Serf Passed Over for Promotion to Not a Serf
Better luck next year!
As a new year and a season of hope for new beginnings didst arise, local serf Lulf Rakefield’s lord informed him that he was once again passed over for promotion to not a serf.
“I really thought this wouldst be the year,” spake Rakefield. “Me wonders what I did wrong. Was I not serf-like enough? Did I not donate enough of my sons to die uselessly in the war effort?
“I guess I’ll just have to keep grinding until the lord of the manor sees fit to release me from my bondage.”
Whereupon it came tyme for Lulf’s performance review session he was woefully disheartened, as he is every day on account of being a serf. He knew not what he could have done better, for he worked from sun up to sun down for se’en days a week, and produced the maximum output that a tired and broken down wretch possibly could with his bare hands.
“‘Tis a difficult discussion for me to have,” spake Lord Slatecastle during the performance review. “But I thought for precisely four seconds about this, and hath decided that thou shalt remain bound to do my eternal bidding for yet another year.”
Lord Slatecastle thinks the experience will serve as a positive one for Lulf in the long run, offering him a chance to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses, and seek self-improvement.
“‘Tis a goode opportunity to consider a stretch assignment, like a winter in the mines or acting as a speedbump for an enemy cavalry charge,” Lord Slatecastle spake during their interview. “I’ve always promised to promote anyone who manages to survive either of those. Although I’d need to figure out the administrative requirements since that’s never happened yet.”
The goode lord gave him some important recommendations for increasing his chances of not being a serf next year, which included:
Don’t be born into serfdom;
Discover that he is the bastard son of a nobleman, especially one from a powerful bloodline, making it politically expedient to elevate Lulf to knighthood; and,
“I appreciate his honest, if discouraging, feedback,” spake Lulf. “If I really work hard at it, I’m pretty sure I can accomplish at least one of those things this year.”
Addendum: Serf Promotions
Could a serf actually be “promoted”?
Well, unfortunately for Lulf, not really. Although they could be released from serfdom by their lord.
For the most part, a serf’s options for not being a serf anymore were:
Manumission, or enfranchisement. I had to search around a bit to find a source that clearly distinguishes between these two terms. The best source I found was Sir Edward Coke’s The First Part of the Institute of the Lawes of England (1628). Manumission is when a lord makes his villein free, whereas enfranchisement is a more general term that includes manumission as well as other ways of freeing someone or giving them more rights (including making an alien a denizen). So manumission was a specific type of enfranchisement. “…and therefore every manumission is an infranchisement, but every infranchisement is not a manumission.” Chapter 11 is called “Of Villenage” and goes into this kind of thing in excruciating detail.
Rebel! (And be crushed by The King, of course.)
Overall, not too many great choices.
Maybe there were some unique cases where someone proved their mettle in battle or otherwise showed their worth in such a way that they were elevated to “not a serf” status. But this would probably be extremely rare.
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