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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

1 - The Abbey and the Norman Conquest an Unusual Case?

  • Edited by Tom Licence, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 5-21


The notion that the history of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds after the Norman Conquest was unusual is not new. William of Malmesbury in his Gesta pontificum described St Edmund as ‘the first of the saints of the country’. And in the Gesta regum he wrote that the saint's abbey was remarkable both for its capacity to attract patronage and to repulse tax-collectors:

By these arts he has so engaged the loyalty of all the inhabitants of Britain that anyone thinks it a privilege to enrich his monastery by even a penny. Even kings, the lords of other men, rejoice to call themselves his servants, and place their royal crown at his service, redeeming it at a great price if they wish to use it. The tax-collectors who run riot in other places, making no distinction between right and wrong, are on their knees before St Edmund, and stay their legal processes at his boundary-ditch, knowing from experience how many have suffered who have thought fit to persist.

A monk of the great Ile-de-France abbey of Saint-Denis, Abbot Baldwin of Bury St Edmunds (1065–97) was the one non-Englishman to be an abbot in England on the day that Harold lost the Battle of Hastings. He had first visited England well before his appointment to Bury in 1065 and been treated with great favour by King Edward.