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Feudalism.- Be that as it may, it is certain that by chaps. 52 and 58 of his Laws, William made Feudalism? the rule of land tenure in England, and thereby claimed, as vested in himself, the ultimate ownership of, or sovereign title to, the soil of the country. The only interest of each tenant was thus reduced to a mere usufructuary right, termed a beneficium or feudum. This pretension is obviously consistent only with the theory of absolute monarchy, and is altogether inconsistent with the notion that the sovereignty of this realm is lodged in the Parliament.
1 The three ceremonies involved in the grant of a feud or fief were homage, fealty, and investiture. Homage.—The vassal on whom the fief was conferred, kneeling, placed his hands between those of the lord, whom he promised to serve with life, limb, and worldly honour, upon which the lord kissed the vassal upon the cheek. Fealty was the oath of fidelity taken by the vassal, either in person or by proxy. It bound him not to divulge the lord's counsel; not to injure, or to suffer to be injured, his person or fortune; not to violate the sanctity of his roof or the honour of his family ; to adhere to his lord in battle at all peril to himself; and in the event of the lord being captured, to become his hostage. Investiture.-Homage and fealty being completed, the lord put his vassal into corporeal possession of the estate, termed livery of seisin.
• The entire number of knights' fees in England was sixty thousand two hundred and fifteen. The King was called the lord paramount, or suzerain; and those who held their estates of the Crown, tenants in capite. In the case of large properties, the lords granted out some of their land to their retainers, exacting from them the same free service which they were required to render to the sovereign; they always, however, reserved a portion for their own use, which was called their demesne, and of which a part was cultivated by their vassals, while the the rest of it either was let out to farm, or given tenants to hold on any other than military service. The persons who received these grants of land, whether on military or other services, were called sub-vassals, or under-tenants; and the donor was called a mesne lord. Thus, if the King gave a large estate to A, who again carved out a portion of it for B, then A would be both tenant in chief to the King and mesne lord to B; while B would be called tenant paravail, because he made avail or profit of the land.
Landed property was now chiefly held in England in four ways, which depended on the services that the tenants were required to perform. These services were either free or base; free, if they were deemed honourable, such as serving in war, or paying a sum of money ; base, if they were only suited to persons of a servile condition, such as ploughing land, making hedges, and so on. Hence there wereī. Lands held by services free and uncertain, known as tenure by military or knight service. 2. Lands held by services free and certain, known as tenure in free socage. 3. Lands held by services base and certain, known as tenure in villenage socage. 4. Lands held by services
base and uncertain, known as tenure in pure villenage.
. The first kind of tenure was that which formed the most essential element of the feudal system. Besides the three ceremonies already referred to in connection with the transfer of a fief, there were several
The term used in contradistinction to "feudal” by
services incident to the holding of these estates. In England they were : 1. Military service.—The knight was bound to attend his lord to the wars for forty days in every year, if required. 2. Aids.—These were sums of money demanded on three occasions :-(a) To make the eldest son of the lord a knight; (b) to marry his eldest daughter; (c) to ransom his person if taken prisoner. 3. Relief.—This was considered one of the greatest grievances of the system in England. It was a payment of one hundred shillings for every knight's fee, in case the heir had attained the age of twenty-one. In the Saxon times there was a kind of relief called a heriot; but it differed from the feudal relief in that it was a render of the best beast or other chattel on the death of the tenant, whereas the relief was a money payment made by the successor.
4. Primer seisin was feudal burden required only from tenants in capite, and was in effect an additional relief. 5. Fines for alienation.—These were payments which the king's tenants had to make when they wished to alienate their land. 6. Escheat.When, by failure of heirs, the race of the first tenant became extinct, the estate reverted to the original donor or his heirs,—in other words, was escheated. 7. Forfeiture.--If a person committed treason or felony he forfeited his land, and his blood was considered to be so corrupted or tainted, that he could transmit no property by descent. 8. Wardship. When the heir was a minor, the lord had possession of the estate, and the custody of his ward, till he came of age; and he appropriated the revenues to his own use. 9. Marriage. This was the right the lord had of disposing of his female ward in marriage when she attained the age of fourteen. If she refused to marry the suitor proposed, the lord continued to enjoy the profits of her estate till she became twenty-one, and then she could not marry without his consent. After the Magna Charta of Henry III., a similar right was claimed with respect to male wards. These two last incidents were chiefly confined to England and Normandy. The right of disposing of the ward in marriage was a source of great emolument to the lords, and was correspondingly oppressive and vexatious to the tenants.
