What Are the Functions of the King in Medieval England?
The feudal system was first established in 1066 under the direction of William I, also known as William the Conqueror. The king in medieval England had many responsibilities to ensure the survival of his people and his lands. His reign over his feudal kingdom required tight ties with spiritual and military leaders who provided security and stability. The king maintained a strong pecking order, so inhabitants knew their places in the feudal system and remained dependent on his provisions, thwarting undesirable revolution. Medieval English kings strove to find the perfect balance between fear and respect.
1 Land Leasers
The king owned all the land but leased large portions to wealthy barons so they could cultivate the area and produce goods. Because the king had total discretion over his lands, he would only lease to barons he trusted. Barons pledged oaths of loyalty to the king and the king in return promised security and gave the wealthy land leasers freedom to use the lands as they wished. Poor, landless serfs worked the baron's lands and harvested crops and produced goods for trade. Serfs received living quarters and a small stipend for their labor and were also guaranteed protection against raiders.
2 Church Control
Medieval kings maintained strong connections with the Catholic church because the church had money, educational resources and moral authority. English kings appointed bishops and local church leaders so they could retain close ties with the religious institution and form strategic spiritual alliances. Feudal residents were forced to give 10 percent of their income to the church, so the church had a steady stream of income, according to History.com. One of the king's primary functions was to ensure his ties with the church and its leaders were healthy and indestructible.
3 Money to Wage War
English kings worked closely with government leaders, such as those who participated in Parliament, so they had sufficient funds to wage wars. During the Middle Ages, England and France fought battles over land, trade and economic power. Even though kings received payments from their leasers, they needed additional money and resources to fight major international wars and deploy well-armed troops. Medieval kings made final decisions on military actions but entrusted the strategic war efforts to their trained military leaders. The king held many roles, such as politician, negotiator, businessman, financier, military overseer and ruler.
4 Heirs to the Throne
It was the king's responsibility to ensure there was a noble English heir to his throne. Power was handed down through the bloodline, so religious leaders, government officials, barons and wealthy merchants weren't qualified to become kings. Part of the king's job was to ensure that the safety, security and longevity of the kingdom was never compromised and always had viable leadership, even upon his death. An important part of the king's function was to mentor his male heirs -- potential young rulers -- who might eventually inherit the throne.