Heriot, the surrender of the best horse or ox, is also considered as the common incident of villein tenure, although, of course, its very name proves its intimate connexion with the outfit of soldiers (here-geatu).
But this interference of 15th-century chancellors paved the way towards one of the greatest revolutions in the law; without formally enfranchising villeins and villein tenure they created a legal basis for it in the law of the realm: in the formula of copyhold - tenement held at the will of the lord and by the custom of the manor - the first part lost its significance and the second prevailed, in downright contrast with former times when, on the contrary, the second part had no legal value and the first expressed the view of the courts.
Economically the institution of villenage was bound tip with the manorial organization - that is, with the fact that the country was.divided into a number of districts in which central home farms were cultivated by the help of work supplied by villein households.
If, however, the two conditions mentioned were forthcoming, villeins, or, as they were technically called, villein socmen of ancient demesne manors, could resist any attempt of their lords to encroach on their rights by depriving them of their holdings or increasing the amount of their customary services.
In fact, the villein is assumed to be a person free by birth, but holding land of which he cannot dispose freely.
From the close of the 13th century downwards countless transactions on the basis of leases for terms of years occur between the peasants themselves, any suitably kept set of 14th-century court rolls containing entries in which such and such a villein is said to appear in the halimote and to surrender for the use of another person named a piece of land belonging to the holding.
The Council of Clermont prescribed that the oath of adherence to the truce be taken every three years by all men above the age of twelve, whether noble, burgess, villein or serf.
By the common law, if a villein were made a knight he was thereby enfranchised and accounted a gentleman, and if a person under age and in wardship were knighted both his minority and wardship terminated.
It would seem that the manorial grudges between landowner and peasant, which had been so fierce in the 14th century, had died down as the lords abandoned the old system of working their demesne by villein labor.
The manorial accounts were kept with precision and detail, and we are told that a skilled official could estimate to the utmost farthing the value of the services due from the villein to his lord.