January 2009 From Anglo-Saxon England to Norman England 1035-1087



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January 2009
From Anglo-Saxon England to Norman England 1035-1087

  1. How successful was Edward the Confessor as king of England? [50]


Focus: An assessment of the strengths of a king.

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Some candidates might argue that Edward had a difficult task; he had spent much time on the continent and lacked the immediate authority to rule England effectively, however he was able to secure himself on the throne. The Earls enjoyed a great deal of power and some might examine the power of the Godwin family to show how far their authority reflected a weakness in Edward. However, this could be balanced against Edward’s ability to gain sufficient support to force the Godwin’s into temporary exile. It might therefore be concluded that he managed the Earls as well as might be expected. However, Earl Godwin did exert a powerful influence from 1052 after his return from exile and Harold became very influential. There might be some focus on his failure to provide an heir, which plunged the country into the succession crisis, although how far it was his fault might also be considered. Administration continued and taxes were collected as two tests of effective government. His capabilities as a military leader might also be considered as it was an important mark of kingship and was a disadvantage when dealing with troublesome and ambitious earls. Some candidates might mention his piety and artistic interests which were admired, but for their ideals rather than for their practical relevance to kingship. Many may conclude that Edward lacked the strong qualities needed for an effective king as he was often rash and unwise in his judgements. There might also be mention of the problems that followed from his continuing patronage of Normans.



Alternative explanations are possible and examiners must be open to alternative approaches. If in doubt, consult your Team Leader.

Comment
Answers to this question were usually focused and showed a reasonable level of analysis and understanding of the demands. The quality of the answer often depended upon a candidate’s ability to set out the criteria against which they were going to discuss the issue of success. Much of the discussion frequently centred around his handling of the Godwin family and many answers concluded that Edward failed in the long term, despite short term success in having them exiled. Answers that focused on the positive aspect of his reign also tended to consider issues such as coinage, writs and the division of shires into hundreds. However, discussion of this issue was balanced by considering the problems Edward faced, particularly his lack of knowledge of England and that despite this he was able to bring a large amount of peace and stability to the country. It was disappointing that candidates did not use the issue of the succession to suggest that Edward ultimately failed by leaving a disputed succession that created the problems of 1066.

2. To what extent was William of Normandy’s success in 1066 the result of Harold’s mistakes? [50]

Focus: An assessment of the reasons for the success of a king.

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Candidates can offer contradictory explanations, for example that the major reason was the strength of William’s forces or his organisational abilities. However, they must include a sound paragraph on the stated factor if they are to access the highest levels on AO1b. Examiners should also not underestimate the value of answers that are organised chronologically, excellent answers that appreciate the sequence of events and their significance should not be dismissed as low-level narrative. In arguing that it was Harold’s mistakes candidates may focus on his actions after Stamford Bridge and before Hastings, although there may be some mention of mistakes made during the battle. Candidates may argue that Harold’s mistake in rushing back from Stamford Bridge and facing William without a full force and whilst still tired was a major factor in his defeat. Some may argue that Harold was simply unfortunate in that he faced two invasions in quick succession and that the wind changed direction at the moment he was in the north. They may argue that he had to deal with Harald Hardrada as he was a major threat and needed dealing with quickly and decisively. It is easy, with hindsight, to be persuaded that William would launch the more serious challenge, but Harold had to exert his authority in the north as it was a difficult area to govern. Some candidates may focus on the strengths of William and use the Bayeux Tapestry as evidence of the naval and military preparations that he made. He welded together a diverse group into a formidable fighting force, he was also an excellent commander and some might draw attention to the tactics at Hastings, particularly the feigned retreat.



