KNIGHT'S SERVICE, TENURE BY, otherwise called tenure in chivalry, or per service de chivaler, per servitium militare, was, from the times immediately succeeding the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century to the period of the civil war in the seventeenth, considered the first and the most important, as it was also the most general, mode of holding land and other immoveable pro perty in England. The land held by this species of tenure was said to consist of so many knight's fees, feoda militis, i. e. so many portions of land capable of supporting the dignity of a knight. [Kruciar's FEE.] He who held an entire knight's fee was bound by his tenure, when called upon so to do, to follow his lord to the wars (under certain restric tions as to the place at which the service was to be performed), and to remain with him forty days in every year, or to send some other knight duly qualified to per form the services. From the owner of half a knight's fee twenty days' attend ance only could be required ; and the obligation attaching to the quarter of a knight's fee was satisfied by the per formance of ten days' service. On the other hand, a person holding several knight's fees, whether forming one or several estates, was bound to furnish a knight in respect of each.
" Escuage, says Littleton, § 95, "is called in Latin Scittagium, that is, service of the shield; and that tenant which holdeth his land by escuage, holdeth by knight's service." The nature of the service has been already explained. This personal service was expressed by the parliament at a certain sum, which the tenant who did not render the service in person was bound to pay. On the sub ject of Escuage see Littleton, on 'Tenure by knight's service,' § 103, &c., which he defines as consisting in Homage, Fealty, and Escuage.
Besides this permanent liability to mili tary service, the tenant was subject to other occasional burdens. The principal of these are the following incidental ser vices :—First, Aids [Aires]. Secondly, ReliVs, being a payment made by the heir in the nature of a composition for leave to enter upon land descending to him after he had attained his full age. Thirdly, Primer Scisin, or the right of the crown, where the lands were held of the king, to a year's profit of land de scending to an heir who was of full age at the time of the death of his ancestor.
Fourthly, Wardship, or the right to the custody of the body and lands of an heir to whom the land had descended during his minority, the king or other lord in such cases taking the profits of the land during the minority to his own use, or selling the wardship to a stranger if he thought proper. Fifthly, Marriage, or a right in the lord, where the land de scended to an heir within age, to tender to him or her a wife or a husband ; and if the heir refused a match without dis paragement, i. e, without disparity of rank, crime, or bodily infirmity, the lord became entitled to hold the land as a security for payment by the heir of the amount for which the lord had sold or which he might have obtained for the marriage. Sixthly, Fines upon Aliena tion.
This system fell to the ground during the existence of the Commonwealth; and the abolition of this species of tenure was confirmed upon the Restoration, as it would have been absurd and dangerous to attempt a renewal of such oppressive burdens. Accordingly the 12th Car. II., c. 24, takes away tenure by knight's ser vice, whether the lands are held of the crown or of a subject, together with all its oppressive fruits and peculiar conse quences, and converts every such tenure into free and common socage. [SoceoE.] Nothing can be more comprehensive than the terms of this act ; besides generally abolishing tenure by knight's service, and its consequences, it descends into particu lars, with a redundancy of words, which appear to indicate an extreme anxiety to extirpate completely all traces of knight's service. The statute, after taking away the court of wards and liveries, enumerates wardships, liveries, primer seisins or ousterlemains, values and for feitures of marriages, and fines, seisures, and pardons for alienation, and sweeps away the whole. But rents certain, heriots [HEmoT], suit of court and other services incident to common socage and fealty [ThsTaEss], and also fines for alienation due by the customs of particu lar manors, are preserved. Reliefs for lands of which the tenure is converted into common socage, are saved in cases where a quit-rent is also payable.