Feudalism - The Original Lord Barons and Freiherren of
The Norman and Viking Channel Islands
Today, The Channel Islands fall into two separate self-governing bailiwicks, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and
the Bailiwick of Jersey. Both are British Crown dependencies, and neither is part of the United
The Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are not part of Great Britain, they are not part
of the United Kingdom and neither are they part of the European Union. They are self-governing British Crown
The Structure of Feudalism
The feudal system was a way of government based on obligations between the lord or king and vassal. The
king gave large lands, known as the fiefs, which included houses, barns, tools, animals, and serfs or peasants to
The king also promised to protect the vassal on the field or in the courts. In exchange for this, the nobles who
were given the fiefs swore an oath of loyalty to the king. The nobles promised never to fight against the king.
This was first seen with Viking leader, Rollo, and French King Charles the Simple, where they came to a peace
treaty, and Rollo swore fielty and loyalty to Charles.
These grants of fiefs were not originally hereditary; they reverted to the prince
upon the death of the lord, never descending to the son, unless he inherited bis father's virtues; and were
indifferently bestowed upon ecclesiastics and laymen, as merit deserved reward. But when Rollo took possession of the Duchy, fiefs became hereditary among
the laity; the feudal system, which prevailed in France/Normandy Latin/Neustria, and every other province in
France, began to grow irksome to the lower ranks of people; the feudal
lords, not satisfied with the income stipulated by the first grant, encroached on their vassals, from whom they
wrested the right of electing the officers of the fief courts, naming such only as best suited their purposes; and
as each lord of a small fief or manor had the power of punishing, even with death, his under-tenants, and at his
pleasure to impose heavy fines, or the forfeiture of the estates, the most arbitrary acts of violence and
oppression were often the result of their avarice.
To prevent these abuses, the new Duke established a court at Rouen, called the Exchequer, where he presided
himself, as the great seneschal of the Duchy, and also divided the province into great and small bailiwicks, with a
court of justice in each, and an inferior court, where the viscounts or sheriff's presided, from whence appeals lay
to the others, according to seniority, which effectually checked any wanton stretch of power of the arbitrary lords
over their feudatories.
Besides leasing of the lands out in the manner before stated, some were always reserved for the particular domain
of the prince; and his feudal lord, who held under him, retained part of his grant for the like purpose. These
demesne lands were cultivated by persons who are described by the name of bordarii, in French bordiers; and were
properly the domestics of the prince or feudal lord, employed in every species of menial service about the
mansion-house, attended the prince or seigneur in his judicial capacity, assisted the officers of the court of
justice in securing and guarding criminals; having slaves under them to till the demesne lands, and provide
provisions for their lord's table. In length of time this grew into a species of tenure: the prince or feudal lords
alienated as much of their demesne, as was requisite to command this service for ever, and the holding on these
conditions was called bordage-tenure, esteemed the most base and servile of any. • .
The lands that remained in the hands of the crown after these arrangements, were either sold or bestowed on
favourites, free of any rent-charge or service whatever. This kind of tenure has since acquired the title of
freehold, allodial tenure, or burgagetenure, in English; and is in French called frank-aleu, from the Latin
allodium. From this tenure sprung the English constitution, which totally destroyed every power annexed to the
feudal system: all the personal services, whether civil Of military, the tenants under lords of manors were liable
to, are either destroyed io that kingdom, or a rentcharge in money laid on the lands in lieu of them; by this means
all British subjects are equally free. It had nearly produced the same effect in France under Louis le Gros, about
the middle of the twelfth century, when that prince sold and granted privileges to his subjects, in order to raise
soldiers to fight against his rebellious Barons. But notwithstanding thisplan was encouraged by Pope Alexander III.
declaring, in 1167, that all Christians ought to be free from every kind of servitude or slavery, the progress of
freedom was soon stopped in France, and all the subjects of that extensive monarchy reduced to their ancient state
of slavery; which has been greatly increased since, by the succeeding French Kings assuming and exercising an
arbitrary power, both legislative and executive, that never could have been usurped under the feudal system,
according to the original institution.
