Feudalism and medieval life in England
Book Reviews of "Fiefs and Vassals" by Susan Reynolds Feudalism is the term applied to relationships between members of the aristocracy. centuries, a new class emerged from the combination of free peasants and slaves, the serfs. Feudalism is a term describing the relationship between lords. (nobility and church), vassals, serfs, and freemen. • A lord was the lawful owner of land. • A vassal. Vassal: Vassal, in feudal society, one invested with a fief in return for services to an overlord. Some vassals did not have fiefs and lived at their lord's court as his.
In return, serfs "enjoyed" the protection of their lord. Their overlord was responsible for defending them, usually against other lords who wanted to claim the land, and thus the serfs.
For the serfs, it was not a great deal, as they were tied to the land, but it was the only deal they could get. In a society where cash was uncommon, and land meant the ability to produce the goods that could earn one cash, land was extremely important. This was why so many centuries of the medieval era were spent in constant warfare.
Everyone wanted to control land, some land being more valuable, but all land conveying status and wealth to the person who controlled it. So the ability to award or revoke a family's rights to land gave great power to the lords able to do so.
Land was the main currency used by the nobility and royalty to buy the loyalty of their vassals. It was the coinage that vassals were willing to serve and die for, to assure their own fortunes. And the land was what the serfs were bound to.
The End of Europe's Middle Ages - Feudal Institutions
In such conditions, the society developed rules. A ruler could not simply take land from a loyal vassal at whim, for instance. And each nation developed rules on who inherited land. Feudalism allowed large territories to be governed in the absence of a central government. Each lord or vassal raised an army to defend his fief and to serve the king as needed.
In fact, nobles often warred amongst themselves over territories. Knights were members of the gentry in that they held a place in society above the peasants, but they weren't necessarily members of the noble ruling classes or royalty. Knighthood was not an inherited position -- it had to be earned. So, it was an appealing means for a younger son of a lord to advance himself. A knight could make a fortune either by a grant of land from a king or by being a paid professional in service to a lord.
Feudalism and Medieval life
The path to knighthood started when a boy was very young -- official training usually began around age 7. In the next section, we'll learn about how boys became knights. It was used by the Parliamentarians as an insult to the Royalists high-born knights and supporters of King Charles. The word was derived from "chevalier," the French word for knight, and described the Royalists as overbearing or swaggering.
The dress of cavaliers was much fancier than the plain, almost Puritan, clothing of the Parliamentarians referred to as "roundheads".