Feudalism was a form of political dominancy that existed in Europe in medieval period ranging from 9th century to 15th century. The feudal system structured the society into various categories and followed a set of military & legal customs. Medieval feudal hierarchy or the feudal system was organized in the form an inverted tree structure or what we call as a hierarchical structure where King was on the top of the hierarchy. After King, there existed certain classes in the structure with decreasing privileges, rights and nobility. This whole structure revolved around lands and often land was given in exchange of labor or service.
The lands were distributed hierarchically where king assigned lands to his barrens and bishops who belonged to the noblemen category in the feudal hierarchy. The people in this category again used to sublet certain part of their land in order to get required services & soldiers during the war. The land again got sublet to the next class of people. In this way land used to get sublet at each level of people and this resulted inactual hierarchical structure where the last person to get the sublet land was the lowest category in the hierarchy.
Following are the levels of the feudal hierarchy:
King was the highest authority in the medieval feudal hierarchy and all the land in the kingdom belonged to him which can be used by him as per his own wish. Kings at that time were more concerned with wars, and with enhancing their kingdoms. So, they needed soldiers for war. Hence, the kings preferred to sublet their lands to the barrens & bishops in return of which they used to provide knights (soldiers) to the king at the time of the war.
The category of people that immediately followed King in the hierarchy was of noblemen of the king – Barrens and Bishops.
Barrens were the wealthiest & powerful noblemen who received lands called as fiefs directly from the king. They were responsible for adequate supply of soldiers and fighters for the war.
The bishops were almost equal to the barrens as far as the power & privileges were concerned. But they were related with the administration of Medieval Church, priests, monasteries and convents. Taxes were also collected by bishops, which made them extremely rich.
The lords or the knights were the people who used to get the subletted lands called fiefs or manors from barrens. They were required to serve as soldiers for the king’s army. They also used to sublet their land to the peasants for rent or for farmed products.
These were the lowest level of people in the entire kingdom. These were the least rich people and held least set of privileges. These were the people who actually farmed the lands and were responsible for growing crops &providing food to everyone. They used to get certain piece of land from lords in return of which these served them, or they were offered a little of produced food material.
To know more about Medieval Social Hierarchy click here