A heerlijkheid (a Dutch word; pl. heerlijkheden; also called heerschap; Latin: Dominium )  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.  
A typical heerlijkheid manor consisted of a village and the surrounding lands extending out for a kilometre or so. Taking 18th-century Wassenaar as an example of a large hoge heerlijkheid, it was 3,612 morgens in size and had 297 houses. Nearby Voorschoten was 1,538 morgens in size and had 201 houses. Nootdorp was an ambachtsheerlijkheid of 196 morgens and 58 houses.  There were 517 heerlijkheden in the province of Holland in the 18th century. All fell into the last three categories in the list below (except for a few for which this information is unknown).
Not all heerlijkheden were the same. They differed in size and composition.  Also, a heerlijkheid should not be confused with a larger territory, like a county (graafschap) or viscounty (burggraafschap), nor with administrative regions on par with an English shire, Dutch gouw, German Gau , or Roman or Carolingian pagus . A Flemish castellany (kasselrij or burggraafschap) was larger and different from a heerlijkheid, but they were similar in some ways. 
There were different kinds of heerlijkheid:
The central figure was the lord of the heerlijkheid and effectively its owner—the manorial lord or lady. In Dutch, the lord was called heer and the lady vrouw(e). The lord was also referred to by the Latin word dominus . A rarer English alternative is seigneur .  There were different kinds of lord and lady:
Under the feudal system, a manorial lord typically was himself the vassal of a higher-ranking tenant-in-chief, usually a highborn noble, who was in turn the crown vassal of the king or emperor. However, sometimes there was no mesne tenancy (tussenliggende heerschappij), as was the case with knight's fees held in capite (rijksonmiddellijke heerlijkheid). The heerlijkheid was ruled directly by a count (graaf), a viscount (burggraaf) or a baron (baron). Also, it was not uncommon for the lord to be ecclesiastical, e.g. a prince-bishop (prins-bisschop) or prince-abbot (vorst-abt).
Originally, heerlijkheden were held exclusively by the nobility.  However, starting around the 16th century, lordship over a heerlijkheid was not synonymous with nobility. A heerlijkheid could be bought and sold. Many ended up in the hands of wealthy merchants and a political class known as the regents.
In addition, many were bought by boroughs (burghs). In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, it was not unusual for a borough to purchase the heerlijkheden around it in order to gain control and ownership of the surrounding land and the resulting economic advantages. Boroughs were themselves not part of the manorial system: the countryside and villages were governed by lords, whereas boroughs were self-governing.
The heerlijkheden came into being as a result of the feudal system, in particular the sovereign's delegated judicial prerogative. The crown, as lord paramount, granted the right to govern and to exercise judicial authority to a crown vassal, often a confidante or as a reward for military service or political support. The crown vassal—e.g. a count (graaf) or duke (hertog)—thus exercised all or part of the sovereign's royal authority. In turn the crown vassal granted rights to the mesne lords of the heerlijkheden.
Because a fief (leen) originated out of a bond between vassal and lord for military service, vassalage (Dutch manschap ) was personal not heritable. With the advent of professional armies, the vassalage bond fell into disuse or was replaced by scutage; however, vassalage remained personal. One of the consequences of this was that, on the death of the vassal (leenman or vazal), the fief escheated to the lord (leenheer). The vassal's heir was able to retain the heerlijkheid through the commendation ceremony (leenhulde), the process of paying homage and swearing fealty officiated at the head manor court (souveraine leenhof or leenkammer). The new vassal made a symbolic payment (leenverhef) to his lord. The same ceremony was held when a heerlijkheid manor was sold. If there was no direct descendant, other blood relatives could exercise their right of laudatio parentum (Du naderschap), which grants them a right of first refusal and explains how heerlijkheden were able to be kept in the same families for centuries.
The tenancy of a heerlijkheid is not to be confused with land ownership. It was an estate in land, not land per se. Although lords of the manor generally owned property within a heerlijkheid (often substantial amounts), it was possible for a lord not to own any property at all within his own heerlijkheid. Also, when agricultural land was held by a lord in the Low Countries, the amount held was smaller in comparison to other countries. 
