During the medieval times, the king was the most important component in the society. Medieval kings wielded immense power, controlling land, nobles, and riches. Having the highest authority of the land, all power flowed from the king out to his subjects.
Most medieval kings believed in the divine right of kings, which means that God gave them the right to rule and was not subject to earthly authority.
Being the figurehead of the state, the king had control over matters of law, justice, and governance. The king governed through a network of administrators and advisers, who all played important roles in managing the different aspects of the government.
Although the king was the center of all power and authority, he still needed the allegiance of the feudal nobles and members of the clergy to wield his power. He had to swear an oath to carry out his responsibilities, which include keeping the peace, administering justice, and upholding the law.
Responsibilities of the Medieval King
· Keeping the Peace
In medieval Europe, the king’s power over the entire kingdom was not uncontested. Feudal nobles, powerful in their own right, waged wars with each other. These wars played havoc to the social order. The king’s most important responsibility then was to establish order and maintain the peace, usually by force. Keeping the peace throughout the kingdom also entails fighting foreign invaders and suppressing crime and violence.
· Administering Justice
Administering justice means the king had to resolve disputes between his nobles, appoint officials, and preside over important court cases. The law and order of the medieval society was dependent on the successful administration of this king’s responsibility.
Because the nobles only accepted the king’s judgment without them having to lose face, they relied on him to resolve their disputes.
· Upholding the Law
The medieval king was responsible for upholding the law. The king was the maker and the defender of the law. Although not personally bound by it, the king is still expected to observe established laws and to behave in an upright manner. Failure to do so would mean losing his moral authority to rule the kingdom.
The King’s Men
The stability and prosperity of the kingdom relied on system of governance that is managed by a network of administrators, officials, and advisers. This intricate network ensured the king’s authority and allowed him to exert control over the kingdom.
The Royal Court
Considered the heart of the medieval king’s empire, the royal court is the seat of power and administration. Composed of high-ranking officials and advisers, the royal court assist the king in maintaining control over the realm. They shape policies and provide counsel on matters of governance.
Royal Council and Chancellery
The royal council, composed of high-ranking nobles, clergy, and legal experts, counsels the king on legislative, diplomatic, and military matters. The chancellery, led by the chancellor, manage the official correspondence of the king. They also issue charters and maintain royal records.
Acting as the king’s representative, appointed local officials oversee specific regions of the kingdom. These officials include sheriffs, bailiffs, and steward.
The nobility, an important part of the king’s network, maintains law and order within their territories. The king expects them to administer justice, collect taxes, and provide military support when needed.
Bishops and abbots act as spiritual leaders and regional administrators. They manage the church’s landholdings and assist in matters of governance. The church played a role in further consolidating the king’s power.
Military commanders were tasked to train soldiers and plan military campaigns. They make sure that the king’s military objectives are achieved. The king’s authority was maintained by their loyalty and effectiveness.
The smooth functioning of the kingdom depends on a wide range of royal officials: treasurers, chamberlains, heralds, and clerks. They carry out the king’s policies and ensure the efficient administration of the kingdom.
The medieval king was the heart and soul of the kingdom. He held the ultimate power over the people. But he needed the allegiance and loyalty of the people around him to successfully rule his kingdom.
Medieval Chronicles. “Medieval King.” Accessed January 7, 20124. https://www.medievalchronicles.com/medieval-people/medieval-royalty/medieval-king/.
Oxford Bibliographies. “English Kings and Monarchy, 1066–1485.” Accessed January 7, 2014. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/display/document/obo.
Thompson, Scott. “What Were the Responsibilities of a King in Medieval Ties?” Last modified June 25, 2018. https://classroom.synonym.com/what-were-the-responsibilities-of-a-king-in-medieval-times-12082756.html.