:"for the town, see Heriot, Scotland"Heriot was the right of a lord in feudal Europe to seize a serf's best horse and or clothing upon his death. It arose from the tradition of the lord loaning a serf a horse or armour or weapons to fight so that when the serf died the lord would rightfully reclaim his property. When knights as a class emerged and were later able to acquire their own fighting instruments, the lord continued to claim rights to property upon death, extending sometimes to everyone not just the fighting knights. Serfs could make provisions for heriot in their wills, but death in battle often meant no heriot was required, because the winner of a fight would often take horse and armour anyway as was often the custom. By the 13th Century the payment was made either in money or in kind by handing over the best beast or chattel of the tenant. The enlightened cleric Jacques de Vitry called lords who imposed heriots "vultures that prey upon death... worms feeding upon the corpse."

Heriot came in many varieties. G. G. Coulton reports a curious case of heriot in modern times:

:"In the later 19th Century Lord Rothschild bought an estate of which part was copyhold under New College, Oxford. The Warden and Fellows, therefore, were in that respect his lords, and he had to redeem the freehold in all haste lest, at his death, these overlords should claim as a heriot his best beast which, in the case of so distinguished a racing man as Rothschild, might have been worth twenty thousand pounds or more."

Heriot is one of the many curious laws from feudal times that started because of a logical need between two parties, but because of the custom of noble rights, where whatever rights a lord had before continue on by way of custom, even if the original reason for it no longer existed. This law and many others, such as the noble right not to pay taxes, have a long contentious history in Europe.

For the manorial law relating to heriots, see copyhold.

Word origin: Old English. Heriot, by derivation the arms and equipment ("geatwa") of a soldier or army ("here"); the Old English word is thus "here-geatwa".

External links

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1035Cnutrelf.html Canute, King of the English: On Heriots and Reliefs, c. 1016-1035]

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  • Heriot — Her i*ot, n. [AS. heregeatu military equipment, heriot; here army + geatwe, pl., arms, equipments.] (Eng. Law) Formerly, a payment or tribute of arms or military accouterments, or the best beast, or chattel, due to the lord on the death of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • heriot — O.E. here geatwe (pl.) military equipment, army gear, from here army (see HARRY (Cf. harry)). An Anglo Saxon service of weapons, loaned by the lord to his retainer and repayable to him upon the retainer s death; transferred by 13c. to a feudal… …   Etymology dictionary

  • heriot — [her′ē ət] n. [ME heriet < OE heregeatwe, lit., army equipment < here, army (see HAROLD1) + geatwe, earlier ge tawe, equipment, arms < tawian, to prepare: see TAW1] Eng. Feudal Law a payment in chattels or money (orig., a restoration of… …   English World dictionary

  • Hériot — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Hériot est le nom de Auguste Hériot (1826 1879), homme d affaires français Auguste Olympe Hériot (1886 1951), homme d affaires et amant éphémère de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • heriot — /her ee euht/, n. Eng. Law. a feudal service or tribute, originally of borrowed military equipment and later of a chattel, due to the lord on the death of a tenant. [bef. 900; ME heriot, heriet, OE heregeate, heregeatu, heregeatwa war gear, equiv …   Universalium

  • Heriot — A payment which a feudal lord may claim from the possessions of a dead serf or other tenant, essentially a death tax. There are various forms of heriot. Generally if a tenant dies in battle the heriot is forgiven. ♦ A death duty to the lord; in… …   Medieval glossary

  • heriot — /heriyat/ In English law, a customary tribute of goods and chattels, payable to the lord of the fee on the decease of the owner of the land. Heriots are divided into heriot service and heriot custom. The former expression denotes such as are due… …   Black's law dictionary

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