Alternative explanations are possible and examiners must be open to alternative approaches. If in doubt, consult your Team Leader.
Comment
There were a wide range of responses to this question and most candidates were able to put forward an argument, but the supporting detail was frequently superficial. However, there were a significant number of answers that were drawn into a narrative of events, particularly after Harald Hadrada’s invasion, with little attempt to link the material to ‘Harold’s mistakes’. Candidates should also be aware that Harold was not present at Fulford Gate. Many candidates appeared to be more comfortable writing about the strengths and abilities of William, rather than Harold’s mistakes. However, those who did write about mistakes usually focused on the march back from Stamford Bridge and his engagement with William before he had a full complement of troops, although some balanced this against the length of the battle and suggested that if it had not been for William’s skilled use of the feigned retreat he may not have won. There were also a significant number of candidates who argued that William was a superior general to Harold in both experience and in his performance at Hastings, some even suggested that Harold had no military experience before Hastings, which makes it very difficult to explain his success against Harald Hadrada at Stamford Bridge. Some also claimed that he was a poor military leader because of his static position at the top of Senlac Hill. There were a number of candidates who emphasised the role that luck played in the outcome, focusing particularly on the change in the direction of the wind coinciding with Harald’s invasion.


Assess the reasons why William I was able to defeat opposition to his rule. [50]

Focus: An assessment of the failure of opposition to a king.

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. The death of Harold at Hastings deprived the Anglo Saxons of their major leader and it frequently meant that opposition was both divided and weak. The defeat at Hastings had also broken the military strength of the Anglo Saxon fyrd and earls. Important Anglo Saxon nobles from Merica and Northumbria had promised allegiance, which made his task easier. Candidates may consider the policies that William followed such as castle building and how it was used or the ‘Harrying of the North’, which would have given a clear warning to those who might oppose his rule. Many of the risings were localised, for example Kent, Northumbria, the south west and the Welsh Marches, which made their suppression much easier. Many of the risings also arose from local grievances, rather than dissatisfaction with William’s rule. The rebellions often lacked leadership. In dealing with the problem in the north in 1069 with intervention from Scotland and Scandinavia William enjoyed clear military advantage, which made his job easier as his forces were superior to anything the rebels could gather. William was able to move swiftly to put down trouble before it had a chance to develop, he acted decisively and used harsh methods which may have deterred others. The swift manner in which he took England and the armed forces on which he could rely negated the opposition.



Alternative explanations are possible and examiners must be open to alternative approaches. If in doubt, consult your Team Leader.
Comment
There were few answers to this question, but it was noticeable that many of those seen were unable to support their ideas with reference to a wide range of challenges. There was very little mention of Hereward the Wake and most answers focused on Exeter, the ‘Harrying of the North’ and the use made of castles.

June 2009
1 Assess the reasons for the importance of the Godwin family in the reign of Edward the Confessor.
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Candidates might consider both the positive and negative reasons for their importance. Earls occupied an important place in Anglo Saxon society and the most powerful family in the period was the Godwins. They had a power base in Wessex, at the heart of the country. Earl Godwin probably played an important role in the accession of Edward the Confessor. Edith, Godwin’s daughter, married Edward and this might have cemented an alliance. The strength of his position meant that he could pose powerful problems to the king, for example over the influence of Normans in England. It might be argued that Godwin was jealous of the influence foreigners exerted at court and over the king and this created further problems. Harold succeeded to his position and the role of the family became even more important when Harold emerged as the strongest Anglo Saxon claimant to the throne. Among the negative aspects that candidates might consider might be the personal role of Edward the Confessor. Although not a cipher, he was not a dominant head of state and this enabled the Godwins to play their part to the full.
Comment
This was quite popular, but many candidates were unclear as to the term ‘importance.’ Some candidates took this to mean either ‘significance’ or ‘prominence’ and at times this resulted in some of the evidence presented being tangential. However, it was noticeable that many candidates did know a great deal about the Godwin family, although some answers focused almost exclusively on the first part of the period and wrote little about events after 1051. Many candidates were aware that Godwin had become powerful because of his relationship with Cnut, but there were fewer who were aware that his large number of sons also increased his importance. Most were able to comment about his importance in securing the succession for Edward, but often went on to argue that this influence was sustained throughout the period. The marriage of Edward to Edith was usually considered and better answers also assessed the significance of the Godwin possession of Wessex, however there was little reference to the significance of Winchester. Many were able to argue that Edward’s power was undermined by the Godwin family. The promotion of Godwin’s sons was considered as was the brief exile of the family and their swift return to a dominant position, but the significance of these events could often have been further developed. Weaker answers simply tried to relate the well-known episodes of the period to the question, rather than focusing on the precise demands of the question.