• The system of feudal military service in England was far more favourable to the Crown than that in operation on the Continent. Contrary to the custom on the Continent, every vassal, when he took the oath of fealty to his lord, reserved his fealty to the King. The distinction may be thus illustrated :-In France, if A were the sovereign, B the tenant in capite, and C under-tenant; then if B went to war with A, C would be bound to aid, not A, but B; but in England C would be required to aid A against B.'-(Curtis, School Hist. Eng., p. 75.)
European jurists is " allodial," allodial land being land in which a man had the full and entire property; which he held, as the saying is, out and out; whereas, as we have seen, feudal land was land which a man held of some other man, from whom or from whose ancestors the holder or his ancestor had received permission to possess and enjoy the fruits merely of the land, and that only upon given terms.
The Great Council. - William assisted by his Great Council—' Commune Concilium Regni'l-enacted the laws, and so little opposition was experienced in these assemblies by the early Norman kings, that they gratified their love of pomp, as well as the pride of their barons, by consulting them in every important busi
The limits of legislative power were, however, extremely indefinite. New laws, like new taxes, affecting the community, required indeed the sanction of the Great Council, by which it was supposed to be represented; but there was no security for individuals against acts of prerogative.'3
Courts.-- The Curia Regis was the supreme court of judicature; the King, and in his absence the Grand
1 The Commune Concilium Regni, or Aula Regis, first styled Parliament about A.D. 1246, was composed of the King, Archbishops, Bishops, principal Abbots, and the greater Barons.
2 The taxes consisted of—From vassals, Aids, 1st, on the occasion of the knighting of his eldest son; 2nd, the marriage of his eldest daughter; and 3rd, as ransom in the event of his captivity. These aids, when levied by the Crown, were at the rate of a mark or a pound for every knight's fee. Escuage or Scutage was a commutation for the personal service of military tenants in war. Tallages were pecuniary impositions levied upon the occupants of the demesne lands of the King, and the inhabitants of all royal towns. Inferior lords might, with the King's permission, tallage their own tenants. Customs upon imports and exports. Danegelt, the ship-money of those times, levied at the King's discretion ; the latest instance on record is the 20th of Henry II.
3 Hallam, Middle Ages, vol. ii., p. 322.
Justiciary, was the Chief Justice. The County Courts entertained ordinary civil, the Tourne ordinary criminal causes.
Lords of manors also had their Courts Baron or Manorial Courts, in which they, either in person or by deputy, adjudicated upon the rights of their tenants, and entertained charges for misdemeanours committed within the manor.
Religion.—Romanism was the religion of both king and people, whether Norman or Saxon. In matters of faith, the authority of the Church was unquestioned. Politically and socially, the influence of the priest was enormous ; for out of the 62,215 knight's fees, into which the entire kingdom was parcelled, as shown by Doomsday Book, no fewer than 28,015 were in the hands of the Church. Till A.D. 1085 the Ecclesiastical and Civil jurisdictions were united.
TWELFTH CENTURY—1100 To 1199.
Henry I., 1100 to 1135.
Stephen, 1135 to 1154.
The twelfth Century, sometimes called the fusion period, or the period during which the hostile elements of the English nation—the Saxon and the Normanwere more or less perfectly blended, witnessed during the struggle between these contending races all the horrors of civil war-desolation and oppression. It dawned and closed with a population of about two millions.
The land tenure was unaltered; the legislature re
mained the same, but the members of the Council gradually grew more active. No material change took place in either the mode or extent of taxation. The Royal prerogatives, in theory, experienced no diminution; in fact, however, they were restrained by the influences of time, changes of dynasty, and the fusion of the races.
The advances effected during this period were in two different directions. The arrogance of the Church received an important check. The administration of justice was improved.
In 1107, the Bishops were compelled to concede homage to the King. In 1125, the incontinence of the clergy led to the assembling of a Council at Westminster, where their conduct was severely strictured. In 1164, the Constitutions of Clarendon were enacted.
From the time of the separation of the Ecclesiastical from the Civil jurisdiction, the clergy not merely struggled to extend the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts by entertaining cases of a purely secular character; but maintained that members of their body, when charged even with the most heinous offences, could only be tried by ecclesiastics, who it may readily be imagined, from false, notions of the interests of their order, were prone to conceal, rather than publicly to expose, clerical delinquents. A clerk in Worcestershire, having debauched a gentleman's daughter, afterwards murdered her father. The enormity of the crime led the King to order that the criminal should be given up, so that he might receive condign punishment from the civil magistrate. Becket, however, shut him up in the Bishop's prison, and contended that the severest punishment that could be inflicted on him was de