Kings, Courts and Monarchy

Kings, Courts and Monarchy

Kings, Courts and Monarchy

Kings, Courts and Monarchy

Excerpt

FEUDALISM WAS BASED ON the conception of the State as a pyramid, in which each layer of society obtained protection from, and owed obligations to, the layer immediately above it. The king was at the apex of this pyramid and it was to him directly or indirectly, that every layer owed loyalty. In strict theory the king was the sole landowner, the others being land-holders only. Powerful kings, such as William the Conqueror, Henry I, Philippe Auguste and Edward I, were able to give effect to this theory. Under weak, absentee or unpopular kings, such as Stephen, Richard and John, the theory broke down completely and civil war or anarchy ensued. In the then rudimentary condition of communications it was physically impossible for the king to be present in person in all the areas where trouble arose. He was obliged to delegate much of his authority to his counts and barons and, once fiefs became hereditary, it was inevitable that an exclusive baronial class should be constituted and that the local magnates should assert their independence of the central authority. By the thirteenth century, however, it was the principles of centralisation and security that triumphed.

The feudal theory was of mixed and ancient origin. Even before the Frankish invasion of Gaul, the Roman system of client and patron, the patronicium, had become well established. The Franks brought with . . .

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