Fief

Last updated

A fief ( /ff/ ; Latin : feudum) 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 (or "in fee") 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.

Feudalism combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe

Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

Inheritance practice of passing on property upon the death of individuals

Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual. The rules of inheritance differ among societies and have changed over time.

Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others acting like a master, a chief, or a ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are entitled to courtesy titles. The collective "Lords" can refer to a group or body of peers.

Contents

Terminology

In ancient Rome a "benefice" (from the Latin noun beneficium, meaning "benefit") was a gift of land ( precaria ) for life as a reward for services rendered, originally, to the state. In medieval Latin European documents, a land grant in exchange for service continued to be called a beneficium (Latin). [1] Later, the term feudum, or feodum, began to replace beneficium in the documents. [1] The first attested instance of this is from 984, although more primitive forms were seen up to one hundred years earlier. [1] The origin of the feudum and why it replaced beneficium has not been well established, but there are multiple theories, described below. [1]

A benefice or living is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The Roman Empire used the Latin term beneficium as a benefit to an individual from the Empire for services rendered. Its use was adopted by the Western Church in the Carolingian Era as a benefit bestowed by the crown or church officials. A benefice specifically from a church is called a precaria such as a stipend and one from a monarch or nobleman is usually called a fief. A benefice is distinct from an allod, in that an allod is property owned outright, not bestowed by a higher authority.

The most widely held theory is put forth by Marc Bloch [1] [2] [3] that it is related to the Frankish term *fehu-ôd, in which *fehu means "cattle" and -ôd means "goods", implying "a moveable object of value." [2] [3] When land replaced currency as the primary store of value, the Germanic word *fehu-ôd replaced the Latin word beneficium. [2] [3] This Germanic origin theory was also shared by William Stubbs in the nineteenth century. [1] [4]

Marc Bloch French historian, medievalist, historiographer, Army officer and hero of the Resistance

Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch was a French historian. A founding member of the Annales School of French social history, he specialised in the field of medieval history and published widely on Medieval France over the course of his career. As an academic, he worked at the University of Strasbourg, the University of Paris, and the University of Montpellier.

A store of value is the function of an asset that can be saved, retrieved and exchanged at a later time, and be predictably useful when retrieved. More generally, a store of value is anything that retains purchasing power into the future.

William Stubbs 19th-century English historian and Anglican bishop

Rt. Rev William Stubbs HFRSE was an English historian and Anglican bishop. He was Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford between 1866 and 1884. He was Bishop of Chester from 1884 to 1889 and Bishop of Oxford from 1889 to 1901.

A theory put forward by Archibald R. Lewis [1] that the origin of 'fief' is not feudum (or feodum), but rather foderum, the earliest attested use being in Astronomus's Vita Hludovici (840). [5] In that text is a passage about Louis the Pious which says annona militaris quas vulgo foderum vocant, which can be translated as "(Louis forbade that) military provender which they popularly call 'fodder' (be furnished)." [1]

<i>Vita Hludovici</i>

Vita Hludovici or Vita Hludovici Imperatoris is an anonymous biography of Louis the Pious, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Franks from AD 814 to 840.

Louis the Pious King of Aquitaine

Louis the Pious, also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. He was also King of Aquitaine from 781.

A theory by Alauddin Samarrai suggests an Arabic origin, from fuyū (the plural of fay, which literally means "the returned", and was used especially for 'land that has been conquered from enemies that did not fight'). [1] [6] Samarrai's theory is that early forms of 'fief' include feo, feu, feuz, feuum and others, the plurality of forms strongly suggesting origins from a loanword. First use of these terms was in Languedoc, one of the least-Germanized areas of Europe and bordered Muslim Spain, where the earliest use of feuum as a replacement for beneficium can be dated to 899, the same year a Muslim base at Fraxinetum (La Garde-Freinet) in Provence was established. It is possible, Samarrai says, that French scribes, writing in Latin, attempted to transliterate the Arabic word fuyū (the plural of fay), which was being used by the Muslims at the time, resulting in a plurality of forms - feo, feu, feuz, feuum and others - from which eventually feudum derived. Samarrai, however, also advises medieval and early modern Muslim scribes often used etymologically "fanciful roots" in order to claim the most outlandish things to be of Arabian or Muslim origin. [6]

A loanword is a word adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.

