Feudal Society in the Middle Ages

Feudal Society in the Middle Ages

Feudal Society in the Middle Ages and their method of political administration.

During the so-called Dark Ages when Europe was split up into small states, a new social system was developing. This system was called the “feudalism” 

The Political Organogram of the Feudal Society, in the Middle Ages

Below is its hierarchical order of operations.

 The King The king or the monarch owned all of the lands in the country. The kings held this land by what they believed was “divine right”, the right to rule granted by God, and then passed on through heredity. See also https://feudalism-rights-resposibilities.weebly.com/the-king.html
Dukes and CountsThe dukes were the highest-ranking officials in the realm, typically Frankish (whereas the counts were often Gallo-Roman), and formed the class from which the kings’ generals were chosen in times of war. The dukes met with the king every May to discuss policy for the upcoming year, the so-called Mayfield. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke
Barons and Knights The Barons and high ranking nobles ruled large areas of land called fiefs. They reported directly to the king and were very powerful. They divided up their land among Lords who ran individual manors. Their job was to maintain an army that was at the king’s service. See https://www.ducksters.com/history/middle_ages_feudal_system.php
 Freemen and Serfs Serfs were the poorest of the peasant class and were a type of slave. Lords owned the serfs who lived on their lands. In exchange for a place to live, serfs worked the land to grow crops for themselves and their lord. In addition, serfs were expected to work the farms for the lord and pay rent. See https://www.medievaltimes.com/teachers-students/materials/medieval-era/people.html
See Generally, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke

See also the instructional picture below:

Feudal Society in the Middle Ages
Source: https://brewminate.com/the-feudal-system-in-medieval-europe/
  • The King
  • Dukes and Counts
  • Barons and Knights
  • Freemen and Serfs
Richard I of England,
source: https://www.thoughtco.com/crusades-king-richard-i-the-lionheart-2360690

General Analogy of Feudal Society in the Middle Ages

The king was the supreme head in a feudal kingdom. Under him were great lords called dukes and counts. These were the chief war leaders in the kingdom.
Below them in rank, were the barons and knights. Then came the freemen. Most of these lived in the towns, which had begun to grow up by the eleventh century. 

See also Charlemagne or Charles the Great Impact

The lowest on the ladder were the masses of the people called ‘ serfs’. They were not free men, and their lot was only slightly better than that of the slaves in the ancient world. They worked for the landowners and could not leave the land. Nor were they allowed to marry anyone who lived outside their village without the consent of their master. The Serfs’ had strips of land which they were allowed to farm for themselves, in return for many rents and services to their lord. The serfs’ in addition to farming the lord’s land for him, the serfs had to give him a share of their own produce. Other lands in the village were known as common land’. Here the Serfs could pasture their animals.

The word “vassal” was used in the Middle Ages to mean a person who was socially lower than another person. If a free man was given a grant of land (called fief’), he became a vassal to the baron or knight who granted it to him. He looked upon the latter as his lord. The Baron or Knight, in return, was a visual to a Duke or count. While the Dukes were, in turn, vassals to the king, from whom they received land.
The land of a lord was called a ‘manor’ or ‘domain’. He kept a large portion of this land for his own use, and divided most of the remainder among his vassals.

See also The Dark Ages | It Causes and consequence in Europe

So long as the vassal remained faithful to his lord, he could keep the land (or fief) granted to him. On his death, the fief went back to the lord. The dead man’s heir had to pay the lord to get the land back. A vassal also looked to his lord for protection against attack. This was very necessary especially in the first half of the Middle Ages. Often, to get protection, a free man would give his own land to a powerful lord. The lord would then give it back to him on condition that he become the lord’s vassal. As a vassal, he could ask the Lord to protect him.

In return for the grant of land and for protection, the vassal had to do certain things for his lord. He had to make payments to him at special times, he will also agree to help his lord in time of war. Furthermore, he was expected to attend the lord’s courts when called upon, and also to bring all disputes to him for settlement. Lords served as advisers to their own lords and acted as attendants on public occasions.

See also The Fall of Roman Empire | Major Contributing Factors

As time passed, some of the dukes and counts, helped by their own numerous vassals, became more powerful, and often able to rise against the king.

The graded pattern of government was similar to the system of chieftaincy in many parts of Africa. There was the king or the paramount chief who had under him the divisional chiefs. Below the divisional chiefs were the local chiefs, under whom served the common people. As in the Middle Ages in Europe, there was a system of graded loyalty and dependence with regard to the grant of land and payment of taxes.

In both the feudal system of the Middle Ages and the system of chieftaincy in Africa, the ordinary folk came under the authority of the king only indirectly, through their immediate lord or chief.

See also Meaning f Government | Tripoadal Definition of Government

As time passed, some of the dukes and counts, helped by their own numerous vassals, became more powerful, and often able to rise against the king.

Meanwhile, the graded pattern of government in the Feudal Society in the Middle Ages was similar to the system of chieftaincy in many parts of Africa.

See also Nationalist Struggle in Sierra Leone & the Effect of World War II

There was the king or the paramount chief who had under him the divisional chiefs. Below the divisional chiefs were the local chiefs, under whom served the common people. As in the Middle Ages in Europe, there was a system of graded loyalty and dependence with regard to the grant of land and payment of taxes. In both the feudal system of the Middle Ages and the system of chieftaincy in Africa, the ordinary folk came under the authority of the king only indirectly, through their immediate lord or chief.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*