Main Features of Feudalism are as follows:
Feudalism was a novel social system. It had several features.
The Castle was the chief characteristic of feudalism. The feudal Lords lived in huge castles or forts. The living house and court of the Lord existed inside the castle.
The Lords stored arms and weapons and found grains inside the castle. At the time of external invasion, it provided shelter to the common people. There was strong and high wall with towers at intervals around the castle. In some cases the castles were surrounded by wide ditch or moat.
From towers one could watch the movement of enemies. The gateway of the castle was very strong. Deep ditches were dug around the castle and filled up with water. This was connected with a bridge.
During the attack, this bridge was lifted off Mild the enemy could not enter into the castle. A feudal Lord had many castle and he lived inside different castles at different time.
Another significant mark of feudalism was Manor. The land associated with the castle was known as Manor. This was like a small estate. The castles, cultivated land, dwelling houses of barons and Church were associated with it. A feudal Lord had one or more manors. According to the possession of Manors, the strength of a feudal Lord was known.
Another feature of feudalism was ‘Demense’. After distributing the land among his serfs whatever land remained with him was known as Demense. This law entirely belonged to the Lord which he could use according to his whims and caprices.
4. The Feudal Society:
The division of a feudal society followed a pyramidal pattern. This society was largely an agrarian society. The ‘King’ was at the top of the society and he was quite powerless. Below him was placed the ‘Feudal Lord’. Then came the ‘Vassels’ or ‘Independent Farmers’. They could resort to independent profession and move from one place to another according to their own hill.
The lowest stratum in the society projected the ‘Serfs’. They had neither the land of their own, nor they were independent. They worked in the land given to them by their Lord. In one day of the week, they worked in the field of their Lord without payment which was known as ‘Forced Labour’. They remained inside small huts with their domestic animals like cows and pigs in a very unhealthy condition. They had to lead a miserable life.
5. The Knight:
Another characteristic feature of the feudal society was ‘Knighthood’. A Knight took oath to fight with enemy and to protect the weak. Generally, the sons and relatives of a Lord received education and training to be a Knight. When one wanted to be a Knight, he had to work as a ‘Page’ or servant near another Knight. When he could serve property, he was appointed as a ‘Squire’ or body-guard of that Knight.
During that period he learnt how to clean the weapons and prepare a horse. After he achieved mastery in these works, he was to be appointed as a Knight. He had to spend a night inside the Church in prayer.
Then he had to kneel down before priest who would deliber a light blow of his palm on the young man’s neck with the blessings-“Be a Valiant Knight”. This act was famous as ‘Accolade’. After becoming a Knight, he had to purchase horse and arms for himself. By exhibiting chivalry he could save an old man, destiture, weak man from the clutches of injustice and tyranny. A Knight also respected a lady. They also spent their time in different plays and gymnastics. The medieval European literature sang the glory of these Knights in no uncertain terms.
6. The Rights and Duties of Feudal Lords:
The Lords had many duties to perform. Most of them were employed in the work of the Government, army and diplomacy. They also looked to the administration of estates, draining of swamps and trade and commerce. Their main duty was to save their subjects from the invaders. The Lords enjoyed certain rights too. A Lord became the owner of the land of a vassal who died leaving a minor son.
This ownership was called ‘Wardship’ and it continued till the minor came of age. In that case, the land was to be handed over the heir on payment of a sum known as ‘Relief, when a Vassal died without the heir, his fiefs was taken over by the Lord. This was called ‘Escheat’. Thus, the feudal Lords had many duties which they discharged and they also enjoyed certain rights inside the society.
7. Duty of Vassals:
In the feudal society, the vassals or subjects had certain duties towards the Lord. The vassal had to be present in the court whenever the Lord needed. The Vassal rendered compulsory military service to the Lord for forty days in a year. He accompanied his master to the battle field and guarded his castle.
The vassal had to pay money to his Lord or Master on the occasion of his eldest daughter’s marriage, when the Lord’s eldest son became a Knight and when the Lord became captive in the hands of his enemy and was to be released. The vassals had to render these duties because the Lord guaranteed them security of Life and property against external invasions and gave them justice.
8. Ceremony of Homage:
The leading feature of feudalism prevailing in Europe was the Ceremony of Homage. This Ceremony was organised to cement the bond between the ‘Lords’ as ‘Vassal’. After assembling in the castle of the noble each man used to Kneel down before the Lord with uncovered head. Then each one placed his folded hands on the hands of the Lord. He then took the oath to be his “man” or “Vassal”. This ceremony was famous as “Homage” in which the Vassal took vow to remain loyal to his Lord.
After the Vassals showed homage, then the Lord raised him up and kissed them. He recognised them as his ‘Subject’ or ‘Vassal’. Then the Lord placed in the hands of the Vassal a little earth or some leaves or a sword as a token of gift. A legal document concerning ‘fief (land given to vassal), a staff and a flag were also handed over to the Vassal. This Sanction was termed as Investiture.