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 Post subject: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep. 5)
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 11:53 am 
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Like most every roleplayer, I cut my teeth on bad fantasy gaming at a young age. Like some gamers, those loosely-sketched and oft-times terribly cliche fantasy worlds of elves and dragons sparked an interest in a world all the more terrible and fascinating - ours.

It's something of an irony then that my interests have long run so far from the medieval period that inspired them. Now that I come back to it as a subject, I realize that I understand the feudal system in the fashion most people understand television sets. I know there were signals in the air and some tubes and red, blue, and green dots but if you asked me to explain how all that came together it would be a sad day.

Similarly then, while I understand the pieces - knights, barons, serfs, oaths of fealty and service - and I even have a vague idea of how they work, I realize I don't have the functional understanding to maintain the internal logic of such a world if any scrutiny were applied.

Thus my question(s): what is/are the functional differences between a Duke, Baron, Count, Earl, and someone simply called Lord? Likewise Duchy vs. Barony vs. County, etc.? How did these people gain title in the first place? Are new titles/fiefs given only when a kingdom conquers new territory or are fiefs frequently shuffled or divided depending on who has the king's favor?

How does the knighthood as a social status fit into this? Do knights typically live in the keep of their masters or do they hang out on lands granted to them until summoned? Do knights have serfs/peasants to work their lands for them in the fashion that Counts, etc etc do?

I'm sure I actually have even more questions, but I will cut it short there. Suffice to say I am attempting to conceptualize the inner workings of the system itself at least well enough to portray it fictionaly

Danke

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Last edited by KazianG on Sat May 14, 2011 12:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System (AKA Michael explains, episode 5)
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 4:37 pm 
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Well, maybe this time it should be Ian answering. He has researched many aspects of high to late medieval culture most painstakingly, and I am sure he could give you many more interesting details.

One of the most fundamental things to realize about the feudal system is that it was about individual, personal contracts. There was no standardized feudal agreement between liege and vassal, and not even one and the same liege had the same type of relation and feudal contract with every one of his vassals. Every single one of these relations carries its own set of legal rights and obligations. Lord Bob’s vassal Frank might be required to pay that amount of taxes and owe that amount of yearly service under such-and-such circumstances and have such-and-such legal rights over his fief’s people, while Bob’s vassal Phil may well be required to pay this amount of taxes and owe this amount of yearly service under such-and-such circumstances and have such-and-such legal rights over his fief’s people. What feudal relations had in common was that every one was different from every other.

It is therefore completely impossible to compare duchies with counties. You can compare one duchy with one county, and the result of this comparison is true for those two and no others.

A few things I can however tell you:

The nobiity of a feudal society is tiered hierarchically. A vassal is – to some degree! – beholden to his liege lord, who is either the ultimate owner of the fief or is holding it as somebody else’s vassal. A vassal is in no way beholden to nobles who are not his liegelords (or his liegelords’ liegelords). A knight who is vassal to a count can be bossed around (again, to some degree) by this count, but he cannot be legally bossed by some duke just because the duke is of higher noble rank; this is similar to a private in the army owing obedience only to his superiors in the army, but not to an airforce colonel.

In the tiered hierachy of infeudation and subinfeudation there can be – and often are – skips. A knight may well be vassal to a baron who is vassal to a duke who is vassal to the king, but many knights will omit one or more links in this chain of subinfeudation; it is even quite possible for a knight to hol land directly from the king and thus be the king’s direct vassal, with no intermediaries. As protection of the vassal is among the lieg lord’s duties, having a liege lord who is very high up in the social pyramid is of course very advantageous. A knight who is a baron’s vassal who is a duke’s vassal who is the king’s vassal is in a weaker legal and also social position than the knight who is directly the king’s vassal – even when the former should happen to be wealthier than the latter.

Towns figure as both vassals and lords in this system. Every town in a kingdom is some lord’s vassal; in the case of the so-called “free” towns, they are directly the king’s vassal and need take no crap from anybody else. And towns will often have lands they grant as fiefs to knights.

Clerical lords will also be part of the system, and monasteries and dioceses function exactly like towns, holding lands as somebody else’s vassals and granting fiefs to knights. A great many knights were vassals of a monastery or bishop, who in turn were vassals of (usually) the crown.

By the high middle ages at the latest, all fiefs were passed on by inheritance, in accordane with the country’s inheritance laws. While the liege lord is still the owner of a fief, he has lost the discretionary power on whom to confer it – the legal heir of its former holder will become the new holder, provided he is ready to swear allegiance and take upon himself all the obligations of his predecessor. It is thus possible and actually not very rare to hold lands from more than one liege lord and thus owe allegiance to more than one liege lord.

Fiefs, while not strictly speaking their holders’ property, cannot be taken away and thus not shuffled around as needed, but they can devolve back upon the liege lord if the line of the vassal dies out. Civic wars are also a time when some of the fiefs are reshuffled. In general any liege lord who even tries to reshuffle fiefs will meet with a unified front of all his vassals – vassals fear nothing more than their fiefs being tampered with, and a king who tries something like that can be sure to have his entire nobility up in arms against him in no time at all.

Speaking of titles – those are affixed to fiefs, not to persons. The holder of barony X is baron of X, for as long as he is holding X; his son and heir is not baron of X if barony X does somehow slip from his possession.

