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Feudal Aids in United Kingdom

The feudal tenant was expected to come to the aid of his lord in any special crisis or emergency. At first, the occasions on which these “aids” might be demanded were varied and undefined. Gradually they were limited to three. Glanvill, indeed, mentions only two: the knighting of the overlord’s eldest son, and the marriage of his eldest daughter; but he intends these, perhaps, as illustrations rather than as an exhaustive list. Before the beginning of the thirteenth century the recognized aids were the ransoming of the King and the two already mentioned. An aid to marry the king’s eldest sister might be taken, if not previously exacted by her father. This understanding was embodied in Magna Carta.

A tradition has been handed down from an early date, that these aids were voluntary offerings made as a mark of affection. Long before John’s reign, however, the obligation had become fixed by law; the tenant dared not refuse to pay the recognized three. But, when the Crown exacted contributions for any other reason, it required consent of the commune concilium.

Carta Magna and Feudal Aids

The Great Charter, while confirming this tacit compromise, left the amount of aids undefined, merely stipulating that they should be “reasonable.” Examples of such payments, both before and after the Charter, are readily found in the Exchequer Rolls. Thus, in his fourteenth year Henry II. took one mark per knight’s fee for his daughter’s marriage; Henry III. took 20s., and Edward I. 40s. for a similar purpose. For Richard’s ransom, 20s. had been exacted from each knight’s fee (save those owned by men actually serving in the field); and Henry III. took 40s. in his thirty–eighth year at the knighting of his son. The Statute of Westminster I.2 fixed the “reasonable” aid payable to mesne lords at 20s. per knight’s fee, and 20s. for every estate in socage of £20 annual value.

This rate, it will be observed, is one–fifth of the knight’s relief. The Crown, in thus enforcing “reason” on mesne lords, seems never to have intended that the same limit should hamper its own dealings with Crown tenants, but continued to exact larger sums whenever it thought fit. One entry in the Memoranda Roll of 42 Henry III (cited Madox, I. 615) seems to admit that the Crown could not exact more than 20s.; but in 1258 the baronial opposition would be strong in the Exchequer as elsewhere. Thus £2 per fee was taken in 1346 at the knighting of the Black Prince.

A statute of Edward III at last extended to the Crown the same measure of “reasonableness” as had been applied three–quarters of a century earlier to mesne lords. The last instances of the exaction of aids in England occur as late as the reign of James I., who, in 1609, demanded one for the knighting of the ill–fated Prince Henry, and in 1613 another for the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth.

Source: Part . Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, with an Historical Introduction, by William Sharp McKechnie (Glasgow: Maclehose, 1914).

See Also

Magna Carta
Primer Seisin
Royal Justice in the Feudal Period
Magna Carta
History of Magna Carta
English Court System

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Feudal Aids
  • Author: International
  • Description: The feudal tenant was expected to come to the aid of his lord in any special crisis or emergency. At first, the occasions [...]

This entry was last updated: May 29, 2015


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