Did France Create England?
In antiquity, Britannia was the Latin name of England. A group of Celtic tribes called the Britons populated the land. With the arrival of the Romans, the Britons were quick to integrate this new society. This was when Londinium became a large Roman city.
After the Romans withdrew, they left the defense of the continent in the hands of Britannia’s legions. This meant, in all clarity, that Britannia became independent. Still, many Britons begged the Romans to stay and/or come back.
The Anglo-Saxon influence
The following centuries are those told in the Arthurian legend. While Arthur’s story is not a reliable source, it can still give us a global idea of what happened. Besides, all legends have a background of truth. Some secondary characters of the Arthurian legends have even existed.
The stories tell of a Germanic invasion of Britannia. the Arthurian legend, in its historical part, reveals many things about this period. First, there were many power struggles between Britons. Second, the Germanic invasion led to the formation of the Federation of Britons (led by Uther Pendragon). Finally, Arthur led the federation to unify the people of Britannia and push back the invader.
Certain battles and warlords of the legend truly existed. This makes it possible to date the events. For example, the first “king” of Britannia would have been a certain Vortigern whom Uther overthrew. the existence of Vortigern is a fact not a legend.
Eventually, the Anglo-Saxons took full control of Britain around the 6th-7th century. Britannia became England and was mainly populated by these new Germanic tribes.
The French are here
In the 11th century, King Edward the Confessor died without descendants. Years earlier, he had gone into exile in Normandy, duchy of the young William, bastard of Robert the Magnificent and vassal of the King of France.
During his stay in Normandy, Edward had promised William to make him heir to the throne of England. A few years later, Edward’s brother-in-law renewed the oath.
Thus, it is in all legitimacy that on the death of the King of England, William claimed the British crown. But Harold Godwinson, famous warlord in England, proclaimed himself King of England. He claimed that a promise made more than twenty years ago was worthless.
William refused to let the oath-breaker get away with his impunity. He formed an army of 25,000 men and 5,000 horses transported by 800 or 1,000 ships. Eight months later he landed on the Isle of Wight in the south of England and marched north.
Meanwhile, Harold had pushed a Viking invasion north of York more when he heard the news of the Norman invasion in the south. He had already demobilized his army and had to form another on the way south to be able to stop William.
The armies met at Hastings in 1066, Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye or assassinated by a group of Norman knights. William marched on London which surrendered without much resistance. He is crowned in Westminster and becomes king of England.
William still had his Norman lands in France and was still a vassal of the King of France. He imposed French as the language of the nobility, replaced the British nobles with loyal Frenchmen, and fundamentally reformed the country.
The French-English clashes
In the 13th century, the kings of England spoke only French and resided in France. For example, Richard the Lionheart was born and lived all his life in France. He never went to England and was a vassal of France. He belonged to the powerful Plantagenet family who controlled half of the French territories.
Philip Augustus, king of France, confiscated the lands of the Plantagenets while Richard was on a crusade. He even pushed John Lackland, a Plantagenet and king of England, to revolt against his brother.
Richard returned to France to take back his family’s lands by force but died during a siege. During his reign, Philip Augustus tripled the size of the royal domain. He also destroyed the English and German military powers during the Battle of Bouvines. The latter is remembered as the greatest French military victory of the Middle Ages).
John Lackland was so tyrannical in England that the populace revolted against him. After, the English called the son of Philip, Louis VIII (the Lion) to become King of England.
The confiscation of the lands of the Plantagenet family on the continent, the blood ties between Capetians and Plantagenets, and the duchies remaining in the hands of the English (Aquitaine, the Basque countries, and Normandy) led to the Hundred Years’ War in 1337.
At this point, the English nobility still speaks French and lives in France.
After the Hundred Years’ War, the English lost their territory on the continent. Later, the Anglicans’ reform altered British society. Then, the transition to a constitutional monarchy finished forging the British identity. Yet, during the Middle Ages, France and England were so intertwined that they were almost the same entity.
To conclude, did France create England? No, England existed before, with the Bretons, then with the Anglo-Saxons, then it became a French “colony” under the Normans. It gained its cultural independence around the middle of the Renaissance.
On the other hand, France is indeed at the origin of the creation of a large European country: Germany! Before the conquest of Germania by Charlemagne, king and emperor of the French, Germany was only a collection of barbarian tribes identical to those contemporary to the Roman Empire.
Charlemagne built cities there, established Christianity, an administration, and a government. His probable descendant Otto founded the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire in 962 which would become the Confederation of the Rhine following the defeat of the Holy Roman Empire at Austerlitz in 1806, then the Second Reich in 1871 following the victory of the Prussians over France in 1870, the Weimar Republic after the defeat of 1918, the Third Reich in 1933 then the Federal Republic of Germany in 1945 after Hitler’s defeat in World War II.
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