How French Was Medieval England?

The Norman Conquest brought French kings, language and culture across the Channel. What did that mean for medieval England?

Henry VI of England arrives in France and is crowned king of France, c. 1450-1470. Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Public Domain.

‘France might have subsumed England entirely’

Justine Firnhaber-Baker is Professor of History at the University of St Andrews

The medieval history of England and France was a close – if complicated – one, especially for elites. England’s royalty and nobility were deeply entwined with French lands, people and culture even in the early Middle Ages, long before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Contacts between the courts and clergy of England and Francia were frequent and significant. One of Charlemagne’s last descendants to be king of West Francia – the predecessor kingdom to France – grew up in the court of his uncle, King Æthelstan of Wessex in the tenth century.

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