Medieval Europe Social Structure

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  • The king is the ruler of the kingdom and rules over the royal lands. They are the top of the social structure. They also did not have much power in reality and some lords that controlled large fiefs could amass more power than the king. However, kings gained more power in the High and Late Middle Ages. 
  • Nobles and church officials controlled land and had a large amount of wealth and power. They spent much of their time trying to gain lands and defend their lands from invaders and enemies. Nobles could be men and women and were the second highest in the social structure.
  • Knights were soldiers that served their lord. They endured years of training to prepare for battle. If they excel in serving their lord, their lord may grant them some land, causing the knight to become a vassal. All knights are expected to follow a code of behavior called chivalry. This codes states that knights should be loyal to their lord, gallant to women, courageous in combat, and defend the Church.
  • Peasants had few rights and worked the land for their lords. They also perform tasks for the lords such as repairing roads. They live in crude huts while eating simple food.
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