Feudal land tenure in England

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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 tenant's death or at an earlier specified period.

Contents

High medieval period

In England's ancient past large parts of the realm were unoccupied [1] and owned as allodial titles, the land owners simply cooperated with the king out of a mutual interest instead of legal obligation. It wasn't until the Norman conquest when William the Conqueror declared himself to be the sole allodial owner of all of the realm that land tenures changed drastically. [2] In William's kingdom the common exchange and sale of land became restricted and all landholders were made to provide a service to their lord (" no land without a lord "). [3]

Norman reforms

William stripped the land from those who opposed him and redistributed it between his followers. He introduced a new type of feudalism in which obligation continued to all the way down the hierarchy which was inspired by the military system. [4]

Barony and knight-service

The tenants-in-chief held their land by the tenure of barony which required the tenant to provide a number of knights for their liege for 40 days per annum, after the served days the liege was either forced to begin paying the knights or dismiss them. [5] However, tenants who held their land the tenure of knight-service were not to pass their lands to the heir automatically but required the lord's approval. [6]

The system however proved difficult to sustain as the assessment of knight's fees became impossible to maintain for few properties retained the same wealth and population as they did when they were first enfeoffed leading to a situation where the lord only had provided a marginal number of knights of what he actually could muster. Another issue was the practice of subinfeudation in which the subtenants would alienate the land to tenants of their own, it became unpopular amongst the superior lords and was banned by Edward I in Quia Emptores, as a compensation sale of properties was made legal. [2]

Late medieval period

Over the course of the late medieval period knight-service came to be replaced by the tenure of scutage in which tenants paid tax according to their knight's fee instead of providing knights. Before the mid-13th century the fiefs hadn't been inheritable due to fear that the heir of the tenant couldn't provide the knight-service, however, due to scutage replacing knight-service, that fear no longer existed; the heirs were allowed to succeeded fiefs in exchange of paying a type of inheritance tax. [3]

Tenures Abolition Act 1660 declared that all land was to be held by socage tenure, ending the feudal tenure. [7]

Related Research Articles

Manorialism Economic, political and judicial institution during the Middle Ages in Europe

Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership in parts of Europe, notably England, during the Middle Ages. Its defining features included a large, sometimes fortified manor house in which the lord of the manor and his dependents lived and administered a rural estate, and a population of labourers who worked the surrounding land to support themselves and the lord. These labourers fulfilled their obligations with labour time or in-kind produce at first, and later by cash payment as commercial activity increased. Manorialism is sometimes included as part of the feudal system.

Fief Central element of feudalism

A fief was the central element of feudalism. It consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty. The fees were often lands or revenue-producing real property held in feudal land tenure: these are typically known as fiefs or fiefdoms. However, not only land but anything of value could be held in fee, including governmental office, rights of exploitation such as hunting or fishing, monopolies in trade, and tax farms.

Escheat is a common law doctrine that transfers the real property of a person who has died without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in "limbo" without recognized ownership. It originally applied to a number of situations where a legal interest in land was destroyed by operation of law, so that the ownership of the land reverted to the immediately superior feudal lord.

Seigneurial system of New France Semi-feudal manor system of French Canada

The manorial system of New France, known as the seigneurial system, was the semi-feudal system of land tenure used in the North American French colonial empire.

In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. A "fee simple" is real property held without limit of time under common law, whereas the highest possible form of ownership is a "fee simple absolute," which is without limitations on the land's use.

Vassal Person aligned with a lord or monarch

A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief. The term is also applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.

Lord of the manor Landholder of a rural estate

Lord of the Manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England, referred to the landholder of a rural estate. The lord enjoyed manorial rights as well as seignory, the right to grant or draw benefit from the estate. The title continues in modern England and Wales as a legally recognised form of property that can be held independently of its historical rights. It may belong entirely to one person or be a moiety shared with other people.

Tenant-in-chief Medieval vassal in possession of land granted directly by the Crown

In medieval and early modern Europe, the term tenant-in-chief denoted a person who held his lands under various forms of feudal land tenure directly from the king or territorial prince to whom he did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy. The tenure was one which denoted great honour, but also carried heavy responsibilities. The tenants-in-chief were originally responsible for providing knights and soldiers for the king's feudal army.

Allodial title constitutes ownership of real property that is independent of any superior landlord. Allodial title is related to the concept of land held "in allodium", or land ownership by occupancy and defense of the land.

Seisin denotes the legal possession of a feudal fiefdom or fee, that is to say an estate in land. It was used in the form of "the son and heir of X has obtained seisin of his inheritance", and thus is effectively a term concerned with conveyancing in the feudal era. The person holding such estate is said to be "seized of it", a phrase which commonly appears in inquisitions post mortem. The monarch alone "held" all the land of England by his allodial right and all his subjects were merely his tenants under various contracts of feudal tenure.

