At the fall of the Roman Empire people were desperate for security. People turned to each other and began to live in small communities. To provide order a hierarchy was formed. At the top of the hierarchy was the King. The king gave out his land to lords who maintained it for him. In exchange for this land they were expected to fight for the King and protect him in times of war. Below the lords was a knightly class of warriors. There sole purpose of knights was to seek out battles and quests. At the bottom of this hierarchy were peasants. The purpose of peasants was to provide food to sustain the manor. The manor was the center of feudal life. The lord and his family and servants typically lived in a small castle or fortress surrounded by the homes of the peasants. During this period of time towns became obsolete. Manors were isolated from each other and had to sustain themselves without outside assistance.
Kings claimed to be vassals of God which gave them a great deal f power over their kingdom. They ruled over their lords and had complete power over them. Because they were appointed by God, for anyone to rebel against them would be to rebel against of God. They granted lords land in return for their loyalty. The portions of land that he granted to them were called fiefs, and could be taken back at any time. The King also gave land to the bishops, who were often wealthier than the lords. The kings palace and estate were more grand than that of any lord. There were exotic animals, and gardens. There was always entertainment and grand banquets in the palace of the King.
The Lords did not have as much power as the King. The king could revoke there land at any time so they must appease him to keep their power in most cases. However sometimes Lords would have great armies that rivaled those of the King. So as not to be attacked by his own vassals, or subjects he would in turn have to meet their demands. This relationship between the King and his lords was a fragile one. As was the relationship between the lords and their peasants. In exchange for food the lords offered peasants protection and land to cultivate. Many lords were hard on their peasants, demanding to much food or taxes. The peasants were unable to feed themselves and they would often revolt against their lords. The lord was also charge the law and justice for those who served under him. It was solely up to him to decide what would happen to anyone who was considered a criminal. Many peasants lived in fear of their lord and did what they could to avoid his wrath.
Peasants were at the bottom of the hierarchy and the foundation for feudal society. They lived to serve their lord and had very few rights, if any. They needed to work six days a week from sunrise to sunset to provide for themselves as well as their lord. As decreed by the church they were no allowed to work on Sunday, the Sabbath. Most of their time working was for their lord. When they were able to gather food for themselves they still owed a percentage of that to the lord as well. The land that they worked was not their own, it belonged to the lord. Nothing in fact actually belonged to them, their homes to their food and even their clothes were the property of the lord. The only way a peasant was paid was by being allowed to stay on the land which he worked, and could grow some food for himself.
Peasants were bound to their lord and his land. They pay homage to him, and were required to be loyal to him. They lived in small homes clustered around the manor. This cluster of homes was similar to a small village. It was surrounded by a wall for protection. Each home had a small garden that provided each household with fresh vegetable. The houses themselves were small and rickety. They often made of mud or stone, depending on what was readily available. When called upon a peasant was required to fight in battle for his lord. They also were required to pay their lord taxes, for the right to hunt fish and gather food on his land. On top of this peasants also paid taxes to the church,. These taxes were called tithes. Despite going to church peasants remained highly superstitious. During this time they believed in things such as witches. Many peasant women were burned as witches during the middle ages.
Another level in feudal hierarchy were knights. A knight was a professional soldier. He was usually responsible for his weapons, his horses, his attendants and his flag. His horses each had their own use, one for battle, one for the route and one for luggage. He had several attendants, one to conduct the horses, another to handle the heaviest weapons, another to aid him in mounting his horse for battle, and the fourth to guard prisoners. A knight usually carried the flag of the king or lord he was fighting for. The flag was a distinctive mark of chivalry. Chivalry was the code which knights lived by. It was the rules of conduct which the warrior class followed. It outlined how knights were to treat the clergy, women and lower class citizens.