2 Assess the reasons for the succession crisis at the end of Edward the Confessor’s reign.
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. It is likely that candidates will focus on Edward’s failure to produce an heir, but nor was there anybody close enough in his family to exert an unchallenged claim. Harold became head of the Godwin family in 1053 but the period to 1066 showed his problems in maintaining his primacy among the nobility. However, some candidates might argue that Harold was widely accepted as king in England but there was not universal acceptance. Harold would face problems establishing himself on the throne. The near simultaneous challenges from William and from Harold Hadrada and Tostig did not give Harold time to secure himself on the throne. Candidates may suggest that there were others with claims and point to Tostig and Harold Hadrada, who mounted a powerful challenge. The reasons for the rival claims will probably be examined with the better answers explaining why each of these did not represent an unchallenged claim. William’s claim, allegedly substantiated by Harold’s promise, Edward’s nomination and papal approval, was rejected by the Anglo Saxons who preferred Harold. Edward might have changed his preference on his deathbed and this added to the dispute. There is no need for candidates to look at the outcome of the dispute but it will be possible to take the argument to Hastings because this effectively ended the dispute over the succession. Some answers might consider Edgar the Aetheling, but this would be a bonus and his omission should not be regarded as a gap.
Comment
This was a popular question which attracted a wide range of responses. Weaker answers tended to focus on the relative strength of each claim to the throne in 1066, but many of these answers were very general and tended to focus on the topic rather than the actual question set. This usually involved a survey of the relative claims of Harold, William, Harald Hardrada and Edgar the Aethling. There was also a tendency for many answers to adopt a shopping list approach and simply list Edward’s faults. These answers largely focused on the lack of a male heir, not nominating a successor or nominating too many successors. In many instances, better answers focused on Anglo-Saxon affairs rather than simply the claims per se. Candidates frequently considered Edward’s failure to consummate his marriage, the apparent confusion surrounding Edward’s arrangements for the succession. There were very few answers that dealt with Edward’s decision to bring Edward Ironside’s son, Edward, together with his family, back to England from Hungary. This was a significant omission since it may have represented a compromise between the Godwin family and Edward to avoid the possibility of the throne falling into the hands of Duke William of Normandy. Some answers gave too much attention to the Battle of Hastings, with a description of the course of the battle and William’s role in it. However, the nature of the question did allow many candidates to rank the relative importance of the different factors.

3 How serious were the rebellions William I faced as king of England?
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Candidates might argue that Harold’s death at Hastings removed the greatest danger; the defeat had also broken the military strength of the Anglo Saxon fyrd and earls. Some answers might refer to the opposition to William immediately after his victory at Hastings until he was crowned but it hardly amounted to a rebellion. The new king could rely on the fact that his main rivals were dead and that other important Anglo Saxon nobles from Northumbria and Mercia had promised allegiance. There was disorder until 1071 in Kent, Northumbria, the south west and the Welsh Marches. However, the risings were usually localised and were the result of local grievances rather than dissatisfaction with William’s rule. These risings lacked leadership and were therefore less serious. The situation at Exeter, it might be argued, was more serious, but order was restored after a siege. It might be argued that with the support of the Danes the rising in Northumbria was more serious, particularly as it also involved Edwin and Morcar. Candidates might note that William always had a clear military advantage and the ability to use ruthless devastation to put down a rebellion. Castles also allowed William to deal with rebellion effectively. The guerrilla type resistance of Hereward was more of a nuisance than serious. This shows that there was continued resistance to William’s rule.