A final word: In most developed feudal system, kings reserve the right to pass death sentences on any man, whether high or low, whether free or unfree. As they can’t cnduct all such trials themselves, royal justices tour the country and hold court in the king’s name – it can be years between a justice’s visit and the next, and all those accused of crimes warrant the dath penalty or of crimes against royal privileges (e.g. poaching in a royal forest, clipping coins) have to wait this time in a dungeon. Some important vassals may receive the royal privilege of trying cases where the death penalty is threatened in their own fiefs (but not crimes against royal privileges), but most don’t have this privilege – feudal relations being individual affairs.

If some knight or even high nobleman jst strings somebody up, the king is likely to react very harshly – not because the king does love his subjects so very much and wants to protect them from evil noblemen, but because the nobleman has with this act violated the royal authority!

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System (AKA Michael explains, episode 5)
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2011 9:21 pm 
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Ian is, of course, more than welcome to respond! It would only make sense that when I finally crack a joke about the pattern, the pattern ceases to be true.

All very interesting. Working towns and such into the feudal structure was another thing that bugged me, so I'm glad some light was shed on that. I suspect there will be further research to do towards that end.

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It is therefore completely impossible to compare duchies with counties. You can compare one duchy with one county, and the result of this comparison is true for those two and no others.


Generally speaking, when people create two different words for something, they mean (in some fashion) different things, even if only slightly. The thrust of that questions is more "What is the difference between title A and title B?" as logically I would have to assume that they aren't entirely interchangeable.. otherwise we wouldn't have multiple titles. Thus, why is person A called "baron" and person B called "Count" etc. I'm going with the idea that it isn't completely arbitrary ("Hmm. You look like more of a Count to me.. you? no. you're an Earl, certainly.") but I could be wrong.

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And towns will often have lands they grant as fiefs to knights


Does a knight granted land by a town swear fealty to a town, rather than a particular noble? Likewise, do towns have the same military obligations that nobles do?

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System (AKA Michael explains, episode 5)
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 3:02 am 
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KazianG wrote:
Like most every roleplayer, I cut my teeth on bad fantasy gaming at a young age. Like some gamers, those loosely-sketched and oft-times terribly cliche fantasy worlds of elves and dragons sparked an interest in a world all the more terrible and fascinating - ours.


Once you read academic historical works you start to realize just how different the medieval world was to ours. It is a fascinating place to explore, like the most foreign of countries.

KazianG wrote:
what is/are the functional differences between a Duke, Baron, Count, Earl, and someone simply called Lord?


My answers throughout this thread relate specifically to the area around the city of Lyon in France in the 1350s unless otherwise stated. The further you get away from here -- geographically and temporally -- the less accurate or relevant the answers.

A Barony is held directly from the king. It is centered on a fortress. In essence it was there before the notion of kingdom so in a sense it pre-dates the kingdom, and therefore the rights and obligations are quite unique. If you get a chance to read "A Distant Mirror" by Tuchman you'll get a good understanding of how one (very famous) Barony and its Baron operated in the 14th century.

A County on the other hand is centered on a town.

Naturally there are exceptions to this and all of these exceptions will almost always revolve around rights and privileges the pre-existed thr formation of the administrative area. In other words, something existed in a particular location before the area around it was brought under the control of some larger entity such as a kingdom. These rights and privileges are jealously guarded, rebellions and wars are fought over them, and often the central authority that seeks some measure of control over something negotiates that control by confirming pre-existing rights and privileges.

KazianG wrote:
How did these people gain title in the first place? Are new titles/fiefs given only when a kingdom conquers new territory or are fiefs frequently shuffled or divided depending on who has the king's favor?


One of the keys to understanding medieval authority structures is to understand that a strong degree of centralized authority -- as in modern countries -- doesn't exist. Comparing England and France at this time, England has relatively strong central authority in the form of the king while France does not.

As a result, the king doesn't have the right to simply re-allocate a title or lands. Doing so would see all those in similar position rebel -- after all, if the king has through force of arms removed title and privileges from one subject why not from another? The king simply doesn't have the power to do it. Being king requires the support of those senior members of the feudal structure.

KazianG wrote:
How does the knighthood as a social status fit into this? Do knights typically live in the keep of their masters or do they hang out on lands granted to them until summoned? Do knights have serfs/peasants to work their lands for them in the fashion that Counts, etc etc do?


This seemingly simply question is a quagmire.

In France, 90% of those entitled to be knighted did not do so. This seems staggering, but the reality is that knighthood has nothing to do with whether you are required to fight in a particular battle -- that requirement is outside knighthood and is very specifically regulated -- and everything to do with giving up a certain degree of freedom in return for a certain amount of protection. Most, by far, did not think this was a good deal! So knighthood isn't a social status as much as it is a trade of obligation for rights.

Knighthood doesn't confer land. If a knight has land it is because he had those lands before he was knighted. A knight might have a specific military duty -- you are responsible for protecting this toll bridge -- but this duty isn't a result of being a knight it is more individual than that.

Just as an aside, the French parliament in Paris recognized two definitions of 'knight'. Depending on where the knight was from one definition or the other would be applied. The parliament was also the final court of appeal and so it's courts needed to have a broad understanding of feudal rights and obligations.

Grettir wrote:
One of the most fundamental things to realize about the feudal system is that it was about individual, personal contracts.


Spot on. It is like there is no default value on these things. Instead everything is specified in a legal document between the two parties and issues of rights and obligations were often settled in the law courts.

Grettir wrote:
Towns figure as both vassals and lords in this system. Every town in a kingdom is some lord’s vassal; in the case of the so-called “free” towns, they are directly the king’s vassal and need take no crap from anybody else. And towns will often have lands they grant as fiefs to knights.


