It has been said that if Anglo-Saxon England had possessed the Feudal system, it had been in a rudimentary degree, and in a form which signally failed to provide for the creation of a military organization. The introduction of the Norman Feudal System, which remedied this defect, was rendered easy by treating as traitors all those who opposed the ascension of William the Conqueror to the throne, and confiscating their property. In this manner nearly all the land of England passed in the control of the King, who divided it among his followers, under the system of land tenure and military service which they were already accustomed to in Normandy. A few changes were made, however, in the details of the Feudal system, with the intention of counteracting the disintegrating tendencies which had begun to make themselves manifest in Normandy. The sub-tenants were obliged to swear fealty to the King as well as to their immediate lord, while the manors which he bestowed upon his barons were scattered over the kingdom so that in no one district should the territory of any one man be great enough to tempt him to rebellion.

William continued to call the ancient national assembly at the accustomed times and places; these were attended by the archbishops, abbotts, earls, thanes, and knights. With the growth of the Feudal system, however, this national council gradually changed from the old Saxon Witenagemote, into the Curia Regis, an assembly of Feudal barons. William also continued in force the so-called laws of Edward the Confessor; by this should be understood the laws that were observed during the reign of that king, i. e., the laws of Dunstan and Canute. Some changes he was necessarily obliged to make in these laws, but the number of these changes were surprisingly few. Although the Normans and English were considered equal in law, a distinction was allowed in some instances. The Normans were accustomed to trial by the wager of battle; the Anglo-Saxon by the ordeal and the compurgation. Each race was permitted in general trial by its own customs. The lives of the Normans were protected by heavy fines levied upon any hundred in which a Norman was found murdered. Capital punishment and the sale of men into foreign slavery were prohibited. The civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the courts of law were separated, but, except for the absence of the bishop, the county and hundred courts were constructed nearly as formerly.