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Feudal Society

Under the feudal

system, everyone had
a well-defined place in
• Feudalism was a loosely organized system of rule in
which powerful local lords divided their landholdings
among lesser lords.

• In exchange, lesser lords, or vassals, pledged service

and loyalty to the greater lord.

• Fief-land given to the vassal.

Serfs were bound to the land. They were not slaves, yet
they were not free.

Serfs made up the majority of the population in medieval

So how do these people live?

• Most people in the middle ages lived on a manor

or a lord’s estate.

• Including: Lord and his family, his knights and

foot soldiers, and his serfs.
Middle Ages: 500-1500

• Knights
– warriors on horseback
searching for glory on
battlefield so a higher noble
would grant them a fief and
make them a vassal

– follow code of chivalry

• Code that required
knights to be brave,
loyal, and treat women
with respect
• Only applies to nobles
Middle Ages: 500-1500
• Knights
– serve God and lord
– provided protection for lords and estates
– skill with weapons

• Code of Chivalry
– brave
– loyal
– courteous
– respectful
– honorable
– truthfulness
• Page
– age 7-14
– serve women of the manor
– learn manners
– religion, reading, writing, poetry, singing, lute playing

• Squire
– age 14-21
– serve lord and knights
– maintain lord’s armor and equipment
– maintain stables and groomed horses
– learn hunting, hawking, chess

• Knight
• Sponsor
– not usually father (may be another relative)
– present knight with armaments
– squire could not become knight without sponsor
– not all squires were sponsored to become knights

• Vigil of Arms
– night before becoming knight, dedicated to prayer and fasting
– wear white and red
• white = purity
• red = willingness to shed blood for lord

• Accolade
– kneel before lord and give him sword
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500
• Tournaments
– entertainment for all
– 3 to 4 days
– various forms of
• all aspects of warfare
• knights show off fighting
– form of military training
– winners claimed horses
& armor of losers
• or demanded ransom
– celebrations of marriages
or diplomatic events
Middle Ages: 500-1500

• Serfs
– common people bound
to the land
– worked for a noble in
return for protection

– peasant of lowest class

– society based on their
labor on land
– no power
Middle Ages: 500-1500
– inferior to men
– taught to be meek and obedient to fathers and
– peasants worked in fields
– noblewomen ran estates when husbands absent

– women with land had same rights as men

– upon husband’s death, entitled to 1/3
– forfeited lands and rights to husband upon marriage

– single, hair loose

– married, cover hair (sign of modesty)
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500

• Peasant homes
– cold, damp, dark
(warmer and lighter
– rarely more than 1-2
– windows
• very small openings,
for security
• wooden shutters
– thatched roofs
– easily destroyed
– sleep with animals
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500
• Clothing
– woolen
– linen undergarments
– signs of wealth
• brighter colors
• better materials
– decorated with silver
and gold
• lined with fur
• longer jacket length
• lavish jewelry
– leather
– buttons for decoration
– clothes tied on
• Medieval hats
• Had soap
• Decline of cities led to a
decline in access to running
water and public baths
• Public baths appeared again
in the later Middle Ages
during the growth of cities.
• The wealthy could afford
bath tubs
– Some castles had bathing
rooms and a person whose job
was just to get baths ready for
the family.
• Poor could not afford bathtubs
– Had wooden barrels
– Full immersion rare
• Labor to get and heat the water
– Usually used a bucket, soap, and a cloth
– Yearly bathing is an extreme exaggeration (probably
started because the poor rarely fully immersed
themselves and because of poor bathing customs of
the Renaissance).
• Had soap but no deodorant, shampoo, or
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500
• Health
– no adequate health care system
– limited medical knowledge
– poor hygienic conditions
– almost impossible to cure diseases
– bloodletting popular cure
– early surgery done by barbers with no anesthesia
– medical treatment mainly for wealthy
– doctors mostly in cities and courts
– herbal remedies
(some earthworms, urine, animal excrement)

• Medieval medicine
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500

• Entertainment
– music critical aspect of religious and secular life
– public worship in form of drama
• stories from Bible
• costumes and musical instruments
• outside churches or in marketplaces

• Medieval music
Life in the Middle Ages: 500-1500
• Hunting
– entertainment for nobility
– important activity
Homes of the Wealthy
Medieval Castles
• First appear in
Europe in 9th Century
– introduced to England
by Normans in 11th

• Important role in
medieval warfare

• Early castles were

motte & bailey
Medieval Castles

• Nobles built castles to control and defend

their land
– Residence for the noble but also for defense
– base from which to wield power
• nobles fought for power and territory
– military architecture
– simple wooden → complex stone structures
Medieval Castles

• No standard plans – each one is unique

– similar defenses
– same named structure parts

• Improvements & reinforcements made as

methods of warfare advanced

• Warfare dominated by the siege


Monarchs, Nobles, and the Church

During feudal times, monarchs in Europe stood at the head of society
but had limited power. Nobles and the Church had as much—or more—
power than the monarchs.
Development of England
• Angles, Saxons, and Vikings settled in England
• Feudalism developed
• English rulers kept kingdom united

• 1066 King Edward the Confessor dies

– no heir
– council of nobles chose Harold
Development of England

• Duke William of Normandy

– claims throne
– raises army
– backed by pope

• Battle of Hastings in 1066

– William and knights defeat King Harold
– last invasion of England
Battle of Hastings
Development of England

• Bayeux Tapestry
– chronicles Norman conquest
– valuable piece of historical evidence
Development of England

• Henry II
– foundations of English Common Law
• legal system based on custom and
court rulings
• protects property
– early jury system

– married Eleanor of Aquitaine

• vast holdings in France
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Development of England and France
• Eleanor of Aquitaine
– first married to France’s King Louis VII
– joined Second Crusade
• wore armor and rode horse with other Crusaders
– she ended marriage to Louis VII

– married England’s King Henry II

– 8 children
• Richard (“the Lion-Hearted”)
• John
– spurred several sons to overthrow Henry II
– revolt failed
– 15 years in prison
Richard I (Lionheart) John I
Development of England

• Magna Carta - 1215

– King John is forced to sign the
Magna Carta by the nobles.
– 1st document in English history
where monarch does not have
complete or absolute power
• created limited monarchy

– ideas still influence systems of

government in many countries
around world today
Development of England

• Magna Carta - 1215

– places King of England under law
– statement of rights for noblemen
• protects privileges of lords
• recognizes legal rights of townspeople and Church
– king agrees not to raise taxes without consulting the
Great Council
– representative body of lords and clergy
– in 1200s, evolves into Parliament

Successful Monarchs in France

Monarchs in France did not rule over a unified kingdom.
However, under strong Capetian kings, such as Philip II
and Louis IX, they slowly increased royal power.
Development of France
• Louis IX
– most admired of his time
– generous, noble, devoted to justice & chivalry
– deeply religious, declared a saint
– led France in 2 wars against Muslims
– improved royal government
• outlawed private wars
• ended serfdom
• created strong national feeling (nationalism)
– established absolute monarchy
(complete authority)
– St. Louis named for Louis IX
Louis IX – St. Louis
Development of France

• Philip IV
– established Estates General
Development of France
• Estates General
– French legislature
• includes reps from all 3 estates, or classes
– clergy, nobles, townspeople

– did not develop same role at British Parliament

• never gained power of purse
• never served as balance to royal power
Development of France and England

• France
– Absolute Monarchy

• England
– Limited Monarchy