Feudalism in the MiddleAges

Feudalism in the Middle Ages

The Normans introduced feudalism to Britain in the Middle Ages after the battle of 1066.  King William claimed all the land for himself and proceeded to rent out percentages of it to the nobles.  The nobles, in turn, rented out land to knights in return for their promise of allegiance.   Peasants or commoners then worked the land. They paid rent to the knights in return for their protection.  I asked which class each child would have liked to belong to.  The King was voted the most desirable class to be in!

Demonstration of Feudalism in the Middle Ages

I did a practical demonstration of how feudalism in the Middle Ages worked using Play Mobil figures and chocolate. 

This was so worth doing! 

I had thought the children understood feudalism but I this exercise showed they had missed the finer points of it. 

I set our rather grubby table as shown below.  Really you could use any proportions so long as there is only one king, more knights than nobles and more peasants than knights:

Demonstration of feudalism in the Middle Ages

We divided the figures into the hierarchy of classes, according to the feudal system. The peasants were at the bottom and the king at the top. I allotted each class ten chocolates from the yearly harvest. Looks fairly even and fair so far, yes?

Feudalism in Practice

Next, we divided the payments out accordingly.

Peasants

First, each peasant had to pay six out of their ten chocolates (60%) to their knights, in return for their protection.  Each peasant, therefore, ended up with only 40 % of the original equal share in the harvest.

Knights

Secondly, each knight could keep his ten chocolates (100%). But out of the six given to him by each peasant, he had to pay 5 to the noble to show his allegiance. This was called a payment of fidelity. 

Each knight, therefore, ended up with his ten chocolates plus one from each of the peasants he protected. 

In our illustration, each knight had two peasants to protect. This meant he ended up with two extra chocolates resulting in a total of 12 chocolates.  This, in effect, was 120% of the original equal share of the harvest.

Nobles

Thirdly, the nobles, collected payment from the knights. However, they were effectively being paid by the peasants at five chocolates each. 

Each noble is paid by three knights, and each knight is paid by two peasants. Each knight gives ten chocolates to the noble.

The nobles therefore received thirty chocolates, ten from each knight, in addition to the ten from the harvest. 

From this thirty, he needed to pay the king six chocolates from each knight who had paid his allegiance (a total of eighteen chocolates). 

The nobles, then, ended up with twenty-two chocolates, 220% of their original share of the harvest.

The King

Lastly, it was, as expected, the king who came out on top, ending up with 46 chocolates; a whopping 460% of his original share of the harvest:

And just to show pictorially the proportions comparatively:

feudalism in the Middle Ages

Afterwards the chocolates were shared out….democratically of course!!

children sharing out the chocolate

Bringing Feudalism into the Twenty-First Century

It is always a joy to see our children using what they have learnt, but Gary and I had to giggle when Thomas, aged 11, approached us with an idea.  He had, in his infinite wisdom, decided to set up a feudal system in our garden…

Each child has a patch of land about 3m by 2m which we have already given them.

Thomas had other plans however.  He began to explain some elaborate scam, whereby he would rent out the three patches to his sisters and give us a cut of his proceeds!!  He he, gotta love that boy!

Feudalism in the Middle Ages and the Four Alls

You can’t learn about feudalism in the Middle Ages without at least reading about the ‘Four Alls’! This activity comes from the book below, Knights and Castles:

The Four Alls is a poem explaining the roles of each class in the feudal system:

The Peasants who worked for all,

Priests who prayed for all,

Knights who fought for all,

and Kings who ruled all.

Poem from the Middle Ages

I had the children write out the poem and stick in appropriate pictures to make a lovely note page:

Note pages about the four alls

Next we began to make a diorama to try to illustrate this poem.

How to Make a Diorama to Illustrate the Four Alls of Feudalism

The running shop near to us had saved us lots of boxes. For this activity you need four boxes of a similar size and shape. Shoe boxes are perfect. We made one into a castle by cutting turrets into its lid and another we bent its lid to form a roof. The children covered them all in brown paper.

Next we stuck the boxes together with a lidded one at the bottom for the peasants, then the castle for the knights, a palace for the king and the church for the priests right at the top:

Decorating our Diorama

Now we were ready to decorate.

The Church Who Prayed For All

We used one of the stain glass windows the children had made in a previous study, placing it behind a hole in the wall. We painted a wooden cross, made from lolly sticks, gold and hung it above. The alter is made of clay and is covered in purple cloth, with a playmobil bible, golden jug and chalise. We popped in a playmobil pope!

Feudalism in the Middle Ages: The Four Alls
The King Who Ruled Over All

We painted the room golden, hung a tapestry up at the wall, had a PlayMobil throne and king and added some candles for good measure!

Feudalism in the Middle Ages: The Four Alls
The Knights Who Fought For All

We made a castle and used a washing up sponge to sponge tiles onto the box. We hung PlayMobil flags from the wall and shields from the exterior. On the table was a clay bowl with food and other bits and pieces.  On the floor I cut some fake fur material from Thomas’ dress up into an animal shape, added a chair and lots of knights:

Feudalism in the Middle Ages: The Four Alls
The Peasants Who Worked For All

We lay straw on the floor, made a clay dwelling, added animals and fenced off areas:

Feudalism in the Middle Ages: The Four Alls

Domesday book next!

For lots more history related posts head on over to my history lesson page and also my History Pinterest Board

43 comments

  1. Love the diorama. I would never have thought of that. What a great illustration for your topic. Also loved the M&M activity. More great incentives for me.

      1. Hah! This showed up in my reader again and I was reading it thinking, “This sounds familiar, I’m sure I’ve seen it before…….” Then I read down to the comments, and I realized I had.
        Still like this post a lot.

    1. You’re quite right, this is living maths! It didn’t occur to me- I’ll have to add it to the living maths category. Sometimes I wonder if I have a brain in this head of mine……..!

  2. Awesome! We clearly missed the boat when we studied this in our homeschool last year 😉 I love your activities! Thanks for linking with Collage Friday!

  3. That math exercise is PHENOMENAL! Thanks for posting it on Math Monday. Off to post it on the love2learn2day Facebook page! 🙂

  4. This is AWESOME! we are in the middle of a Medieval/Castle unit too =-)

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! I always enjoy seeing what you’ve been doing!
    Beth

  5. I just wanted to tell you that I’m planning this one into my co-op semester this semester. What great activities! 🙂

  6. Pingback: This week: Paint and Markers | Raventhreads
  7. THank you for this!! I know it’s been sometime since you posted but I came across this while searching for SOTW vol2 ideas. Everything I found left me feeling blah! But I love this!

    1. The king had ten. He received 18 from each Noble (who had been paid 6 from each of the three knights). There were only two Nobles (see top picture) so two Nobles gave 18 each which totalled 36, to which you add the original 10. The King therefore received 46 in total (18+18+10). Does that make sense? I think you maybe included three Nobles instead of just the two? Hope that clarifies it a bit.

    1. Yes, I think so. You’d still have more peasants than knights, more knights than nobles and more nobles than the single king.

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