Fiefdom

Fiefdom

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For other uses see Fee (disambiguation)
Fee (disambiguation)
Fee may refer to:* Fee , a payment for services* Fee , a feudal landholding* Knight's fee, a Fee large enough to support a knight* Fee simple, a form of estate in land in common law...



A fee (alternatively and rarely: fief, fiefdom, Latinised to feudum) was the central element of feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 and consisted of heritable
Inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 lands (or revenue-producing property) granted under one of several varieties of feudal tenure
Feudal land tenure
Under the English feudal system several different forms of land tenure existed, each effectively a contract with differing rights and duties attached thereto. Such tenures could be either free-hold, signifying that they were hereditable or perpetual, or non-free where the tenancy terminated on the...

 by an overlord to a vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 who held it in fealty
Fealty
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas , is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God.In medieval Europe, fealty was sworn between...

 (or "in fee") in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage
Homage (medieval)
Homage in the Middle Ages was the ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic title to his new position . It was a symbolic acknowledgment to the lord that the vassal was, literally, his man . The oath known as...

 and fealty
Fealty
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas , is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God.In medieval Europe, fealty was sworn between...

. A list of several hundred such fees held in chief
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

 between 1198 and 1292, their holders' names and form of tenure
Feudal land tenure
Under the English feudal system several different forms of land tenure existed, each effectively a contract with differing rights and duties attached thereto. Such tenures could be either free-hold, signifying that they were hereditable or perpetual, or non-free where the tenancy terminated on the...

 was published in 3 volumes between 1920-31, known as "The Book of Fees
Book of Fees
The Book of Fees is the colloquial title of a modern edition, transcript, rearrangement and enhancement of the mediaeval Liber Feodorum , being a listing of feudal landholdings or "fees/fiefs", compiled in about 1302, but from earlier records, for the use of the English Exchequer...

", and is a re-edition of a mediaeval precursor known as the Testa de Nevill, produced in 1302. Not only land but anything of value could be held in fee, such as an office, a right of exploitation (e.g., hunting, fishing) or any other type of right to receive revenue such as a fee farm, rather than the land it comes from.

In the 10th and 11th centuries the term "fee" (feudum) could be used either to describe dependent tenure
Land tenure
Land tenure is the name given, particularly in common law systems, to the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land . The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenants...

 held by a man from his lord, as the term is used now by historians, or it could mean simply "property". It lacked a precise meaning until the middle of the 12th century, when it received formal definition from land lawyers.

Historically the fees of the 11th and the 12th century derived from two separate sources. The first was land carved out of the estates of the upper nobility. The second source was allodial land transformed into dependent tenures. During the 10th century in northern France and the 11th century in France south of the Loire
Loire
Loire is an administrative department in the east-central part of France occupying the River Loire's upper reaches.-History:Loire was created in 1793 when after just 3½ years the young Rhône-et-Loire department was split into two. This was a response to counter-Revolutionary activities in Lyon...

, local magnates either recruited or forced the owners of allodial holdings into dependent relationships and they were turned into fiefs. The process occurred later in Germany, and was still going on in the 13th century.

In 13th-century England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy the term "feodum" was used to describe a dependent tenure held from a lord by a vassal in return for a specified amount of knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 service and occasional financial payments (feudal incidents).

However, knight service in war was far less common than:
  • castle-guard (the obligation of a vassal to serve in a castle
    Castle
    A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

     garrison
    Garrison
    Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

     of the lord),
  • suit in court (the vassal's obligation to attend the lord's court, to give him counsel, and to help him judge disputes)
  • attendance in the lord's entourage (accompanying the lord when he travelled or attended the court of his lord so as to increase the social status of the lord),
  • hospitality to the lord or to his servants (accommodation).


A lord in late 12th-century England and France could also claim the right of:
  • wardship and marriage - right to control descent of fee by choosing husband for female heir and guardian of minors (preferably in consultation with heir's closest male adult kinsmen);
  • "aids" - payments to aid the lord in times of need (customarily given to the lord to cover the cost of knighting of eldest son, marriage of eldest daughter, and for ransom
    Ransom
    Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

    ing of lord if required);
  • escheat
    Escheat
    Escheat is a common law doctrine which transfers the property of a person who dies without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in limbo without recognised ownership...

     - the reversion of the fief to the lord in default of an heir.


