Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Officials in a Baronial Household

August 28, 2022

By the middle of the thirteenth century [C.E.], however, certain features seem to be characteristic of all [European] baronial households. There was a seignorial council made up of both knights and officials which fulfilled the same function of advice and consent for its lord that the curia regis did for the king. There were auditors who normally travelled around the baron’s lands, overseeing and checking the complicated system of accounts. Two officials dealt with financial matters, receiving income and making expenditures. Their titles varied on different estates, and they might be known a treasurer, receiver-general, or wardrober. The keystone of the baronial household was the steward: he held courts, headed the lord’s council, occasionally acted as an attorney at the king’s court, supervised, and often appointed, such local officials as bailiffs and reeves, and acted as his lord’s deputy. These various officials were the important nucleus who carried on the day-to-day affairs of the barony. Their number and their exact function depended on the importance and wealth of the lord whom they served.

A list of officials for the barony of Eresby in the last quarter of the thirteenth century gives a good idea of the actual household of even a minor baron, and also suggests the large number of officials and servants concerned with purely domestic affairs. The lord of Eresby had a steward who was a knight, and a wardrober who was the chief clerical officer and examined the daily expenditures with the steward every night. The wardrober’s deputy was clerk of the offices, and the chaplain and almoner could be required to help write letters and documents or act as controller of expenses. There were also two friars with their boy clerk who could substitute for the chaplain. The purely domestic officials and servants were numerous. They included a chief buyer, a marshal, two pantrymen and butlers, two cooks and larderers, a saucer—the medieval term for the sauce cook—and a poulterer, two ushers and chandlers, a porter, a baker, a brewer, and two farriers. These men were assisted by their own boy helpers. This actual list has the great advantage of illustrating the dual character of the officials who made up the baron’s household, and the number of individuals who travelled with it on its many moves. The most important officials were only incidentally concerned with daily affairs. They dealt primarily with the long-range problems of the administration of the scattered lands and the collection of the various revenues of the barony, serving as the overseers and directors of such rooted local officials as reeves, bailiffs, or constables. But the nucleus of officials also included those whose total concern was with the daily domestic routine, and one man above all—the steward of the household—was primarily responsible for the smooth running of daily life.

A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, pp. 54-55