Lordship conferred a set of manorial rights. The word heerlijkheid denotes an estate in which these limited rights were held and could be exercised. The rights exercised varied widely, and were more extensive and survived longer in the eastern provinces.  A manorial lord was able to function as a minor potentate within "his" heerlijkheid. However, his manorial rights were limited and subject to numerous restrictions.  The lord was required to conduct himself in accordance with local customary law.
A lord was entitled to receive feudal incidents in the form of rents, levies, and other payments from various financial and property rights associated with a heerlijkheid:
Originally heerlijkheden were in the hands of the nobility. Much of the wealth of a noble family came from their ownership. Many members of the nobility were heavily dependent on this source of power, income and status. Because the surnames of noble families were often derived from a heerlijkheid (e.g. "van Wassenaer"), it was important for the prestige of the family to maintain ownership over it. However, the economic benefits of a heerlijkheid were not always certain, finances were not always well arranged, and some nobles were poor.  
In the province of Holland, possession of a heerlijkheid was a prerequisite for admission to the ridderschap (literally, the "knighthood"), the college of nobles that represented rural areas in the States of Holland. A seat in the ridderschap provided access to various financially interesting honorary positions and offices.
It was not unusual for a noble to amass a number of heerlijkheden.  King Willem-Alexander is a modern-day example of a nobleman who holds the titles to many heerlijkheden. In addition to his primary titles, he is the Erf- en Vrijheer van Ameland, Heer van Borculo, Bredevoort, Lichtenvoorde, Het Loo, Geertruidenberg, Clundert, Zevenbergen, Hooge en Lage Zwaluwe, Naaldwijk, Polanen, Sint-Maartensdijk, Soest, Baarn, Ter Eem, Willemstad, Steenbergen, Montfort, Sankt Vith, Burgenbach, Daasburg, Niervaart, Turnhout en Besançon.
Starting around 1500, nobles began selling the rights to heerlijkheden to non-nobles; however, losing a heerlijkheid did not result in loss of noble status. The nobility were recognised by all as having a special status not attached to wealth or ownership of a heerlijkheid.
In the southern provinces (modern-day Belgium) the financial character of a heerlijkheid was accentuated by the Royal Edict of 8 May 1664. From then on, a noble title was granted only if the following minimum payment was obtained from the income of the feudal estate.
In the southern provinces, this edict ensured the financial stability of the most prominent heerlijkheden and resulted in the rise of a new nobility based on wealth.
Starting around the 16th century, lordship over a heerlijkheid was not synonymous with nobility. A heerlijkheid could be bought and sold. Many ended up in the hands of wealthy merchants and a small and exclusive political class known as the regents. In all the provinces the military obligations associated with a fief gradually died out so that by the 16th and 17th centuries the heerlijkheid was increasingly seen by non-nobles as a status symbol.
Successful merchants and regents from the large towns saw the heerlijkheid as a country residence and a means of giving the appearance of noble status. It often came with large tracts of land and a castle or manor house. In noble fashion, they then added the name of their heerlijkheid to their own surname, resulting in surnames like Deutz van Assendelft, Six van Oterleek, Pompe van Meerdervoort and Beelaerts van Blokland). (The word "van" in the surname meant "of". However, very few Dutch surnames with "van" have their origins in the ownership of a heerlijkheid.) They became what J.L. Price refers to as a "quasi-nobility". A heerlijkheid was also a source of income and an investment, but they were usually acquired for other reasons. 
In the Netherlands, acquiring the rights to heerlijkheden did not confer noble status. The regent families who purchased heerlijkheden were not a true nobility, but by the early 19th century the ranks of the nobility had become so depleted that the Dutch king elevated certain members of the former regent class to noble status.) 
In the southern provinces (modern-day Belgium) heerlijkheden and the associated rights were abolished after the French invasion of 1795. In the northern provinces (modern-day Netherlands) they were declared abolished around the same time as part of the inauguration of the Batavian Republic. This was formalised in the 1798 Batavian Constitution (Bataafsche Staatsregeling). A distinction was made between the feudal rights of appointment and patronage, which were completely abolished, and the income-related rights, which were more complicated. Some of these were feudal in nature and abolished. Others were similar to contractual or property rights and therefore their loss was compensable. Lordly claims for reparations flooded in. Some heerlijkheid rights were maintained or later restored as property rights and still exist today. 
