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Hastiensis / Hastingas / Hastings

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Tyson View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 Apr 2013 at 21:44
In researching my translation of the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CIWRDEE/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00CIWRDEE&linkCode=as2&tag=carmenan-20">Carmen de Hastingae Proelio</a> I came to the conclusion that Hastings and Pevensey were causes of the Norman Conquest, not just scenes in the landscape. Godwin had seized Pevensey from the Abbey of Saint-Denis in 1042 and seized Hastings and the Rye Camber ports from Fecamp Abbey in Normandy in 1052 as part of his campaign of anti-Norman ethnic cleansing.  The French assumed they would get the ports back when William became king, but when Harold took the crown, the church was forced into the fight. 

It seems a little appreciated fact that Hastingas was run as a French city-state separate from sovereign England for more than 250 years before the Norman Conquest under a charter dated 790.  (Supporting this medieval Hastingas was excluded from the Domesday Book, the Tribal Hideage and the Ecclesiastical Valuation.)  Looking at the anomalous status of medieval Hastingas as a civil jurisdiction made me wonder how far back the history of the city-state republic might go.

Asti in the Piedmont of Italy was originally founded as a trade republic under the name Hastiensis in 1st century BC.  It seems likely to me that Hastiensis in Sussex may have been founded under the same name for the same purposes in the newly conquered Roman province of Britannia.  Romans did reuse regional administration names - like the seven cities named Noviomagus.  I'd be grateful if anyone had further information or insight to offer on the two Hastings either way.
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JPickett View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JPickett Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Apr 2013 at 23:59
That's extremely interesting, Tyson. I'm also researching Normandy and England pre-Conquest, though for a historical novel I'm writing.

It's certainly true that there was a massive influence from Normandy (not generally French but specifically Norman) well before the Conquest. Much of this stemmed from connections within the families either side of the Channel. The clearest example is of course Emma of Normandy, wife of Aethelred and later Cnut.

The monks of Fécamp also seemed to have a hand in connecting the two lands. The fact that they were driven out by Harold makes me think that they would have given vital intelligence to William for the invasion - perhaps regarding the nobles who could be relied on to cooperate, but certainly regarding topology.

I'd be very interested to hear more about that aspect of Hastings as a free city. 
What sources pointed you towards that conclusion?

Joe
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tyson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2013 at 00:48
Hi Joe,

I was aware of the Normanisation of England under Emma.  She was a great one for recruiting Normans and securing them land and positions.  My ancestors were on both sides of the Battle of Hastings because some of the family had been recruited before the conquest with grants of land up north so fought for Harold and some came over with the invasion and fought for William.  Brother against brother.

Recruiting to England was easy because under Norman primogeniture only the eldest son inherited - and got everything.  Younger sons had to go take land from someone else if they wanted it - whether in Italy, England or Scotland.  This is why the Norman diaspora has such reach.

Emma was a recruiter of Normans for over 50 years, but I think the big push came after Edward became king.  He had lived in Normandy - at Fecamp Abbey - for over 30 years.  He was the first Norman king of England.  He was particularly instrumental in seeding Normans in the church and endowing the church with choice land and privileges.  He Normanised administration to create the exchequer and chancery.  It was Edward's pro-Norman favoritism that fuelled Godwin's anti-Norman purges as Edward weakened.

The grants to French and Norman churches are fascinating reading.  Aethered granted Fecamp Abbey the Manor of Rameslie with the port of Petit Iham in a charter of 1014.  This was confirmed by Cnut in 1030, who also granted Hastings, Rye and Old Winchelsea as livery ports to Fecamp Abbey (taking Hastings from Saint-Denis).  All the Fecamp Abbey livery grants were confirmed in charters by Harthacnut and then by Edward himself.  Aethelred probably wanted to ensure that Fecamp Abbey took good care of his sons with Emma, Edward and Alfred.  Cnut and Harthacnut probably thought they were paying the monks to keep the boys in exile.

I agree about the monks providing intelligence to William, but also logistical support.  Because Fecamp Abbey had run the Rye Camber ports and Hastings for twenty years, and Petit Iham for almost 40 years, they knew the tides and currents.  Fecamp Abbey is the only monastery to have provided a ship to the invasion fleet, with a captain and 20 warrior monks.  I'm guessing they also provided a harbour pilot.  William was grateful enough that he reissued the charter for return of livery ports at Hastings, Rye, Old Winchelsea, Petit Iham and Steyning to Fecamp Abbey in 1067 as one of his first official acts. 

As for the two Hastings:  Both were fortified cities and trade capitals for their regions.  Both had generous privileges and immunities.  Both were civil jurisdictions self-administered as republics.  Both had mints.  Both were later taken over by religious orders that answered directly to the Pope, bypassing local church hierarchy.  Both were targets of raiders implying substantial wealth (Vikings for Hastings and Huns for Asti).  Also the term "member" which is used to describe Hastings' jurisdiction over Pevensey and the Rye Camber ports (later used in the Cinque Ports Confederation) echoes the Roman "membre" which described distant municipia as limbs of Rome itself.  The distinguishing feature of a municipium was democratic self-administration.
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