A Butler's Fee?

+8 votes

"William of Routh (fl. c. 1250) held part of the butler's fee."  Is this like a knight's fee? I haven't been able to find a definition.  

This is from the Yorkshire Fines, 1232–46, p. 82; 1246–72, p. 88.

in Genealogy Help by Steve Hennings G2G4 (4.4k points)

2 Answers

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The Online Etymology Dictionary entry for the word fee might help:

...The other word is Anglo-French fee, from Old French fieu, a variant of fief "possession, holding, domain; feudal duties, payment" (see fief), which apparently is a Germanic compound in which the first element is cognate with Old English feoh.

Via Anglo-French come the legal senses "estate in land or tenements held on condition of feudal homage; land, property, possession" (c. 1300). Hence fee-simple (late 14c.) "absolute ownership," as opposed to fee-tail (early 15c.) "entailed ownership," inheritance limited to some particular class of heirs (second element from Old French taillir "to cut, to limit").

The feudal sense was extended from landholdings to inheritable offices of service to a feudal lord (late 14c.; in Anglo-French late 13c.), for example forester of fe "a forester by heritable right." As these often were offices of profit, the word came to be used for "remuneration for service in office" (late 14c.), hence, "payment for (any kind of) work or services" (late 14c.). From late 14c. as "a sum paid for a privilege" (originally admission to a guild); early 15c. as "money payment or charge exacted for a license, etc." 

So given the word usage in the mid-12th century I would say yes, it could be like a knight's fee. Or it could be the 'heritable position'

Using a totally different source (not related to the profile) to illustrate usage in terms of property: Edward Miller's The Abbey and Bishopric of Ely contains this:

"The actual deed in question may have survived - a charter in which Prior William granted Eye and Coveney to Eustace, the bishop's butler for the service of half a knight. Both may have been resumed into demesne in 1135; and though Eye returned to the butler's fee, Coveney must at some time or another have been given to the convent...."

by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (297k points)
selected by Steve Hennings

...and since 1) you can't really hold part of a hereditary position; 2) William of Routh was certainly not a butler; and 3) according to the etymology above the meaning of fee in the sense of 'wage' did not come into use until the late 14th century - ruling out the possible  interpretation that William of Routh (with)held part of the butler's [wage] - I must conclude that in context it must be referring to landholdings.

+2 votes


The butler at this time was a high ranking servant in charge of the wine cellar and fee in this context is the property that was given to the butler, who is named earlier in that document as Amand the butler. 

The implication to me is that William of Routh married an descendant of Amand (daughter?), especially since his son's name is Amand.

by Kirk Hess G2G6 Mach 7 (74.0k points)

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