Monday, 24 September 2012

Feudal System: Degrees of Nobility and Baronage

At the very pinnacle of the feudal pyramid and system was the King, to whom fealty by and from  all persons in the kingdom was due. Fealty [Latin fidelitas] was a pledge of allegiance. Fealty was sworn under oath.

In England, following the Battle of Hastings, and his coronation in 1066, all land in England belonged to the Crown. William claimed it by right of conquest. As reward for assisting him in his claim to the throne, those Norman knights who had participated in the Conquest were given large tracks of land and baronies. A tenant-in-chief (or vassal-in-chief)[Latin tenente in capite], was a person, a baron, a vassal, who held his lands directly from the king, to whom he swore fealty and did homage for, in person. All the land of England was divided up into "baronies", except for special districts, royal forests and lands belonging directly to the king. Homage was a special ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged honour and submission to his feudal lord, receiving in turn, the symbolic title to his new position by investiture. A Baron [Latin baro] held his lands, the barony, the honour, per baroniam. All Barons were entitled to be summoned by the King at any time to attend his Great Council [Latin Magnum Concilium], to provide his lord the King with advice and counsel on matters of import on the running and management of the kingdom. Upon grant of his barony, a Baron had a feudal duty, to provide personal military service and a defined specific quota of knights for the king's service whenever the king required them for war, the feudal levy, in Latin, the servitium debitum (service owed). The actual number of knights was arbitrarily determined by the king. It bore no relationship to the amount or area of land in the barony.

Earls (Old Norse Jarl) were also barons, but of a higher rank. Before King Canute an 'ealdorman' was appointed to rule a given province or shire in a king's stead. Under Canute the title of earl or jarl was introduced. The Norman kings made earldoms hereditary. Over time the original direct relationship of the title of the Earldom and its territorial county gradually disappeared. The equivalent title to an Earl in France was Comte. Earls and Barons as a class, comprised the Magnates of the Kingdom.

The more important prelates, such as Archbishops and Bishops, were considered to be barons holding their lands per baroniam, and therefore entitled to attend the Great Council. They too were required to deliver knights to the King in time of war. The Marcher lords in Wales often held their lordships by right of conquest were regarded as feudal barons. The Barons of the Cinque Ports were also considered as feudal barons, by virtue of their military service at sea, and thus entitled to attend the Great Council too.

The lands forming a barony could be located in several different counties, not necessarily contiguous stretches of land adjacent to one another. Each barony was divided up into dependent manors or knights' fees. Baronies were generally named after the chief manor within them, known as the Caput, originally the seat or chief residence of the first baron.  A knight's fee was land held in trust by a knight from his superior lord, the baron, on the understanding one knight for military service should be provided when required. There was no fixed area defining the size of a knight's fee. Knights were subtenants of the baron, and held their land by a process of subinfeudation. Such vassals were termed vavasours, under-tenants or the vassals of vassals.

As feudal lord the King had the right to collect scutage from all the barons and earls who held baronies or honours directly from him as tenants-in-chief. Scutage was a tax raised from vassals instead of military service. Scutage enabled the crown to become more independent of the feudal levy, to hire its own troops or mercenaries, who could be professional soldiers, more experienced in wwarfare. Once a tenant-in-chief received a demand for scutage, the cost was passed on to the subtenants and thus came to be regarded as a universal land tax. Historically tax was part of a taxation system that had been created under the Anglo-Saxon kings to raise money to pay off the invading Danes, in a system known as geld.[10]


William the Conqueror granted large estates to his Norman barons as a reward for their contribution to the Conquest. Few earldoms were created but the earls only represented a small proportion of the nobility. The vast majority of English nobles were the very many local feudal lords who held no formal title but whose nobility was not in doubt. The first post-conquest earldoms that were created were Chester, Hereford, Huntingdon, Kent, Norfolk and Shrewsbury. William Rufus, in addition, created the earldoms of Surrey and Warwick, and possibly that of Buckingham. King Henry I created the earldoms of Leicester and Gloucester, the latter for his bastard son, Robert. A large increase in the number of earldoms came during the anarchy, the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, when each side granted earldoms to their main supporters. King Stephen created the earldoms of Arundel, Bedford, Derby, Essex, Hertford, Lincoln, Pembroke, and Yorkshire, as well as a regrant of the earldom of Norfolk. Empress Matilda, on her part, created the earldoms of Cornwall, Devon, Oxford, Salisbury and Somerset. She also granted the earldom of Essex to Geoffrey de Mandeville after he had defected from the king's camp. In the spirit of reconciliation after the end of the civil war Empress Matilda's creations were allowed to remain unchallenged by King Stephen.
If the estate-in-land held by barony contained a significant castle as its caput baroniae and if it was especially large – consisting of more than about 20 knight's fees (each loosely equivalent to a manor) – then it was termed an "honour".


Marc Bloch. tr. Manyon, ed. Feudal Society. Vols I and II Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-67757-4.
[La société féodale (1939)]

Marc Bloch (1961). Feudal Society. Volume 1 - The Growth of Ties of Dependence University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05978-5
[La société féodale, La formation des liens de dépendance.(1939)]
Chapter list:

Marc Bloch (1961). Feudal Society. Volume 2: Social Classes and Political Organization
University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05979-2.
[La société féodale, les classes et le gouvernement des hommes.(1940)]
Chapter list:

Sir William Blackstone (1832). Commentaries on the laws of England: in four books: with an analysis of the work. J.B.Lippinocott & co.. Chapter 12 "Of The Civil State",pp. 309–.

