Jamal (portrayed by Martin Lawrence), is an employee of the Medieval World amusement park, suffers a blow to the head, falls into water under a bridge and wakes up in 14th Century England. He encounters knaves, peasants, archers and a giant while showing the people some modern dance moves. Jamal becomes the Black Knight and leads a rebellion against corruption with an out ex-knight to overthrow the evil King Leo (Kevin Conway) and his right hand man Sir Knolte (Tom Wilkinson).
Jamal is perceived by the English to be an ambassador from Normandy. Jamal’s love interest is with a Moorish peasant woman (portrayed by Marsha Thomason) who is constantly referred to as a Nubian Queen by the Sir Knolte (Tom Wilkinson). I think this role was one of her most historic but she alleged to be best known for playing Nessa Holt in the first two seasons of the NBC series Las Vegas, Naomi Dorrit on the ABC series Lost, and FBI agent Diana Berrigan on the USA Network series White Collar.
Jamal is referred to as a Moor throughout his entire experience in 14th century England, his high status as an Ambassador from Normandy, did not surprise the King in the film, expecting a Norman ambassador and it did not surprise me because the Moors were within the elite class in what became Normandy. The Vikings were fierce warriors from northern Europe, who plundered England and the coast of continental Europe throughout the Middle Ages. One group of Viking warriors – the Normans – settled in France and eventually conquered England in 1066.
I’m just tryin’ to get at her. Ain’t she fine? Watch me work. Moor! Do you mock me? The king awaits thee, messenger. You might want to take a chill pill, all right? “Do you mock me, Moor?” Many Norman warriors, administrators and churchmen had served in England under Edward the Confessor. By the middle of the 11th century Normandy was one of the most powerful states in Christendom. Desire for conquest, in conjunction with limited available land led many Normans to pursue military goals abroad: to Spain to fight the Moors; to Byzantium to fight the Turks; to Sicily in 1061 to fight the Saracens; and of course to England in 1066.
Islam spread quickly across the Mediterranean but in Sicily the Arabs’ conquest was a slow one. Panormos, which was to become the seat of an emirate as Bal’harm (Palermo) in 948, fell in 832. Messina was taken in 843. Enna (the Arabs’ Kasr’ Yanni, also an emirate) was conquered in 858. With the violent fall of Syracuse in 878, the conquest was essentially complete, though Taormina and several other mountaintop communities held out for a few more years. The Normans conquered Messina in 1061 and reached the gates of Palermo a decade later, removing from power the local emir, Yusuf Ibn Abdallah, but respecting Arab customs. Their conquest of Arab Sicily was slower than their conquest of Saxon England, which began in 1066 with the Battle of Hastings.
Kasr Yanni was still ruled by its emir, Ibn Al-Hawas, who held out for years. His successor, Ibn Hamud, surrendered, and converted to Christianity, only in 1087. Initially, and for over a century, the Normans’ Sicilian kingdom was the medieval epitome of multicultural tolerance. By 1200, this was beginning to change. While the Muslim-Arab influence continued well into the Norman era – particularly in art and architecture – it was not to endure. In 1071 the first Norman conquerors took Palermo and its citadel (1072) were captured. In 1091Noto fell to the Normans, and the conquest was complete. Malta fell later that year, though the Arab administration was kept in place, marking the final chapter of this period.
The conquests of the Normans established Roman Catholicism firmly in the region, where Eastern Christianity had been prominent during the time of Byzantine rule and even remained significant during Islamic period. The Normans gradually “Latinized” Sicily, and this social process laid the groundwork for the introduction of Catholicism (as opposed to eastern Orthodoxy). Widespread conversion ensued, and by the 1280s there were few – if any – Muslims in Sicily. Yet, the mass immigration of north-African Arabs (and Berbers) was the greatest Sicilian immigration since that of the ancient Greeks, leaving today’s Sicilians as Saracen as Hellenic.
While Norman government and law in Sicily were essentially European, introducing institutions such as the feudal system, at first they were profoundly influenced by Arab (and even Islamic) practices. Many statutes were universal, but in the earliest Norman period each Sicilian –Muslim, Christian, Jew– was judged by the laws of his or her own faith. See Sicilian Peoples: The Arabs by L. Mendola and V. Salerno
English Common law developed after the Norman Conquest of England. In 1066 England was peopled with Moors, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Danes, Celts, Jutes, and other groups who were suddenly ruled by French-speaking Normans. Most law at the time was customary law that had been handed down orally from generation to generation. In addition there were the legal code of Alfred the Great, which was biblical in nature, and the Danelaw of the Vikings and Danes. Most of the courts were communal courts (folk-moot), the hundred and shire courts, and baronial, or manorial, courts administering justice in the interest of the local nobility.