Feuddalism - 3 estates

1. Each table member selects one of the estates:
Monarchs, Nobility, Peasants/Merchants,
2. Regroup with other class members who are
completing the same article
3. Using the article, created a bulleted list that describes
the roles and responsibilities of each group.
4. Using the information for each group, create a list for
the entire class
5. Return to table groups
6. Cut out all the pieces and create a chart that
accurately represented the feudal pyramid system.
Medieval monarchs filled out the role at the top of the feudal system. The king/queen had
total power over all the assets and determined how much land he would provide his lords
and vassals. The monarchs were expected to help support the vassals below and provide
protection/order for them. To fulfill this expectation, monarchs provided money to his lords in
exchange for loyalty and service. However, in some places during the Early Middle Ages,
great lords grew very powerful and ruled their fiefs as independent states. In these cases, the
monarch did not have much power over those "states" and only had the role of a symbolic
ruler with less power than the lords.
At the very top of feudal society were the monarchs, or kings and queens. As you have
learned, medieval monarchs were also feudal lords. They were expected to keep order and
to provide protection for their vassals. Most medieval monarchs believed in the divine right of
kings, the idea that God had given them the right to rule. In reality, the power of monarchs
varied greatly. Some had to work hard to maintain control of their kingdoms. Few had enough
wealth to keep their own armies. They had to rely on their vassals, especially nobles, to
provide enough knights and soldiers. In some places, especially during the Early Middle
Ages, great lords grew very powerful and governed their fiefs as independent states. In these
cases, the monarch was little more than a figurehead, a symbolic ruler who had little real
power. In England, monarchs became quite strong during the Middle Ages. Since the Roman
period, a number of groups from the continent, including Vikings, had invaded and settled
England. By the mid11th century, it was ruled by a Germanic tribe called the Saxons. The
king at that time was descended from both Saxon and Norman (French) families. When he
died without an adult heir, there was confusion over who should become king.
The King was the highest authority in the land. The King had to make laws, attempt to
remove poverty from the Kingdom and take care of the citizens in his kingdom. The King
was in complete control under the feudal system (at least nominally). He owned all the
land in the country and decided to whom he would lease land. He therefore 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, they were wealthy, powerful, and had complete
control of the land they leased from the King
Queens in the Middle Ages had a very specific role in the monarchy as well as in society in
general. They were sometimes rulers in their own right, but often one of their most
important duties was to act as a regent when their king was unable to rule, whether the king
was sick or too young to make intelligent decisions.
Medieval Times were overshadowed by deceit and secrecy, and , as such, one of the main
duties of a Queen in the Middle Ages was to help the King and other nobility find ways to
spy on rivals, ignite conflicts or wars or simply spread important gossip throughout the land.
Queens often helped the King strategize or analyzed the meaning behind others’ words and
actions.Queens were among the King’s most trusted allies and confidants. This was
because Queens were usually one of the only people, if not the sole person, that Kings
spent time alone with. Queens in the Middle Ages were also in Kings’ inner circles of trusted
fellows and advisers that served as a part of their entourage and accompanied them most
Another important duty of Queens in the Middle ages was to produce a male heir. The
purpose of this was to secure her husband’s hold (as well as hers to an extent) on the
throne and the empire. Queens were greatly pressured to produce a healthy male baby,
especially if they were pregnant for the first time. Infertile Queens in the Middle Ages were
shunned, divorced, or sometimes killed. ometimes Queens in the Middle Ages served as
regents if their king was absent or ill
Depending on their birth order, a prince may have been next in line for the throne when his
father died. Princes most likely sat in on courtly meetings. The duties and responsibilities
of a medieval prince varied depending on the usage of the title. If the title signified the ruler
of a state, his foremost responsibility was to ensure the sovereignty of his state and the
welfare of his people. When, on the other hand, the title of a medieval prince was used for
the son of the king, his responsibilities were much less. Usually he could be given the
charge of a certain area for which he would be responsible to the king. He could also be
given an important post in the military.
