Buku Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

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Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

Author:Richard Abels

Language: eng

Format: epub

ISBN: 9780141979502

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

Published: 2018-09-24T16:00:00+00:00

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Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

5

Law and (Dis)order

In a macabre sense, the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre is a reminder of the precocity of English royal government in the late tenth century. Æthelred was the only king in Western Christendom in 1002 who could reasonably expect that his decrees would be conveyed throughout his kingdom and perhaps even obeyed. Æthelred was the heir to a West Saxon dynasty that over the course of the tenth century had used diplomacy and conquest to fuse Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and the Danelaw into the ‘kingdom of the English’. This was a gradual process, and it would be misleading to see Æthelred’s England as a unified state. England during his reign was still a composite kingdom of four ‘nations’, each with its own sense of identity, customs and laws. The acceptance by all four regions of Æthelred as king was the cement that united the kingdom. What enabled him to be king in more than name was a system of government that his predecessors had created to consolidate their conquests, and royal control of the Church. The reign of Æthelred’s father, King Edgar, marked a watershed in the development of both. By the late tenth century, royal government in England had developed to the point that the king and his agents could intrude themselves into the lives of ordinary people probably to a greater degree than anywhere else in Western Christendom.1 None the less, the power of a king was dependent upon the willing co-operation of the secular and ecclesiastical elites, all of whom, in one manner or another, served as agents of the crown. This dependency was particularly true of the king’s rule in Northumbria and the Danelaw, regions that he rarely visited and where his presence was largely restricted to his stylized portrait and name on coins.

 

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Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

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Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

 

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Aethelred the Unready by Richard Abels

Author:Richard Abels , Date: June 9, 2019

,Views: 118

Author:Richard Abels

Language: eng

Format: epub

ISBN: 9780141979502

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

Published: 2018-09-24T16:00:00+00:00
5

Law and (Dis)order

In a macabre sense, the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre is a reminder of the precocity of English royal government in the late tenth century. Æthelred was the only king in Western Christendom in 1002 who could reasonably expect that his decrees would be conveyed throughout his kingdom and perhaps even obeyed. Æthelred was the heir to a West Saxon dynasty that over the course of the tenth century had used diplomacy and conquest to fuse Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and the Danelaw into the ‘kingdom of the English’. This was a gradual process, and it would be misleading to see Æthelred’s England as a unified state. England during his reign was still a composite kingdom of four ‘nations’, each with its own sense of identity, customs and laws. The acceptance by all four regions of Æthelred as king was the cement that united the kingdom. What enabled him to be king in more than name was a system of government that his predecessors had created to consolidate their conquests, and royal control of the Church. The reign of Æthelred’s father, King Edgar, marked a watershed in the development of both. By the late tenth century, royal government in England had developed to the point that the king and his agents could intrude themselves into the lives of ordinary people probably to a greater degree than anywhere else in Western Christendom.1 None the less, the power of a king was dependent upon the willing co-operation of the secular and ecclesiastical elites, all of whom, in one manner or another, served as agents of the crown. This dependency was particularly true of the king’s rule in Northumbria and the Danelaw, regions that he rarely visited and where his presence was largely restricted to his stylized portrait and name on coins.

Coinage provides the best evidence of the effectiveness of Æthelred’s government.2 Since King Edgar’s reign, English coinage had been royal and standardized and Æthelred jealously guarded his monopoly on this. No one but he was permitted to have a moneyer. The activities of moneyers and the quality of the currency were tightly regulated. A moneyer who struck false coins risked the loss of a hand, which was to be nailed above his mint as a warning to others.3 The penalty for using forged dies or striking coins outside a designated mint town was death or, if the king was merciful, the payment of one’s wergild – that is, the monetary value of the malefactor’s life as set by law. The same was true for merchants who knowingly used coins deficient in weight or quality and port-reeves who abetted them.4 Whether such draconian penalties were actually imposed is questionable, but the threat seems to have been effective in light of how few forged coins have been found.5

The highly monetarized nature of England’s vigorous commercial economy in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries required millions of pennies.6 These were produced through a network of about ninety mint places, most of which were located in southern England.

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