raedwald faced with his conversion, Aethelberht was patient. Aethelberht was a shrewd man and watched to see how Augustine’s work affected the people of Kent. It was a success as Aethelberht did convert to Christianity by 600 AD since Pope Gregory I wrote to him as a Christian King in 601 AD. How did conversion and Christianity help Aethelberht? He immediately laid down laws, which were written in Old English and are the oldest laws written in a Germanic language. They also resembled the Salic Laws of the Frankish kingdom with levies for offenses. There were not just benefits of the machinery of rule for Aethelberht. As a baptized man imbued with the Holy Spirit, he was a man of God. The ritual for coronation involving the Church was another entity deeming him legitimate and the ruler of the land. The ceremony showed a community their religious leader making one man a sacralized figure of leadership. With proper ceremonies for children, his sons would have the same sense of legitimacy without the need to be a warrior-chief winning legitimacy through battle. It was not just martial valor but a sacred, spiritual effect that the ruler had
The idea of the Church having the higher authority than the earthly authorities might sound odd to 21st century Americans, but even as recently as 1960, some Americans worried a presidential candidate may take orders from Rome. In 600 AD, Europe had experience with a couple of centuries where the Church had the legitimacy of authority and supreme status. The state within a state had survived to become a continent wide network as the Roman Empire had crumbled. This authority and status even goes back to the late 4th century AD and Theodosius. The emperor Theodosius was a Christian convert in 380 AD. Ten years later, he had performed a brutal massacre in revenge, and despite being Emperor, he had to repent. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, would not allow Theodosius, the Emperor, to enter a church for mass. He had to repent. The emperor could not brush it off, and the population aligned with Ambrose. The emperor of Rome had to repent like any common man. There was a higher power that even the Emperor had to serve. There was a higher law than the emperor’s will and whim. Theodosius’ humbling was merely decades after Constantine’s death bed conversion. This in itself was momentous for the development of the West. A ruler was answerable to God, and the threat had credibility. The Church had the supreme credibility as God’s representative in the earthly realm. Fast forward over 200 years, and the Anglo-Saxon kings were using this credibility for themselves.
The process was not simply with coronations and aligning with the Church, but in picking up goals of the Church. At this time, the Church was engaged in some social more and custom massaging. Banning cousin marriage was one of them, but not the only one. Penitential books were focused on multiple sexual issues. They actually had rules against amore canino. The book Sex in History covers the Church’s crackdown on sex, which banning cousin marriage was just a part of a wider campaign. The Church went so far as to ban way beyond just first or second cousins. The author Taylor makes the classic 20th century tsk-tsk of the elders, mocking their superstitious belief that sex could mentally or spiritually infect someone or have negative consequences. My response would be that it is superstitious of modern people to think sex has no effect or that the effect is simply positive. The Church did have honest motivations. The Church might have been reacting to the fall of the Roman Empire, which tracked well along debauchery and decadence amongst the Roman population. The Church may have been looking at another goal that would align with the Anglo-Saxon kings, consolidating and securing its power.
Augustine’s mission, the Gregorian Mission, was part of Pope Gregory’s reassertion of the papcy’s power projection in western Europe. The fall of Rome had hurt the Church as well, with areas, like Britannia, having seen Christianity make an appearance but then lose significance as Roman institutions and administration decayed or disappeared. Britannia was a bit of a special case due to its island settingoff the continent, which made maintaining contact more difficult than the remnants of the Church still in what is now northern France. The area of Spain that Germanic tribes brought under their heel waffled between Catholicism and Arianism, which Popes, like Gregory, reached out to curry influence. The Church was hungry and hungry at a time when the last reignition of the Western Roman Empire fizzled with the loss of Italy after Justinian’s death. The great general Belisarius’ work was for naught, and the Church and Pope Gregory saw an opportunity. An interesting phenomenon happened where both the missionary work in England and the missionary work in Ireland created a stable of later missionaries to help strengthen and spread the Catholic church on the continent. It is as if the Church went “out” in order to come back “in” with vigor.