The overwhelming majority of the remaining rights disappeared in Belgium on the introduction of the 1830 constitution and in the Netherlands with the 1848 constitutional amendments. Most of the administrative functions of a heerlijkheid were transferred to the municipality and fell under the new Municipality Act (Gemeentewet). Responsibility for the manor courts and judicial system were taken over by the national government.
After this, the use of the title "Lord of..." is based on the ownership of the remaining non-abolished rights. To this day there are people in the Netherlands who use the title "Lord of...". Unlike in the U.K., there is no trade today in 'lord of the manor' titles.
What remains of the heerlijkheid system are many of the manors and castles. Most of them are now parts of estates, museums, parks, hotels, etc. Since the last heerlijkheid was seen over 200 years ago, many of the manor houses and castles have been rebuilt, or have been fully or partially demolished.
A sign erected at the remaining parts of the Slot Heemstede (now in a park) describes what happened to this particular manor. The history and fate of this manor are typical:
On this spot stood Heemstede House or Castle. It was first built by Dirk van Hoylede in 1280, who came from the Vlaardingen area. The ambachtsheerlijkheid of Heemstede was enfeoffed to him by Count Floris V. From then on Dirk van Hoylede and his descendants used the surname 'van Heemstede'. The house was destroyed a couple of times and then rebuilt. In 1620 Amsterdam merchant (and later Grand Pensionary) Adriaen Pauw purchased the heerlijkheid, including its dilapidated castle. After restoration and embellishment, it became a Renaissance summer mansion. As the negotiator for the States of Holland, he played an important role in the 1648 Peace of Munster that ended the Eighty Year War with Spain. As a memorial to this, he replaced the wooden access bridge with the Vredesbrug or Pons Pacis ('Peace Bridge'). By 1811, the house had become dilapidated again, at which time it was demolished with the exception of the 1640 'Nederhuys' ('Lower House'), consisting of the current Old Mansion, the Peace Bridge and the Dove Gate. The form and measurements (40x25 meter) of the island on which you now stand are identical to the plan for the 1645 mansion.
Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships that were derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although it is derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), which was used during the Medieval period, the term feudalism and the system which it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people who lived during the Middle Ages. The classic definition, by François Louis Ganshof (1944), describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations which existed among the warrior nobility and revolved around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.
Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership in parts of Europe, notably France and later 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.
Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others, acting as a master, chief, or 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.
Baron is a rank of nobility or title of honour, often hereditary, in various European countries, either current or historical. The female equivalent is baroness. Typically, the title denotes an aristocrat who ranks higher than a lord or knight, but lower than a viscount or count. Often, barons hold their fief – their lands and income – directly from the monarch. Barons are less often the vassals of other nobles. In many kingdoms, they were entitled to wear a smaller form of a crown called a coronet.
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.
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.
False titles of nobility are claimed titles of social rank that have been fabricated or assumed by an individual or family without recognition by the authorities of a country in which titles of nobility exist or once existed. They have received an increasing amount of press attention, as more schemes that purport to confer or sell such honorifics are promoted on the internet. Concern about the use of titles which lack legal standing or a basis in tradition has prompted increased vigilance and denunciation, although under English common law a person may choose to be known by any name they see fit as long as it is not done to "commit fraud or evade an obligation".
A manor house was historically the main residence of the lord of the manor. The house formed the administrative centre of a manor in the European feudal system; within its great hall were held the lord's manorial courts, communal meals with manorial tenants and great banquets. The term is today loosely applied to various country houses, frequently dating from the Late Middle Ages, which formerly housed the landed gentry.
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 English law, seignory or seigniory, spelled signiory in Early Modern English, is the lordship (authority) remaining to a grantor after the grant of an estate in fee simple.
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 it was formerly attached.
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.
Jaarsveld is a village in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is a part of the municipality of Lopik, and lies about 7 km southwest of IJsselstein.
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.
De Graeff is an old Dutch patrician and noble family,
The Free or High Lordship of Zuid-Polsbroek was a semi-sovereign or 'free or high' fief (allodium), now part of Polsbroek in the Dutch province of Utrecht.
Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdoms 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.
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.
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.
The Lordship of Baarsdorp is a (former) Dutch Lordship situated in the province of Zeeland, in the Netherlands.