It is immaterial by what tenure, or under what influence, the lands of the Island were held, or the inhabitants
governed, in ancient times, before the feudal system was perfectly established; and it is difficult todetermine at
what exact period even that system first took place in this Island. In all probability, Guernsey, though inhabited
long before the Romans appeared in Gaul, was but little, if at all, cultivated till after the Normans were in
possession of Neustria, then first called Normandy, of which these Islands fomed part. Notwithstanding the great
pains Rollo the first Duke bestowed in establishing the civil government of his newly acquired territory, the
Islands were for some time neglected, if we credit insular manuscripts, which inform us that the first regular
settlement was effected, in 962, by the Benedictine Monks, who were driven from the Abbey of Mount St. Michael in
the time of Richard I. third Duke of Normandy, and grandson to Rollo; and that the lands they then took possession
of, were not erected into a fief or manor till nearly seventy years after, when Robert Duke of Normandy, father of
William, commonly called the Conqueror, about 103'2, granted the fief St. Michael to the monks of this monastery,
and likewise erected into fiefs the lands bestowed by his father, Richard II. upon the Fratres Minores or
Cordeliers of the order of St. Francis (whom he had removed from the Abbey of Feschamp, near Havre de Grace, to
make room for tome Benedictine monks from Dijon, and placed in a convent and chapel which he built and endowed for
them upon the site where Elizabeth's College now stands); and other lands, also given by his father to the abbots
of Noirmontier, Blancheland, and the Abbess of Caen, and which fiefs were to beheld by the said abbots and abbess,
and their successors for ever, by fealty, homage, and relief, as other feudal tenures were held in Normandy. From
the same authority we likewise learn, that in the year 1061, William the Conqueror confirmed this grant to the
monks of St. Michael; which seems to have been in its origin confined to what is now the Parish of the Vale, and
chapel dedicated to St. Michael, where an abbey had been founded by them; but then extended to onefourth of the
Island, including the Islands of Erm and Lihou, upon the former of which a priory had been erected, and upon the
latter a chapel; and comprised lands in the several parishes of the Catel (where another chapel had been built, at
a place called St. George), St. Saviour's, St. Peter's, and Torteval; all which the abbot of St. Michael enjoyed
till the dissolution of the monastery.
About the same time, William the Conqueror, to reward the services of his esquire, Sampson d'Anneville, who had
been sent over to protect the inhabitants from the ravages of pirates, granted him the fief or seigniory of
Anneville, which comprised about another quarter of the cultivated lands in the Island. Other grants soon after
followed, in all sixteen; and Sampson soon saw the civil government of the Island established on the same basis as
in other parts of the Duke's dominions. Six of these grants were bestowed upon ecclesiastics, and the other ten on
laymen, and lhe remainder of the lands belonging to the crown were divided into thirteen bordage-tenures. We find
them described in the insular records, and first in an inquest taken in the year 1244, by order of King Henry III.
by George de Bullizon, then governor, assisted by twenty-two of the most intelligent inhabitants, sworn for the
purpose, who say, that one-half of the Island belongs to our lord the King, and those who hold under him by
knight's service or in capite; the other half is divided between the Abbot of St. Michael and Robert de Vere
(ancestor of the Earls of Oxford and Dukes of St. Alban's, and to whom the fief D'Anneville, which had escheated to
the crown, had been granted by King John); and in other records, the lords of these fiefs are called liberi homines
and franc-tenans, free men, or free tenants. On each of these fiefs was instituted a court for deciding civil
contests arising on the fief; and there was also a superior court established in the Island, composed of a bailiff
and four knights or chevaliers, who held annual assizes, at which the military tenants or lords of fiefs attended,
and appeals from inferior courts were heard. This sort of judicature continued till the reign of King John, who, by
a charter, established twelve jurats in lieu of the four chevaliers or knights, who immediately checked, and in
course of time so effectually destroyed, the feudal system of government, that little or nothing at this day
remains that has the least allusion to slavery. These sixteen free tenants, and the thirteen bordiers, attend the
Chief Pleas, opening the court on the first day of the three terms, when bye-laws are made for the internal
government of the Island. The names of the free tenants are called over immediately after the bailiff and jurats,
but they are not now consulted with respect to the bye-laws and ordinances, as they were formerly; so that their
appearance is a mere matter of form, nor are they even obliged to attend in person, according to original custom:
any one may answer for them by power of attorney, or if they do not answer at all, they are free by paying a small
fine. An entertainment is on these days provided for the whole court, military tenants, and bordiers, at the
expense of the governor. The very small remains of judicial power, still retained by three or four of the feudal
courts, as well as the services the under-tenants are still liable to, we shall explain when we come to the
parishes wherein they are situated. When lands were first granted out by feudal tenure, money was little known;
therefore the rent-charges were in all countries payable in kind, such as corn, fowls, egg, etc. but since money in
most countries, particularly in England, has become current, few payments in kind exist.