Comment
There were a significant number of answers to this question, although there were very few candidates who were able to produce high level answers. Many responses were little more than a list of the revolts either by location, time or place. There were often some very simplistic conclusions based around the fact that because William survived the rebellions they could not have been very serious. Candidates need to be aware that just because William handled the revolts effectively it did not mean that they were not serious. It was also noticeable that many answers contained either serious factual errors on dates or those involved in the rebellions or failed to deal with many of the rebellions and focused almost exclusively on the Exeter rising and the ‘Harrying of the North.’ Better answers avoided a chronological approach and adopted a more thematic approach and considered issues such as the power of William, the weakness of the opposition, the lack of coordination between rebel groups and William’s tactics. Some candidates argued that William was fortunate in that much of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy had been wiped out at Hastings and that this seriously undermined attempts at rebellion. Many candidates would have benefited from giving greater consideration to the threat posed by Edgar after Hastings and also the 1075 rebellion, which was frequently ignored or treated in a superficial manner and seen as insignificant.

Jan 2010
1 How far was Edward the Confessor’s personality the most important cause of the problems he faced as king of England?
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Candidates should consider a range of reasons for the problems and at the top levels evaluate their relative importance in causing the problems. It might be said that Edward lacked the strong qualities to make an effective king. His piety and artistic interests were admired but for his ideals rather than their practical relevance to kingship. Better answers may start by identifying the problems that Edward faced and this may include issues such as his lack of knowledge of the country, his upbringing, the power of the Godwin family, the problems created by his marriage to Edith, his support base and the problem of the lack of an heir. It is likely that candidates may suggest that the power of the Godwin family played a large role in causing many of the problems as Edward was heavily dependent on them, some may use their exile to show the power they had. The power of the Godwins may be linked to many of the problems and this may be an approach taken by those reaching the higher levels-for example his upbringing meant that he was even more dependent upon the support of the Godwin’s and therefore it might be argued that his marriage to Edith was almost inevitable and that this created further problems and may even have led to the succession crisis at the end of his reign. There may be some consideration of the problems that followed from his continuing patronage of Normans. There might be mention of foreign dangers, especially from Scandinavia. A king’s powers were limited and he needed to be able to implement whatever authority he possessed.
Comment
This was quite a popular question, but many candidates did struggle with the named factor. Where they were able to write about Edward’s personality they found it difficult to link it to the problems that he faced. Very few answers went beyond offering little more than a few platitudes about his personality or were able to offer little that went beyond the weaknesses. Candidates were much stronger when considering other factors, particularly his power base and the strength of the Godwins. There were some candidates who did establish links between these factors and his personality, but these were rare. The inability to deal with the named factor did have a depressing effect on AO1b as the balance of focus of the answers was only fair.


2 ‘Military factors were the most important reason for William of Normandy’s success at the Battle of Hastings.’ How far do you agree?
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Military factors is a wide ranging term and might include issues such as tactics, forces and weaponry available, military leadership and the previous invasion by Harald. If candidates use the term to encompass all of these they may find it difficult to consider other issues, however issues such as luck for William or misfortune for Harold may be considered as candidates might point to the timing of Harald’s invasion and the impact it had on Harold, particularly following the changing direction of the wind, which allowed William to invade. Some may consider the mistakes made by Harold as more important, suggesting that if he had not rushed back from the north and waited until he had rested and had a full force he might have won, given how close Hastings was, even with such a depleted force. Some answers might also consider religious factors and argue that it was only with papal blessing that William was able to gather a large enough force to be able to make the challenge.
Comment
This was the most popular question in this section and as might be expected it attracted a wide range of answers. There were many candidates who were very knowledgeable about the actual events of the battle and this proved particularly useful for average and weaker candidates as it enabled them to produce a solid answer. There was strong differentiation between those who offered a closely argued analysis and those who merely described what happened, with a little evaluation bolted on at the end. It should also be noted that the phrase ‘military factors’ did cause some difficulties; it will stand a variety of interpretations, broad and narrow and therefore needed careful treatment in the candidate’s mind and on paper for the purposes of the essay. Failure to do this often resulted in some sloppy writing about what constituted military factors. Most were able to consider a range of reasons, often considering issues such as luck, the mistakes made by Harold and religious factors. At the top level many were able to establish links between the factors, particularly William’s military skill in exploiting the luck that seemed to favour him.

