Following the last blog on the Battle of Hasting, the 4th blog in the Key Stage 3 History series looks at the the feudal system that followed.
It’s an outrage! What will happen to us all now?! We’ll all be treated like slaves, that’s what! Who does William think he is, flouncing into England and taking over?! The cheek of the man. I really can’t believe…. Ok, I’m getting carried away again. A few deep breaths, that’s all I need.
Ok, that’s better. Right, this is what has happened. Basically, if you’re not rich (and therefore, not important) William does not care less about you. He is as likely to burn your village to the ground as look at you. I’ve heard rumours that it’s called the ‘harrying of the north’, this idea of his. He’s just sending his men into villages and if there’s any doubt about whether the village supports him, his men destroy it! How dare he? What makes him think we’ll truly support him if he treats us in such a despicable way?
But this is a temporary measure. He can’t do it forever. So he’s introduced something called the feudal system. It’s a bit complicated, but I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible.
William (or whoever is King after him – he’s built this system to last!) is at the top of the system. He owns the whole of England. But he can’t run an entire country by himself – he needs some help. So he divides the land up and gives some to barons – men that he trusts. But the barons can’t manage all the land they’re given, so they give some to knights. And the knights give some of their land to us, the peasants. You keeping up?
It all seems ok, when you put it like that. But there’s more. In return for the land, everyone has to swear to obey the person who gave him the land. And to make sure everybody also obeys William, everyone also has to swear loyalty to him too.
And we peasants have it really bad. We have to fight for the knight if he makes us. And work on his land three days a week and extra during the harvest. And we can’t leave unless he lets us. So we have no freedom at all anymore. Slaves, that’s what we are. But what can we do? We can’t even start a rebellion with the castles being built to keep us in check…
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