Very true. In the case of Lyon the King of France, in 1307, brokered a peace which also defined the County of Lyon -- the Lyonnais -- as being controlled by 32 'Barons of the Church'. 31 came from the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the other was the Archbishop of Lyon. This defining of the County settled an internal power struggle within the Church and established a long-term peace with the Counts of Montbrison (who relinquished any claim over the area of the Lyonnais). However the people of the city of Lyon wanted to become a 'free town', and so various rebellions against taxation and so on took place until in 1320 the King of France formally brought the Lyonnais within the kingdom.

Grettir wrote:
Clerical lords will also be part of the system, and monasteries and dioceses function exactly like towns, holding lands as somebody else’s vassals and granting fiefs to knights. A great many knights were vassals of a monastery or bishop, who in turn were vassals of (usually) the crown.


The reason Lyon holds such fascination for me is that it is a County -- a secular, administrative area -- that is run by the Church. So the senior members of the Church hold both secular and spiritual authority, and the power struggle that ensues is ongoing and at both levels (secular and spiritual).

Here's one example. At one point, the Dauphine of France was in open hostility with another major regional power, SE of Lyon. There was a small fortified tower that was located in an extremely strategic position. Both sides wanted the right to occupy it. The tower belonged to the Abbey of Saint Peter in Lyon. The Abbey was a nunnery.

So, why didn't one side or the other simply occupy it? Well, to understand that you need to understand the Abbey. To become a nun in the Abbey of Saint Peter a woman had to be able to demonstrate at least four generations of nobility. That is her parents, all her grandparents, all her great grandparents, and all her great great grandparents had to be noble. In other words, the woman had to be a member of the Lyonnais patriciate -- those families that had controlled the Lyonnais for many generations. To even contemplate infringing on the established rights of the Abbey was to court a response that would involve not just the abbey but all those connected with the abbey.

And so, in this instance, the Dauphine swore fealty to the Abbess in return for the right to occupy the tower. In return the Abbess had the right to call upon the Dauphine for one month of military service per year. At the time the Dauphine controlled the largest number of men under arms in France.

Grettir wrote:
By the high middle ages at the latest, all fiefs were passed on by inheritance, in accordance with the country’s inheritance laws.


One of my favourite subjects -- inheritance laws. England is boring -- almost everything goes to the eldest son. France is delightfully complicated. Usually, amongst the nobility, when the father dies (not the mother) the inheritance is divided amongst the children (not the mother).

When a woman marries she is provided with a dower by her father. In effect this is her inheritance from her father. It is designed to provide a revenue stream that will allow her to live comfortably when her husband dies. It needs to be understood that the husband has no right whatsoever to the dower. Many a husband found himself in court being prosecuted by his wife's family for impinging upon his wife's dower. Should the wife die the dower reverts to her family -- not the husband and not the children.

So when the father dies the inheritance passes to the children -- largely in equal measure, as far as possible. Over time this gives rise to the 'small nobility' of the countryside who's holdings are so small that they are insufficient to support the family they belong to. Thus the penniless nobleman is quite common.

KazianG wrote:
Generally speaking, when people create two different words for something, they mean (in some fashion) different things, even if only slightly. The thrust of that questions is more "What is the difference between title A and title B?" as logically I would have to assume that they aren't entirely interchangeable.. otherwise we wouldn't have multiple titles. Thus, why is person A called "baron" and person B called "Count" etc. I'm going with the idea that it isn't completely arbitrary ("Hmm. You look like more of a Count to me.. you? no. you're an Earl, certainly.") but I could be wrong.


The words Baron and Count aren't interchangeable and there is a functional difference in terms of the family holdings. Yet the rights and obligations of one Baron may be quite similar to those of a particular Count (and may be completely dissimilar to another Baron or another Count). For us, we see terminology as a very basic standard. For the medievals, there were no such assumptions or standards. Different parts of France called the same thing by different terms and called different things by the same term. Spelling is not standardized. In the 13th century France moves from oral tradition to written tradition -- laws are codified, and it is at this point that a degree of unification and standardization can take place. But this is a slow, slow process.

KazianG wrote:
Does a knight granted land by a town swear fealty to a town, rather than a particular noble? Likewise, do towns have the same military obligations that nobles do?


I have no examples of this but in the spirit of what you are asking, yes and yes. In the case of Lyon the aldermen of the city -- the council, if you like -- could hire soldiers for military or civic service. Likewise the members of the Baronnie Lyonnais, on behalf of the city. By 1350 Lyon is not a free town but its economic weight is such that it is well on the way to achieving that aim.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 3:31 am 
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Thank you, Ian! I fear that the more answers I receive the more questions I have though.

What then is the purpose of the Knighthood vs. just being a conscripted soldier? How does one become a Knight and to what end? I was under the vague impression that the knighthood and nobility were intertwined and yet I find the more I look into it, the more confused I am. ha!

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In the case of Lyon the aldermen of the city -- the council, if you like -- could hire soldiers for military or civic service.


What is the functional difference between say, hiring Knights, and getting a bunch of peasants and training them? What makes a knight "special" that they deserve a distinction? Simply having enough money to afford their gear?

Quote:
A Barony is held directly from the king. It is centered on a fortress. In essence it was there before the notion of kingdom so in a sense it pre-dates the kingdom, and therefore the rights and obligations are quite unique. If you get a chance to read "A Distant Mirror" by Tuchman you'll get a good understanding of how one (very famous) Barony and its Baron operated in the 14th century.

A County on the other hand is centered on a town.