3 To what extent did William I change the government and administration of England?
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. There is a wide range of material available for candidates to consider. Some may consider the issue of personnel and the the Anglo-Saxon earls and their replacement by Normans. However, some answers may focus on the nature and methods of government and this may result in consideration of the use of the feudal system, but it must be linked to methods of government. There may be some consideration of the nature of the monarchy and candidates might consider the use made of crown wearing sessions. The personal rule of the monarchy became more important. Writs were used, a legacy of Anglo-Saxon government, although they were not usually in English and they were used more frequently to enforce William’s orders. Sheriffs and shire courts were continued but sheriffs were evidently more important as royal officials.
Comment
This was much the least popular of the three in this section and was often less well handled. Some candidates knew some details about William’s work and his methods of government. However, there was less confidence when dealing with what he retained from Saxon government and administration. Candidates’ ability to analyse developments was limited and many answers simply described the methods.

June 2010
1 How successfully did Edward the Confessor deal with the Godwin family?

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Some candidates may argue that Edward was unsuccessful in handling the Godwin family as they were so powerful, attempts to remove them by exile ultimately failed in 1052, that Edward was forced to marry Edith and link this to the problem created by the succession. There may be some consideration of the problems created by Harold Godwinson’s brothers. Others may argue that given the power of the Godwin family, Edward handled them as well as he could. He lacked a firm base of support and therefore was wise to ally with them and cement this by marriage. There may be some suggestion that he tried to limit their future power by his celibacy and naming William as heir, although the latter might be disputed by consideration of the problem of the succession.



