scutage [key], feudal payment, usually in cash, given in lieu of actual military service due from a vassal to an overlord. It applied especially to the vassals of the king. Scutage collection increased noticeably in the later 12th cent., no doubt partly because of the rise of a professional military class of knights, with the consequent trend to commutation of military service. Subinfeudation (the system by which a vassal himself became an overlord, granting part of his fief to one who in turn became his vassal) may also have complicated the collection of military service and made money payments more feasible. In England the wars of the king for his French territories in the 12th, 13th, and 14th cent. were a great drain on the kingdom. The king obtained the necessary funds by scutages on his vassals and their subvassals. The barons resisted the imposition of scutage, and one of their major demands against King John concerned scutage. In the Magna Carta (1215), John pledged himself to collect scutage only with the “common counsel” of his barons. In later times the more important vassals collected the scutage from their subvassals, acting as tax farmers. The growth of taxes after the time of Edward III of England entirely displaced the feudal tax of scutage.
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