In Norman England, at the top of the feudal hierarchy immediately below the King, were the barons. The landed aristocracy as they became.
Most of them are descended from what Georgette Heyer (a much under rated author) is fond of describing in her books as the ‘raff and scraff’ of Europe, who came over with William the Conqueror in his army and were rewarded for their support by grants of land.
One of the best known examples of William favouring his supporters is the case of Turstin Fotzrolf who was William’s standard bearer at the Battle of Hastings.
The story goes that William needed someone to be his standard bearer. As this was the standard which had been sent to him by the Pope no less, it was a pretty important job.
However both the knights he asked first (Raoul de Conches and Walter Giffard in case you wanted to know) refused, and the King got a bit cross. So he called up a humble knight, Turstin FitzRolf, and asked him to do it. Which he did ‘right cheerfully’.
As well he might, as he was subsequently rewarded by large grants of land and is recorded in the Domesday book as having over 20 manors.
It is possible that Turstin is the standard bearer in the baueux tapestry section above.
Baronial land was held per baroniam, a standard type of feudal contract similar to (or possibly the same as) tenure by ‘knight service’. Except that they held direct from the King rather than from another lord.
They were also ‘tenants-in-chief’ and much of their land was sub let out on various types of feudal contract to their followers. The remainder was kept for themselves as ‘demesne’ land.
Writs and relief
To become a baron you had to pay your dues to the King first. This was known as ‘baronial relief’ and was a payment, a sort of one off taxation, that you had to pay to the King before you could step into your inheritance.
However being a Baron gave you the right to attend the Kings Council. And eventually, to receive a writ to attend Parliament. The House of Lords.