The feudal system, in which the land was owned by a monarch, who in exchange for homage and military service granted its use to tenants-in-chief, who in their turn granted its use to sub-tenants in return for further services, gave rise to several terms, particular to Britain, for subdivisions of land which are no longer in wide use.
A county is a contiguous geographic area that is considerable, but variable, in size. A county is not a political unit. It is strictly an administrative territory, and encompasses everything within its borders. Rarely is anyone ever the lord of an entire county, holding just of parts of it, even if he has the title of count.
Within the boundaries of these counties are the many baronial fiefs, called estates, manors, and honours, each with its own lord and its seigniorial court. These feudal lands are irregular portions of the neat county divisions, sometimes in large blocks as estates, and often as small individual manors.
Counties usually have a natural integrity, such as lying around a drainage basin (like Salisbury), along major rivers (like Rydychan), or around population centers (all). The residents therefore have a common interest, and the county court is where they express it. County courts are where the major landowners — barons, abbots, and bishops — manage their local affairs. Every county holds its court twice a year, an event of such importance that all landholders must attend or else be fined. Fines vary according to the wealth of the offender, so that a peasant would be fined two pennies, a knight two libra, a baron five libra, and a great baron ten libra. Peasant representatives from every settlement in the county get together to stand witness in disputes, learn changes to the law, and enforce the results of criminal cases. Townsmen from across the county get together to trade their goods and the latest news.
The county court is where the king enforces Ancient Law and Custom for his people. Anyone with a complaint about a neighbor breaking the king’s law goes to court to find justice. The king will make sure justice prevails, because he is the fount of Justice. Ancient Law and Custom assures this, and everyone knows and accepts the king’s authority. It is simply what is done. These laws are all about one thing: the king’s property and his tenants. If one of the king’s laws is broken, the victim is usually a commoner, and he takes it to court to complain.
Every county has an appointed royal official called the county reeve, or sheriff, who speaks for the king there. He oversees all of the king’s business. He administers the county law court, collects all royal goods and moneys, pursues criminals, and musters and leads the county militia.
Each county has a royal castle that is held by the sheriff and used as a treasury, prison, supply storage, and mustering point for the local levy.
Towns have grown up beside each castle to handle subsidiary business, and these sites are usually called County Towns. Many of these have the same name as their territory.
Pages in category "Counties"
The following 40 pages are in this category, out of 40 total.