Appendix 1 - Glossary of Feudal Terms

Aid Auxilium A gift or levy paid by a tenant to his overlord on certain occasions, such as the knighting of the overlord's eldest son, or the marriage of his eldest daughter.
Charter or Carta A written grant, concession or deed. Also, a written return.
Disseisin Taken unlawfully or without a judgement.
Enfeoff To give someone land in exchange for their pledged service.
Fine A "Final Concord" or Agreement concerning the tenure of land ratified and issued by the King's Justices as a final judgement.
Fines, Feet of The Exchequer copies of fines; so called because three copies of a fine were made by the Court, one for each party to the fine and the third copy for the Exchequer, and the Exchequer copy was fastened to the foot of one of the other copies.
Hide An Old English expression of area, one hide being the amount of land needed to support one family (nominally 120 acres). Hideage assessments were recorded in the Domesday Book, and Culbone had been assessed in the time of King Edward [the Confessor] as paying tax for 1 hide and 1 virgate (a quarter of a hide). Cf. virgate below
Honour A group of manors held by a tenant-in-chief or, rarely, by a mesne tenant, e.g., the Honour of Dundon held by de Beauchamp of the Abbot of Glastonbury. A Barony was much the same as an Honour.
Inquisition A legal enquiry under competent authority by a jury. The jury had either to know or to find out the facts of the case themselves and to give their finding.
Inquisition post mortem An inquisition to determine the legally correct and fair distribution of the deceased's estates.
Knight's fee A fee in land with which a knight was enfeoffed on condition of homage, fealty and 40 days' military service a year. A fee varied from 1 hide to 5 hides or more.
Mesne tenant An intermediate tenant between the lord of the manor and the tenant-in-chief. Sometimes there was a hierarchy of mesne tenants.
Mort ancestor The assize of mort ancestor was the rule prescribed by law that the claimant was entitled to seisin of a property if, within the legal time limit, his father, mother, uncle, aunt, brother or sister had died in seisin of the property and he was the next heir.
Pleas (Placita) Proceedings of a Judicial Court.
Relief A tribute paid by an heir to his feudal overlord on succeeding to his inheritance, or by a widow on succeeding to her husband's estates, if she had not been jointly seized with him. A relief was not, however leviable after a wardship.
Scutage A money payment in lieu of military service. Usually it was 20 shillings, sometimes 2 marks, a fee per year. (1 mark = 13s 4d. 3 marks = £2)
Seisin In lawful possession of land or house. The significant part of the ceremony of "seisin" was the handing by the feoffor to the feoffee of an emblem of the property such as a piece of turf or a clod of earth.
Socage Tenure in socage was tenure by payment of a fixed money rent
Tenant-in-chief A tenant who held land of the King.
Virgate The amount of land that could be ploughed by a team of two oxen in an annual season; nominally 30 acres. An acre was the amount of land that could be ploughed in one day by one man behind one ox.

From Puck of Pook' s Hill by Rudyard Kipling

Sir Richard is telling Una and Dan the story of his enfoeffment by de Aquila; Puck is looking on. De Aquila speaks:

"What did I tell thee when I rode away, boy?"

"Hold the Manor or hang," said I. I had never forgotten it.

"True. And thou hast held." He clambered from his saddle and with his sword's point cut out a turf from the bank and gave it me where I kneeled.

Dan looked at Una, and Una looked at Dan.

"That's seizin", said Puck, in a whisper.

"Now thou art lawfully seized of the Manor, Sir Richard," said he - 'twas the first time he ever called me that - "thou and thy heirs for ever. This must serve till the King's clerks write out thy title on a parchment. England is all ours - if only we can hold it."

"What service shall I pay?" I asked, and I remember I was proud beyond words.

"Knight's fee, boy, knight's fee!" said he....

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Last updated on 14th January 2014