Norman Conquest Encyclopedia
The ruler of a region in Anglo-Saxon society was advised by a group of wise men, witan , drawn from the church and the great landowners. It was summoned by the ruler and composed of people selected by him according to custom. The witan survived as the individual kingdoms within England became earldoms and the king, first of the English in the mid 10th century and then of England under King Cnut in 1016, was recognised as being the overall leader of the country. Its membership was between thirty and forty earls or ealdormen, other regional leaders, and the senior ecclesiastics and it varied as the king decided whom to summon. On the king's death the succession was confirmed or arbitrated by the surviving witan. When the Norman regime took over William the Conqueror found the witan had much in common with the ducal court he had been used to, and, for example, William fitz Osbern and Roger of Montgomery, William's men, sat alongside Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria, survivors from the witans of Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinsson. Thus the curia regis the king's council, replaced the witan.
- Saxon Viking Norman