The feudal system is a political system that was prevalent in Europe in between the eighth and fourteenth centuries. Most of the agricultural societywas largely supported by the feudal system social hierarchy. In the feudal system, most of the rights and privileges were given to the Upper classes. In this hierarchical structure, the kings occupied the topmost position, followed by barons, bishops, knights and villeins or peasants. Let’s go into the details of each and every class of the feudal society.
The hierarchical levels are:
- King / Monarch
The King or the Monarch ruled the whole kingdom and owned all the land in the country. The king had total control over all the assets and he used to decide as how much quantity of land to provide on lease to the barons. The barons had to swear an oath before taking up the granted land on lease, so as to remain faithful to the king at all the times. In case any of the barons exhibited poor performance, the king had the power to withdraw the granted land and give it on lease to any other person belonging to the baron class. All the judicial power was in the hands of the king.
The Barons or nobles leased lands from the kings, which was known as a manor. The Barons in the feudal social hierarchy were the second wealthiest class. They were called as the Lord of the Manor. They established their own legal systems, designed their own currency and set their own tax regulation schemes.
In return of the land that they have taken on lease from the King, the Barons had to perform the following functions for them:
- They had to serve the royal council.
- They had to provide the King with Knights to tackle with any form of war.
- They had to provide food and lodging facilities to the king, when they traveled to different locations.
- They had to pay the applicable rents and taxes.
The Knights were provided the leased land by the barons and in return, they provided military service to the king at the time of need. They also had to protect the Baron and his family. They used to keep a part of the land provided to them by the Barons and distribute the rest of the lands to the Villeins. They also used to set their own taxation and rent guidelines for the Villeins. Their main job role was to give protection to the king and therefore they were paid quite well.
The Villeins were granted land by the Knights. They had to provide food and service to their superior classes on demand. They were not allowed to leave the Manor without prior permission. They had no rights and they were also not allowed to marry without the permission of their Lords. They used to be the poorest class in the feudal system social hierarchy.