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1066–1087.] THE FEUDAL SYSTEM INTRODUCED.
23 by marriage with the heiresses of ancient Saxon families; their titles being probably confirmed by grants from the Conqueror.'
But William did not long allow his chiefs to enjoy their new possessions free from his control; and to unite their interests with his, and secure their assistance in war and their counsel in peace, he introduced into the country the FEUDAL SYSTEM. This system was at that time established in Normandy, and in other parts of Europe ; where it had its origin in the policy of the barbarians, who spread themselves over the continent at the decline of the Roman Empire. It has been a question of learned controversy, whether or not the feudal system existed in England amongst the Saxons ; but the best authorities hold that it was first introduced into England by the Conqueror. It was the most impor. tant of all the changes introduced by William; and it has greatly influenced the formation of our present system of government. From it flowed (as will hereafter appear) our Parliament; almost directly the aristocratic, and scarcely less so the representative, branch of it. It lies at the foun. dation of our law of landed property. The law of primogeniture was its necessary consequence. Notwithstanding its oppressions, it maintained its hold until abolished by statute in the reign of Charles II. It is obvious, therefore, that the nature and principles of our constitution cannot be understood, without an acquaintance with, at least, the outlines of that celebrated system.
The object of the feudal system was to create that mutual relation between the king and his chiefs, which would ensure the defence of his kingdom, and the power of the king. It attached all importance to land, which was then the only wealth. Its leading principle was, that the king is the
1 Sir Henry Ellis's Introduction to Domesday Book, vol. i. p. viii. Peers' Report, vol. i. p.
24. 2 Spelman on Feuds, cap. 3, p. 7. See Hallam's Middle Ages, vol. ii.
paramount lord of all the lands of the kingdom; and that all proprietors hold their lands directly or indirectly in feudal phrase, mediately or immediately) of the king. The Conqueror, on his first division of the land amongst his fol. lowers, did not grant it on feudal tenure: it was, at first, given as allodial, or free from any superior or burden; and it was not until the latter end of William's reign, after an alarm of an expected invasion from Denmark had passed away, that he induced his chiefs to provide for the defence of the kingdom, by holding their lands as feudatories. In the nineteenth year of his reign, William and the great landowners met at Sarum ; where the latter voluntarily surrendered their estates to the King, and received them back from him, to be held by the tenure of KNIGHT-SERVICE, or CHIVALRY.
The feudal relation was instituted by a symbolical delivery of the possession of the land by the king, as feudal lord, to the grantee, or vassal, in the presence of other vassals. This was called livery of seisin ; and it was followed by a remarkable ceremony, that, according to modern ideas, would perhaps be considered humiliating, both in posture and language. It was called homage; and so called from its being the profession by the vassal that he was the king's man, from the Norman words used in the ceremony, “Je deveigne votre homme,"-I become your man. The vassal (or tenant, as he was usually called, after homage, by reason of his holding the land) was ungirt of his sword, and his head was uncovered. The king sat, and the vassal knelt before him, on both his knees; holding his hands together, between the hands of the king. In that position, the vassal
year the King bare his crown and held his court in Winchester, at Easter. Afterwards he was at Sarum, in Lammas, where he was met by his councillors; and all the landsmen that were of any account over all England became this man's vassals as they were ; and they all bowed themselves before him, and became his nien, and swore him oaths of allegiance that they would against all other men be faithful to him.” (Saxon Chronicle, p. 290.)
25 pronounced these words in Norman-French: "I become your man from this day forward, of life and limb, and of earthly worship ; and unto you shall be true and faithful and bear to you faith for the tenements I claim to hold of you.” The king then kissed the vassal on the cheek, and the vassal took the oath of fealty. “Hear this, my lord, I will be faithful and loyal to you, and will bear to you faith for the tenements I hold of you; and will loyally perform the customs and services which I owe to you, at the times assigned. So help me God and His Saints.")
The services which were reserved by the king, and which the tenant was to render to him, were twofold, -to follow, or do suit2 to him in his court in time of peace, and to attend him in war, if called upon. This tenure was called by the various names of Tenure in Chivalry, Military Tenure, and Knight-Service. Each portion of the land granted, that was equal in value to the sum of twenty pounds a year, (estimated, according to some authorities, by a fixed invariable quantity, according to others by its quality only3) constituted a Knight's-Fee; and for each knight's-fee the tenant was bound to render a knight completely armed and accoutred for war, with attendants and horses, to serve forty days in the year.