This entire hypothesis is a response to HBD Chick’s post on the Anglo-Saxon outbreedingwith her last key question of “why”. Her posts are great tracking the how and when not just in Anglo-Saxon communities but in other spots in Europe. The Merovingians converted to Christianity earlier than the Anglo-Saxons and had consolidated their power before the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons outbred more and slightly faster than the northern Franks because they had secular laws that backed up the Church’s law that banned cousin marriage. The secular law involved enslavement as a punishment. The early kings who converted and wished for legitimacy would find an ally in a Church. Enforcing the Church’s will would be a way to help curry support for legitimacy of rule. Even better is the social and political engineering involved, using the laws and infrastructure of the Church. The Church wanted support and extension of its rule in Western Europe with converting a relatively untouched island of pagans.
Some modern observers look at the practices of modern welfare states in the last half century and see a progressive party modifying family law, creating social welfare programs and attacking organized religion through the media as a way to break the traditional family down. You have no link but to the state. The “Life of Julia” concept has a woman who is forever tied to the state through programs but not to a husband, and her child becomes a means for more money from big daddy state. Attacking churches softens or destroys bonds between individuals that are outside the state. The state, the progressive state, is your main relationship. It is the conduit for money. Political activity becomes the only reason for why people come together: a protest, a rally, voting, fundraising. No community bonds except bonds managed and maintained by political actors for political purposes.
Rewind to Anglo-Saxon England, and outbreeding becomes a means to achieve something similar. The Church would break down bonds of clans that as pagans had their different collections of gods to all submit to the Christian God under Catholic jurisdiction. Anglo-Saxon warrior-chiefs looking to transition to kings and cement their rule in a foreign land could use outbreeding and the Church to mold their land. The first outbreeding secular law (tucked into the Law of Wihtred) was not until nearly a century after Aethlebehrt’s conversion in 690 AD. There had to be a period of converting enough people to make application of the Church’s decrees palatable to society. Outbreeding softened the ties of clans by forcing people to marry outside their family. The Church could be the kings’ agents in enforcing this program. The Church sees it’s will be done with the fierce threats of a king applying a harsh secular punishment to what was a unique and new Church decree, and the king sees individual connections and bonds between groups step outside the family to the concept of his people. Rather than clan identification, the identification can become as a man of Kent, of Sussex or of Wessex. From this change in identification, the thede concept may slowly switch people from thinking of a member of their specific clan to a member of their specific area and part of the Church. Who are the authorities of that area? The king and the Church. The Church is the club that all (as conversions picked up) belong to, so if the Church declares a man your sovereign, the community can accept that as legitimate. It is not one warrior imposing his rule on little peasants.
This might be reading too much into the Law of Wihtred’s goals, but there was much more to it than just secular laws against unholy matrimony. The laws were mostly of ecclesiastical matters. Holy days were to be recognized and pagan practices curbed, which was a boon to a Church only brought to the island 90 years earlier. There were multiple laws written into that code that elevated the Church to the level of the king. The Church enjoyed similar privileges as the king enjoyed, whether it was a bishop’s oath being considered uncontrovertible, like the king’s, or the compensation for violence done to the Church’s men being on par with the king’s compensation for attacks on his dependents. These were not the only laws of that exact era that had a similar reinforcement of the new faith. The Laws of Ine were written around the same time and were the first outside of Kent. Similar to Wihtred’s laws, they were focused on pushing the new religion. These laws also revealed the relatively flat social structure still in place with Kent households serving no lord but the king himself, and Ine’s men were required to serve in the fyrd and the king was required to settle disputes. Multiple rulers were viewing the Church as a means for control.
There was another benefit to the kings that outbreeding could help. Anglo-Saxon England’s heptarchy era was rife with warfare and different men claiming suzerainty over other kingdoms. This warfare is tracked in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It was brutal. It was tribal. Massacres and burnings, but for a ruler seeking expansion and security in his power, he would need these men to go beyond their home borders to terrorize others really for his gain. The War Nerd had an interesting post on Syria’s civil war being problem of tribal warfare. Civil war is a problem, but the odd thing about Syria was the clan issue was causing intense fighting but over their block, their neighborhood, or their city. Rallying the troops to continue on gains and then advance into new territory to topple Assad was a problem as these men, who engage in high rates of cousin marriage, had little motivation to fight beyond their home areas. He called it fractal. Beyond the heptarchy, with even smaller units within the kingdoms, fractal seems like a good word to use for Anglo-Saxon England rule. While separated by 1300 years, one can see where the motivation to expand a fight beyond provincial concerns would be an issue more with leadership than with the grunts. Leadership wanted to secure power whereas the grunts just want secure their living space and land for farming.
