The bearer of a knight's fee sat over manor courts, supervising the affairs of the hamlet, at the foot of the pyramid. Because lower lords fiercely defended their legal domains against intrusion from above, feudal administration was highly fragmented and localised. Only the king could do uniform business across all his lands; but he needed knights to enforce his authority where it was not respected. Thus the role of the knight was vital to the survival of the feudal system.
Feudalism was based on land ownership. Knights were granted fiefs by higher-up landowners (usually kings) in return for military service. They would then have the responsibility of collecting taxes or rents from their vassals - usually smaller landowners - and using this money to pay off the lord they had served. If a knight failed to meet these obligations, then he would be declared insolvent and his estate would be taken away.
In practice this often meant that knights would employ men to fight on their behalf. These soldiers would be known as vassals or serfs because they gave loyalty to their knight by serving him in battle or some other way. In time these men would acquire rights to part of the land owned by their master, which they could pass on to their children. This is how sharecropping and tenancy systems developed - one example being the Cheshire system - where farmers worked parts of a large farm without owning the land.
In the feudal system, the king was the absolute "owner" of property, and all nobles, knights, and other tenants, known as "vassals," just "held" land from the king, who was thus at the top of the feudal pyramid. Because he had no private wealth of his own, every aspect of King Richard's life was governed by politics - especially during the reign of his successor, King John.
So Richard II was born into an already-politicized world, where sovereignty was wielded by kings but administered by lords. He came to the throne at a time when England was embroiled in civil wars between various factions representing different ideas about how sovereignty should be exercised. The young prince seemed destined to become yet another victim of the violence, but he managed to survive until he reached adulthood. At that point, he declared himself ruler of the kingdom and proceeded to rule for three years before being captured and imprisoned.
During those three years, he must have heard many rumors about the state of his country's affairs, but we know very little about what he thought or did. All we know is that he continued to issue orders and make decisions as if he were still king. When he finally gave up the ghost, he was buried with royal honors in Canterbury Cathedral.
Thus ended the longest-reigning monarch in English history. But although Richard was gone, the war between nobility and monarchy would continue.
Often, the property they were given included farmland, pastures, a church, and a whole community. If the vassal did not dwell in his feudal lord's castle, he had the right to own his own manor home. People who are interested in the feudal system will want to delve more into the life of vassals. During the 11th century, many towns and cities gained their independence from monarchic rule and formed their own governments with mayors and councils. This is called "town rights" or "self-government". Many people believe that the development of democracy as we know it today was inspired by the needs of ordinary citizens who could no longer voice their opinions without risking punishment or death at the hands of their king/lord.
During the Middle Ages, most people lived in villages or towns. A villager was someone who lived in a village, while a city person lived in a town. In the countryside, there were also people who lived in castles; these were called landholders or lords. They managed their estates and sometimes had families living in great houses along with servants and laborers. But even though they owned lots of land, most landholders were not rich because they owed money to traders and other people who worked for a salary.
In addition to farmers and landowners, there were also merchants who traded goods between countries. They usually went on long trips with their ships and often hired others to work on their vessels during dangerous journeys across the ocean.
Noblemen's duties throughout the Middle Ages included financial counseling, and they were in charge of the financial elements of the kingdom, such as collecting taxes and rent from peasants. Legal advisors to the monarch and the people were also a significant component of the trade. There were also soldiers who fought for the nobility; this was usually done in addition to their other duties.
In Europe, during the medieval period, most wars were fought between states rather than individuals. However, warfare was still a major concern for nobles. They needed to be able to defend themselves if attacked, so swords, spears, and bows were important tools for them. Horses were also valuable assets for the nobility, so cavalry battles were common during this time.
During the 11th century, knights began to emerge as a new ruling class in Europe. Knights were responsible for fighting for the king in battle, so they needed weapons capable of killing others while being harmless to humans. This is why swords became more advanced and used knives as well to kill horses and men with equal ease. During the 12th century, war engines called "ballistas" were also developed. These were large cannons used by armies to destroy enemy positions with heavy stones.
At the end of the 13th century, tournaments began to evolve into an important part of European culture. Tournaments were competitions held by the nobility to show off their skills and wealth.
Monarchs, or kings and queens, were at the absolute pinnacle of medieval society. Medieval kings were also feudal lords, as you have learnt. They were required to maintain order and defend their vassals. They had to rely on their vassals, particularly nobles, to supply enough knights and warriors. If a king failed to do so, he would be unable to keep his throne.
In return, kings and nobles were entitled to tax their vassals. During the 11th century, for example, up to half of all income from land belonged to the king or queen. The other half went to soldiers, priests, and other noblemen who fought or prayed for their interests. Taxation was one way that monarchs kept control over their subjects. It also provided them with much-needed money for wars, projects, etc.
Feudalism is defined as the system of military obligations between a lord and his vassals. Under this system, a lord granted lands in exchange for service from his vassals. The duty of the vassal was called "feu", which means "fief". He was obligated to fight on behalf of his lord against outsiders - especially invaders coming from outside of the kingdom. If a vassal refused to fight, then he would lose his fief. A new lord could always grant another fief to the former vassal; this is why there were many changes in leadership within royal courts over time.
A vassal's other key responsibility was to attend to his feudal lord during court. He was also in charge of recruiting new troops for his lord's army, defending and maintaining his lord's estate, controlling all serfs and peasants who resided there, and working as a mercenary for his master.
Vassals could be knights or noblemen. Knights were soldiers who had been granted land by their king or lord that they could keep after killing people. They would often become loyal members of a royal court or military unit.
Noblemen were people who had inherited titles; they did not have to fight to win them. Sometimes they would serve in government offices or military positions under their ruler. The most famous example of this is Richard Lionheart, who became King of England when he was only nine years old. He left that role when he grew up, but not before leading several more campaigns against the French.
There were also lay vassals. Lay vassals were people who worked on estates but who didn't hold any title. For example, a forester might work for a lord, while his son might want to join the family business one day. These men would never rise above the status of tenant or farmer.
Finally, there were prisoners of war.