Princesses were not usually next in line for the throne unless there was no male heir who
could take the place on the throne that was being left. Princesses, or daughters of other
suitably high-ranking nobles, were used as political pawns to gain power and forge alliances.
From childhood many girls were promised to kings, and many marriages occurred before the
princess reached her teenage years. The young women were uprooted from their home and
sent throughout Europe to be married, often never to see their home kingdom again.
As the second Estate, the medieval nobility had special legal status. A man who was a
member of the nobility was free in his person and in his possessions. His only limitation
concerned his military obligation to his lord. As a member of the nobility, he had certain rights
and responsibilities: he could raise troops and command them in the field, he held his own
courts of justice, he could coined his own money. He was the lord of all those people who
settled on his land.
The medieval nobility was, of course, was an Estate of warriors -- those who fight. His social
function was to protect the weak and the poor. And this was to be accomplished with a horse
and a sword, the two visible signs of his nobility. He was also encouraged to display the
virtues of chivalry, a code of conduct created by the clergy to curb the brutality of this order of
When a young member of the nobility finally came into possession of his property, he
acquired authority over land and people. The nobility rarely lived up to this standard. The
reasons for this may be that the nobility wanted immediate gratification. The problem was,
there were many times when the nobility were not involved in warfare either with foreign
enemies or rival lords. In other words. in times of peace the nobility needed an outlet for their
warlike aggression. This came with their participation in the medieval tournament.
The medieval nobility lived without working. Instead, one's identification with the nobility
came from their ability as a warrior and also with their complete jurisdiction over their
property. Such jurisdiction allowed them to gratify their desires for lavish living. Since the
status of the medieval noble depended on his household, it seems obvious that he would
make every attempt to increase the number of retainers, or vassals, he could maintain. His
clothes grew more elegant, his castle larger, his food and table more ornate.
The noble also had to look after his own land. He had to appoint wise stewards who would
watch his estate, collect direct and indirect taxes as well as rents, while he made every effort
to obtain more status by fighting were serving the court of his lord. And since a great lord's
estates were usually scattered over wide area, he was constantly on the move. Although the
Church condemned fighting and killing, it was not able to stop the violence so characteristic of
the medieval nobility. As a result the nobility of Europe became a constant thorn in the side for
nearly all European monarchs. From the 13th century on, the medieval kings began to draw
upon the middle classes in order to create a bureaucracy that would eventually lay the
foundation for royal absolutism of the 16th and 17th centuries. Lastly, it was the Holy
Crusades that managed to give the European nobility a chance to dedicate themselves to
their Christian lords by conducting missions to rid the Holy Lands of the infidels. European
monarchs were more than happy to see their nobility go off and fight, from the one hand, the
The title of medieval baron existed ever since the early medieval times and became more
common during the high and late medieval times. The word baron itself comes from Old
French word baron which in turn is derived from Late Latin word “baro” meaning servant,
soldier, or mercenary’. A scholar from early medieval times, Isidore of Seville, says that the
word had Greek origins. According to others, it is derived from Old English word “beorn”
which means warrior or nobleman. The culture of barons emerged from the collapse of the
central government during the early medieval times.
The early life and education of a medieval baron was typical to the nobility of medieval times.
They were educated by tutors in multiple languages in addition to literature, history, and
other disciplines. The medieval baron was also groomed in the administrative affairs of the
estate since he had to manage the land. In some cases, the education of a medieval baron
was also accompanied with outdoor tasks such as horse riding and hunting.
The title of a medieval baron was given to individuals who were at a lower level of medieval
hierarchy. Sometimes, the king required the baron to serve in the military for some time in
addition to various other activities. By fulfilling the requirements of the king, the baron could
earn a higher title as well as more land. On his manor, he enjoyed the status of authority as a
judge and could pass out sentences in various disputes. He was also responsible for the
protection of serfs on his estate.
The work and duties of a medieval baron included, first and foremost, taking care of his land
and hearing reports about estate crops, harvests, and supplies. He was also responsible for
managing the finances of the estate which included taxes, rents, and dues. In case of
disputes, his duty was to act as a judge and an arbiter. Other than these duties, it was also
the duty of a medieval baron to fulfill the demand of the king in terms of supply of men and
arms in times of war.
