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The 5 Social Classes of

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hierarchical social divisions characteristic of the
political, military and social system that took place
in the Middle Ages and whose class structure was
based on the possession of lands called efs and
on the resulting relationship between lord and
vassal (Structure, 2012).

This political system prevailed in Europe between

the 8th and 14th centuries. Centuries during
which the majority of societies were agricultural
and were supported by the feudal tradition.
Within the feudal system most rights and
privileges were given to the highest social classes
(Gintis & Bowel, 1984).

Social classes of feudalism

Within the hierarchical structure of social classes

of the feudal system kings occupied the highest
and most important position, followed by barons
and nobles, clergy and bishops, knights or vassals
and villagers or peasants.

The division of classes within the hierarchy of the

feudal system was quite marked between the
noble classes and the villagers.

Although the majority of the population of the

efs was of peasant origin, rights to the land could
only be exercised by the upper classes.

Social classes of feudalism

1 - Kings or monarchs
Kings or monarchs were responsible for governing
in the kingdom and were the owners of the land
of each nation. The king had full control over all
properties and decided on the amount of land
that each of the barons could borrow.

The barons had to swear allegiance to the king

before he could administer the lands lent by the
king, thus ensuring his permanent allegiance to
the king and his kingdom.

In case a Baron displayed an inappropriate

behavior, the kings had the power to withdraw the
right to the borrowed land and lend it to someone
else who belonged to the class of barons. In other
words, all judicial power was in the hands of kings
and these were the legitimate landowners of each
nation (Newman, 2012).

The royalty within the feudal system included

di erent members, classi ed as follows:

The King: He was the ultimate authority of the

kingdom and owner of the land. On him lay
the responsibility of creating laws, eradicating
poverty and caring for the inhabitants of the
The Queen: Although she could not rule
alone, the Queen of each kingdom played an
important role in the medieval class system.
He was usually second in command after the
King and served as regents when the King was
not in a position to govern. The Queen was
also the host and in charge of planning social
The Princes: Depending on the order at birth,
a prince could be the next member of the
royal family online to take the throne once
the King died. The work of the princes
consisted chie y of attending meetings of the
royal court.
The Princesses: Only they could inherit the
throne in case there was not a man to take it.
Princesses used to marry princes in other
kingdoms to secure friendly political and
economic relations between nations.

2 - Barons and nobles

The barons and nobles received the land of the
king as a loan, to this partial possession of the
lands of the king was known as lordship. The
barons in the hierarchy of social classes stipulated
by the feudal system were the class with more
power and wealth after the king.

These nobles were known as feudal lords and had

the right to establish their own legal systems,
allocate their own currency and implement their
own tax regulations and taxes (Burstein & Shek,

In compensation for the allocation of land, the

barons had the following obligations:

- Serve the royal council.

- Provide the King with Knights to deal with any
form of war.
- Provide food and accommodation to the king
during his travels.
- Pay the taxes and taxes required by the king.
Nobiliary titles could be inherited and thus the
land ceded by the king could pass generations
within the same family.

3 - The clergy
During the Middle Ages the church played a very
important role. For this reason, if the clergy were
considered as a social class within the feudal
system, it was considered to be of a higher class
than the nobles, knights and villagers. The Pope
being over all members of the clericate.

Within the clergy and underneath the Pope were

the Bishops, bearers of wealth and considered
part of the nobility; The priests, who carried the
mass inside the castles and were responsible for
collecting the taxes of the church; And the monks
in the lowest part of the hierarchy of the church,
recognized for being scribes carrying co ee robes.

4 - Knights and Vassals

The barons were entitled to lend the land partly
granted by the king to the knights. The gentlemen
in consideration were to render military services
to the king in the name of each baron. In the same
way, knights were to protect the feudal lords and
their families. (Reynolds, 1994)

The knights used to keep a portion of the land

ceded by the barons and distributed the rest to
the villagers. Just as the barons could establish a
system of tribute and taxes on knights, they could
do so on the villagers.

However, the main function of the knights was to

protect the king and the kingdom, by such work
their greatest source of income came from the
payment of the king and not from the land (Bower
& Lobdell, 1994).
5 - Villagers, peasants and serfs
The villagers received from the knights the land
they could work. In return they were to provide
food and serve the upper classes. No villager was
allowed to leave the efdom without prior
authorization from his superiors (Bloch, 1965).

The villagers had no rights and were allowed to

marry without the prior consent of their masters.
They were the poorest class within the hierarchy
of the feudal system. Ninety percent of the people
who were part of the feudal systems in Europe
were villagers.

Within the lower social class are also serfs and

free men, who were completely without political
power, the latter being considered the poorest
within the social hierarchy of the feudal system.

1. BLOCH, M. (1965). The Growth of Ties of
(pp. 59-71). London and New York: Routledge
& Kegan Paul Ltd.
2. Bower, B., & Lobdell, J. (1994). History Alive!:
The Medieval World and Beyond. Mountain
View, CA: Teachers Curriculum Institute (TCI).
3. Burstein, S. M., & Shek, R. (2006). World
History: Medieval to Early Modern Times
(California Social Studies). California Social
4. Gintis, H., & Bowel, S. (1984). The Concept
Feudalism. In S. B. Herbert Gintis,
Statemaking and Social Movements: Essays in
History and Theory (pp. 19-45). Michigan:
State and Class in European Feudalism.
5. Newman, S. (2012). The ner times. Obtained
from Social Classes in the Middle Ages:
6. Reynolds, S. (1994). Fiefs and Vassals: The
Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted. Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
7. Structure, H. (29 of 10 of 2012). Hierarchy
Structure. Obtained from Feudal System
Social Hierarchy:

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