This was not an overnight change. The events in England itself point to failures and success and paint a picture of the outbreeding taking time to create a national identity. Shortly after the decree in 690 AD banning cousin marriage in Kent (southeastern England), a ruler who would mint coins with rex on them was Offa of Mercia. Offa was an ambitious leader of middle England who eventually dominated southern England. The succession issue was an awkward one that hung around due to the Germanic kingship tradition, creating succession issues over 250 years later in the era of Aethelred, Cantue and their sons. Kent was split into two kingdoms. Offa rolled through most of southern England and became a ruler of all of England, enjoying the suzerainty Aethelbehrt held before him over a century earlier. To show the intense urgency and importance that these warrior kings placed on legitimacy, Offa was a fierce advocate of having his son crowned as the heir and future king. The Church eventually complied with the request, and Offa’s son enjoyed the first full ceremonial anointing of a ruler in England. We may laugh at Offa’s sense of urgency on a showy ritual, but Rituals of Royalty by David Cannadine and Simon Price, the pageantry and spectacle of the coronation ritual as well as other events between the king and religious figures were an actual instrument and projection of power for early European rulers. Shortly after Offa’s death, the land he had taken and kingdom he had built devolved back into pieces. The heptarchy did not return in pure form, as Kent had been absorbed by Wessex and was used as a place the kings of Wessex would place their sons to rule in training and to placate competing sons. Offa’s ambition imposed his will on the island, and his imperium faded as it was not accepted.
Outbreeding continued in the southern regions of England, and made its way around the island. One could argue, Offa was too early to take advantage of a people thinking “englisch” and not Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc. After the 800s and Offa’s death, the kingdom of Wessex consolidated power in the south under Egbert of Wessex. Reading a bit of history, the Kings of Wessex seemed to have an ability to hold off invaders from dominating them and retaining sovereignty. Egbert was a Christian and a warrior. Through his efforts, Wessex swallowed Kent and Sussex, setting the stage for the rise of his son and grandson on the island. Keep in mind, his areas of control were the outbreeding early adopters. His reign ended in 839 AD, a half century after Offa and a couple generations more of outbreeding. Egbert’s son would send his sons, Alfred the Great being one of them, to Rome. An interesting bit in Alfred’s trip to Rome, supporting this hypothesis, is that on his trip Alfred’s honoring by Pope Leo IV. As W.A. Chaney’s “The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: the transition from paganism to Christianity” (hint hint, professional version of this post), Alfred was made a spiritual son of the pope, receiving a cingulum and consul’s clothing as an honorary Roman consul. Alfred was five. After Egbert’s reign, the raids of the Danes that began around 800 AD picked up in severity and strength, which would change the island and offer future kings opportunities to tweak the process of nation state crafting that had begun with the Kent outbreeding and religious conversion project.
When the Danes came, they had the advantage of setting the parameters for battle. After wintering, the fight was wherever they took it. Their numbers could swarm an area and destroy the overmatched and outnumbered local inhabitants. The Danes spent over a decade beating the Angles, the Saxons and whomever in battle after battle. The last remaining Anglo-Saxon kingdom was Alfred the Great’s Wessex. It looked so lost for Alfred that he had to retreat to a winter hideout in a swampy area deep in Wessex to protect himself. Alfred emerged from the swamp stronghold in the spring similar to the king of kings resurrection celebrated on Easter. Alfred’s West Saxon army won a decisive victory in spring of 878 at the Battle of Edington. That was just the beginning. Following multiple victories, Alfred received the Danish ruler Guthrum as his now baptized spiritual son in London and set up the split in the country between Wessex controlled Aenglaland and the Danelaw. An important change to Alfred’s view of his rule was that he considered himself king of the Angles and Saxons not just the West Saxons.
