The word seneschal ( // ) can have several different meanings, all of which reflect certain types of supervising or administering in a historic context. Most commonly, a seneschal was a senior position filled by a court appointment within a royal, ducal, or noble household during the Middle Ages and early Modern period – historically a steward or majordomo of a medieval great house. In a medieval royal household, a seneschal was in charge of domestic arrangements and the administration of servants, which, in the medieval period particularly, meant the seneschal might oversee hundreds of laborers, servants and their associated responsibilities, and have a great deal of power in the community, at a time when much of the local economy was often based on the wealth and responsibilities of such a household.
A second meaning is more specific, and concerns the late medieval and early modern nation of France, wherein the seneschal (French : sénéchal) was also a royal officer in charge of justice and control of the administration of certain southern provinces called seneschalties, holding a role equivalent to a northern French bailiff ( bailli ).
Finally, in the United Kingdom primarily, seneschal is an ecclesiastical term, referring to a cathedral official.
The term, first attested in 1350–1400,[ citation needed ] was borrowed from Anglo-Norman seneschal "steward", from Old Dutch *siniscalc "senior retainer" (attested in Latin siniscalcus (692 AD), Old High German senescalh), a compound of *sini- (cf. Gothic sineigs "old", sinista "oldest") and scalc "servant", ultimately a calque of Late Latin senior scholaris "senior guard".
The scholae in the late Roman Empire referred to the imperial guard, divided into senior (seniores) and junior (juniores) units. The captain of the guard was known as comes scholarum. *dructis, OHG truht, Old English dryht) whose members also had duties in their lord's household like a royal retinue. The king's chief warbandman and retainer (cf. Old Saxon druhting, OHG truhting, truhtigomo OE dryhtguma, dryhtealdor), from the 5th century on, personally attended on the king, as specifically stated in the Codex Theodosianus of 413 (Cod. Theod. VI. 13. 1; known as comes scholae). The warband, once sedentary, became first the king's royal household, and then his great officers of state, and in both cases the seneschal is synonymous with steward.When Germanic tribes took over the Empire, the scholae were merged or replaced with the Germanic king's warband (cf. Vulgar Latin
In late medieval and early modern France, the seneschal was originally a royal steward overseeing the entire country but developed into an agent of the crown charged with administration of a seneschalty (French : sénéchaussée ), one of the districts of the crown lands in Languedoc and Normandy. Hallam states that the first seneschals to govern in this manner did so by an 1190 edict of Philip II. The seneschals also served as the chief justice of the royal courts in their areas.
The equivalent post throughout most of northern France was the bailiff ( bailli ), who oversaw a bailiwick ( bailliage ).
Under rulers of England
Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent was an English nobleman who served as Chief Justiciar of England and Ireland during the reigns of King John and of his infant son and successor King Henry III and, as a consequence, was one of the most influential and powerful men in English politics.
A palatine or palatinus is a high-level official attached to imperial or royal courts in Europe since Roman times. The term palatinus was first used in Ancient Rome for chamberlains of the Emperor due to their association with the Palatine Hill. The imperial palace guard, after the rise of Constantine I, were also called the Scholae Palatinae for the same reason. In the Early Middle Ages the title became attached to courts beyond the imperial one; one of the highest level of officials in the papal administration were called the judices palatini. Later the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties had counts palatine, as did the Holy Roman Empire. Related titles were used in Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, the German Empire, and the Duchy of Burgundy, while England, Ireland, and parts of British North America referred to rulers of counties palatine as palatines.
A majordomo is a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another. Typically, this is the highest (major) person of a household staff, a head servant who acts on behalf of the owner of a large or significant residence.
A bailiff is a manager, overseer or custodian; a legal officer to whom some degree of authority or jurisdiction is given. Bailiffs are of various kinds and their offices and duties vary greatly.
Christopher Hatton, 1st Baron Hatton KB PC FRS was a distant relation of the Elizabethan politician, Sir Christopher Hatton and a prominent Royalist during the reign of King Charles I of England.
A bailiwick is usually the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff, and once also applied to territories in which a privately appointed bailiff exercised the sheriff's functions under a royal or imperial writ. The bailiwick is probably modelled on the administrative organization which was attempted for a very small time in Sicily and has its roots in the official state of the Hohenstaufen.