<i>Quia Emptores</i> English statute of 1290

Quia Emptores is a statute passed by the Parliament of England in 1290 during the reign of Edward I that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants who wished to alienate their land to do so by substitution. The statute, along with its companion statute Quo Warranto also passed in 1290, was intended to remedy land ownership disputes and consequent financial difficulties that had resulted from the decline of the traditional feudal system in England during the High Middle Ages. The name Quia Emptores derives from the first two words of the statute in its original mediaeval Latin, which can be translated as "because the buyers". Its long title is A Statute of our Lord The King, concerning the Selling and Buying of Land. It is also cited as the Statute of Westminster III, one of many English and British statutes with that title.

Mesne lord

A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. Owing to Quia Emptores, the concept of a mesne lordship technically still exists today: the partitioning of the lord of the manor's estate among co-heirs creating the mesne lordships.

Feoffment Transfer of land under feudalism

In the Middle Ages, especially under the European feudal system, feoffment or 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. The common law of estates in land grew from this concept.

Knight-service Land tenure under the feudal system

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.

A lordship is a territory held by a lord. It was a landed estate that served as the lowest administrative and judicial unit in rural areas. It originated as a unit under the feudal system during the Middle Ages. In a lordship, the functions of economic and legal management are assigned to a lord, who, at the same time, is not endowed with indispensable rights and duties of the sovereign. Lordship in its essence is clearly different from the fief and, along with the allod, is one of the ways to exercise the right.

In the law of the Middle Ages and early Modern Period and especially within the Holy Roman Empire, an allod, also allodial land or allodium, is an estate in land over which the allodial landowner (allodiary) had full ownership and right of alienation.

Heerlijkheid Lowest administrative and judicial unit in Low Countries before 1800

A heerlijkheid was a landed estate that served as the lowest administrative and judicial unit in rural areas in the Dutch-speaking Low Countries before 1800. It originated as a unit of lordship under the feudal system during the Middle Ages. The English equivalents are manor, seigniory and lordship. The German equivalent is Herrschaft. The heerlijkheid system was the Dutch version of manorialism that prevailed in the Low Countries and was the precursor to the modern municipality system in the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium.

Even before the Norman Conquest, there was a strong tradition of landholding in Anglo-Saxon law. When William the Conqueror asserted sovereignty over England in 1066, he confiscated the property of the recalcitrant English landowners. Over the next dozen years, he granted land to his lords and to the dispossessed Englishmen, or affirmed their existing land holdings, in exchange for fealty and promises of military and other services. At the time of the Domesday Book, all land in England was held by someone, and from that time there has been no allodial land in England. In order to legitimise the notion of the Crown's paramount lordship, a legal fiction—that all land titles were held by the King's subjects as a result of a royal grant—was adopted.

Feudalism in England

Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdom's of England during the medieval period was a state of human society that organized political and military leadership and force around a stratified formal structure based on land tenure. As a military defense and socio-economic paradigm designed to direct the wealth of the land to the king while it levied military troops to his causes, feudal society was ordered around relationships derived from the holding of land. Such landholdings are termed fiefdoms, traders, fiefs, or fees.

Feudal duties

Feudal duties were the set of reciprocal financial, military and legal obligations among the warrior nobility in a feudal system. These duties developed in both Europe and Japan with the decentralisation of empire and due to lack of monetary liquidity, as groups of warriors took over the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres of the territory they controlled. While many feudal duties were based upon control of a parcel of land and its productive resources, even landless knights owed feudal duties such as direct military service in their lord's behest. Feudal duties were not uniform over time or across political boundaries. And in their later development also included duties from and to the peasant population, such as abergement.

References

  1. Lawler, J. John; Lawler, Gail Gates. A Short Historical Introduction to the Law of Real Property. Beard Books. p. 3. ISBN   978-1-58798-032-9 . Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  2. 1 2 Longman, William. Lectures on the History of England. Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green. p. 82. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  3. 1 2 Lucas, Adam. Ecclesiastical Lordship, Seigneurial Power and the Commercialization of Milling in Medieval England. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN   978-1-317-14647-6 . Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  4. Lawler, J. John; Lawler, Gail Gates. A Short Historical Introduction to the Law of Real Property. Beard Books. p. 3. ISBN   978-1-58798-032-9 . Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  5. Lucas, Adam. Ecclesiastical Lordship, Seigneurial Power and the Commercialization of Milling in Medieval England. Routledge. p. 51. ISBN   978-1-317-14647-6 . Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  6. Lawler, J. John; Lawler, Gail Gates. A Short Historical Introduction to the Law of Real Property. Beard Books. pp. 6–8. ISBN   978-1-58798-032-9 . Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  7. QC, Michael Barnes. The Law of Estoppel. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 681. ISBN   978-1-5099-0940-7 . Retrieved 14 January 2021.