So a Barony holds a fortress, while a County is centered on the town as a generalization? What of Duke or Earl? Or are these other words for the same things in different places?

What is the Count's relationship with his County? If it is centered on a town is he recognized as being the one in charge of said town, or does he have a mayor type figure reporting to him as a vassal?

How do villages fall into the scheme of all this?

Also - I'll go out and nab A Distant Mirror, any other references you'd recommend for the period? (though, my keenest interest is in the 1100s-1200s, I think)

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System (AKA Michael explains, episode 5)
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 3:38 am 
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KazianG wrote:
The thrust of that questions is more "What is the difference between title A and title B?" as logically I would have to assume that they aren't entirely interchangeable.. otherwise we wouldn't have multiple titles. Thus, why is person A called "baron" and person B called "Count" etc.

You are thinking in terms of the feudal system being like a constitution designed in one fell swoop – and that is plain wrong. You can compare one modern democracy’s supreme court with most other democracies’ supreme courts, and they will be pretty much similar in a way one medieval country’s dukes and anothr medieval country’s duke won’t be – because the dukedoms in these countries developed organically from dissimilar beginnings. When legalists of the early middle ages, invariably writing in Latin, tried to name what came to be dukes, they were looking for a Latin word/office that came close to the offices of their times, and so they settled on the Latin words “dux” and “comes”, the root words of many European languages’ terms for duke (duc, ducco) and count (comte, conde, conte). And from these beginnings in the proto-feudal early middle-ages, the “offices” of dux and comes evolved in diffeent countries differently (small wonder lacking written constitutions), so that once the proper feudal system had evolved, the only thing they had in common was that they were very different from each other.

A few generalisations are tentatively possible:

Usually, a duke will hold more lands and have more vassals than a count, and a count will hold more lands and have more vassals than a baron. A duke will thus usually have more actual power (i.e. have more wealth and more amed ruffians at his beck and call) than a count, and a count in turn than a baron, though there can be exceptions where a nobleman is one “tier” more or less powerful than is to be expected. This does however not mean that a duke can somehow lord it over any count or baron – only over those who are his direct vassals, and to a much lesser degree over those who are his indirect vassals (i.e. his vassals’ vassals).

I can think of no case where a count was a vassal to a duke (unless the duke was himself an independent sovereign). The possible feudal tierings are:

Crown – duke – baron – knight
Crown – duke – knight
Crown – count – baron – knight (rare)
Crown – count – knight
Crown – baron – kight
Crown – knight

Monasteries and dioceses would fit into these hierarchies usually at around the level of a count (i.e. as direct vassal’s of the crown), but lesser monasteries might also stand at a baronial level. Towns would fit into about a baronial level for lesser ones and a count’s level for smaller ones.

KazianG wrote:
Does a knight granted land by a town swear fealty to a town, rather than a particular noble?

Loayalty is sworn to the person holding the fief out of which one’s own fief is taken. In case of a town, these are the town’s burghers (however this particular town’s constitution may define the term – most people living in it won’t be burghers), represented by the town’s governing body (agains as defined by the town’s constitution). A knight would swear to “the town”, which in practice means that, on a daily basis, he is dealing with the town’s governing body. Not unlike a soldier in a modern democracy swears upon “the country”, which means that his ultimate commander is not the mass of the citizens but one person electd by them.

KazianG wrote:
Likewise, do towns have the same military obligations that nobles do?

The question is worded misleadingly and makes me suspect that you think that there is “one” military obligation of nobles – which there wasn’t. Nobles, including knights, have various obligations both military and non-military, and one man’s exact obligations will more likely than not differ from all his neighbours’ – because the feudal contracts are individual contracts between one man and another man, with individual stipulations further modified by privileges that may, over time, be granted to a certain fief for exceptional ervice rendered by this fief’s holder.

And yes, towns and monasteries and dioceses do have the same type of obligations than all other nobles, of course including the important duty of military service, under the conditions and to the extent stipulated in the feudal agreement under which they are holding their lands.

An extreme example: The early Habsburg dukes of Austria were forging a document by whicht they wanted to prove to the German king (and Roman emperor) that they had previously been granted a lot of privileges. The privileges were preposterous and the claims repudiated by the German kings - until a Habsburg duke was finally elected German king and immediately recognized the blatant forgery as valid! Among other privileges, it also regulated the terms of military service owed by the Austrian dukes to the Geman crown: Only against one specific foreign enemy, and only with six(!) men – six men, out of an area of about 50.000 km², that could actually have raised thousands! And only in case of war against one specific enemy; against all others, nothing. That’s how extreme these kind of things could get.

So you see, one really can’t generalize. Even the degree to which I did it here gives me the belly cramps.

EDIT: Imporatant note, KazianG! It’s about Ian’s excellent answers above, and Ian gives the cautionary himself, but as I see you latching on to Ian’s answers with replies like “So a Barony is this and that…” I just want to restate it:

Ian’s definitions are all true: For one specific country at one specific time. They would not be true for other countries and other times, and thus one simply cannot generalize from them; the thing about baronies being held from the crown would for example not at all hold true for Germany.

If you ask for how “the” feudal system was working, you can’t get a clear and staightforward answer. If you want to think of it as a unified system, much better to ask for how it worked at one specific time in one specific place. And if you want to know about the feudal system in mid-14th-century France, I can’t think of anybody here cut out better to answer than Ian. Just keep in mind that you can’t assume that things were like that in mid-14th-century Germany, Sweden, Spain, Hungary, Poland and Italy, too; cause they weren’t.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 5:08 am 
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I'm really not so much trying to generalize as I am develop at least a working model, mentally before I attempt to go "okay, and this is how area X was different."

