Feudal System

William the conqueror introduced the Feudal system to England in 1066 after winning the battle of Hastings and being crowned King of England. In was a system that had served him well in Northern France and helped him to consolidated power and gain immense wealth.

The Feudal system bought the loyalty of Barons in return for land; it was a promise of land in return for the services they could give to the king such as armies, military personnel and weaponry.

King William promised French Barons who helped him defeat the English in the Battle of Hastings large holdings of land in England and this was organised through the development of an English Feudal system.

Definition of Feudalism (Source Google)

Feudalism is a grouping of legal and military customs, prevalent in medieval Europe, which flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, or any similar grouping of legal and military customs.

King William & The English Feudal system

William the conqueror was a very intelligent king and one of his first acts after winning the battle of Hastings in 1066, was to create a new feudal system in England that required all land in the country to be handed over to him. This was a rotten deal for the main Anglo-Saxon medieval population of England, who had never lived under a Feudal system before.

King William created the Feudal system for his own gain, his role was to organise and plan the system with help from well placed loyal Barons, he had to decide who he should put in places of power to keep the Feudal system in place, The Feudal system would help the King become wealthier and consolidate his power over England.

The Feudal System Key Points:

  • A lord in medieval times was either a king or a powerful nobleman
  • Lords along with the Church owned all medieval land
  • A lord gave away land to those who served him “Vassals” under the feudal systems rules
  • Vassals followed the lord and fought in battles for the Lord
  • Vassals also collected taxes from the medieval people who lived on the lords land
  • People who worked on the lords land and paid taxes were given protection by Vassals
  • Feudalism developed as an idea as early as 700s under the Franks
  • Feudalism was a form of contract developed by European elites
  • The Feudal contract laid down rules and laws that had to be obeyed
  • The Feudal contract allowed power to be wielded across districts dominated by castles
Feudal Manor

This is a Feudal Manor which organised Medieval Society

Barons or tenants-in-chief made the feudal system Work

To make this new Feudal system work in England king William needed people in places of power who he could trust, the French Barons that he already knew and people that he felt he could influence were put in places of power, he must have been very persuasive as he even made some Anglo-Saxon Barons part of the Feudal system.

The Barons provided a fully trained and well equipped army and soldiers, who were battle ready and gave an oath of loyalty to the King times of war and the ready-made army at his disposal, The Barons granted land for knights who required to fight for a set number of days a year in return.

Barons were also responsible for land and legal aspects that peasants worked under under the Feudal system as the King did not have time for this.

Peasants in the Feudal system

At the bottom of the Feudal system were poor people who were known as peasants, serfs and villeins, they worked the land and had to pay rent to the Barons for the use of the land on which they could grow food for their families and the towns and villages people. The peasants could also fight for the barons as military men in some situations.

Most poor medieval people like peasants and serfs were not free people and needed the Lord’s permission if they wanted to leave the land which would very rarely be granted, however some higher classes of peasants did have more rights.

It was also part of the feudal system deal that peasants had to work a few days a week tending to the Lords land as well as their own, if that wasn’t enough peasants were also required to work additional at harvest time and other busy times of the year. Sometimes they would be given the option of making a larger financial payment instead of doing the extra work.

Feudal system in France

The new feudal system in England mirrored that of northern France, this kind of feudal system gave people at the top of the feudal pyramid more wealth and power than those below, the king was at the top of this system with the Pope, next came Barons and lower down were the workers such as serfs and peasants.

Feudal system

This image shows how the Feudal system was arranged

Towns in The Feudal system

The King would also give charters and privileges to towns that also provided soldiers in times of war place soldiers to the King.

A Standing Army & the Feudal system

Feudalism was basically a new type of land ownership which put the ownership of all land in the hands of a small group of people, one of the main reason for this feudal system was to have standing armies in a state of battle readiness, the armies were provided to the King by the Barons.

The Feudal system of the medieval ages wasn’t perfect although it was very good, for example Knights could be required to fight for 40 days in a calender year in return they would receive land and or money, however if the battle lasted more than 40 days the system would hit trouble, to get around this kings started to pay Barons what was called “shield money” this meant that they only had to pay for soldiers as and when they were required.

Summary of medieval Feudal system

The Feudal system was good for king William and the Barons as it made them very wealthy and powerful, however the Anglo-Saxon medieval people were now slaves to this new system and they were not happy about this situation, there were some revolts against the Feudal system that William the Conqueror brought to England, but this French Duke was very clever and have a good system in place that would keep him in power and stop any rebellions.

Feudal system Facts

  • In 1066 William the conqueror created the Feudal system in England
  • Vassals (nobles) were given land in return for their loyalty to a lord
  • Vassals (nobles) provided battle ready armies for the lord/king
  • The Feudal system helped William the Conqueror consolidate his power over England.
  • Peasants, serfs and villeins worked the land owned by Lords
  • Peasants and serfs were poor and paid rent for the use of land to Vassals who collected it for lords
  • Vassals dealt with land and legal issues concerning peasants
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