A medieval baron, just like other members of the medieval nobility, served the king and was
responsible to the king alone. In times of war, the king might demand a certain number of
fighting men from a medieval baron and he might also have to serve in the military. If the
medieval baron was able to provide his services satisfactorily, he was duly rewarded by
the king. In the event of failure, his land could be confiscated.
Medieval Lords swore allegiance and paid homage to the king. In recognition of their service,
they were granted lands, lived in manor houses, and looked after small villages. The villagers,
in turn, paid respect and were beholden to the Medieval lord. Their livelihoods were tied to the
manor and taxes were levied on them. While the king sat at the top of the hierarchy, Medieval
lords below him were tasked to defend the land from attackers and hostile neighbors.
The Medieval lords performed several duties on behalf of the king. In finer detail, the nobles
lived day to day performing even the most mundane tasks. Medieval lords and nobles
routinely woke up at dawn to hear mass or pray. After which, they took their breakfast.They
would then handle estate-related affairs by looking into financial (i.e. taxes, rents and other
dies), supply inventory and harvest reports. In certain cases, they performed judicial functions
over their vassals and the villagers. Aside from managing their estate and the various activities
that went on within and outside of their protectorate, the Medieval lords performed duties for the
sake of the crown. Lower Medieval lords like the knights provided protection and served as the
king’s “muscle," carrying out all kinds of military obligations.
Medieval Ladies
In normal circumstances, the lord of the manor had absolute power over the affairs of the
estate. But in his absence, the medieval lady of the manor would look after the affairs of the
estate and resolve any disputes. In ordinary circumstances, a medieval lady’s duty would be to
look after the household affairs and manage the maids.
The daily life of a medieval lady would start at dawn with the commencement of the mass
where she would be assisted by her maids. After meals she could spend time in the company
of other ladies and maids to discuss tournaments, marriages, and literature.
In the absence of her husband – the medieval lord- , her daily life would change and she
would be expected to take care of the estate. In her free time, a medieval lady could indulge in
embroidery, reading, or dancing.The status of a medieval lady was second to the lord of the
manor and thus very important in the village. She overlooked the household affairs and
managed the maids. Additionally, she also supervised the education of the upper class girls. In
the absence of the lord of the manor, the status of a medieval lady would increase as she
would be actively managing the affairs of the estate.
Knights and Vassals
Knights often served as vassals during the Middle Ages. Their primary duty as a
vassal was to aid and protect the lord in his army. They also would assist their lord in
court and watch over their lord’s manor, keeping an eye on the day-to-day activities of
the manor. Knights were usually vassals of more powerful lords.
A vassal was the second-in-command to their feudal lord. They had to live their life
following a stringent code of behavior called a chivalry. This idea of chivalry showed
what actions the knights were expected to follow, especially to the benefits of the lord.
Some of these promises included being loyal to the Church and lord, be just and right,
and to protect the helpless. Chivalry also included showing helpful and kind acts to
The relationship of lord and vassal was very important in the middle ages. As
mentioned above, vassals were granted land from their lords to look over and control.
If the vassals and knights failed to follow the duties and/or did not stick to their
chivalry, they were automatically stripped of their position and their land. Reading the
description Chaucer gave of the knight son who was a squire, was a way to notice the
knights financial status. The squire was able to ride horses really well, write words with
music, and could draw. Being able to learn and gain knowledge wasn’t cheap or
affordable for people without money.
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 wished for their own personal
use and distributed the rest to villeins (serfs). Although not as rich as the Barons,
Knights were quite wealthy.
Under the lords was the social class of the knights, or vassals. Knights were granted
this title by the monarch of the land. Knights belonged to certain lords and fought for
the lords during battles and wars. Knights wore a suit of armor made out of a pattern
called chain mail (see picture). Chain mail was a covering made out of many, small
interlinked metal chains. Knights were also known for using shields, lances, flails,
maces ,and swords in battle. Their shields were decorated to represent who the knight
was. Lances were long, strong, spear-like weapons designed for use on horseback.