Languedoc Place in France

Languedoc is a former province of France. Its territory is now contained in the modern-day region of Occitanie in the south of France. Its capital city was Toulouse. It had an area of approximately 27,376 square kilometers.

Fraxinetum site of a 10th-century fortress near Saint-Tropez, in Provence

Fraxinet or Fraxinetum was the site of a 10th-century fortress established by Muslims at modern La Garde-Freinet, near Saint-Tropez, in Provence. The modern Massif des Maures takes its name from the Muslims of Fraxinet.

In the 10th and 11th centuries the Latin terms for fee could be used either to describe dependent tenure held by a man from his lord, as the term is used now by historians, or it could mean simply "property" (the manor was, in effect, a small fief). It lacked a precise meaning until the middle of the 12th century, when it received formal definition from land lawyers.

Manor an estate in land to which is incident the right to hold a manorial court

A manor in English law is an estate in land to which is incident the right to hold a court termed court baron, that is to say a manorial court. The proper unit of tenure under the feudal system is the fee, on which the manor became established through the process of time, akin to the modern establishment of a "business" upon a freehold site. The manor is nevertheless often described as the basic feudal unit of tenure and is historically connected with the territorial divisions of the march, county, hundred, parish and township.

In English usage, the word "fee" is first attested around 1250–1300 (Middle English); the word fief from around 1605–15. In French, the term fief is found from the middle of the 13th century (Old French), derived from the 11th-century terms feu, fie. The odd appearance of the second f in the form fief may be due to influence from the verb fiever 'to grant in fee'. [7] In French, one also finds "seigneurie" (land and rights possessed by a "seigneur" or "lord", 12th-century), which gives rise to the expression "seigneurial system" to describe feudalism.

Early feudal grants

Originally, vassalage 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. [8] 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. [8] In 8th-century France, Charles Martel was the first to make large-scale and systematic use (the practice had remained until then sporadic) of the remuneration of vassals by the concession of the usufruct of lands (a beneficatium or "benefice" in the documents) for the life of the vassal, or, sometimes extending to the second or third generation. [9]

By the middle of the 10th century, fee had largely become hereditary. [10] 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" for the land (a monetary recognition of the lord's continuing proprietary rights over the property).

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.[ citation needed ] During the 10th century in northern France and the 11th century in France south of the Loire, 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.[ citation needed ]

In England, Henry II transformed them into important sources of royal income and patronage. The discontent of barons with royal claims to arbitrarily assessed "reliefs" and other feudal payments under Henry's son King John resulted in Magna Carta of 1215.[ citation needed ]

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. [10]

The privilege of minting official coins developed into the concept of seigniorage.[ citation needed ]

Later feudal grants and knightly service

In 13th-century Germany, Italy, England, France, and Spain 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 service and occasional financial payments (feudal incidents).

However, knight service in war was far less common than:

Sigismund fees the Margraviate of Brandenburg to Frederik, April 30, 1415 Sigismund fees the land Brandenburg to Frederik, April 30, 1415.jpg
Sigismund fees the Margraviate of Brandenburg to Frederik, April 30, 1415

A lord in late 12th-century England and France could also claim the right of:

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 (scutages), with which they could purchase the service of mercenaries. [11]

Feudal registers

A list of several hundred such fees held in chief between 1198 and 1292, along with their holders' names and form of tenure, was published in three volumes between 1920 and 1931 and is known as The Book of Fees ; it was developed from the 1302 Testa de Nevill .