Originally, vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

age did not imply the giving or receiving of landholdings (which were granted only as a reward for loyalty), but by the eighth century the giving of a landholding was becoming standard. The granting of a landholding to a vassal did not relinquish the lord's property rights, but only the use of the lands and their income; the granting lord retained ultimate ownership of the fee and could, technically, recover the lands in case of disloyalty or death.

By the middle of the 10th century, fee had largely become hereditary. The eldest son of a deceased vassal would inherit, but first he had to do homage and fealty to the lord and pay a "relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

" for the land (a monetary recognition of the lord's continuing proprietary rights over the property). Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 transformed them into important sources of royal income and patronage. The discontent of baron
Baron
Baron is a title of nobility. The word baron comes from Old French baron, itself from Old High German and Latin baro meaning " man, warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman"...

s with royal claims to arbitrarily assessed "reliefs" and other feudal payments under Henry's son King John
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

 resulted in Magna Carta
Magna Carta
Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch's authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225...

 of 1215.

Eventually, great feudal lords sought also to seize governmental and legal authority (the collection of taxes, the right of high justice, etc.) in their lands, and some passed these rights to their own vassals.

In northern France in the 12th and 13th centuries military service for fiefs was limited for offensive campaigns to 40 days for a knight. By the 12th century English and French kings and barons began to commute military service for cash payments (scutage
Scutage
The form of taxation known as scutage, in the law of England under the feudal system, allowed a knight to "buy out" of the military service due to the Crown as a holder of a knight's fee held under the feudal land tenure of knight-service. Its name derived from shield...

s), with which they could purchase the service of mercenaries.

See also


  • Appanage
    Appanage
    An apanage or appanage or is the grant of an estate, titles, offices, or other things of value to the younger male children of a sovereign, who would otherwise have no inheritance under the system of primogeniture...

     (consisting in part of the liege's domain, granted to a junior relative)
  • Book of Fees
    Book of Fees
    The Book of Fees is the colloquial title of a modern edition, transcript, rearrangement and enhancement of the mediaeval Liber Feodorum , being a listing of feudal landholdings or "fees/fiefs", compiled in about 1302, but from earlier records, for the use of the English Exchequer...

  • Enfeoffment
    Enfeoffment
    Under the European feudal system, enfeoffment was the deed by which a person was given land in exchange for a pledge of service. This mechanism was later used to avoid restrictions on the passage of title in land by a system in which a landowner would give land to one person for the use of another...

  • Feoffee
    Feoffee
    A Feoffee is a trustee who holds a fief , that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner. The term is more fully stated as a feoffee to uses of the beneficial owner. The use of such trustees developed towards the end of the era of feudalism in the middle ages and became...

  • Fee simple
    Fee simple
    In English law, a fee simple is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is the most common way that real estate is owned in common law countries, and is ordinarily the most complete ownership interest that can be had in real property short of allodial title, which is often reserved...

  • Fee tail
    Fee tail
    At common law, fee tail or entail is an estate of inheritance in real property which cannot be sold, devised by will, or otherwise alienated by the owner, but which passes by operation of law to the owner's heirs upon his death...


  • Herrschaft
    Herrschaft (territory)
    In the German feudal system, a Herrschaft or Herrlichkeit was the fiefdom of a lord, who in this area exercised his full feudal rights...

  • Knight's fee
    Knight's fee
    In feudal Anglo-Norman England and Ireland, a knight's fee was a measure of a unit of land deemed sufficient from which a knight could derive not only sustenance for himself and his esquires, but also the means to furnish himself and his equipage with horses and armour to fight for his overlord in...

  • Knight-service
    Knight-service
    Knight-service was a form of Feudal land tenure under which a knight held a fief or estate of land termed a knight's fee from an overlord conditional on him as tenant performing military service for his overlord....

  • Seigneurial system of New France
    Seigneurial system of New France
    The seigneurial system of New France was the semi-feudal system of land distribution used in the North American colonies of New France.-Introduction to New France:...

  • Subinfeudation
    Subinfeudation
    In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands....

  • Urbarium
    Urbarium
    Urbarium is a term that means a register of fief ownership and includes the rights and benefits that the fief holder has over his serfs and peasants. It is an important economic and legal source of medieval and early modern feudalism.Urbarium were also used to record land rent and stock...