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Aristocratic Households * The Household proper * Tenants * Officers and counselors * Extraordinary retainers * Liveried retainers * Servants and well wishers

The Aristocratic Household: Officers and Counselors

A typical emolument for our period:

2d. a day or £3 0s. 8d. a year

These administrators fall into four categories: estate officers, central administration, household officers, and counselors. Distinctions between them were often blurred. By 1300, every estate had its hierarchy of administrators paid with annuities and liveries. Estate officers managed non-subinfeudated lands, organized the farming of the demesne, managed parks and game, collected rents and other dues from tenants, and performed other duties as the lord’s agent in place. These officers also made purchases, prepared the residence for the lord’s arrival, and mustered his tenants. Manorial accounts feature reeves, bailiffs, beadles, debt-collectors, messors, foresters, and parkers. The status of officials rose as more was expected of them. Their emoluments (fees for holding the office) rose as well.

The officers of the household, particularly the heads of departments, were concerned with catering, ceremony, discipline, accounting, and transport. The men holding these oversight offices are best considered part of the household, but not all manorial oversight positions were held by men who were a direct part of the household. Lords often divided their estates into geographical receiverships, each employing a receiver and auditors, and such officers were not resident in the household. They received retaining fees and expenses for days spent on the job, and might visit the household residence when the lord was present, taking part in household activities. Such men often served more than one master, occassionally in a different capacity with each lord.

Counselors commonly included household officials, leading estate officers, important retainers, and lawyers. Late medieval baronial councils met regularly, gave advice formally, and undertook administrative tasks individually and as a body.

Lawyers were a category of experts that no late medieval lord could do without. In the fourteenth century, lawyers were commonly laymen. They were paid retaining fees which they commonly supplemented with wages and expenses. The relationship between a lawyer and his employers was comparable to that of a modern British solicitor and his clients.

There was a bond of trust between a lord and his men, Lords expected administrators and counselors to fulfill the functions attached to their positions. Such expectations were almost invariably met.