Medieval politics

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Part of the series on
The Middle Ages
Historical Periods

Early Middle Ages (6th-10th century)
High Middle Ages (11th-13th century)
Late Middle Ages (14th-15th century)

Medieval History

Holy Roman Empire
Investiture Conflict
Black Death
Vikings
The Crusades

Medieval Society

Medieval religion
Medieval politics
Feudalism


Medieval Politics revolved around the affairs of monarchy and nobility and ties in with the practice of feudalism. Under feudalism, every member of society knew his or her place and social upward mobility was either extremely difficult or impossible depending on your circumstances. The order of hierarchy came as follows in the feudal state:

Clergy were very often were members of the noble class, and monastic orders were regularly as rich if not richer than the king in question.

Role of the Clergy

Religion --that is the Catholic Church--played a major part in government and many bureaucrats were drawn from among the clergy. In Europe, Monastic orders such as the Cistercians wielded considerable political power, with the co-founder st. Bernard being a particularly important figure responsible for rallying support for the Second Crusade.

During the eleventh century papal reform movement, attempts were made to separate church and state as Medieval monarchies wielded great power and authority over clergy and the Catholic hierarchy. This led to the Investiture contest and the reform of the papacy. Medieval Kings were instinctively opposed to attempts of the Church to centralise its decision making efforts in Rome as this damaged the regional churches, who contributed to the coffers of Medieval Kings. Also, Kings needed clergy to operate in their Civil service as scribes and chancellors as there were too few educated non-clergy in the realm who could perform their duties which was vital for the smooth operation of the realm.

The importance of war

As opposed to modern perceptions of war, Medieval politics placed great emphasis on war, considering it to be a useful and often necessary tool of foreign policy. Small scale wars between important nobility and larger conflicts such as the Hundred Years War is testament to this fact. The large number of castles built in Europe during the Medieval age is another testament to the frequency of war, as nearly every nobleman found it necessary to build a castle for his own defence and protection.

Diplomacy

Successful diplomatic efforts were often marked by a marriage between two houses. Medieval Kings placed great emphasis on the importance of daughters, as they often were wedded off to troublesome nobles or to cement foreign alliances.

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