The mace was a spiked metal ball that was attached to the end of a wooden stick.
Flails were like maces except the metal ball was attached to the wooden stick by a
metal chain. Knights upheld a special code of conduct called chivalry. Chivalry stated
that a true knight held these qualities: religious belief, bravery, loyalty, generosity, and
strength. To be a knight in Medieval Europe was a major honor bestowed on only the
best soldiers.
Next in the feudalism system would be certain members of the church, or “the clergy”. The clergy is mostly
made up of the church but wasn’t really considered one of the social classes of the Middle Ages seeing the
differences in positions. (Newman, 2018). The clergy has its own ranking system within. Of all the
characteristics of medieval peasant society that European historians have discussed over the last several
decades, none was perhaps more important than the Christian religion as practiced by ordinary men and
women. Unlike the practice of religion today, medieval men and women saw Christian belief and practice
permeate all aspects of everyday life. In other words, Christianity was a matrix of ideas and modes of
behavior not easy to dislodge from the mind set of medieval men and women. Religion also underpinned
royal authority by reinforcing the king’s divine right to the throne. Higher clergy, such as cardinals and
archbishops, served as political advisors to the king. The state gave the Catholic church a virtual monopoly
over religious matters; there were no other approved religions in France. The church was responsible for
social policy and welfare and also carried out some functions of the state. Its clergy conducted and registered
marriages, baptisms and funerals; they delivered education to children and distributed charity to the poor. In
rural areas, the local parish priest (or curé) was both a central figure and an influential leader in his
community. The church’s importance allowed it to accumulate vast amounts of wealth. The church owned
roughly 10 per cent of all land in France and collected revenue of around 150 million livres each year, mainly
from tenant rents and tithes (compulsory donations, in effect a ‘church tax’ that was paid by its parishioners).
During the medieval times in Europe, religion was of supreme importance and Church was the most
important institution. Due to this reason, the medieval pope enjoyed more power than even rulers. He
appointed the cardinals who were consulted by the kings about the affairs of the state. But the power of the
medieval pope underwent changes as time passed and by the end of the medieval times, it had considerably
declined. The medieval pope was considered the ultimate representative of God on earth and thus enjoyed
extensive privileges and also had certain duties. Above all, his duty was to decide the matters of spiritual
importance and the official doctrines of the Church. These explanations of religious teachings and official
policies of the Church were done by the medieval pope in the form of written letters call Papal Bulls. The
Medieval pope also decided who to punish and when if they acted against the Church and could also
excommunicate people. The status of the medieval pope was at the top of the hierarchy of the feudal
system. He appointed bishops and cardinals which in turn enjoyed the same privileges as nobles. The
medieval pope himself had a lavish lifestyle which was nothing short of the lifestyles of medieval kings. His
powers in the feudal system were also equal to those of kings and he even had power to pronounce
judgements against the kings.
Bishops were considered to be involved with the nobleman class because of their influence on the society,
bishops also were extremely wealthy due to the fact that they collected taxes. (Medieval Feudal Hierarchy,
2018). Being Priest had one job, and that job was to cater to the public spiritually.
At the top of medieval society was the first Estate, the clergy, those who pray. It
was the village priest who was to oversee the spiritual life of his flock on the
medieval manor. His duties were to administer the necessary sacraments with
regularity and consistency. He was also important to absolve men and women
of their sins for the act of confession. He was also, as we have already seen,
the usual source of secular and ecclesiastical pronouncements. His role, then,
in the medieval village was extraordinary. Of course, not all village priests were
as dedicated to the holiness of their flock as we would like to believe. However,
it was the village priest with whom medieval men and women identified the
Church, its teachings, and authority.
Monks were smart scholars who taught the children of the nobles and worked
doing manual labor such as gardening to provide for their need financially.
Although monasticism was firmly entrenched in medieval society by the time of
Charlemagne (see Lecture 19), by the 11th or 12 century, monks had become
more visible members of town and village alike. The monasteries were
dedicated to prayer and supplying the evil Europe with the ideal of a Christian
civilization. Monasteries also produced and educated elite that were utilized in
service to lords and kings. The monks also kept alive classical culture and
introduced the techniques of efficient and profitable land management.
