The Council of Clermont prescribed that the oath of adherence to the truce be taken every three years by all men above the age of twelve, whether noble, burgess, villein or serf.
By French feudal law, the villein had no appeal from his lord save to God (Pierre de Fontaines, Conseil, ch.
By the common law, if a villein were made a knight he was thereby enfranchised and accounted a gentleman, and if a person under age and in wardship were knighted both his minority and wardship terminated.
The number of families settled on the former is not given, but attention is called to the market which had been removed thence by the count to the neighbouring castle of Dunheved, which had two mills, one villein and thirteen bordars.
The materials for the formation of the villein class were already in existence in the Anglo-Saxon period.
In fact, the villein is assumed to be a person free by birth, but holding land of which he cannot dispose freely.
To begin with, the relation between the villein and his lord was regarded as a personal and not a praedial one.
Everyone born of villein stock belonged to his master and was bound to undertake any service which might be imposed on him by the master's or the steward's command.
Secondly, all independent proprietary rights were denied to the villein as against his lord, and the legal rule " quicquid servo acquiritur domino acquiritur " was extended to villeins.
In criminal matters the villein was treated by the King's Court irrespectively of any consideration as to his debased condition.
If, however, the two conditions mentioned were forthcoming, villeins, or, as they were technically called, villein socmen of ancient demesne manors, could resist any attempt of their lords to encroach on their rights by depriving them of their holdings or increasing the amount of their customary services.
In view of the.great difference in the legal position of the free man and of the villein in feudal common law, it became very important to define the exact nature of the conditions on which the status of a villein depended.
Of course, persons born from villein parents in lawful wedlock were villeins, but as to the condition of illegitimate children there was a good deal of hesitation.
In the case of mixed marriages, the condition of the child is determined by the free or villein condition of the tenement in which it was born.
But there were numbers of cases when the discussion as to servile status turned not on these formal points but on an examination of the services performed by the person claimed as a villein or challenged as holding in villenage.
The villein was in this sense emphatically the man holding " by the fork and the flail."
Heriot, the surrender of the best horse or ox, is also considered as the common incident of villein tenure, although, of course, its very name proves its intimate connexion with the outfit of soldiers (here-geatu).
Economically the institution of villenage was bound tip with the manorial organization - that is, with the fact that the country was.divided into a number of districts in which central home farms were cultivated by the help of work supplied by villein households.
The most important of villein services is the week-work performed by the peasantry.
We know that in feudal law there ran a standing contrast between tenure by custom - villein tenure - and tenure by contract - free tenure.
Still, even at that time it might happen that a freeholder owned some land in villenage by the side of his free tenement, and that a villein held some land freely by agreement with his lord or with a third person.
As a rule people used land as holdings, and those were rigidly classified as villein or free tenements.
From the close of the 13th century downwards countless transactions on the basis of leases for terms of years occur between the peasants themselves, any suitably kept set of 14th-century court rolls containing entries in which such and such a villein is said to appear in the halimote and to surrender for the use of another person named a piece of land belonging to the holding.
A villein might be allowed to bring a penny instead of bringing a chicken or to pay a rent instead of appearing with his oxen three times a week on the lord's fields.
But this interference of 15th-century chancellors paved the way towards one of the greatest revolutions in the law; without formally enfranchising villeins and villein tenure they created a legal basis for it in the law of the realm: in the formula of copyhold - tenement held at the will of the lord and by the custom of the manor - the first part lost its significance and the second prevailed, in downright contrast with former times when, on the contrary, the second part had no legal value and the first expressed the view of the courts.
The German Leibeigenschaft) and the villein or roturier, who is only bound to perform certain duties and ought not to be further oppressed by the landowners on whose soil he is settled (Beaumanoir, Coutume de Beauvaisis).
In the course of two generations the farmers who paid rent for these holdings became more and more numerous, and demesne land tilled by villein-service grew more and more rare.
Their aim was to abolish all villein-service, and to wring from their lords the commutation of all manorial customs and obligations for a small rentfourpence an acre was generally the sum suggested.
It would seem that the manorial grudges between landowner and peasant, which had been so fierce in the 14th century, had died down as the lords abandoned the old system of working their demesne by villein labor.
The thrall had a house of his own and was rather villein or serf than slave, having rights and a legal price by law.
The villein must sue in his lords manorial courts, but he is also subject to the royal courts of hundred and shire.