His victory and the treaty with the Danes was not the end of his concerns or the Danish threat. Alfred started a new form of state craft that reinforced his legitimacy and the concept of the nation. Alfred created a system of burhs that were fortified towns. This Burghal Hidage was a network of fortified towns where people could engage in trade, the king could collect taxes, the townspeople could lodge complaints or whatnot to the king’s representatives, and townspeople could feel safe and secure. An important distinction about these towns that further weakened the clannishness of the southern English was that the burhs were the king’s towns. These were not the property of a large land magnate. There was no castle. They were built on the ruins of old Roman forts. They were the king’s responsibility. Combined with outbreeding, this burh idea was joining people cross clans and in entirely new locations. The very concept of the burhs created a safe meeting space outside the protection and comfort of the clans. Created in the late 800s, the burhs would have created actual space to help mix populations and reinforce the opportunities for outbreeding. The burhs were the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon concept of the hundreds. The hundreds were administrative districts where king had representatives to hear complaints, juries were gathered for administering justice, and similar to the burhs, were not run by local magnates. This hundreds concept, which morphed into the burhs, gave Anglo-Saxon kings and later Alfred great flexibility with reaching the people in their era of war and insecurity. England’s flat geography made these towns easier to travel between for trading.
The flat land also made England easy prey for fast moving Viking raids. Looking at the map of how the Danelaw and Wessex fit together, if the Vikings were the ones taking the initiative since 800 AD to 878, then how could Alfred create a system of defense that would rally the people to his cause, retain their loyalty and legitimise his power as king of an even greater number of people and new groups? The burhs were his answer as they could act like a defensive net. The Burghal Hidage could act like a net catching a dropped ball rather than using one’s hand. Fielding a proper force of men along the island to meet a Viking advance or march would be difficult before the Vikings had terrorized many towns. With the burhs, Alfred always had a pool of men in any area who had to answer the call at anytime. The burhs were spaced in a manner where a short march could bring together enough forces to slow or stop the Vikings rather than watch a giant Viking force pounce on small Anglo-Saxon forces one after the other. Even slowing an advance with a moderate sized force from burhs would allow Alfred enough time to muster more men to meet the Vikings if the Vikings did win an initial battle. By the time they were fully formed, no one was more than a day’s march from a burh. This was basic survival of not just his regime but of the Anglo-Saxons and their 400 years history on the island. The Vikings did not leave after Alfred’s win, menacing Wessex and its dependencies from the eastern half of the island.
Alfred’s social and political engineering were not limited to geography and building burhs. Alfred also made a move that the Franks did not do and commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and had it written in the native vernacular, not Latin. At the time of Alfred’s victory and split of the nation, all Angles and Saxons are under direct Wessex rule or a dependency. They are living in their small farmsteads, but if worried or a tradesman, can live in the king’s burhs. Bans on cousin marriage have been enforced both by the Church, but more importantly and severely, by the king’s law for roughly 200 years, and the nation has an “other” to fear and to fight right next door. New familial connections, in new fortified towns with new laws and a language endorsed and pushed by a new leader. At the helm of this new nation, stands a man as king who emerged from a swamp fortress when all looked to be lost and began his steady push back on the foreign invaders.
Decades passed with the burhs in place and a steady advance of the Wessex monarchs (Alfred took, occupied and rebuilt London in 886, huge symbolic victory) until they could claim rule over the entire island with Edgar roughly 70 years after Alfred’s victory at Edington. Did the outbreeding work with legitimising the monarchs of the island? Yes, since after Alfred’s victory, what we know as England was not broken into different kingdoms ever again. Even in their era, the fruit of the outbreeding could be seen in the actions of their people and their elites. The Battle of Maldon was a defeat for the English, but in the defeat, one can see the power of their national identity. The poem The Battle of Maldon cites men from all over the island, even as far away as Northumbria, coming to fight the Danes down on the far southeastern coast. These were not just East Anglian and Kentish forces uniting to fight invaders. The battle was in 991 AD, as many men all over Europe were ruled by smaller state kings with allegiances to local, large land owning magnates. Roughly two decades after the loss at Maldon and years of Danegeld payments, the Danes, avenging the massacre of Danes in England, completed their conquest but their king, Sweyn, died. Does the island break up into old fiefdoms? Does a man from the witenagemot rise up to grasp power? No. The council calls back Aethelred the Unready to rule again. Difference this time is that he rules, in what the chronicles say in word, deed and compact. His rule was to be a two way street. The elite’s identity was in being English, and they called him in from Normandy to be the king. A last example of the development of the English nation within short distance of the outbreeding project is from 1051. Edward the Confessor was engaged in a power struggle with the craftiest of the earls of the era, the Earl of Godwin. They were preparing for war, when the elites of the island stopped them. While Edward wanted a fight and was targeting a man of a specific region, Wessex, the elites would not fight. They did not want to destroy the prosperous nation they had with an internecine war, exposing the nation to the whims of foreign raiders. From the decree of 690 AD on cousin marriage to the near civil war of 1051, roughly fifteen generations of outbreeding had worked its way to create a nation state concept as strong as England.