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Meir Lubetski (ed.). Boundaries of the ancient Near Eastern world: a tribute to Cyrus H. Gordon. "Notices on Pe'ah, Fay' and Feudum" by Alauddin Samarrai. Pg. 248-250 Archived 2015-10-29 at the Wayback Machine , Continuum International Publishing Group, 1998.
  2. 1 2 3 Marc Bloch. Feudal Society, Vol. 1, 1964. pp.165-66.
  3. 1 2 3 Marc Bloch. Feudalism, 1961, pg. 106.
  4. William Stubbs. The Constitutional History of England (3 volumes), 2nd edition 1875-78, Vol. 1, pg. 251, n. 1
  5. Archibald R. Lewis. The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society 718-1050, 1965, pp. 76-77.
  6. 1 2 Alauddin Samarrai. "The term 'fief': A possible Arabic origin", Studies in Medieval Culture, 4.1 (1973), pp. 78-82.
  7. "fee, n.2." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017. Web. 18 August 2017.
  8. 1 2 Cantor (1993), pp. 198-199.
  9. Lebecq, pp.196-197.
  10. 1 2 Cantor (1993), p. 200.
  11. 1 2 Abels, Richard. "Feudalism". United States Naval Academy. Archived from the original on 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2010-08-27.

Related Research Articles

Fealty Pledge of allegiance of one person to another

An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness), is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another.

In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is a way that real estate and land may be owned in common law countries, and is the highest possible ownership interest that can be held in real property. Allodial title is reserved to governments under a civil law structure. The rights of the fee simple owner are limited by government powers of taxation, compulsory purchase, police power, and escheat, and it could also be limited further by certain encumbrances or conditions in the deed, such as, for example, a condition that required the land to be used as a public park, with a reversion interest in the grantor if the condition fails; this is a fee simple conditional.

Vassal person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe

A vassal 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 applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.

Examples of feudalism are helpful to fully understand feudalism and feudal society. Feudalism was practiced in many different ways, depending on location and time period, thus a high-level encompassing conceptual definition does not always provide a reader with the intimate understanding that detailed historical examples provide.

In feudal Anglo-Norman England and Ireland, a knight's fee was a unit measure of land deemed sufficient to support a knight. Of necessity, it would not only provide sustenance for himself, his family, esquires and servants, but also the means to furnish himself and his retinue with horses and armour to fight for his overlord in battle. It was effectively the size of a fee sufficient to support one knight in the ongoing performance of his feudal duties (knight-service). A knight's fee cannot be stated as a standard number of acres as the required acreage to produce a given crop or revenue would vary depending on many factors, including its location, the richness of its soil and the local climate, as well as the presence of other exploitable resources such as fish-weirs, quarries of rock or mines of minerals. If a knight's fee is deemed co-terminous with a manor, an average size would be between 1,000 and 5,000 acres, of which much in early times was still "waste", forest and uncultivated moorland.

Tenant-in-chief Medieval term for an landholder who held his land directly from the king

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 as the tenants-in-chief were originally responsible for providing knights and soldiers for the king's feudal army.

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 "owned" all the land of England by his allodial right and all his subjects were merely his tenants under various contracts of feudal tenure.

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.

Overlord Lord of a tenant

An overlord in the English feudal system was a lord of a manor who had subinfeudated a particular manor, estate or fee, to a tenant. The tenant thenceforth owed to the overlord one of a variety of services, usually military service or serjeanty, depending on which form of tenure the estate was held under. The highest overlord of all, or paramount lord, was the monarch, who due to his ancestor William the Conqueror's personal conquest of the Kingdom of England, owned by inheritance from him all the land in England under allodial title and had no superior overlord, "holding from God and his sword", although certain monarchs, notably King John (1199-1216) purported to grant the Kingdom of England to the Pope, who would thus have become overlord to English monarchs. A paramount lord may thus be seen to occupy the apex of the feudal pyramid, or the root of the feudal tree, and such allodial title is also termed "radical title", "ultimate title" and "final title". William the Conqueror immediately set about granting tenancies on his newly won lands, in accordance with feudal principles. The monarch's immediate tenants were the tenants-in-chief, usually military magnates, who held the highest status in feudal society below the monarch. The tenants-in-chief usually held multiple manors or other estates from the monarch, often as feudal barons who owed their royal overlord an enhanced and onerous form of military service, and subinfeudated most to tenants, generally their own knights or military followers, keeping only a few in demesne. This created a mesne lord - tenant relationship. The knights in turn subinfeudated to their own tenants, creating a further subsidiary mesne lord - tenant relationship. Over the centuries for any single estate the process was in practice repeated numerous times. In early times following the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the establishment of feudalism, land was usually transferred by subinfeudation, rarely by alienation, which latter in the case of tenants-in-chief required royal licence, and the holder of an estate at any particular time, in order to gain secure tenure, and if challenged by another claimant, needed to prove "devolution of title" evidenced by legal deeds or muniments back up the chain of subinfeudations to a holder whose title was beyond doubt, for example one who had received the estate as a grant by royal charter witnessed and sealed by substantial persons. Although feudal land tenure in England was abolished by the Tenures Abolition Act 1660, in modern English conveyancing law the need to prove devolution of title persisted until recent times, due to a "legal fiction" that all land titles were held by the monarch's subjects as a result of a royal grant. Proving devolution of title is no longer necessary since the creation of the land registry and the requirement to compulsorily register all land transactions on this governmental record, which registration provides a virtually unchallengeable and perfectly secure title of ownership.

