Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Servitia Debita Definition:

Latin: services rendered to pay off a debt.

Related Terms: Feudal System, Vassal

A form of debt owed in the feudal land system, and secured by use of land owed to a lord.

Cornelius Moynihan writes, in his aerticle on the English feudal land system as it came with the Noman Conquest of 1066

"From the legal standpoint one of the significant aspects of the Norman plantation was the introduction into England of the
most highly organized type of feudal tenure-military tenure.

"Feudalism is a generic term that may be used to describe the social structure of Western Europe in the Middle Ages. It had
for its central core the relationship of lord and vassal (not then a word of opprobrium) bound together by a bond of personal
loyalty and owing mutual aid and assistance. The relation was usually evidenced by the solemn ceremony of homage wherein
the vassal knelt before the lord, acknowledged himself to be his man, and swore fealty to him. It was frequently accompanied
by a grant of land from the lord to the vassal, the land to be held of the lord by the vassal as tenant.' Normally, by the terms of
the grant specific services were imposed on the tenant and these services (servitia debita) were considered to be a burden on the land itself."

Another example might be, the arrangement with a landlord might be that the vassal may have to surender the work of his children for sundry services to the landlord, servitia debita.1

Francis Bacon wrote of "the manor of Alderwasley, parcel of the Duchy, and lying out of the county Palatine" as being held in tenancy by a knight in the name of the king and in his summary of the law, used these words:

"... where the King confirmed to his farmers tenants for life (also known as) tenend per servitia debita".


  • Bacon, Francis, 4 The Works of Francis Bacon, 1819 edition
  • Beare & Hodges case, 124 ER 123 (1486-1865)
  • Moynihan, C. J., Introduction to the Law of Real Property: An Historical Background of the Common Law of Real Property and its Modern Application (1962), page 4.
  • NOTE 1: Pound, Roscoe and others, editors, The National Law Library, Volume 6 (New York: P. F. Collier & Son Corporation, 1939) page 115
  • White, Stephen, English Feudalism and Its Origins, 19 Am. J. Legal Hist. 138 (1975)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!

rolex replica