|Via HBD Chick – Hajnal Line|
Why did not other areas take to outbreeding as quickly? If you lay a map of the many maps HBD Chick has of the early adopters of outbreeding and other positive traits, they line up extremely well with a map that would overlay the kingdoms of the Germanic tribes that had the Germanic kingship tradition (Anglo-Saxon, Merovingian, Carolingian). The first map here is the hajnal line map with her green circle for core Europe. The next few maps will be different Germanic kingship empires after the Church’s cousin ban, excluding England because you know what England looks like and where it is. Keep in mind England’s Germanic leadership of the same era and its place within the hajnal line. As HBD Chick has stated in multiple posts, the familial structure and organization known as manorialism was also present in those regions. The Germanic rulers fought and took over the role of old Roman leadership. The Anglo-Saxons happened to be the earliest of adopters, which has to do with the secular reinforcement of the Church’s wishes in 690 AD. The extreme north of the Iberian peninsula had early outbreeding and other positive traits associated with it, but not the south. That might be due to the Islamic invasion of 711 AD. If the Muslims are attacking you, converting your people to Islam and rolling you back, you may not have time for the enforcement of the Catholic Church’s projects. That early outbreeding area in Spain lines up well with the area the Muslims did not conquer.
|Remnant’s of Spain’s Gothic kingdoms after Muslim conquest|
The Merovingians and Carolingians did conquer and expand and were early adopters of outbreeding. My hypothesis for the difference between the Anglo-Saxon speed and the Frankish-Germanic speed of outbreeding is the mutual need for power between the Church and Anglo-Saxon leaders in England and that critical 800-1000 space. The continental area did not have as strict secular laws backing up the Church’s religious wishes. The Church also had a deeper history and more authority already in place come Carolingian rule (even Merovingian rule in the south) than in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon era. They also did not see the reorganization of the physical arrangement of their nation like the English did with Alfred’s burhs. The Carolingian Empire after Charlemagne’s death in 814 saw power struggles and fragmentation between his heirs and entered decline in the late 800s. Whereas the Carolingians were dealing with break up and decline of their rule, the Anglo-Saxons were slowly advancing and consolidating control over the entire island, expanding the burghal system. The Carolingians and their successor states also had a couple of problems that the Anglo-Saxons never faced: the Muslim threat and Hungarian invasions. In the grand scheme of things, the Anglo-Saxons enjoyed relative peace and prosperity with one main opponent compared to the disintegration of authority and multiple threats on the continent. The legitimacy of a regime and enforcement of rules and customs could be easier for a growing, stable power than for a declining and unstable power. Consolidation has an edge over fragmentation. The extra bonus strengthening the link between the Church and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England in 600-900 AD was both units being outsiders seeking authority and legitimacy with potentially hostile natives to later face an outside pagan threat.
It could just be coincidence that the outbreeding areas that coincide with other positivehajnal line traits were also lands conquered by men from tribes with the traditions of Germanic kingship. These kings were illiterate barbarians seeking legitimacy and thinking long term at the security of their line ruling. It is easy to laugh at this, but keep in mind that Europe in this era had multiple rulers (Otto II, Vladimir) who would marry Byzantine princesses in an attempt to boost their prestige and proclaim their status as equals of the Byzantine emperors among other mechanisms. This is a hypothesis, but the position these rulers were in was one of new conquerors in foreign lands. They needed to create and encourage loyalty in the natives as well as find a way to secure their individual line as king in a manner that was different from what their people, the conquerors, were accustomed to. The Church, an institution eager for power in a new area as well, offered an opportunity to import a political infrastructure and change the social make up of their new lands. Even moreso in England than the rest of core Europe, the Church and the elite’s motivations and goals overlapped perfectly. Christianity was new to them and new to the Britains, but as conversions mounted, it was a shared trait amongst them all. That shared identity was the warrior-chiefs’ way to have rule and kingship legitimized. That shared identity made the natives and newcomers men of Kent or East Anglia, later England, and not of the clan. As a lasting reminder, those decisions and centuries of application of both familial, social, religious, geographical and military engineering, created an island that we call England and not Britannia. (Source)