Philosophical Europe ||| The Political Progress ||| European Witness ||| EU News
European Forum ||| Special Homages: Meister Eckhart / David Copperfield
By H. W. C. Davis
Text in [square brackets] was added especially for this online publication by Ellopos
IV - FEUDALISM
Before discussing the origins or the effects of feudalism it is well to form a definite conception of the system as we find it in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when it is the basis of local government, of justice, of legislation, of the army and of all executive power. In this period the lawyers have arrived at the doctrine that all lands is held from the King either mediately or directly. The King is himself a great landowner with demesnes scattered over the length and breadth of the realm; the revenues of these estates supply him with the larger part of his permanent income. The King is surrounded by a circle of tenants-in-chief, some of whom are bishops and abbots and ecclesiastical dignitaries of other kinds; the remainder are dukes, counts, barons, knights.
All of these, laymen and churchmen alike, are bound to perform more or less specific services in return for their lands; the most important is military service, with a definite quota of knights, which they usually render at their own charge; but they are also liable to pay aids (auxilia) of money in certain contingencies, to appear regularly at the King's council and to sit as assessors in his law court. They hold their lands in fact upon a contract; but the precise obligations named in this contract do not exhaust their relation to the King. In a vague and elastic sense they owe him honour (obsequium) and loyalty (fidelitas). They must do all in their power to uphold his interests and exalt his dignity. He on his side is bound to consult them collectively, in all matters of importance, and to maintain them individually in the rights and possessions which he has granted to them. These personal and indefinite ties should not be renounced, on either side, without some very serious reason - gross treachery, gross neglect of duty, gross abuse of power or privilege.
Cf. Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Ancient Rome * Ancient Greece * The Making of Europe
Davis' Medieval Europe in Print or for Amazon Kindle