II. THE NOBILITY
1. The supplanting of the English nobility - 2. Baronial households - 3. Evidences of literary taste among the barons - 4. Nature of their castle-building: armour - 5. Private war: ideas of honour - 6. The military orders - 7. Ladies.
1. It was part of the Conqueror's scheme that as far as possible the whole frame-work of English government and English society should be maintained and made the basis on which the strengthening and systematising Norman genius for government should be set to work. The principle of retention was carried so far that in the distribution of lands to his followers William did not map out the country into compact military districts, suitable for military occupation, but gave as a rule to each Norman the holding of an English predecessor, a holding that had been casually and unsystematically pieced together, whose portions lay scattered far and wide and were held on many various conditions. Surrounded by his own relatives and by adventurers from all parts of Gaul, William was obliged to give to the greedy, but he gave in such a way as not to weaken himself.
The process of supplanting the English nobility and the English official class was carried out with great completeness, though the method of the change varied in different parts of the country. In Kent, the most civilised part, many non-feudal characteristics were allowed to stand, to trouble lawyers in aftertimes: on the marches of Wales and in the least civilised parts of the country the king accepted an unmitigated feudalism, with all its dangers, as the best guarantee, at the moment, of his own peace. He delegated to the lords of lands the sovereign powers he could not exercise himself The great feudalists, whom William endowed, shared with him the racial genius for government, which showed itself not in England only but likewise in Sicily, where at this very time "the best organised and most united" state in Europe was being built up by them. Their law and their architecture are the most eloquent witnesses to their character. Bold and stern, ruggedly simple, what they built was destined to endure.
2. Of their domesticity we can know less even than of the king's. Not a single account of baronial expenses comes from this period or from the next. But the Normans did not create many different types of domestic life. The scheme of the king's household was that of every baron. The "Laws of Edward the Confessor," not always trustworthy, speak truth when they tell us that archbishops, bishops, earls, barons had in their households their knights and servants, namely dapifers, butlers, chamberlains, cooks, bakers. So great an earl as he of Chester is said by Henry of Huntingdon to have owned a third of the kingdom. Whether this be true or not, Ordericus Vitalis has a good deal to say of his style of living. Hugh of Avranches, earl of Chester, "the Wolf," "the Fat," gathered about him a vast household of clerks, knights, and young men: his court was a school of manners of a boisterous kind. A lover of riotous sport, he was before all a lover of minstrelsy, romance, and jest. He engaged the best narrators of historic feats, to spur on the young to rivalry. Gaimar bears out part of this story, and describes his house as open to all, a place where wine flowed like water. The earl's friendship for Anselm proves that his character was many-sided. A careful collection of rather scrappy evidence might show that some of the Norman barons had their peaceful interests which give relief to that picture of their turbule