I think I'd have more interest in the German history than the French, but given that I will in all likelihood be using the information for fictional ends it won't be a huge deal either way.

My roundabout with "what do the different titles mean" is largely a case of "why is Person/Area X a Count/County while person Y is a Baron/Barony" as nearly everything I read simply tells me it's a noble title.. or worse.

"A baron is a Noble in charge of a Barony" "A Barony is a territory held by a Baron" ... Sigh. Which really tells me nothing. I don't want to introduce one character as the Duke of Blargh and another as Count Blarghendk without knowing what the difference is between their stations. I'm largely gathering that it is at least obscure/inconsistent/arbitrary enough that I'm never going to have to worry about someone calling me out on getting it wrong though. That's a plus.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 11:42 am 
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In 1350s Lyon, France...

KazianG wrote:
What then is the purpose of the Knighthood vs. just being a conscripted soldier?


Being a knight has nothing to do with how a person fights in combat or their right to bear arms. A person who meets the criteria for being knighted fights in exactly the same way in battle whether they accept their knighthood or not.

There is no such thing as conscription in the modern sense of the word. Rather, every citizen from the King down has specific circumstances under which they must fight or pay money in order not to fight.

Rather than being about personal combat skills or military capacity the question of 'Shall I become a knight?' for someone who meets the criteria for being a knight is a political one.

If you have a chance to read Henneman's 'Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France under Chales V and Charles VI' you might get a better understanding of how the political structure worked at that time in France.

KazianG wrote:
How does one become a Knight and to what end?


An interesting question but I am wondering whether you mean 'How does one become noble?' This is a more pertinent question, as there were many more nobles than knights.

In order to be a noble one had to be seen to be 'living nobly' and to be 'pursuing the profession of arms'. What did that mean? It meant that the individual did not perform manual labour nor pursue most forms of commerce -- living nobly -- and they were trained to fight from horseback and owned the panoply of war -- pursuing the profession of arms.

So, to be noble you have to be trained in the art of war -- a full-time occupation, in effect -- and you have to have sufficient revenue streams that your family are supported (and you are supported while at war). What does that cost?

As a generalisation (a gross one at that):
- the arms and armour for a nobleman cost at least 25 livre tournois (tours pound (which was worth 20 sols and each sol was worth 12 deniers)).
- the warhorse (a powerful symbol of nobility) cost at least 75 livre tournois.
- the household cost around 120 livre tournois to run per year.

The salary of a royal squire was 10 sols tournois per day, or around 180 livre tournois per year. For the nobility on the edge of losing their status -- those, for example, displaced from their lands through the war with the English -- service with a cashed-up member of the senior aristocracy was about the only option available.

KazianG wrote:
I was under the vague impression that the knighthood and nobility were intertwined


Absolutely -- as a general rule, the bulk of noblemen were also squires who had the option of becoming knights. The classic 'knighting a commoner on the battlefield for his glorious deeds' was an extraordinary event. As extraordinary as the deeds of valour that must have preceded it.

KazianG wrote:
What is the functional difference between say, hiring Knights, and getting a bunch of peasants and training them? What makes a knight "special" that they deserve a distinction? Simply having enough money to afford their gear?


This question would be better stated as:

What is the functional difference between hiring men-at-arms and training non-soldiers to be men-at-arms?

There is no difference, functionally, between a knight and a man-at-arms. Both had the same equipment, the same level of personal combat skill, and they fought tactically in the same way on the battlefield. A knight simply has different political obligations and rights.

A man-at-arms is a self-sufficient unit. In hiring him he must meet the requirements of the contract which would include the minimum standard of equipment, the duties he is to perform, and would also stipulate the pay he would receive.

Training a non-soldier to the same level of capability and providing them with the same level of equipment would take years and would be ruinously expensive. The whole structure of the nobility is predicated on the concept that the nobleman has the revenue streams to support himself and his family whether he is at home or on campaign.

To take 100 non-soldiers, train them up (say three years of full-time training), and provide them with equipment would cost 46,000 livre tournois and would cost 12,000 livre tournois per year to maintain once they were trained. Of course if they're not mounted then the cost is vastly reduced but nor are they the same quality of soldier.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
A Barony is held directly from the king. It is centered on a fortress. In essence it was there before the notion of kingdom so in a sense it pre-dates the kingdom, and therefore the rights and obligations are quite unique. If you get a chance to read "A Distant Mirror" by Tuchman you'll get a good understanding of how one (very famous) Barony and its Baron operated in the 14th century.

A County on the other hand is centered on a town.


KazianG wrote:
So a Barony holds a fortress, while a County is centered on the town as a generalization? What of Duke or Earl? Or are these other words for the same things in different places?


A Duke is superior to a Count. A Duchy is larger than a County. A Duke will have significant personal holdings potentially conferring multiple titles. There is no such thing as an Earl in France at this time.

KazianG wrote:
What is the Count's relationship with his County? If it is centered on a town is he recognized as being the one in charge of said town, or does he have a mayor type figure reporting to him as a vassal?


No, nothing like this. The relationship is more antagonistic than this. The Count holds certain rights over an area of land. Over time a village becomes a town becomes a city. The Count wants to maintain his rights and privileges while the populace want to become 'free' of those obligations. However, in the feudal sense the Count 'owns' the territory in which the city resides.

Incidentally this is also mirrored in the church structure. What was a parish run by a priest over time becomes a city. The clergy fought tooth and nail to maintain their control over the revenues that devolved from administering the sacrements to the population -- rather than seeing multiple parishes established in the same area.

