fiefdomfeeseigneuriefiefsseigneurfiefdomsenfeoffedin feehonoresfees
A fief (feudum) was the central element of feudalism.wikipedia
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feudalfeudal systemfeudal lord
A fief (feudum) was the central element of feudalism.
The classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.


It consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty (or "in fee") in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty.
The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief.


livingbeneficesChurch of England benefice
In ancient Rome a "benefice" (from the Latin noun beneficium, meaning "benefit") was a gift of land (precaria) for life as a reward for services rendered, originally, to the state.
precariae) such as a stipend and one from a monarch or nobleman is usually called a fief.

Farm (revenue leasing)

tax farmingtax farmerfarm
However, not only land but anything of value could be held in fee, including governmental office, rights of exploitation such as hunting or fishing, monopolies in trade, and tax farms.
The modern agricultural sense of the word stems from the same origin, in that a medieval land-"holder" (none "owned" land but the king himself under his allodial title) under feudal land tenure might let it (i.e. lease it out) under a contract as a going concern (not as a sub-infeudated fee), that is to say as a unit producing a revenue stream, together with its workers, livestock and deadstock (i.e. implements), for exploitation by a tenant who was licensed by the contract, or firma, to keep all the revenue he could extract from the holding in exchange for fixed rents.

Land tenure

landownerlandownersland ownership
The fees were often lands or revenue-producing real property held in feudal land tenure: these are typically known as fiefs or fiefdoms.
Feudal land tenure is a system of mutual obligations under which a royal or noble personage granted a fiefdom — some degree of interest in the use or revenues of a given parcel of land — in exchange for a claim on services such as military service or simply maintenance of the land in which the lord continued to have an interest.


precariaprecariousin precaria
In ancient Rome a "benefice" (from the Latin noun beneficium, meaning "benefit") was a gift of land (precaria) for life as a reward for services rendered, originally, to the state.
Some precaria eventually became hereditary fiefs.


oath of fealtyin feeoaths of fealty
It consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty (or "in fee") in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty.
Usually, the lord also promised to provide for the vassal in some form, either through the granting of a fief or by some other manner of support.


In the 10th and 11th centuries the Latin terms for fee could be used either to describe dependent tenure held by a man from his lord, as the term is used now by historians, or it could mean simply "property" (the manor was, in effect, a small fief).
The proper unit of tenure under the feudal system is the fee (or fief), on which the manor became established through the process of time, akin to the modern establishment of a "business" upon a freehold site.


ProvençalProvence, FranceHaute-Provence
First use of these terms was in Languedoc, one of the least-Germanized areas of Europe, and bordering Muslim Spain, where the earliest use of feuum as a replacement for beneficium can be dated to 899, the same year a Muslim base at Fraxinetum (La Garde-Freinet) in Provence was established.
Hugh moved the capital of Provence from Vienne to Arles and made Provence a fief of Rudolph II of Burgundy.

Feudal relief

reliefadhoamentumBaronial relief
The eldest son of a deceased vassal would inherit, but first he had to do homage and fealty to the lord and pay a "relief" for the land (a monetary recognition of the lord's continuing proprietary rights over the property).
Feudal relief was a one-off "fine" or form of taxation payable to an overlord by the heir of a feudal tenant to license him to take possession of his fief, i.e. an estate-in-land, by inheritance.


allodiumallodialallodial land
The second source was allodial land transformed into dependent tenures.
In all of these ways, the allod differed from fiefs, which were mere tenures held by feudatories (Lehnsmänner) or their vassals (Vasallen).


The discontent of barons with royal claims to arbitrarily assessed "reliefs" and other feudal payments under Henry's son King John resulted in Magna Carta of 1215.
In the medieval era, some allodial and enfeoffed lands held by nobles were created or recognized as baronies by the Holy Roman Emperors, within whose realm most of the Low Countries lay.


In 13th-century Germany, Italy, England, France, and Spain the term "feodum" was used to describe a dependent tenure held from a lord by a vassal in return for a specified amount of knight service and occasional financial payments (feudal incidents).
The higher nobles grant the vassals their portions of land (fiefs) in return for their loyalty, protection, and service.


In feudal England, escheat referred to the situation where the tenant of a fee (or "fief") died without an heir or committed a felony.

Book of Fees

Testa de NevillLiber FeodorumTesta de Nevil
A list of several hundred such fees held in chief between 1198 and 1292, along with their holders' names and form of tenure, was published in three volumes between 1920 and 1931 and is known as The Book of Fees; it was developed from the 1302 Testa de Nevill.
The Book of Fees is the colloquial title of a modern edition, transcript, rearrangement and enhancement of the mediaeval Liber Feodorum (Latin: "Book of Fees"), being a listing of feudal landholdings or "fees/fiefs", compiled in about 1302, but from earlier records, for the use of the English Exchequer.

Fee tail

The term fee tail is from Medieval Latin feodum talliatum, which means "cut(-short) fee" and is in contrast to "fee simple" where no such restriction exists and where the possessor has an absolute title (although subject to the allodial title of the monarch) in the property which he can bequeath or otherwise dispose of as he wishes.


feoffeesenfeofffeoffee to uses
Under the feudal system in England, a feoffee was a trustee who holds a fief (or "fee"), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner.


knight serviceknight's servicecommon knights
Knight-service was a form of feudal land tenure under which a knight held a fief or estate of land termed a knight's fee (fee being synonymous with fief) from an overlord conditional on him as tenant performing military service for his overlord.


In feudal England a feoffment could only be made of a fee (or "fief"), which is an estate in land, that is to say an ownership of rights over land, rather than ownership of the land itself, the only true owner of which was the monarch under his allodial title.

Fee simple

freeholdfreeholdersfreehold title
The word "fee" is derived from fief, meaning a feudal landholding.


property bookReichsurbarrent-roll
An urbarium (Urbar, English: urbarium, also rental or rent-roll, urbár, urbárium), is a register of fief ownership and includes the rights and benefits that the fief holder has over his serfs and peasants.


In the German feudal system, a Herrschaft was the fiefdom of a lord, who in this area exercised full feudal rights.

Knight's fee

knight's feesknights' feesFee
It was effectively the size of a fee (or "fief" which is synonymous with "fee") sufficient to support one knight in the ongoing performance of his feudal duties (knight-service).

Lord of the manor

lords of the manorlordlordship of the manor