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Starting from the top of society’s pyramid, the monarch – a good example is William the Conqueror (r.
Such payment came in the form of feudal service which could mean military service or the regular payment of produce or money.
Both lord and vassal were freemen and the term feudalism is not generally applied to the relationship between the unfree peasantry (serfs or villeins) and the person of higher social rank on whose land they laboured.
The vassal received any income from the land, had authority over its inhabitants and could pass the same rights on to his heirs.
The nobles who had received land, often called suzerain vassals, could have much more than they either needed or could manage themselves and so they often sub-let parts of it to tenant vassals.
A tenant usually handed down their tenancy to their heir although it was sometimes possible to sell the right of tenancy to a third party, provided the lord who owned the land agreed.
Another type of relationship in feudal societies, especially in medieval Germany and France, involved the The feudal system perpetuated itself as a status quo because the control of land required the ability to perform military service and, because of the costs involved (of weapons, armour and horses), land was required to fund military service.Although the term ‘feudalism’ and ‘feudal society’ are commonly used in history texts, scholars have never agreed on precisely what those terms mean.The terms were applied to European medieval society from the 16th century CE onwards and subsequently to societies elsewhere, notably in the Zhou period of China (1046-256 BCE) and Edo period of Japan (1603-1868 CE).As a consequence, many historians beleive that the term feudalism is only of limited use in understanding medieval societies.The dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labour, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection. The fee signified the land given (the fief) as a payment for regular military service.Once again, the person was given the right to use and profit from this land and in return, in one form or another, then owed a service to the landowner.This service could again take the form of military service (typical in the case of a knight) or, as tenants might be of a lower social class (but still be freemen) and they might not have had the necessary military skills or equipment, more usually they offered a percentage of their revenue from the land they rented (either in money or produce) or, later in the Middle Ages, made a fixed payment of rent.The system was often weighted in favour of the sovereign as when a noble died without an heir, his estate went back to the monarch to either keep for themselves or to redistribute to another noble.Monarchs could distribute land for political purposes, fragmenting a noble’s holdings or distancing him from the court.It also became difficult to keep track of who owned what which led to such controls as Domesday Book of 1087 CE.Additional effects were the presence of vassals in the local courts which deliberated on cases involving the estates of their lords.