KazianG wrote:
How do villages fall into the scheme of all this?


Villages belong to a feudal entity of some kind, whether that be a nobleman or a church entity.

Keep the questions coming -- it is an interesting discussion. I think you will soon be at the point where you can say, for your fictional campaign location, this is how the feudal system works here and now. The next thing we should probably talk about is the law and how it was implemented...

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 1:09 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Keep the questions coming -- it is an interesting discussion. I think you will soon be at the point where you can say, for your fictional campaign location, this is how the feudal system works here and now. The next thing we should probably talk about is the law and how it was implemented...

Regards,


Danke. It's an interesting thing to see how easily most people seem to cobble things together with a superficial understanding of vaguely "this is what it should be like." I've never been very good at that, I fear. Not because I couldn't do it, but because a I am fundamentally uncomfortable with representing something without a core understanding of how it actually worked. haha. This seems to work against me more often than not.

Thank you again though, this has been very helpful.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Absolutely -- as a general rule, the bulk of noblemen were also squires who had the option of becoming knights. The classic 'knighting a commoner on the battlefield for his glorious deeds' was an extraordinary event. As extraordinary as the deeds of valour that must have preceded it.


Why would a noble the choose to become a knight? You mentioned a trade off about privilege vs rights, but what is actually gained? Similarly, are all knights then nobles in the employ of other Nobles?

What portion of given Noble(Baron, Count, it doesn't matter for the purpose of this question, I don't think)'s military force is going to be knights vs. non-noble men at arms? Is a given castle liable to be replete with Noble Knights hanging around their Lord's keep or are they more likely to be off doing ..whatever it is they do in their downtime until summoned?

Are so-called "Free Companies" or mercenaries a factor? Noble or non-noble men-at-arms seeking a trade through warfare.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
The relationship is more antagonistic than this. The Count holds certain rights over an area of land. Over time a village becomes a town becomes a city. The Count wants to maintain his rights and privileges while the populace want to become 'free' of those obligations. However, in the feudal sense the Count 'owns' the territory in which the city resides.


How does this play out? What kind of political maneuvering would be involved for the city to be "free?" What does a Count do when faced with such a situation

Ian.Plumb wrote:
The next thing we should probably talk about is the law and how it was implemented...

Regards,


I'm not even certain where to begin with that one, but if you'd like to lead in I'm sure to soak every bit of it up!

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 11:49 pm 
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In 1350s Lyon, France:

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Absolutely -- as a general rule, the bulk of noblemen were also squires who had the option of becoming knights. The classic 'knighting a commoner on the battlefield for his glorious deeds' was an extraordinary event. As extraordinary as the deeds of valour that must have preceded it.


KazianG wrote:
Why would a noble the choose to become a knight? You mentioned a trade off about privilege vs rights, but what is actually gained? Similarly, are all knights then nobles in the employ of other Nobles?


A squire would choose to become a knight in order to gain political advantage. In becoming a knight he is under more obligation than he was as a squire -- he has more duties to perform, must spend more money in fulfilling them. In return he gains prestige, which translates into political advantage.

KazianG wrote:
What portion of given Noble(Baron, Count, it doesn't matter for the purpose of this question, I don't think)'s military force is going to be knights vs. non-noble men at arms? Is a given castle liable to be replete with Noble Knights hanging around their Lord's keep or are they more likely to be off doing ..whatever it is they do in their downtime until summoned?


Most nobleman -- more than 99% of them -- are simple Lords living on their families' country domain. These are the small nobility. Those nobleman with sufficient lands to be a Baron or Count are rare, and they are very powerful relative to the small nobility. Being a knight doesn't make a man a nobleman. Living nobly and pursuing a life of arms qualifies a man as being noble.

How many knights will be in the personal service of a particular Baron or Count will vary dramatically. How many soldiers and of what type a feudal entity (nobleman, abbey, town) must provide during a time of war will also vary dramatically.

KazianG wrote:
Is a given castle liable to be replete with Noble Knights hanging around their Lord's keep or are they more likely to be off doing ..whatever it is they do in their downtime until summoned?


This is a simple question that is complicated in the answering.

Most noblemen are not in the personal service of a Baron or Count. They live on their own domain and perform duties for their liege lord according to the personal contract they have with their liege lord.

For those that are, they are paid a daily rate (10 sols for example, mentioned above) which is enough to support them and their household. Some will head down this path because it is the only alternative to losing their nobility (as their lands are insufficient to support them and their family). Some will head down this path in order to try to gain political advantage.

These people are noble and so cannot be treated badly with impunity. In other words they are usually respected by their liege lord. Treating them well goes some way towards their liege lord demonstrating largesse -- a very important function for a major nobleman to hold his position and contemplate rising up the chain.

In times of peace there are many duties that may become their responsibility. The major nobility that have personal retinues hold many castles and lesser fortified positions. They own multiple revenue streams (fishing rights, logging rights, justice rights, tolling rights) and these must be enforced. Those in their personal retinue may become responsible for garrisoning a fortification, large or small -- a castle through to a tollway. They may be responsible for keeping the peace in a particular area, or some other function we would see today as a 'public office'. In performing these functions they may have staff and they may have soldiers under them. Their lord may have a particular residence that they are expected to attend periodically but, IMO, the people you'll see at this location are the lord's houseguard rather than all the members of their personal retinue.

KazianG wrote:
Are so-called "Free Companies" or mercenaries a factor? Noble or non-noble men-at-arms seeking a trade through warfare.


