Villein

The wealthiest class of peasant. They usually cultivate 20-40 Acres of land, often in isolated strips.
A bondsman, a man bonded to the land that he worked. Villeins lived in villages, attached to a lord’s holdings, all but a slave. A lord who owned the land to which a villein was attached could do anything with him he pleased, save mutilation or killing him. Villeins had few rights, and only in rare circumstances were released from their bondage. Under Henry I, this ceremony had to be conducted in a public place such as in a church or marketplace, that many gained knowledge of the release and the villein, now a freeman, was not considered to have fled his feudal contract. A man was a villein if his father was a villein; only by the release of the lord could be ever be free.
Villeins held few rights, unable to fish in the lord’s rivers, to hunt or draw firewood from his forests, marry his daughter off without permission (and a fee, generally), or commit his son to Holy Orders.
♦ A non-free man, owing heavy labor service to a lord, subject to his manorial court, bound to the land, and subject to certain feudal dues.
(Gies, Joseph and Francis. Life in a Medieval Castle, 231)
♦ The highest class of dependent peasantry, often holding between 30 and 100 acres; above them were "freemen" and "sokemen".
(Wood, Michael. Domesday: A Search for the Roots of England, 214)
♦ Peasant bound to lord or estate; in England regarded as unfree from about 1200.
(Frame, Robin. Colonial Ireland, 1169-1369, 145)
♦ English term for serf.
(Gies, Frances and Joseph. Life in a Medieval Village, 246)
♦ In England, the holder of a villein tenement for which he usually owes agricultural services to his lord. The villein's rights in his tenement are customary and not enforeceable against his lord by medieval common law. Personally free against all men but his lord, the villein nevertheless does not fully enjoy the rights of a free man. He is a tenant at the will of the lord; he cannont serve on a jury dealing with the rights of a free man; he cannot take ecclesiastical orders with emancipation; he cannot make a will; if he leaves his duties on the lord's manor, the lord can use all necessary force to bring him back to perform them.
(Hogue, Arthur R. Origins of the Common Law, 258)
♦ A peasant who, by definitions established c. 1200, was unfree to the extent that, although not a chattel of his lord, he could not leave his holding and owed services for it which were limited only by custom and his lord's court, not by the royal courts.
(Reynolds, Susan. An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns, 200)

Medieval glossary. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Villein — Vil lein, n. (Feudal Law) See {Villain}, 1. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • villein — early 14c., spelling variant of VILLAIN (Cf. villain), referring to a feudal class of half free peasants …   Etymology dictionary

  • villein — [vil′ən] n. [ME: see VILLAIN] any of a class of feudal serfs who by the 13th cent. had become freemen in their legal relations to all except their lord, to whom they remained subject as slaves …   English World dictionary

  • villein — UK [ˈvɪlən] / US / UK [ˈvɪleɪn] / US [vɪˈleɪn] noun [countable] Word forms villein : singular villein plural villeins a poor farm worker in the Middle Ages who was forced to work on the land of a very powerful person …   English dictionary

  • villein — villain, villein The two spellings are forms of a single word with two branches, originally meaning either ‘a low born rustic’ or ‘a serf in the feudal system’ and derived from the Latin word villa meaning ‘country house or farm’. The spelling… …   Modern English usage

  • Villein —    A man bonded to the land that he worked. Living in villages attached to a lord s holdings, they were virtual slaves and almost never given their freedom. The lord could do anything he wanted with them, except mutilate or kill them. Villeins… …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • villein — Villain Vil lain, n. [OE. vilein, F. vilain, LL. villanus, from villa a village, L. villa a farm. See {Villa}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Feudal Law) One who holds lands by a base, or servile, tenure, or in villenage; a feudal tenant of the lowest class …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • villein — noun Etymology: Middle English vilain, vilein more at villain Date: 14th century 1. a free common villager or village peasant of any of the feudal classes lower in rank than the thane 2. a free peasant of a feudal class higher in rank than a… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • villein — /vil euhn, ayn, vi layn /, n. a member of a class of partially free persons under the feudal system, who were serfs with respect to their lord but had the rights and privileges of freemen with respect to others. Also, villain. [1275 1325; ME; see …   Universalium

  • villein — noun /ˈvɪlən,ˈvɪleɪn/ A feudal tenant …   Wiktionary

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