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scutage (skyōō´tĬj), 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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scutage or shield-money was commutation in lieu of knight service as a fixed levy on the fee. From an early period after the Norman Conquest it became difficult to raise an adequate number of knights to form the royal army, nor was their military prowess necessarily satisfactory. The person holding the fee might be old, infirm, or even a female. There were therefore advantages to both sides in allowing landowners to buy themselves out, and as early as 1100 the term scutage had come into use. But the temptation to monarchs to raise the levy and to impose scutage more often made the issue controversial. John increased both the rate of scutage and the frequency of demands and an article of Magna Carta declared that scutage must be imposed only ‘by common counsel of our kingdom’. When Edward I revived scutage in 1279 for his Welsh expedition he met with opposition, and Edward III's attempts to levy scutage for a Scottish campaign in 1327 were largely unsuccessful, the arrears of payment having to be wiped off.

J. A. Cannon

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scutage (hist.) tax levied on knights' fees, esp. in lieu of military service. XV. — medL. scūtāgium, f. L. scūtum shield; see -AGE.