Sir Thomas Edlyne Tomlins; Thomas Colpitts Granger (1835). The Law-dictionary, Explaining the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the British Law: Defining and Interpreting the Terms Or Words of Art, and Comprising Also Copious Information on the Subjects of Trade and Government. J. and W. T. Clarke. pp. 68–.

Thomas K. Keefe (1983). Feudal Assessments and the Political Community Under Henry II and His Sons. University of California Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-520-04582-8.  

Titles of honor (1672), Selden John, 1584-1654
Publisher: London : Printed by E. Tyler, and R. Holt, for Thomas Dring

Tenure (1853). Tenure and peerage 'by barony', an essay. pp. 1–.

Thomas St. George (sir.) (1864). Titles of honour. [With Barons by tenure [and] Barons by writ].

David Knowles (2 January 1951). The Episcopal Colleagues of Archbishop Thomas Becket: Being the Ford Lectures Delivered in the University of Oxford in Hilary Term, 1949. Cambridge University Press. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-0-521-05493-5

Natalie Fryde; Pierre Monnet; Otto Gerhard Oexle (2002). "Feudal Obligation and the Rights of Resistance by Magnus Ryan". "The" Presence of Feudalism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-3-525-35391-2. 

The Development of Feudal Law in the Ius commune by Ken Pennington (2004)

"But further, Domesday Book is no register of title, no register of all those rights and facts which constitute the system of land-holdership. One great purpose seems to mould both its form and its substance; it is a geld-book."

Barlow, Frank. (1961) The Feudal Kingdom of England.

Round, John H.(1895) Feudal England: Historical Studies on the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Bateson, Mary.(1904)  Mediaeval England; English feudal society from the Norman conquest to the middle of the fourteenth century 

Inman, A. H. (1900) Domesday and feudal statistics

Edmund King (1994). The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign. Chapter 1 The Aristocracy by C.W. Hollister: Clarendon Press. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-19-159072-6.
Charles Petit-Dutaillis. (1936) The Feudal Monarchy In France And England

The Introduction of Knight Service into England
English Historical Review (1891) VI (XXIII): 417-443.
doi: 10.1093/ehr/VI.XXIII.41
Found also in
John Horace Round (17 June 2010). Feudal England: Historical Studies on the XIth and XIIth Centuries. Cambridge University Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-1-108-01449-6.

A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families
by Charles Cawley
   ENGLAND EARLS 1138-1142

Anglo-Norman Studies 34
Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2011
Edited by David Bates
July 2012, Pages: 288
Published by: Boydell Press, an imprint of Boydell & Brewer
eISBN: 978-1-84615-971-8
C. P. Lewis
Pages: 123-150
There is more in this article about the Latin word manerium than about the thing it described, the manor, but I shall be using the early history of the word as a way of getting at what was in people’s heads when they wrote manerium in the later eleventh century and at what realities they saw, or thought they saw, on the ground.¹ Words, concepts and things are not the same, as Susan Reynolds has taught us, and historians are well advised to begin by separating them. I would thus gloss David Bates’s injunction that anyone intent on comparing pre-...


Robert Liddiard (2003). Anglo-Norman Castles. 9: Sidney Painter Castle-Guard: Boydell Press. pp. 203–. ISBN 978-0-85115-904-1.
The American Historical Review (1935) 40 (3): 450-459 doi:10.1086/ahr/40.3.450 Full Text (PDF)

Castle-Guard and Barons' Houses
A. Ballard
The English Historical Review
Vol. 25, No. 100 (Oct., 1910), pp. 712-715
Published by: Oxford University Press

J. H. Round, 'Castle Guard', Archaeological Journal, LIX (1902), pp. 144—59.
DOI: 10.1080/00665983.1902.10852912

F. M. Stenton, The First Century of English Feudalism, 1066—1166 (Oxford, 1932), pp. 190—215. As he was dealing with the period 1066—1166, Professor Stenton was obviously under no obligation to make a complete survey of later material.

Frank Merry Stenton (1961). The first century of English feudalism, 1066-1166. Clarendon Press.

Reasonably clear evidence of castle-guard obligations owed by tenants by knight service exists for at least forty-two English castles.
Aldford, Alnwick, Arundel, Banbury, Belvoir, Brecknock, Chester, Clifford, Clun, Corsham, Devizes, Dodleston, Dover, Eye, Farnham, Hastings, Kington, Lancaster, Launceston, Ledbury, Lincoln, Montgomery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northampton, Norwich, Pevensey, Plympton, Prudhoe, Richmond, Rochester, Rockingham, Salisbury, Shrawardine, Skipsea, Skipton, Tickhill, Trematon, Wallingford, Warwick, Wem, Whitchurch, Windsor.

In the case of nine more it is not quite certain whether knight service or sergeanty was involved. 4 Of the forty-two, eleven were royal and thirty-one baronial
Bamburgh, Baynard, Canterbury, Framlingham, Hedingham, Knockin, Peak, Stogursey, Wigmore.

No comments:

Post a Comment