KNIGHT, KNIGHTHOOD. Dur ing the feudal system the military strength of the nation was measured by the num ber and efficiency of the knights whom the king was able to summon to the field By distress [DistREss] the king could compel those who held knight's fees [KNIGHT'S FEES] to take upon them. selves the order of knighthood, or to prove by their reception into that order that they had received the training, and pos sessed the arms and accoutrements, and were, as to other requisites, qualified to take the field as knights. The statute, or rather the grant of 1 Edward II., enrolled in parliament, called Statutum de Mili tibus,' appears to have been made, partly as an indulgence upon the commence ment of a new reign, and partly for the purpose of removing some doubts which existed as to the persons liable to be called upon to receive knighthood. The king thereby, in the first place, granted a respite until the following Christmas to all those who ought to have become, but were not, knights, and were then dis trained ad arma militaria suscipienda. Further, it directed that if any com plained in chancery that he was distrained, and had not land to the value of forty pounds in fee, or for term of his life, and was ready to verify that by the country (i.e. by the decision of a jury), then some discreet and lawful knights of the county should be written to, in order to make inquisition of the matter, and if they found it to be so, he was to have redress, and the distress was to cease. Again, where a person was impleaded for the whole of his land, or for so much of it that the remainder was not of the value of forty pounds, and he could verify the fact, then also the distress was to cease till that plea was determined. Again, where a person was bound in certain debts atterminated in the exchequer at a certain sum to be received thereof annu ally (i. e. respited, subject to payment by instalments), and the remainder of his land was not worth forty pounds per an num, the distress was to cease till the debt was paid. No one was to be dis
trained ad arma militaria suscipienda till the age of twenty-one, or on account of land which he held in manors of the an tient demesne of the crown as a sokeman, inasmuch as those lands were liable to pay a tallage when the king's lands were tallaged. With respect to those who held land in socage of other manors, and who perfbrmed no servitium forinsecum, or service due upon the tenure, though not expressed in the grant, the rolls of chan cery in the times of the king's predeces sors were to be searched, and it was to be ordered according to the former custom; the same of clerks in holy orders holding any lay fee, who would, if laymen, have been liable to become knights. No one was to be distrained in respect of property of burgage tenure. Persons under obli gation to become knights, who had held their land only a short time, were ex tremely old, or had an infirmity in their limbs, or had some incurable disease, or the impediment of children, or law-suits, or other necessary excuses, were to ap pear and make fine before two commis sioners named in the act, who were to take discretionary fines from such dis abled persons by way of composition. Under this regulation those who were distrained upon as holding land of the value of 40/. per annum either received knighthood or made fine to the king. The alteration in the nominal value of money occasioned by the increased quantity of the precious metals, and still more by successive fraudulent degradations of the standard, gradually widened the circle within which estates were subjected to this burthen ; and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lands which, in the reign of Edward II., were not perhaps worth 4/. per annum, had risen in nomi nal value to 401., and were often held by persons belonging to a totally different class from those who were designated by 1 Edward II. stat. 1, as persons having 40 libratas terra;.