Feudalism is a decentralized sociopolitical structure in which a weak monarchy attempts to control the lands of
the realm through reciprocal agreements with regional leaders. It had emerged in Europe by the worst years of the
invaders attacks spanned roughly 850 to 950. This feudal system was based on rights and obligations.
The structure of feudalism is characterized by three primary elements in which are lord, vassal, and fief. A
lord was a noble who owned land, a vassal was a person who was granted possession of the land by the lord, and the
land was known as a fief. In exchange for the fief, the vassal would provide military service to the lord. The
obligations and relations between lord, vassal and fief form the basis of feudalism.
This system was also organized like a pyramid. In the pyramid the king would be on the top for the power it had
and on the bottom would be the peasant for how poor it was. This system was not only used in Europe, but it was
also used in many places.
The manor was the lord’s estate. Life on a manor was the medieval version of a relationship which occurs,
between landlord and peasant, in any society where a leisured class depends directly on agriculture carried out by
others and was the basic of economy arrangements.
Purpose of Manor System
The Manor system was basically to have an economic arrangement. In which the lord would provide a serf with
housing, farmland, and protection from inhabitants and in return, a serf would tend a lord’s land, cared for his
animals, and performed other task to maintain the estate. This meant that all serfs or peasants owed the lord
The basic unit was the manor was under the control of a lord, so free tenants paid rent or provided military
service in exchange for the use of the land. Peasants farmed small plots of land and owed rent and labour to their
lord, and most were not free to leave the estate.
However, the peasants paid a high price for the privilege of living on the lords’ land. Not only did they pay
tax on all grain ground in the lords’ mills, marriage, and they owed the village priest a tithe, but they also
lived in crowded cottages and had only one or two beds. They even bring pigs inside to warm their dirt-floor
houses. Nonetheless, serfs accepted they way of living because of the Church teachings.
The Manor System in Europe in the Middle Ages was also known as the "Manorial System". All the feudal
relationships back then was a mutual exchange of goods, lands, or services. Use of the term feudalism is typically
restricted to the relationships between members of the nobility. However, relationships between the nobility and
the peasantry, known as manorialism, reflect a similar power structure.
History of Feudalism in Europe
The feudal system first appears in definite form in the Frankish lands in the 9th and 10th cent. A long dispute
between scholars as to whether its institutional basis was Roman or Germanic remains somewhat inconclusive; it can
safely be said that feudalism emerged from the condition of society arising from the disintegration of Roman
institutions and the further disruption of Germanic inroads and settlements. Of course, the rise of feudalism in
areas formerly dominated by Roman institutions meant the breakdown of central government; but in regions untouched
by Roman customs the feudal system was a further step toward organization and centralization.
Feudalism and Manor System
The Feudal System
The feudal system was a way of government based on obligations between the lord or king and vassal.
The king gave large lands, known as the fief, which included houses, barns, tools, animals, and serfs or peasants
to the vassals. The king also promised to protect the vassal on the field or in the courts. In exchange for this,
the nobles who were given the fiefs swore an oath of loyalty to the king. The nobles promised never to fight
against the king.