Feudalism was the way of life for people in the Middle Ages. Some people, like the royalty and nobles, supported and liked feudalism. Others, like serfs and slaves, did not enjoy feudalism. Everybody in society was involved with feudalism. Some parts of society were involved more than others. The Feudal system bought the loyalty of Barons in return for land; it was a promise of land in return for the services they could give to the king such as armies, military personnel and weaponry. The feudal system had been used in France by the Normans from the time they first settled there in about 900 AD. It was a simple, but effective system, where all land was owned by the King. The Middle Ages or medieval times are believed to have started with the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 and to have lasted about 1,000 years until about 1450. Feudalism is important to history because it was what made William I, the conqueror popular, it kept peace and protection among the land, and it gave the king more power.
The King was in complete control under the feudal system. He owned all the land in the country and decided who he would lease the land too. He typically allowed tenants he could trust to lease land from him. However, before they were given any land they had to swear an oath of fealty to the King at all times. The men who leased land from the King were known as Barons or nobles. They were wealthy, powerful and had complete control of the land they leased from the King. Barons or nobles leased land from the King that was known as a manor. They were known as the Lord of the Manor and were in complete control of this land. They established their own system of justice, minted their own money and set their own taxes. In return for the land they had been given by the King, the Barons had to serve on the royal council, pay rent, and provide the King with Knights for military service when he demanded it. They also had to provide lodging and food for the King and his court when they travelled around his realm. The Barons kept as much of their land as they wanted for their own use, then divided the rest among their Knights. Barons were very rich. Knights were given land by a Baron in return for military service when demanded by the King. They also had to protect the Baron and his family, as well as the Manor, from attack. The Knights kept as much of the land as they wanted for their own personal use and distributed the rest to villains or serfs. Although not as rich as the Barons, Knights were quite wealthy. Villains, sometimes known as serfs, were given land by Knights. They had to provide the Knight with free labor, food, and service whenever it was demanded. Villains had no rights. They were not allowed to leave the Manor and had to ask their Lord’s permission before they could marry. Villains were poor.
In 1066 William the conqueror created the Feudal system in England. The Feudal system helped William the Conqueror strengthen his power over England. The feudal system was introduced to England following the invasion and conquest of the country by William I, The Conqueror. William the conqueror was a very intelligent king and one of his first acts after winning the battle of Hastings in 1066, was to create a new feudal system in England that required all of the land in the country to be handed over to him. This was a rotten deal for the main Anglo-Saxon medieval population of England, who had never lived under a Feudal system before. King William created the Feudal system for his own gain. His role was to organize and plan the system with help from well-placed loyal Barons. He had to decide who he should put in places of power to keep the Feudal system in place. The Feudal system would help the King become wealthier and strengthen his power over England. To make this new Feudal system work in England, King William needed people in places of power who he could trust, the French Barons that he already knew and people that he felt he could influence were put in places of power. He must have been very persuasive, as he even made some Anglo-Saxon Barons part of the Feudal system. William the Conqueror travelled with a very large household. If they extended their stay it could nearly bankrupt the lord hosting them. In a few days of Christmas feasting one year, William and his retinue consumed 6,000 chickens, 1,000 rabbits, 90 boars, 50 peacocks, 200 geese, 10,000 eels, thousands of eggs and loaves of bread, and hundreds of casks of wine and cider. William the conqueror introduced the Feudal system to England in 1066 after winning the battle of Hastings and being crowned King of England. It was a system that had served him well in Northern France and helped him to strengthen his power and gain immense wealth. King William promised French Barons who helped him defeat the English in the Battle of Hastings large holdings of land in England and this was organized through the development of an English Feudal system.
During the years of the Roman Empire, the poor people were protected by the soldiers of the emperor. When the empire fell, there were no laws protecting them, so they turned to the lords to keep the peace and to act on their behalf. This willingness to be ruled by the lords led to the beginnings of feudalism. Some peasants were free, but most became serfs to the lord. This meant that they were required to stay with the land and pay very high rent to the lord. Under the feudal system, everyone but the king had a ruling lord above him to whom he owed loyalty and service in exchange for land and protection. The king awarded land grants, called fiefs, to the nobles and sometimes to the church in return for the use of their soldiers or their influence on the citizens to protect the land. The King also had to swear to protect his people. For safety and for defense, peasants in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle, church, village and surrounding farmland. These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other manors. But, with this way of living and government there was almost always peace among the people and the people were also protected. The basic government and society in Europe during the middle ages was based around the feudal system. Small communities were formed around the local lord and the manor.
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