The Conqueror also appropriated large quantities of land to the CHURCH; but no distinction was made in favour of ecclesiastical property. The land was held by military service, and charged with the render of knights and men, which it was the duty of the abbots and bishops to provide.
The holders of lands by military service, directly of the king, owned no superior but the king: they were called the king's tenants in capite, or in chief; and, from the words in the act of homage, by which each declared himself to be the man, l'homme, or (in law Latin) baro, of the king, they ac
1 Littleton, 64.
3 See 'Modus Tenendi Parliamentum' (1671), p. 4. Selden's Titles of Honour, p. 769 et post ; Sir H. Ellis, i. 146, and authorities there cited.
quired the appellation of Barones, or barons; and their lands were, in feudal phrase, held per baroniam. Their large possessions
and influence; and the exclusive right which they enjoyed of attending the court or council of the king, and of being consulted in his affairs, soon distinguished them into a separate class. The barons thus became a great military aristocracy, whose nobility descended with their estates to their eldest son, charged with the render of the military services by which the estates were held. They took rank after the bishops and abbots; and baron was the only title of nobility until the reign of Edward III., except that of earl, which continued, as in the Saxon times, an official dignity connected with the counties. They were called Pares, or Peers, as they were equal to one another, and all of them liegemen to their chief lord the king 3
In foreign countries, when the feudal system was first introduced, the lands,-or, as they were called after homage performed, the fiefs,--were not granted for any certain or definite time; neither were they transmissible to the descendants of the vassal, nor had he power to alienate them. But William gave it a more monarchical character than it elsewhere bad, by the regulations he made for subinfeudation. He permitted his tenants in capite to institute between themselves and their followers or dependants, a relation similar to that which existed between the king and themselves. They rewarded their captains and followers, who had fought under their banners, with portions of the land granted to them by the king. They, like the Conque
It is uncertain in what respect tenure per baroniam, although frequently mentioned in ancient documents, differed from knight-service. Littleton (who lived in the reign of Henry VI.) in his Treatise of Tenures, speaks of tenure by knight-service, and grand serjeanty, but he does not mention tenure by barony; nor is it mentioned in the Act 12 Car. II. c. 24, which abolished the feudal tenures. (Peers' Report, Div. 3, p. 69.)
Ellis, on Domesday Book, p. 44. 8 Madox's History of the Exchequer, vol. i. p. 4.
ror, divided their territories into two parts; one of which they retained for their own demesnes, or private property; the other they parcelled out amongst their military followers, to be held by the same service as they were liable to render to the king. This subordinate relation was called SUB-INFEUDATION. It was instituted by the same ceremony of homage as that between the king and his vassal; and the same oath of fealty was taken by the baron’s vassal; but with the addition of a clause, saving his paramount fealty to the king,—“ saving the faith that I owe to our sovereign lord the king." The holders of military fiefs, thus created in subinfeudation, were called Vavasours; and these, in proportion to the knight's fees which they held, as vavasories, contributed to make up the whole number of knights and men to be rendered to the king by the superior lord.' Thus, as the king was lord to his tenants in capite, so they became lords,-in feudal language, mesne or middle lords,—to the followers to whom they granted their lands. The lands so held in subinfeudation under each baron or lord, became lordships or manors, in which the lord or his steward held courts-baron, and appointed constables and officers, and at which, at stated times, the tenants were bound to attend ; " so that every lordship or manor became, in a subordinate degree, itself the similitude of the kingdom at large.”
.12 The Church also granted out their lands by subinfeudation, and thus obtained the knights and men they were bound by their tenure to render to the king.
Lands held by subinfeudation were said to be held mediately of the king; or through the medium of the baron, or tenant in capite, who held immediately of the king. For although no act of homage passed between the lord's vassal
Spelman says that the vavasour was a degree above a knight. They in like manner subdivided their lands among their socmen and military followers. (Spelman on Parliaments.)
Gilbert's Tenures, Introduction, p. 10. Subinfeudation was stopped by the effect of the Statute, 18 Edward I., cap. 1, called the Statute of Quia Emptores.No manor exists of later' date than that statute.