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Battle of the Standard

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Anglo Normans
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The Normans were the people who gave their names to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were the descendants of the original Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of mostly Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock. Their identity first emerged in the first half of the tenth century and gradually evolved over the succeeding centuries until they disappeared as an ethnic group in the early thirteenth century. The name "Normans" is derived from "Northmen" or "Norsemen", after the Vikings from Scandinavia who founded Normandy (Northmannia in its original Latin).

They played a major political, military, and cultural role in medieval Europe and even the Near East. They were famed for the martial spirit and for their Christian piety. They quickly adopted the Romance language of the land they settled in, their dialect becoming known as Norman, an important literary language.




The Duchy of Normandy which they formed by treaty with the French crown was one of the great large fiefs of medieval France. The Normans are famed both for their culture, such as their unique Romanesque architecture and their musical traditions, as well as for the military accomplishments and innovations. Norman adventurers established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy by conquest and a Norman expedition on behalf of their duke led to the Norman Conquest of England. Norman influence spread from these new centres to the Crusader States in the Near East and to Scotland and Wales in Great Britain, and to Ireland.

In Russian historiography, the term "Norman" is often used for the Varangians, as for example in the term "Normanist theory". In French historiography, too, the term is often applied to the various Viking groups which raided France in the ninth century before settling down to found Normandy.







The Battle of the Standard, sometimes called the Battle of Northallerton, in which English forces repelled a Scottish army, took place on 22 August 1138 on Cowton Moor near Northallerton in Yorkshire. The English were led by Archbishop Thurstan of York, who had gathered local militia and baronial armies from Yorkshire and the north Midlands. They arrayed themselves round a chariot carrying the consecrated banners of St Peter of York, St John of Beverley, St Wilfrid of Ripon and St Cuthbert of Durham, it was this standard bearing chariot that gave the battle its name. The Scottish army were led by King David I of Scotland.

David had entered England in support of his niece, Matilda, who was viewed as the rightful heiress to the English throne usurped by King Stephen. With Stephen fighting rebel barons in the south, the Scottish armies had already taken Cumberland and Northumberland, the city of Carlisle and the royal castle at Bamburgh. Finding the English in a defensive position on a hill, David elected to force a battle counting on his superior numbers. Repeated attacks by native Scots failed, taking withering casualties from the English archers, and a subsequent attack by mounted knights met initial success but fell back due to lack of infantry support. The battle ended when David's reserve deserted, forcing him to retreat. The English elected not to pursue, and the Scots apparently recovered in sufficient order to besiege and capture Wark castle. David later retired to Carlisle and negotiated peace.

Henry I had arranged his inheritance to pass to his daughter Matilda, but this was opposed by many of the English and Norman magnates and barons, because of her marriage to Geoffrey V, count of Anjou. Instead Stephen, younger brother of Theobald, count of Blois, seized the throne. David however had been the first lay person to take the oath to uphold the succession of Matilda in 1127, and when Stephen was crowned on December 22, David decided to make war. After two months of campaigning in northern England, a peace treaty was agreed with King Stephen. When the winter of 1136-37 was over, however, David once again invaded England, though and a truce was quickly agreed until November. When November fell, David demanded that Stephen hand over the whole of the old earldom of Northumberland. Stephen's predictable refusal led to David's third invasion, this time in January 1138.

The battle soon got underway. Henry of Huntingdon tells us that "the Scots cried out the warcry of their fathers - and the shout rose even to the skies - Albanaich, Albanaich!" and charged the massed Anglo-Norman line. The cry, meaning "Men of Scotland", had been used by the Scots at the battle of Corbridge in 908.

 Ailred described the same charge, saying that the first line

"after their custom gave vent thrice to a yell of horrible sound, and attacked the southerns in such an onslaught that they compelled the first spearmen to forsake their post; but they were driven off again by the strength of the knights, and [the spearmen] recovered their courage and strength against the foe. And when the frailty of the Scottish lances was mocked by the denseness of iron and wood they drew their swords and attempted to contend at close quarters"

As the Scots were engaging in this close combat, Ailred tells us that the English archers began to fire on the Scottish line, causing extreme disarray and loss of life. The suicidal bravery and endurance of the Galwegians, and the lack of Norman-style armour which Mel su and the Scots had allegedly been so boastful of, was mocked by Ailred:

"like a hedgehog with its quill, so would you see a Galwegian bristling all round with arrows, and none theless brandishing his sword, and in blind madness rushing forward now smite a foe, now lash the air with useless stokes".

Despite this attack, the battle continued. Ailred tells us the force of David's son Henry managed to route its opponents. According to Henry of Huntingdon, though, the battle turned when the "chief of the men of Lothian", probably Gospatric II, earl of Lothian, was struck by an arrow.  The men of Lothian apparently fled first; and after a while, Ailred tells us the Galwegians followed suit when Domnall and Ulgric, two of their captains, were slain.  John of Hexham tells us that the battle lasted three hours.


After the battle, David and his surviving notables retired to Carlisle. Although the result was a defeat, it was not by any means a decisive nor even devastating defeat. David retained the bulk of his army and thus the power to go on the offensive again. The siege of Wark, for instance, which had been going on since January, continued to go on until it was captured in November. David continued to occupy Cumberland and much of Northumberland. On September 26 Cardinal Alberic, bishop of Ostia, arrived at Carlisle where David had called together his kingdom's nobles, abbots and bishops. Alberic was there to investigate the controversy over the issue of the bishop of Glasgow's allegiance or non-allegiance to the archbishop of York. However, Alberic also played a role as peace-broker. With Alberic acting as a go-between, David agreed to a six week truce which excluded the siege of Wark. Negotiations between David and Stephen continued over the winter months, but on April 9 David and Stephen's wife Matilda of Boulogne met each other at Durham and agreed a settlement. David's son Henry was given the earldom of Northumberland and was restored to the earldom of Huntingdon and lordship of Doncaster; David himself was allowed to keep Carlisle and Cumberland. However, King Stephen was to retain possession of the strategically vital castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle, and Prince Henry was to perform homage for his English lands, while David himself was to promise to "remain loyal" to Stephen at all times. The last conditions aside, this effectively fulfilled all of David's war aims. Thus, despite the surprising victory of the outnumbered English army in North Yorkshire, the series of invasions that David led into England since the death of his patron Henry at the end of 1135 had resulted in a significantly expanded kingdom. David, moreover, was no longer in practice a sub-king. So if King Henry's life and reign had brought David all his fortune, Henry's death had brought David even more.



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