Under the classic feudal system, absolute, unfettered ownership of land resided solely with the monarch. Directly beneath came tenants-in-chief, the feudal barons granted lands in return for military service and taxation. The main manor or castle of a barony was termed the caput; the barons in turn had the right to ‘enfief‘ (bestow land upon) knights within their tenancy, who likewise rendered military service for the privilege. Villeins or serfs manned the base of the feudal pyramid, working the land, and providing military service when required in return for retaining a share of the produce. Villeins were technically free, but tied to the land they were allotted; however, the feudal system afforded them a degree of military and judicial security. Variations on the standard model obtained. Non-military service occurred, notably ‘frankalmoinage’, which applied to ecclesiastical institutions. Administrative services (sergeanty) or monetary payments (scutage) could also be substituted for military service.
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