Becoming a routier is not 'living nobly' -- that is, the individual is seen as performing a trade and therefore living off their own labour. As a result they are no longer a nobleman. Of course it was possible to win it back through force of arms -- there were many examples of successful routiers capturing many castles and then negotiating a peace wherein they kept their acquisitions in return for swearing fealty. This happened many times during various periods of the 100 Years War.

The capture of the town of Anse by the routiers in the 1350s caused widespread panic in Lyon as the town was only a few miles upstream. They held the town for several years.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
The relationship is more antagonistic than this. The Count holds certain rights over an area of land. Over time a village becomes a town becomes a city. The Count wants to maintain his rights and privileges while the populace want to become 'free' of those obligations. However, in the feudal sense the Count 'owns' the territory in which the city resides.


KazianG wrote:
How does this play out? What kind of political maneuvering would be involved for the city to be "free?" What does a Count do when faced with such a situation


Over time the town/city becomes 'free'. The larger the town/city the longer it takes. The city of Lyon was in rebellion many times over various issues of taxation and its administration. This militancy would flare up in an instant and die down as quickly as it started.

KazianG wrote:
I'm not even certain where to begin with that one, but if you'd like to lead in I'm sure to soak every bit of it up!


Check out:



and if you have any questions I'll happily answer them here. The main thing to remember is that execution is incredibly rare, incarceration as a punishment is equally rare (with incarceration generally being a matter of awaiting trial for serious crimes), and fining people for crimes was very common -- with the fines going to whichever lord controlled the court, not the public purse or the victim.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 2:39 am 
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While I digest the other bits of information, perhaps you would allow me to jump to a different topic - what can you tell me about scale?

How many people would a "small" village be.. a large one.. a town.. a city.. and so forth.

I'm also curious as to how large a military force would be.. but I'm not even sure how you'd categorize it - perhaps some form of population-to-army size ratio or something? As well as a nobles/knights/whatever to foot-soldiers.

I don't think I'm looking for specific numbers so much as how to broadly gauge what a given region is capable of. Obviously things would fluctuate a great deal.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 5:13 am 
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Apart from the repeated cautioning - stressed by himself, too - that most of the excellent information provided by Ian (apart from the more broader applicable details about 'living nobly' and being a nobleman) applies only to one specific place at one specific time, I haven't much to add. I knew that Ian would be your man for late medieval society. :)

Just this: Drawing upon his research about Lyon, Ian has compiled a pdf on law in the fictional kingdom of Taveruun on TRoS' own Weyrth and uploaded it here. I guess you might find it very useful:


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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 6:12 am 
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Grettir wrote:
Apart from the repeated cautioning - stressed by himself, too - that most of the excellent information provided by Ian (apart from the more broader applicable details about 'living nobly' and being a nobleman) applies only to one specific place at one specific time, I haven't much to add. I knew that Ian would be your man for late medieval society. :)


Many thanks Michael, I appreciate the support. Without a doubt as we did our research on the city of Lyon we soon discovered that each place is a tangled web of uniqueness.

KazianG wrote:
How many people would a "small" village be.. a large one.. a town.. a city.. and so forth.


Pre-1348 Lyon had a population of roughly 20k. Post-1348 it had a population of around 16k -- losing around 7k to the plague but gaining around 4k from surrounding towns and villages.

By comparison Paris had a population around 250k and Constantinople had a population of over 2 million (IIRC).

Regardless, that put Lyon into the top 10 population centers in France. Over the next hundred years it became the second largest population center in France. The circumstances that created that situation also provided the circumstances through which so many records from the time were archived and preserved.

Working downwards from the largest population center in the Rhone valley, the nearby town of Anse had a population of 2k. Hardly surprising that they fell to the routiers when you consider that the routiers attacked with over 2,000 seasoned warriors. Anse was walled by the way, and so constituted a town.

Beneath town we have village but it is more practical to talk about parish than village. The church is the heart of the village and the parish. The parish is much larger than the village of course. The village of Longessaigne held a a dozen or so homes but the church was built to serve many dozens of families -- from the nearby maison-forte (still exists today though now has windows on the ground floor) through to outlying farms.

KazianG wrote:
I'm also curious as to how large a military force would be.. but I'm not even sure how you'd categorize it - perhaps some form of population-to-army size ratio or something? As well as a nobles/knights/whatever to foot-soldiers.


The answer to this is entirely dependent on whether the countryside is at peace, preparing for war, or at war.

Lyon is a peaceful place. There hasn't been a war there in a hundred years. Hence the shock of the arrival of the routiers and the capture of Anse in the 1350s. Standing armed forces are small.

Just as an example of how peaceful this place is -- the whole city has sixteen sergeants who are at the command of the prevot. The prevot is responsible for maintaining civil order in the whole city. They are the police force, if you like. Now individual feudal entities hold their own jurisdictions and police them with their own men. The Abbey of Saint Pierre for example had four or six men who, when needed, were expected to maintain the peace on the abbeys docks and in its grounds. Even so, we have a city that is at the crossroads of east/west trade and north/south trade with a significant itinerant population and a large urban population and it is policed by a few dozen men.

The Guet, or watch, are responsible for manning the walls and gates of the city. They are military in terms of their command structure but the foot soldiers are all drawn from the Guilds. In other words they have real jobs as well as a rotation through the guard duty.

'The Organization of War Under Edward III' by Hewitt might be a better source for how things were structured in times of war.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 10:43 am 
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An excellent thread!