Sir John Chandos, Viscount of Saint-Sauveur in the Cotentin, Constable of Aquitaine, Seneschal of Poitou, was a medieval English knight who hailed from Radbourne Hall, Derbyshire. Chandos was a close friend of Edward the Black Prince and a founding member and 19th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1348. Chandos was a gentleman by birth, but unlike most commanders of the day he held no inherited title of nobility.
A butler is a person who works in a house serving and is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its appearance. A butler is usually male, and in charge of male servants, while a housekeeper is usually a woman, and in charge of female servants. Traditionally, male servants were better paid and of higher status than female servants. The butler, as the senior male servant, has the highest servant status. He can also sometimes function as a chauffeur.
Comitatus was in ancient times the Latin term for an armed escort or retinue. The term is used especially in the context of Germanic warrior culture for a warband tied to a leader by an oath of fealty and describes the relations between a lord and his retainers, or thanes. The concept is generally considered by scholars to be more of a literary trope rather than one of historical accuracy.
Court appointments are the traditional positions within a royal, ducal, or noble household. In the early Middle Ages, when such households were established, most court officials had either domestic or military duties; the monarch's closest advisers were those who served in the household. However, as time went by, most of these positions became hereditary, and their role in the running of the household was gradually eroded. In England, for instance, the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshal were originally responsible for the running of the royal household and the royal stables respectively; however, from the late medieval period onwards, their roles became largely honorary, their places in the household being taken by the Lord Chamberlain and the Master of the Horse.
John Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp of Powick, KG, was an English nobleman and administrator. He was the son and eventual heir of Sir William Beauchamp of Powick in Worcestershire, Constable of Gloucester Castle, by his wife, Katherine Usflete, daughter and heiress of Sir Gerard de Usflete, a Member of Parliament for Yorkshire in 1401.
William des Roches was a French knight and crusader who acted as Seneschal of Anjou, of Maine and of Touraine. After serving the Angevin kings of England, in 1202 he changed his loyalty to King Philip II of France and became a leading member of his government.
A steward is an official who is appointed by the legal ruling monarch to represent them in a country and who may have a mandate to govern it in their name; in the latter case, it is synonymous with the position of regent, vicegerent, viceroy, governor, or deputy.
The medieval household was, like modern households, the center of family life for all classes of European society. Yet in contrast to the household of today, it consisted of many more individuals than the nuclear family. From the household of the king to the humblest peasant dwelling, more or less distant relatives and varying numbers of servants and dependents would cohabit with the master of the house and his immediate family. The structure of the medieval household was largely dissolved by the advent of privacy in early modern Europe.
Lussac-les-Châteaux is a commune in the Vienne department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in western France.
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Sir Willian Felton and English knight and seneschal of Poitou. Took part in Battle of Halidon Hill, 1333 and fought at Crecy in 1346. He was appointed lord justice of all the king's lands in Scotland in 1348. He fought at battle of Poitiers in 1356. He was appointed seneschal of Poitou in 1360. He accompanied the Black Prince on the Spanish campaign in 1367 and was called Felleton Guilliam qui ot cœur de lyon by Chandos Herald. He was killed at the battle of Aríñez a skirmish fought by the vanguard of the Black Prince's army.
Sir Thomas de Felton was an English landowner, military knight, envoy and administrator. He fought at the Battle of Crécy in 1346, and the Capture of Calais in 1347. He was also at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. A recurrent figure in the Chronicles of Jean Froissart, he was a signatory to the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360. In 1362 he was appointed Seneschal of Aquitaine. He accompanied Edward the Black Prince on his Spanish campaign. He was taken prisoner by Henry of Trastámara's forces in 1367. In 1372 he was appointed joint-governor of Aquitaine and seneschal of Bordeaux. He caused Guillaume de Pommiers and his secretary to be beheaded for treason in 1377. He was invested a Knight of the Garter in 1381.
The Seneschal of Poitou was an officer carrying out and managing the domestic affairs of the lord of the County of Poitou. During the course of the twelfth century, the seneschalship, also became an office of military command.
Geoffrey de Neville was an English nobleman who served as King's Chamberlain and Seneschal of Gascony and Périgord.
The dictionary definition of seneschal at Wiktionary