Feudalism - The Lord Barons of Meath
- Norman Feudalism
Lordship of Meath
was an extensive seigniorial liberty
in medieval Ireland
that was awarded to Hugh de Lacy
by King Henry II of England
by the service of fifty knights and with almost royal authority. The Lordship was
roughly co-extensive with the medieval kingdom
. At its greatest extent, it included all of the modern counties
(which takes its name from the kingdom), Westmeath
as well as parts of counties Cavan
. The Lordship or fiefdom
was imbued with privileges enjoyed in no other Irish liberty, including the four
royal pleas of arson, forestalling, rape, and treasure trove.
According to The Song of Dermot and the Earl (a
12th-century Norman French poem), the land of Meath may have been divided the land among the following
- Gilbert de Angulo (or Gilbert de Nangle),
who became Baron of Navan and obtained the barony of
Morgallion. His son Jocelin also obtained Navan.
Their stronghold was the castle of Nobber.
- Adam de Feypo (or Adam de Phepoe), who
obtained Skreen by charter.
- Hugh de
Hose (or Sir Hugh Hussey Kt.), who became Baron of Galtrim with castles at Galtrim and
Derrypatrick (which lie between Trim and Dunshaughlin).
- Adam Dullard (or Adam Dollard) whose stronghold was at Dollardstown
(which lies between Slane and Navan).
- Gilbert de Nugent, Baron of Delvin and later Earl of Westmeath whose stronghold was at
south of Kells.
- William le Petit; who obtained Castlebrack, Magherdernon and
- Other castles are located at Kells, Slane, Duleek, Athboy and Clonard.
- The county also contained boroughs at Kells, Skreen, Trim, Ratoath and Greenogue (on the Broadmeadow water).
- In County Offaly: the castle at Durrow
- In County Longford: Risteárd de Tiúit also built
Granard Motte. It was one of the largest Motte-and-bailey castles in Ireland.
- Other barons mentioned in "The Song of Dermot and the Earl", without naming
their strongholds are William de Misset, Gilbert FitzThomas, Hussey, Thomas Fleming and Richard de
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 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. 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
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
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 certain duties.
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
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
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.