By the 11th or 12 century, the original mission of the monastic movement had
been altered to accommodate the children of the nobility with an honorable an
aristocratic life. Such a life also held out the possibility for an ecclesiastical
career. By the 13th century the older Benedictine monasteries had to compete
with new orders such as the Dominicans and Franciscans (see Lecture 27). As
a result, more monks had to be recruited from the middle classes who inhabited
the area near an abbey.
Nuns weren’t taught the same things Monks were taught but being a Nun was a
job that many wanted their daughter to do just to have a future secured, Nuns
catered to the public similar to the priest as well. (The Middle Ages, 2008).
After the clergy system would be the tradesmen or merchants, which is
occupied by people who worked jobs with a specific skill. In this class people
made a decent living seeing that they were the only ones who can do whatever
job it was that needed to done. From being a blacksmith to being Barber, only
they can do those jobs. Often times someone’s surname would tell you what
their occupation is or what someone in their family occupation is. (The Middle
Ages, 2008). The characters that fit this description the best would be the
tradesmen. There are five members in this group each holding specific skill, one
being a weaver, a carpenter, and a carpet maker. Each member is wealthy and
attends church.
Guilds in medieval Europe could be classified into two types: craft guilds and
merchant guilds. Craft guilds were made up of craftsmen and artisans in the
same occupation, such as hatters, carpenters, bakers, blacksmiths, weavers
and masons. Many craft guilds came about because the growing population in
cities and towns led to increases in specialization and division of labor.
Guilds were organized so that workers would learn skills from others connected
with the guild. Members traditionally advanced through the stages of
apprentice, journeyman, and finally master. An apprentice was a young person,
most often male, who learned a trade by working for a guild master.
Apprenticeships often began at age 12, and commonly lasted from two to
seven years. Apprentices frequently lived at their master’s house and were
given room and board, but earned no money. After finishing an apprenticeship,
the worker could become a journeyman. Journeymen were often paid wages by
the day while working in the trade, and so are comparable to day laborers
today. A master, or master craftsman, was a full guild member who could start
his own business. To become a master, journeymen frequently had to produce
a “masterpiece” to demonstrate their skill in their trade. If the masterpiece was
accepted by guild members, they could vote to accept the journeyman as a
master. It was an honor to be a master, and some were chosen to be inspectors
or wardens to ensure that other guild members’ products were of a high
Peasants and Merchant Class
Last but not least are the peasants, had a tough life in the Middle Ages. It was it
wasn’t rare to see a peasant working as a farmer or doing hard labor work, but
it was common to see a peasant without freedom. All Peasants didn’t have
underwear, meals contained bread, porridge, vegetables, and maybe meat.
They were people who had a strong belief in religion and died from either harsh
weather conditions or starvation (The Middle Ages, 2008). There aren’t any
characters who are called peasants but fit the description very much so. The
ploman, the oxford cleric, and the parson each is very poor, tends to help other
people, and is very religious people.
The Peasant's Life
Villages consisted of from 10-60 families living in rough huts on dirt floors,
with no chimneys or windows. Often, one end of the hut was given over to
storing livestock. Furnishings were sparse; three-legged stools, a trestle table,
beds on the floor softened with straw or leaves.
The peasant diet was mainly porridge, cheese, black bread, and a few
home-grown vegetables. Peasants had a hard life, but they did not work on
Sundays or on the frequent saints' days, and they could go to nearby fairs and
markets. The lot of serfs was much harsher.
The Serf's Life
Although not technically a slave, a serf was bound to a lord for life. He could
own no property and needed the lord's permission to marry. Under no
circumstance could a serf leave the land without the lord's permission unless
he chose to run away. If he ran to a town and managed to stay there for a year
and a day, he was a free man.
However, the serf did have rights. He could not be displaced if the manor
changed hands. He could not be required to fight, and he was entitled to the
protection of the lord.