Comment
This was generally answered very well. There was no obvious or natural structure for an answer to this question and it was tackled in several different ways. Some divided the reign into three periods: the early years, the crisis of 1051-2 and the years following Godwin’s death in 1053. Others divided it according to personal, political, or ecclesiastical dealings. A more sophisticated approach was to examine how Edward benefited from the Godwins, in his succession, in witnessing charters, in his relations with Denmark, on missions, including Harold’s enigmatic one of 1064 to the continent, and for military and marcher security, such as Harold’s and Tostig’s in Wales, and then discussing whether the vast Godwin landholding and power reduced or supported Edward’s authority. Another clear structure that both referred directly to the wording of the question and led to neat analysis was to consider Edward’s dealings with each of the Godwin family in turn: Godwin himself, Edith, and then the sons, Sweyn, Harold, Tostig.
Many candidates felt Edward was not spectacularly successful and his moment of triumph over the Godwins was short-lived – and then he became acquiescent and concentrated on Westminster Abbey, leaving the rest to Harold. Some did try for a more nuanced approach and suggested Edward’s tactics with the Godwins deserved more praise, while others argued that the circumstances of his upbringing and accession gave him little room to manoeuvre. Some responses failed to identify the issues involved in Edward’s childless marriage as symptomatic of “How successfully” he dealt with the Godwin family. Also, merely noting that the eventual succession of Harold Godwinson to the throne shows that Edward didn’t deal successfully with the Godwins is again too simplistic a judgement. Candidates possessed knowledge of the principal events of Edward’s reign, but at a lower level events were not always effectively linked to the question. For example, Edward’s vulnerability at the moment of his accession appeared in answers, but its impact on his relationship with the Godwin family wasn’t always properly understood. Many candidates argued that the promotion of Godwin’s sons to earldoms and Edward’s marriage to Edith which followed soon after his coronation provided examples of Edward successfully dealing with the family. However, these events surely suggest that Edward was merely carrying out the will of Earl Godwin; as such, they highlight the weakness of his position.
Although candidates demonstrated an awareness of both the political and social contexts of Edward’s appointment (Cnut was frequently mentioned in relation to the condition of the country in 1042 and England’s relations with Scandinavian countries), very few answers discussed the issue of Edward’s Norman identity and its associated problems which eventually led to the 1051 crisis. Edward’s promotion of Normans (or, to put it more accurately, ‘foreigners’) acted as a catalyst in the breakdown of his relationship with Earl Godwin and should have been identified as an example of his unsuccessful treatment of the family. Moreover, few answers mentioned Edward’s long exile in Normandy, which undoubtedly constituted an obstacle to harmonious relations between the new king and the Godwin family. Edward’s marriage to Edith was mishandled to some extent because it wasn’t judged from Edward’s perspective. It was certainly a success for the Godwins, but from Edward’s point of view, it was a significant failure, since it placed him almost entirely at the mercy of the Godwin family. The evident change in Edward’s relationship with the family after Earl Godwin’s death was surprisingly omitted. Edward clearly preferred Harold and Tostig to their father, a fact which is confirmed by Edward’s deathbed bequest of the kingdom to Harold and is reflected in contemporary sources (also see Barlow’s biography). Some candidates thought Harold’s accession was a fitting end to the reign of a king who failed to control England’s most powerful family. But the situation is far more complicated than this.

At the lower levels candidates often described Edward’s relations with the Godwins, with little or bolt on, undeveloped assessment of his success in controlling them. Candidates sometimes explained why he was unsuccessful, rather than addressing ‘how successful’. Some weaker candidates were inclined to assert that post Godwin’s death in 1053, relations were automatically good.



2 To what extent was military force the most important factor in overcoming opposition to the rule of William I?

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. There is a variety of reasons that candidates might consider. Candidates can argue that military force was the most important factor and consider how it was deployed by William; this might involve a consideration of how it was used to crush unrest, such as Exeter or in the Harrying of the North and therefore create fear or it might be linked to his use of castles to deter future unrest or it might be linked to the feudal system, which allowed him to raise a force. However, this can be balanced against other factors such as a divided and weak opposition, a lack of co-ordination between rebellions, the aims of the rebels, the loss of many leading Anglo-Saxons at Hastings and William’s use of castles and the feudal system.


Comment
This was a very popular question, which seemed to have been practiced by centres in advance. Stock answers were common (force, use of castles, use of feudalism examined). Some candidates were able to analyse different factors successfully but many just described some of the rebellions of the period, or described the use of castles without explaining how successfully they were used. This question invited a natural analytical structure, which usually comprised the main factor of force, sometimes including the use of castles, compromise or diplomacy and other factors like rebels’ disunity. Candidates obviously mentioned the 1070 Harrying of the North as being an extreme example of force, but they gave many other instances in a broad appraisal. Candidates seemed to know more about the named factor than they did about any alternative factors. A few candidates misunderstood the question and focussed on the reasons for William winning the Battle of Hastings. This resulted in them being unable to attain above a level V or IV depending on whether they had briefly mentioned any other points that could be awarded marks.

Certain examples lent themselves to a discussion of multiple factors, such as the siege of Exeter, 1067, where force, some tolerance on taxation and a castle were all involved. Warwick castle was instrumental in preventing Edwin and Morcar from linking up with the Welsh. The partial success of William’s payment to the Danes and the success of the Peace of Abernethy 1072 in isolating Edgar Atheling were cited as examples of diplomacy though all candidates agreed that a show of force was also needed. The detailed knowledge of a range of rebellions and of the function of many castles was very impressive. It was good to read a discussion of their garrisons as well as of their buildings.


