Medieval Yeoman

A Medieval yeoman was of an intermediate social status in medieval Europe. It was a social status that was higher than the lower-class foot soldiers and peasantry, but lower than the nobility and knights.

Yeoman of Medieval Times

Medieval Yeoman

A Yeoman typically owned land and arms and took part in fighting on behalf of his lord. The term Yeoman was also variously applied to minor officers, private soldiers, agents attendant to the crown, and other persons closely associated with the nobility, although not directly a part of it.

Yeoman Guard *Beefeater

Yeoman Guard *Beefeater

Yeoman not only served directly under the nobility and the Crown as guards, but they were also tasked with several civic positions throughout the Kingdom. Over time, the Yeomen rose to a level on par with the landed gentry, in terms of wealth and influence.

Medieval Nobility Medieval Baron Oliver St John 1st Baron St John of Bletso

medieval Nobility

Medieval Yeoman in Military

One of the most certain estimates of the medieval yeoman comes from his status in the fighting hierarchy. A yeoman was typically armed with decent weapons and although he wasn’t on par with knights riding on horseback, he was considered above the foot-soldiers.

A medieval yeoman was expected to be adept at using a bow and arrow and often carried a sword that he could wield well.

Apart from frequently accompanying lords to any wars that had to be fought, another major function of yeomen was to guard the house of their lord. This duty was frequently performed if the lord was away on a campaign and his castle or home had to be protected.

Yeoman as a landowner

The key trait which qualified a person as a yeoman in medieval Europe was whether or not he owned land. If a person didn’t hail from the nobility and didn’t own significant land, he was considered a part of the peasantry.

If a person wasn’t a part of the nobility but owned a sizable amount of land, he was considered a yeoman.

The yeomen class was distinct from the landed gentry and burgesses. Yeoman, towards the late medieval ages, could own as much as 100 acres of land and often more. Because of their relative affluence, yeomen would often come in part with the landed gentry in terms of wealth.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles

Yeomen of the Crown

Yeomen of the Crown were directly appointed under the King. These were non-noble personnel who were in the service of the King and were tasked by the King to perform different jobs.

Medieval King Edward II in Ceremonial dress

Because of their association with the Crown, these yeomen were honoured at the houses of the lords.

They sat and dined with knights and squires and their career was considered a lucrative medieval job for someone of non-noble origins. At retirement, the yeoman of the Crown was given a post-retirement privilege, such as the stewardship of a specific forest or land originally owned by the Crown.

Henry III Medieval Kings

Yeoman *Civil servants’

Medieval yeomen also served in a number of civic positions, which may make them an early form of a civil servant. They acted as constables, churchwardens, bailiffs for the High Sheriff, chief constables of the direct, and often, overseers of the parish.

Image of a Medieval Vassal or Lord in Medieval Times

The yeomen were appointed to these jobs directly by a lord, a member of the nobility, or the Crown itself. Because of this, their positions carried a certain authority, especially over peasants and the commoners.

Hereditary Yeoman

In some cases, the position of a yeoman was inherited from one generation to the other. For instance, in the role of constables and bailiffs, many yeomen passed down their position to their sons who in turn became constables and bailiffs.

This was legally permitted and the corresponding lord or the noble overlooking the yeoman’s position often allowed such hereditary transition. Yeoman as a landowner

Franklins as Yeomen

Franklins were a sizable class in medieval French who were wealthy landowners. They were originally peasants who had risen through the ranks with the acquisition of the land.

Significantly important positions such as village mayors, constables, and aldermen were occupied by franklins. The franklins essentially comprised the same class which was categorised as yeomen elsewhere in Europe.

They held a lot of authority and influence, especially in areas that were remote from the influence of landed gentry or directly controlled by the nobility.

Yeomen of the Guard

Yeomen of the Guard are a sort of personal bodyguard for the British King or Queen. They were first instituted by King Henry VII in the 15th century just before the Battle of Bosworth and continue to exist down to this day.

Yeoman Guard *Beefeater

Originally, the Yeoman of the Guard was meant to protect the reigning monarch but their present-day position is entirely ceremonial.

Yeomen as guards for the nobility

Yeomen served as guards and protectors of the nobility in various roles. They looked after the houses of the nobility and the royalty, and also looked after the supply of food and other goods, especially when an expedition was carried out.

During the delivery of supplies as ordered by the lord, the yeomen accompanied and protected the baggage train.

When the members of the nobility were on the road for a long journey or on their way to a pilgrimage, the yeomen often escorted them and served as their personal guards.

Medieval Yeoman Fast Facts

  • The Medieval yeoman was a large social class of peasants who rose in social influence through the acquisition of large tracts of land.
  • Typically, a yeoman owned at least 100 acres or more of land.
  • Yeomen were appointed to a number of important positions throughout the realm.
  • Yeomen were closely associated with the nobility and served as their personal guards and protectors.
  • The Crown directly appointed a number of yeoman for various jobs.
  • Yeomen were highly honoured in the realm and sat with knights and pages at meals.
  • In civil matters, yeomen were important figures, tasked with many secondary-level administrative positions such as bailiffs, constables, and churchwardens.
  • Militarily, Yeomen were placed between the knights and the foot soldiers.
  • Yeomen were expected to be good at archery and often carried swords and other weapons to the battlefield.
  • King Henry VII instituted a royal Guard of yeomen, which was meant to serve as his personal bodyguards. This Guard continues to exist to this day.