The "Norman" Papacy:
I think it was more the influence of Hildebrand (later Gregory VII) than the Pope not having a choice. I think William made a few “promises” of his own in order to get what he wanted - ie: papal blessing. I think that the papacy was under the impression that if William was willing to submit to the “temporal” authority of Rome with regards to the question of succession, then there was the possibility of placing suzerainty of his new “conquest” (ie: England) under the papacy. But in supporting the Normans (wherever they might be) the Papacy was hoping to extend its influence by claiming England as a papal fief.
In fact, prior to the “conquest”, the Church held only 20% of lands - whilst after, they gained a mere 5% more.
Nicholas II 1058 - 1061:
~~~ made great concessions to the Normans - he invested Robert Guiscard with Apulia and Calabria at Melfi (1059) "in return for oaths of fealty and the promise of assistance in guarding the rights of the Church."
~~~ I believe that William may have “hinted” or even “promised” to Pope Nicholas II that should his conquest of England receive sanction from the papacy, then he, William, would hold England as a fief of the papacy. This was, to all intents and purposes, exactly what others were doing elsewhere to gain “recognition” for their “conquests”. This was something William was to deny even up till his death in 1087. (Refer below to the letter from William to Pope Gregory VII).
Alexander II 1061 - 1073:
~~~ was a cohort of Hildebrand (aka: Gregory VII), and he was a former pupil of Lanfranc of Bec, and supported his enthronement at Canterbury.
~~~ the question of Peter’s Pence was still a thorn in the side of the papacy “after” William’s coronation - so this argument of unpaid Peter’s Pence was rather hypocritical of William. Apparently the withholding of Peter’s Pence was common in many Christian nations, so this was hardly a point William could successfully argue was solely the “fault” of England, which needed to be resolved.
Gregory VII 1073 - 1085 (aka: Hildebrand):
~~~ The papacy was powerless to halt the advancing Normans in Italy nor was it powerful enough to demand their military support. In fact, the Normans under Guiscard failed to come to his aid when Henry Iv threatened him - it was only when they themselves were likely to come under a direct German attack did they go to the aid of the papacy. As a result, he was forced to flee Rome and go into exile (1084) at Monte Cassino.
~~~ apparently William "showed little anxiety when the pope lectured him on the different principles which he had as to the relationship of spiritual and temporal powers, or when he prohibited him from commerce or commanded him to acknowledge himself a vassal of the apostolic chair. Gregory had no power to compel the English king to an alteration in his ecclesiastical policy, so he chose to ignore what he could not approve, and even considered it advisable to assure him of his particular affection."
~~~ it would seem that after his election as Pope, Hildebrand informed William that "his actions had been goverened by his knowledge of tha latter’s character, and by the hope that when raised to a higher dignity he would continue to show himself a dutiful subject of the church."
(Source: “Monumenta Gregoriana”). Further, Hildebrand exerted his influence upon the Curia to get the result he wanted, full in the knowledge that if prosecuted, William’s actions would inevitably lead to bloodshed. Afterall, reform was "worth the suppression of a few scruples"
~~~ "He perceived King William I as being practically a model of the good Christian ruler, so much so that he could overlook the occasional failure of William to comply with papal wishes."
(Source: Chapter 6 - "Gregory and the Periphery of Latin Europe" in "Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085" by H. E. J. Cowdrey)
The following is the letter sent by William the Conqueror to the Pope regarding the issue of England becoming a fief of the Papacy. There was no initial letter from the Pope regarding this, nor was there any follow-up letter. Only William’s letter exists which mentions this matter.
King William I to Pope Gregory VII summer 1080:To Gregory, the most exalted pastor of holy Church, William by the grace of God king of the English and duke of the Normans, sends greetings and the assurance of friendship.
Your legate Hubert, who came to me, holy father, has on your behalf directed me to do fealty to you and your successors and to reconsider the money payment which my predecessors used to send to the Roman Church. The one proposition I have accepted; the other I have not. I have never desired to do fealty, nor do I desire it now; for I neither promised on my own behalf nor can I discover that my predecessors ever performed it to yours. As to the money, for almost three years it has been collected without due care, while I was engaged in France. But now that by God's mercy I have returned to my kingdom, the sum already collected is being sent to you by the above-named legate and the balance will be conveyed, when the opportunity arises, by the legates of our faithful servant archbishop Lanfranc.
Pray for us and for the welfare of our kingdom, for we held your predecessors in great regard and it is our desire to show to you above all men unfeigned respect and obedient attention.
(Source: "The Age of Gregory VII, 1073-85 - Letters of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury" ed & trans. H Clover and M. Gibson (Oxford Medieval Texts 1979) )
And lastly, let us not forget Lanfranc:
~~~ employed by William, Duke of Normandy, as one of his counsellors. Initially he incurred the disfavour of William for opposing his marriage to Matilda of Flanders (c.1052). And yet he is back in favour, obtaining papal dispensation for the ducal marriage to take place (c.1059), and the removal of the Interdict placed upon Normandy.
~~~ it was suggested that Lanfranc had a major role in the direction of Duke William’s invasion plans. He obtained the papal sanction for the expedition with the gift of a “blessed banner” and a Papal Bull. With these two items, the Norman Conquest takes on the form of a Crusade against a usurper and oath violator (Harold). In addition, the Conquest also aligned itself with the ideals of ecclesiastical reform, which was well advanced in Normandy, but still very backward in England (from the Norman point of view).
~~~ Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Norman Conquest, was out of favour with the Normans having replaced Robert of Jumieges (c.1052). As such, at the Council of Winchester (1070) he was deprived of his office on charges that his election was uncanonical and he was guilty of simony. (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)
The question still remains:
~~~ was William given an actual
papal banner by Alexander II (Stenton) as a symbol of his support, or did William have a
banner blessed by Alexander II, which he then carried before him in battle (Chibnall).Bibliography
- "Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis" ed. M. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1969)
- "Debate on the Norman Conquest" by Marjorie Chibnall (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999)
- "William the Conqueror: The Norman impact upon England" by David Douglas (University of California Press, 1964)
- "The Fall of Saxon England" by Richard Humble (Barnes & Noble, 1992)
- "1066 The Year of the Conquest" by David Howarth (Viking Penguin, 1981)
- "The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans" by Peter Rex (Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2004)
- "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles" ed: Anne Savage (CLB, 1997)
- "The Norman Conquest" by D. J. A. Matthew (1966)
- "The Norman Achievement, 1050–1100" by D. C. Douglas (1969)
- "The First Century of English Feudalism, 1066–1166" (2d ed. 1961) and "Anglo-Saxon England" (3d ed. 1971) by F. M. Stenton
- "Feudal Empires: Norman and Plantagenet" by J. LePatourel (1984)