Where does the balance of power lie before Magna Carta?
1066 The Norman Conquest
In 1066 William the Conqueror defeated the Saxon King Harold and took his throne by force. A king must be a powerful leader and warrior to defend his throne from enemies. He also had to show that he was religious so that the Church would support him. To show his wealth, power and piety William built many churches, including Battle Abbey.
1066-1087 William I and the barons
William’s rule, and even his life, depended on his barons and bishops. They kept order, collected taxes and gave William troops when he fought wars. William needed their support but had to stop them becoming too powerful. In 1086 he commissioned Domesday Book to find out what lands his barons owned so that he could tax them, but he could also find out how powerful they were. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said:
‘[King William] sent his men over all England into every shire and had them find out how much land he had. He also recorded how much land his archbishops had and his bishops and his abbots and his earls. He also recorded how much each landholder in England had in land or livestock and how much money it was worth.’
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