At the lower end, analysis was often poorly substantiated, leaving arguments weak and ineffective. Too many candidates were unable to provide an accurate chronology of the rebellions during the period 1066-1075. In particular, the events of 1069-70 in the north of England were poorly understood. Indeed, weaker candidates tended to avoid mentioning these events. Another significant omission was Edgar Ætheling, who barely featured. As the grandson of Edmund Ironside, Edgar held a legitimate claim to the throne, and on several occasions after Hastings, he acted as a focal point for Anglo-Saxon support. Indeed, the northern rebellion of 1069-70 represented a determined effort by Edgar and his supporters to challenge William’s accession.

3 How far did England become a feudal state during the reign of William I?

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Candidates will need to show an understanding of feudalism and feudal tenure, but it should also be remembered that this is a complex topic. It should also be noted that historiography is not a requirement at AS and candidates are not expected to be able to quote the views of different historians to achieve any level, although credit can be given if this is used to support an argument. Feudal tenure was based on land and military service. The King held most of the land with tenants-in-chief, secular barons and great churchmen, holding their land directly from him in return for the provision of knights. The pattern was replicated among the lower orders of society. However, not all England was feudalised by the end of the century. Some groups-townsmen and the population of remoter regions were outside the system. William was willing to adapt as necessary and a number of Norman practices were used because they were useful not because they fitted into the feudal pattern. Indeed the king took care to emphasise the element of continuity in his government. Some may also make mention of the feudal characteristics before the Conquest, such as the link between thegns and land which was useful when the Normans took over.



Comment
great deal of success. The weakest candidates gave a brief description of the feudal hierarchy. More successful candidates were able to talk about local government and fines. Answers tended to be too generalised; knowledge was inadequate, and most candidates seemed unaware of the context of any changes discussed. Some answers effectively addressed the issue of continuity in government (which, incidentally, would make a much better question; see the work of W. L. Warren in particular), but these candidates couldn’t make effective use of this knowledge. Some candidates talked about the ‘feudal pyramid’ with the king at the top, but candidates were unaware of the significance of Domesday Book and the Salisbury Oath (the latter wasn’t mentioned at all).

January 2011
1 How effective was the government of Edward the Confessor?

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. Some may argue that Edward’s government was not effective as his period in exile meant that he was out of touch with developments and lacked a power base in the country. In order to support this they might consider the power of the Earls and many may focus on the position of the Godwins and Edward’s failure to manage them, particularly with reference to events of 1051 and 1052. Administration continued and taxes were collected as two tests of effective government. His capabilities as a military leader might also be considered as it was an important mark of kingship and was a disadvantage when dealing with troublesome and

ambitious earls. Some candidates might mention his piety and artistic interests which were admired, but for their ideals rather than for their practical relevance to kingship. Many may conclude that Edward lacked the strong qualities needed for an effective king as he was often rash and unwise in his judgements. There might also be mention of the problems that followed from his continuing patronage of Normans.

Candidates tended to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of Edward’s rule and debated whether using the Godwins was a strength or a weakness. Some tended to use the events at the end of the reign, and to use the succession crisis as an example of the weakness of his government. There were very few answers that considered, at least in any depth, the Norman links and the extent to which they strengthened or weakened Edward. Most candidates argued that Edward was largely ineffectual but tried to account for this with his upbringing and the political situation. There was relatively little on administration, taxation or Edward as a military leader. Many weaker candidates tended to address a shortened question and focus on how effective was Edward the Confessor rather than on government.

2 To what extent was Edward the Confessor to blame for the disputed succession at

the end of his reign?
No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question. There are a number of reasons why Edward might be blamed; these include his failure to produce an heir and the confusion over the nomination of both William and Harold. Harold became head of the Godwin family in 1053 but the period to 1066 showed his problems in maintaining his primacy among the nobility. However, some candidates might argue that while Harold was widely accepted as king in England there was not universal acceptance.

