SE RI EANTY. In English Law. A species of service which cannot be due or performed from a tenant to any lord but the king, and is either grand or petit.
"The exact idea of serjeanty as conceived in the thirteenth century," says a recent writ er on this subject, "is not one easily defined." Several different classes of men were group ed together under one heading, the bond be tween them being very slight, and the dis tinction between serjeanty and knight's serv ice on the one hand and socage on the other is hard to determine; 1 Poll. & Malt]. 262.
Serjeanty means service. The serjeant means primarily one who serves. Those who follow the law are serjeants-at-iaw. The ten ants by serjeanty are no doubt the descend ants of the servientes of Domesday Book, who held land in many counties as the serv ants, in many capacities, of the king and the great nobles. There were many peculiar fea tures of this tenure in the 13th century. Land so held went back to the donor when the tenant died. When it descended to the heir, the relief was arbitrary. The land was never partitioned, because personal services could not be partitioned. Land long remain ed inalienable. Of the non-military serjean ties held under the king, there were services which were rather regarded as conferring dignity than as service: to carry the king's banner and the like. Many tenants held by the tenure of doing a variety of humbler services. Similarly, the great lords let lands to be held by serjeanty, the tenants being the servants of the lord. The importance of this class of tenants was very great.
In the 12th and 13th centuries the military serjeanties supplied the feudal army with light auxiliary troops, attendants on the knights, material for war, etc., and this both
to the king and the mesne lord. In the 14th century there was a tendency to substitute the contract with the hired servant for the status of the tenant in serjeanty. As a re sult, little was left except the tenure of those who held by the tenure of dignified services to the king, or some service pertain ing to war.
In Britton's day, serjeanty was specially, but not exclusively, connected with war and the idea arose that all tenure by serjeanty must be tenure in chief ; Litt. § 161. The dis tinction, in a social sense, between these two surviving classes was expressed by the terms "grand" and "petit." They came to have a technical meaning, due probably to the need for settling the question whether tenure by serjeanty gave rise to the incidents of ward ship and marriage; 1 Poll. & Maitl. 304. As the greater number of the old serjeanties dropped out, there remained only the serjean ties performed by the great nobility on state occasions and the smaller military serjean ties. Tenure by the latter class came to be "but socage in effect"; Litt. § 160; and ten ure by the former class came to be similar to tenure by knight service, till it also was turned into tenure by socage by an act in 1660 which abolished military tenures, but preserved the honorary services due from the tenant by grand serjeanty ; 3 Holdsw. Hist. E. L. 39. Estates conferred by the crown in recognition of distinguished public services are generally held by petit serjeanty ; Jenks, Mod. Land Law 23.