Feudalism and Knights Background



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Feudalism and Knights - Background
At the beginning of theMiddle Ages a knight was originally a person of noble birth who was trained in a range of weapons, horsemanship and chivalry. A Knights Armor in the Middle Ages was extremely expensive to produce. It had to be tailor-made to fit the Knight exactly or the Knight ran the risk of an ill-fitting suit of armor hampering him in battle. In the early Middle Ages a horse played an extremely important part in the life of a knight. A knight would own several horses which were built for different duties. The wealthy noblemen who became mounted knights were worth the equivalent of ten foot soldiers. This changed with the emergence of feudalism. A successful soldier could become wealthy and knighthood given regardless of his background.

Feudalism and Knights - Grants of Land
Feudalism was based on the exchange of land for military service. A portion of land (called a fief) would be granted by the King to a successful soldier or knight who had performed well during battle. This reward would be granted in exchange for his services. The fief, or land, was granted to a soldier or knight following a Commendation Ceremony which was designed to create a lasting bond between a vassal and his lord. The knight would swear allegiance to his lord - the Oath of Fealty. Fealty and homage were key elements of feudalism.

Feudalism and Knights - The Feudalism Pyramid
Feudalism therefore allowed men to become knights and climb the Feudalism pyramid of power.

  • The King owned all of the land

  • The King granted land to important barons - these barons then pledged their loyalty by swearing to serve and protect the king

  • The king also granted land to the less powerful military men (the knights) who were called vassals

  • The knights (or vassals) also agreed to fight for the king in exchange for their land

  • The land was worked by the peasants or serfs who were bound to the land

Feudalism and Knights - Climbing the Feudalism Pyramid
The Feudalism Pyramid of Power made it possible for everyone to move higher up the ranks and this is what everyone aspired to do. Medieval Squires and Pages of the Middle Ages wanted to become knights. A Knight who proved valiant in battle could become wealthy. The most wealthy and powerful knights then joined the nobility. Powerful barons aspired to be King - and the Medieval history of the Middle Ages under the feudalism pyramid describes such coups.

Medieval Serfs and Peasants
A medieval village or manor usually contained several classes of laborers, consisting of serfs and peasants. There might be a number of freemen, who paid a fixed rent, either in money or produce, for the use of their land. Then there were serfs who labored in the lord's household or at work on his domain. The other laborers were called Cottagers or small holders. Under feudalism the lords and nobles of the land had certain rights over Medieval Serfs and Peasants which included the right of jurisdiction, which gave judicial power to the nobles and lords and the right of hunting.

Definition of Serfs
Medieval Serfs were peasants who worked his lord's land and paid him certain dues in return for the use of land, the possession (not the ownership) of which was heritable. The dues were usually in the form of labor on the lord's land. Medieval Serfs were expected to work for approximately 3 days each week on the lord's land. Medieval Serfs were fixed to the soil. Serfs ranked lower than a freeman, because he could not change his status, nor marry outside the manor without the permission of his lord.

Daily Life of a Serf
The daily life of a serf was hard. The Medieval serfs did not receive their land as a free gift; for the use of it they owed certain duties to their master. These took chiefly the form of personal services. Medieval Serfs had to labor on the lord's domain for two or three days each week, and at specially busy seasons, such as plowing and harvesting, Serfs had to do extra work. The daily life of a serf was dictated by the requirements of the lord of the manor. At least half his time was usually demanded by the lord. Serfs also had to make certain payments, either in money or more often in grain, honey, eggs, or other produce. When Serfs ground the wheat he was obliged to use the lord's mill, and pay the customary charge. In theory the lord could tax his serfs as heavily and make them work as hard as he pleased, but the fear of losing his tenants doubtless in most cases prevented him from imposing too great burdens on the daily life of the serf.
Medieval Serfs Clothing-- The Medieval serfs clothing was basic and practical. A Medieval Serfs clothing or dress consisted of:

  • A blouse of cloth or skin fastened by a leather belt round the waist

  • An overcoat or mantle of thick woollen material, which fell from his shoulders to half-way down his legs

  • Shoes or large boots

  • Short wool trousers,

  • From his belt there hung a sheath for his knife

  • Medieval serfs generally went bareheaded, but in cold weather or in rain he wore a wool hat. Gloves were worn only if needed for work

Directions: Answer the following questions for both the Knight and the Serf. If the answer is not explicitly given in the text, then use your skills of inference and reason to answer the question to the best of your ability.

Questions:



  1. What does your home look like?  (how big is it, what does it look like on the inside / outside etc.)




  1. Do you own your home?




  1. What do your clothes look like?  Are they comfortable?




  1. Do you have power over anyone else?  If so, who?




  1. Does anyone have power over you?  If so, who?




  1. What is your most prized possession?




  1. If you have children, what do you expect them to do every day?




  1. What tools or implements do you use every day, if any?




  1. What is worst thing about your life?




  1. What is the best thing about your life?




  1. What are your hopes for the future?




  1. What do you fear most?




  1. How do you and your family stay warm in winter?




  1. If your area is invaded by a stronger force that can overtake the current monarchy (king), will your life change?  If so, how?




  1. How far have you traveled in your life?  If you did travel, why did you do so?


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