In Game of Throne, Lord Bolton tells his son.

Look at the area of the north. I own all that land.

So Lord Bolton, a duke, or baron perhaps, owns the land.

However, under his command, some private sectors own the land too.

What about the king?

Do we have some form of co-ownership?

So I own my house.

My baron also owns the land where my house stands.

His duke also owns the whole land.

The king also own the land.

Is it something like that?

So every level of government own a land to a certain extend. Maybe it's like georgism. You own your land but the government also have right to tax those land. Something like that?

closed as off-topic by Fizz, Glorfindel, JJJ, Karlomanio, Alexei Apr 23 at 15:50

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    This is more a historical question than a question of politics. It depends a little on what you mean by "own", which was a different concept in the middle ages than it is today. – James K Apr 23 at 12:03
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    @JamesK I don't think GoT is an accurate depiction of history. ;) – JJJ Apr 23 at 12:06
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    Short version: Whoever says "I own this" and manages to kill or subdue everyone else who says "No, I own this". Under feudalism the "rule of law" is more along the lines of "What the King says, goes". – Shadur Apr 23 at 15:15
  • "Natural resources": in the UK some of these are still owned by the Crown: bgs.ac.uk/mineralsUK/planning/legislation/mineralOwnership.html ; there are also special cases for found treasure, shorelines etc. – pjc50 Apr 23 at 16:04
  • Georgism again? – Obie 2.0 Apr 25 at 21:37

The feudal system is a system of control and governance. There are military leaders (called warlords, barons etc) They promise to serve the king, in return they get to "hold" land and they get some measure of protection from other barons, and foreign invaders. The barons are known as "tenants-in-chief".

William the Conqueror claimed that in conquoring England, he also took ownership of all the land. He needed this as he needed to pay back the Norman nobility that can come to England with him, and to bribe the English nobility that were willing to serve him. All the Saxon landowners lost all their land. It was granted as a tenancy to Norman French, and servile Saxon barons, while preserving the fiction that the King owned everything.

The baron would then create sub-tenants. He would create a private army that was loyal to him and through him, loyal to the king. These would be Knights, and local "Lord of the manor". Each knight would "hold" some of the baron's lands and would create sub-tenants among the local people (freemen, villeins, and serfs), who would farm or work on the land.

Tenancy of some land came with responsibilities. The Baron would be required to fight and provide soldiers for the king's army. Villeins would be required to pay taxes to the Lord of the Manor. This system began to break down as early as 1290 in England, and has little or no relevance to modern models of land ownership.

Game of Thrones should not be considered an accurate model of Feudal Land ownership.

  • Own may be a legal concept like "marriage". However, it has it's used. Ownership facilitates a system called capitalism. It usually means right to control, right to buy and sell. Some political theorem says that if everything is owned by somebody and the cost of deals are near 0, then the allocation of resources is Pareto optimal. – user4951 Apr 23 at 13:22
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    What in blazes does "capitalism" have to do with anything? you're asking about Feudalism. Capitalism isn't some kind of root tenet of the universe, it's an economic model that didn't even have a name until the 17th century or so. – Shadur Apr 23 at 15:18
  • This interpretation is fairly disputed: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1468-2281.12110 – Fizz Apr 23 at 23:01
  • E.g. "The ‘feudal theory’ that at first allowed a ‘vassal’ to hold his fief for ‘only as long as the personal relationship of vassalage ... continued’ was developed centuries later from the brief conjectural history of benefices or fiefs written by a twelfth-century Lombard lawyer. (continues) – Fizz Apr 23 at 23:13
  • Since the collection of mini-treatises known as Libri Feudorum in which his account was incorporated did not apparently become known to anyone concerned with English property rights until the late sixteenth century, there is no reason to suppose that property held in the country after 1066, any more than before, had to go through the stages towards security and inheritance that he set out." – Fizz Apr 23 at 23:13

Feudalism, like many other political systems, is a hierarchy, as I think you already know or suspect. Hierarchy is from the Greek hierarkhia, "rule of a high priest".

At the top of the feudalism hierarchy is God. God shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. -- Psalm 72:8

Directly beneath God you've got kings, who rule by divine right and by the grace of God. Although, depending on who you ask, and when, there might be a pope between God and a king.

King James I of England said in a speech to parliament delivered in 1610:

The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth, for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods.

On the other hand, you've also got popes and the Church, who also administer some lands.

King John of England declared that he held his realm as a fief from the pope in 1213.

The Lordship of Ireland was for centuries considered a papal fief of the King of England, granted to Henry II of England by Pope Adrian IV by a 1155 papal bull.

So, under feudalism, we can see that the lands and resources are owned by God, but administered on God's behalf by kings, who are the divine servants of God. There is further subdivision and delegation, but in the sense of administering the property on the actual owner's behalf, rather than a true transfer of ownership.


All land in England, and as far as I know in the UK as a whole, is owned by the Monarch to this day (nominally at least). That said, if you own a Freehold to a property you will be able to enjoy said property (within the bounds of legal behaviour) with little interference from the Crown, subject to your paying the appropriate taxes on said property. The taxation is proof that the Freehold is a legal construct, and not ownership per se. Ergo we are still under fuedalism to this very day, at least in name. In reality, as long as we behave in a manner that 'society' regards as acceptable, we can pursue whatever dreams we have appropriate to our class (which although restrictive is considerably more than we could have achieved hundreds of years ago). In extraordinary circumstances (and more so nowadays - it's an evolutionary process it seems) we can defy expectations of our place in society and achieve great things. Such behaviour is not, however, encouraged in any except the brightest among us (as though the higher levels of society only want the best fresh genes amongst their ranks. However, reality & GoT are only loosely related. but the fuedalism upon which the society is based is not dead and buried in the real World - far from it!

  • Please add sources to support your answer. – JJJ Apr 23 at 14:51
  • Feudal system and feudal duties were formally abolished in Scotland in 2000: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ; they do still exist in England, although the only one that the average person might encounter is chancel repair liability. – pjc50 Apr 23 at 16:01
  • Re "only want the best fresh genes": this implies both a definition of "best", and a means of distinguishing the fresh from the spoiled, both of which notions seem controversial at best, if not mythical. – agc Apr 24 at 10:51

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