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No invading chieftain is described by the king”—although the title was soon used—and chieftainship, as before the conquest, remained central to Germanic tribal society.The sacral character of kingship later increased and changed in meaning as the Christian ruler was set apart by coronation and anointment.The king received fines for various crimes; but a man’s guilt was established in an assembly of freemen, where the accused tried to establish his innocence by his oath—supported by oath helpers—and, if this failed, by ordeal.On matters of importance the king normally consulted his ealderman was needed to administer part of the area, and later a sheriff was needed to look after the royal rights in each shire.Archaeology, however, suggests a more complex picture showing many tribal elements, Frankish leadership in the first waves, and Frisian contacts.
Later, however, differences in usage—especially in the calculation of the date of Easter—caused controversy, which was settled in favour of the Roman party at the Theodore of Tarsus (arrived 669), the first Roman archbishop to be acknowledged all over England, was active in establishing a proper diocesan system, whereas in the Celtic church bishops tended to move freely without fixed sees and settled boundaries; he held the first synod of the English church at Hertford in 672, and this forbade a bishop to interfere in another’s diocese or any priest to move into another diocese without his bishop’s permission.
Aldhelm’s own works, in Latin verse and prose, reveal a familiarity with many Latin authors; his writings became popular among admirers of the ornate and artificial style he had learned from his Celtic teachers.
Before long a liberal education could be had at such other West Saxon monasteries as Nursling and Wimborne. There Celtic and classical influences met: missionaries brought books from Ireland, and many Englishmen went to Ireland to study.
The acceptance of Christianity made it necessary to fit the clergy into the scale of compensations and assign a value to their oaths and to fix penalties for offenses such as sacrilege, heathen practices, and breaches of the marriage law. The Anglo-Saxons left England a land of villages, but the continuity of village development is uncertain.
In the 7th–8th centuries, in what is called the “Middle Saxon shuffle,” many early villages were abandoned, and others, from which later medieval villages descended, were founded.