A feudal baron is a vassal holding a heritable fief called a barony, comprising a specific portion of land, granted by an overlord in return for allegiance and service. Following the end of European feudalism, feudal baronies have largely been superseded by baronies held as a rank of nobility, without any attachment to a fief. However, in Scotland, the feudal dignity of baron remains in existence, and may be bought and sold independently of the land to which is was formerly attached.

The precarium —or precaria in the feminine form—is a form of land tenure in which a petitioner (grantee) receives a property for a specific amount of time without any change of ownership. The precarium is thus a free gift made on request and can be revoked. The grantor can reclaim the land and evict the grantee at any time, and the grantee's hold on the land is said to be "precarious". The precarium arose in the late Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages it became a legal fiction, and the two parties usually signed a contract specifying the rent or services owed by the petitioner. Some precaria eventually became hereditary fiefs. In the Merovingian period the feminine form became common, but in the eighth century the term beneficium began to replace precarium, although the institutions were practically identical.

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

In the feudal system of the European Middle Ages, an ecclesiastical fief, held from the Catholic Church, followed all the laws laid down for temporal fiefs. The suzerain, e.g. bishop, abbot, or other possessor, granted an estate in perpetuity to a person, who thereby became his vassal.

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.

Feudal relief was a one-off "fine" or form of taxation payable to an overlord by the heir of a feudal tenant to license him to take possession of his fief, i.e. an estate-in-land, by inheritance. It is comparable to a death duty or inheritance tax.

<i>Book of Fees</i>

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. Originally in two volumes of parchment, the Liber Feodorum is a collection of about 500 written brief notes made between 1198 and 1292 concerning fiefs held in capite or in-chief, that is to say directly from the Crown. From an early date, the book comprising these volumes has been known informally as the Testa de Nevill, supposedly after an image on the cover of the volume of one of its two major source collections. The modern standard edition, known colloquially as "The Book of Fees" whose three volumes were published between 1920 and 1931, improves on two earlier 19th-century efforts at publishing a comprehensive and reliable modern edition of all these mediaeval records of fees. The nomenclature Book of Fees is that generally used in academic citations by modern scholars to refer to this 20th-century modern published edition of the ancient collected documents.

English feudal barony Medieval English noble title and type of land tenure

In the kingdom of England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was the highest degree of feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam, under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. The duties owed by and the privileges granted to feudal barons cannot now be defined exactly, but they involved the duty of providing soldiers to the royal feudal army on demand by the king, and the privilege of attendance at the king's feudal court, the precursor of parliament.

Feudalism in England

Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdom of England was a state of human society which was formally structured and stratified on the basis of land tenure and the varieties thereof. Society was thus ordered around relationships derived from the holding of land, which landholdings are termed "fiefdoms, traders, fiefs, or fees".

Feudalism in the Holy Roman Empire was a politico-economic system of relationships between liege lords and enfeoffed vassals that formed the basis of the social structure within the Holy Roman Empire during the High Middle Ages. In Germany the system is variously referred to Lehnswesen, Feudalwesen or Benefizialwesen.

References