I've always thought that the lower the title, the more the title holders. However, this breaks my understanding up a bit if "Crown – duke – count – baron – knight" chain doesn't hold true. So, I'm just wondering, in a country such as France, how many dukes, counts, barons and "general nobles" are there?

Also, I've always had the impression that "noble" means "a family member of a title holder" but Ian's definition is shatters that assumption completely. However, since the only possible way of creating a revenue without manual labour or commerce is holding a title, it sort of becomes true backwards, doesn't it? And if a baron builds ships and starts a commercial enterprise of trading, does this mean he ceases being a "noble" while retaining their "title"?

Furthermore, if most of counts and barons are busy enforcing tolls and taxes on their lands, does that mean that they generally don't have residences in the capital? If not, who are these (titled and important) people who do? In short, where do most nobles live and spend their time? Sure, being in your fortress is probably very safe, but isn't being away from the capital a sure way of taking yourself out of influencing processes and intrigue?

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 11:50 am 
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In 1350s Lyon, France:

higgins wrote:
I've always thought that the lower the title, the more the title holders. However, this breaks my understanding up a bit if "Crown – duke – count – baron – knight" chain doesn't hold true. So, I'm just wondering, in a country such as France, how many dukes, counts, barons and "general nobles" are there?


I have a map of France for 1350 that shows every domain within the country, including the disputed lands in English hands. That's duchies, counties, vis-counties, and baronies. In the scheme of things there aren't that many. By comparison, there are thousands of noblemen with a country manorial domain.

higgins wrote:
Also, I've always had the impression that "noble" means "a family member of a title holder" but Ian's definition is shatters that assumption completely. However, since the only possible way of creating a revenue without manual labour or commerce is holding a title, it sort of becomes true backwards, doesn't it?


I don't follow this -- what do you mean by "...the only possible way of creating a revenue stream without manual labour or commerce is holding a title?"

There are many revenue streams that do not involve manual labour or commerce. If, for example, you own the fishing rights to a certain part of a river the fisherman whose livelihood depends on access to the fish pay you a fee to fish in that section of the river. Likewise if you own the timber felling concession for a woodland those who need the wood to produce timber or charcoal pay you a fee in order to perform these tasks. Similarly if you own the low justice rights in a parish then those who commit crimes within the parish and are caught and prosecuted pay their fines to the court -- and you receive the income. And there are many other income streams, such as rental income, road tolls, gate tolls, dock tolls and so on. You don't need a title in order to acquire them -- you just buy them, like any other asset. The going rate for buying such concessions was five times their current annual worth.

higgins wrote:
And if a baron builds ships and starts a commercial enterprise of trading, does this mean he ceases being a "noble" while retaining their "title"?


What you need to understand is that being a 'Peer of the Realm' is like being a member of an exclusive club. The other members have to recognize you in order for you to be allowed in -- and to stay in.

A nobleman might buy boats and rent them to a captain. He might buy them and hire a captain. But if he buys a boat and starts sailing it up and down the river selling trade goods his days as a peer are over. Culturally-speaking this would be a fate worse than death.

higgins wrote:
Furthermore, if most of counts and barons are busy enforcing tolls and taxes on their lands, does that mean that they generally don't have residences in the capital?


I'm not sure where this one is headed. Keep in mind I'm talking about 1350s Lyon here. Firstly, even the lowest nobleman who holds a country domain has staff that take care of the day-to-day functioning of the domain. If the nobleman in question is wealthier, with revenue streams separate from the family estate, then it is even less likely that the nobleman has anything to do with those revenue streams personally.

Keep in mind that towns, cities, priories, abbeys, churches can all be feudal entities in themselves -- controlling land and revenue streams. In many of these instances they will simply rent out the revenue stream, and someone rents it hoping that the revenue generated will exceed what they've paid for the rent. Or someone will be hired to look after the revenue stream. So the idea that a Count or Baron -- someone far, far up the feudal food chain -- would look after these sort of things personally is very foreign.

Onto the second part: what do you mean by "the capital"? Do you mean Paris? Or do you mean Lyon?

higgins wrote:
If not, who are these (titled and important) people who do? In short, where do most nobles live and spend their time? Sure, being in your fortress is probably very safe, but isn't being away from the capital a sure way of taking yourself out of influencing processes and intrigue?


Firstly, as a percentage few noblemen have a fortress. Most have a country estate with, at most, a maison-forte or fortified house. A nobleman wasn't even permitted to put a wall around his house unless his liege lord permitted it -- and even when he did agree, the documentation the liege lord provided specified in exacting detail the perimeter distance of the wall, its height, and its depth.

Secondly, there is no court in Lyon in the sense of a royal court with courtiers. Valois influence in Lyon is minor -- Lyon is on the border of the country -- so nobody would journey to Paris unless required to attend parliament.

Keep in mind that the nobility of Lyon are antagonistic towards Paris. The commoners love the king because he has supported them in certain areas over the interests of the local nobility.

In Lyon, anyone who is anyone is a member of the church. The 32 Barons of the Lyonnais are all high-ranking members of the church. All of the lay lords in the Lyonnais owe fealty to one church entity or another or even more than one. Senior clergy all come from the patrician families, and the bulk of Archbishops of Lyon are local even when Paris controls the curia through the Pope and French cardinals.

So in Lyon the bulk of politics and intrigue is within the church because that is also where the bulk of secular power lies. Many important families have property within the city and hold positions within the church that entitle them to lodgings within the Cathedral district. Lay lords, though, are the minor nobility in Lyon.

Good questions there, keep them coming...

Regards,

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