Harold would face problems establishing himself on the throne. The near simultaneous challenges from William and from Harold Hadrada and Tostig did not give Harold time to secure himself on the throne. Candidates may suggest that there were others with claims and point to Tostig and Harold Hadrada, who mounted a powerful challenge. The reasons for the rival claims will probably be examined, with better answers explaining why each of these did not represent an unchallenged claim. William’s claim, allegedly substantiated by Harold’s promise, Edward’s nomination and papal approval, was rejected by the Anglo

Saxons who preferred Harold. Edward might have changed his preference on his deathbed and this added to the dispute. There is no need for candidates to look at the outcome of the dispute but it will be possible to take the argument to Hastings because this effectively ended the dispute over the succession. Some answers might consider Edgar the Atheling, but this would be a bonus and his omission should not be regarded as a gap.
Most candidates were able to set up a debate between the relative importance of Edward’s responsibility and that of other challengers. Most answers were able to write about Edward’s actions and failures, notably to produce a son. The claims of Harold Godwinson and William were also debated and compared by better candidates with reference to the role of the Witan and Edward’s intentions. Many referred to the king’s possible wish for Edmund and then his son Edgar to be king. There was also discussion of Hadrada’s claim and its impact, though a large minority ignored him, and focused only on Harold and WIlliam. Many concluded that Edward was primarily responsible but that the other candidates’ ambition was also an important factor. Many were aware of the disputable evidence for both William’s and Harold Godwinson’s claims, though on this as on other issues, such as Edward’s failure to produce an heir, candidates were often too dogmatic, stating as fact evidence which is clearly disputable – an example being those who stated unequivocally that Edward did not produce an heir because he was homosexual. On a topic notable for its clearly contradictory primary sources this was particularly unfortunate.

3 How successfully did William I deal with opposition to his rule?

No set answer is looked for but candidates will need to address the question and better answers should focus on the issue of ‘how successful’. The death of Harold at Hastings deprived the Anglo Saxons of their major leader and it frequently meant that opposition was both divided and weak making William’s task that much easier. The defeat at Hastings had also broken the military strength of the Anglo Saxon fyrd and earls. Important Anglo Saxon nobles from Mercia and Northumbria had promised allegiance, which also made his

task easier. Candidates may consider the policies that William followed such as castle building and how effective it was or the ‘Harrying of the North’, which would have given a clear warning to those who might oppose his rule. Many of the risings were localised, for example Kent, Northumbria, the south west and the Welsh Marches, which made their suppression much easier. Many of the risings also arose from local grievances, rather than dissatisfaction with William’s rule. The rebellions often lacked leadership. In dealing with the problem in the north in 1069, and with intervention from Scotland and Scandinavia, William enjoyed clear military advantage, which made his job easier as his forces were superior to anything the rebels could gather. William moved swiftly to put down trouble before it had a chance to develop, he acted decisively and used harsh methods which may have deterred others, all of which could be used to suggest he was effective. The swift manner in which he took England and the armed forces on which he could rely negated



the opposition.

Many candidates focused on the methods and tactics used by WIlliam. There was debate of how effective they were in the stronger answers and many concluded that the opposition persisted for much of the reign. A few weaker candidates focused on why William won at Hastings with a lengthy description of the battle, and many were vague about specific rebellions. Most managed to mention the Harrying of the North, but a surprising number made no mention of castles. There were very few candidates who were able to name specific opposition leaders, referring vaguely to rebellions, and these candidates were notably weak on their knowledge of the difficulties the King faced from some Normans as well as Saxons. The patterns of failure therefore tended to be either a focus on Hastings, which usually gave an impression that this was all the candidate felt confident about, or a generalised approach. There was no evidence of candidates misunderstanding the question or not seeing how it should be approached.

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