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Allodial title

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Allodial title constitutes ownership of real property (land, buildings, and fixtures) that is independent of any superior landlord. Allodial title is related to the concept of land held in allodium, or land ownership by occupancy and defence of the land.

Most property ownership in common law jurisdictions is fee simple. In the United States, the land is subject to eminent domain by federal, state and local government, and subject to the imposition of taxes by state and/or local governments, and there is thus no true allodial land. Land is "held of the Crown" in England and Wales and other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth realms. Some land in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, known as udal land, is held in a manner akin to allodial land in that these titles are not subject to the ultimate ownership of the Crown.

In France, while allodial title existed before the French Revolution, it was rare and limited to ecclesiastical properties and property that had fallen out of feudal ownership. After the French Revolution allodial title became the norm in France and other civil law countries that were under Napoleonic legal influences. In October 1854, the seigneurial system of Lower Canada, which had been ceded from France to Britain in 1763 at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War, was extinguished by the Seigneurial Tenures Abolition Act of October 1854, and a form similar to socage replaced it.

Property owned under allodial title is referred to as allodial land, allodium, or an allod. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it is called alod.[1] Historically, allodial title was sometimes used to distinguish ownership of land without feudal duties from ownership by feudal tenure which restricted alienation and burdened land with the tenurial rights of a landholder's overlord or sovereign.

Legal concept[edit]

Allodial lands are the absolute property of their owner and not subject to any rent, service, or acknowledgment to a superior. Allodial title is therefore an alternative to feudal land tenure.[2] However, historian James Holt states that "In Normandy the word alodium, whatever its sense in other parts of the Continent, meant, not land held free of seigneurial services, but land held by hereditary right", and that "alodium and feodum should be given the same meaning in England".[3]

Allodium, meaning "land exempt from feudal duties", is first attested in English-language texts in the 11th-century Domesday Book, but was borrowed from Old Low Franconian *allōd, meaning "full property", and attested in Latin as e.g., alodis, alaudes, in the Salic law (c. A.D. 507–596) and other Germanic laws. The word is a compound of *all "whole, full" and *ōd "estate, property" (cf. Old Saxon ōd, Old English ead, Old Norse auðr).[4] Allodial tenure seems to have been common throughout northern Europe,[2] but is now unknown in common law jurisdictions apart from Scotland and the Isle of Man. An allod could be converted into a fief by the owner surrendering it to a lord and receiving it back as a fief.[5]

Allodial land title is common in the Isle of Man which has laws with Nordic origins. A version called udal tenure exists in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, also of Nordic origin. These are the only parts of the United Kingdom where allodial title exists, with the few exceptions.

One such exception is the Scottish Barony of the Bachuil, which is not of feudal origin like other baronies but is allodial in that it predates (A.D. 562) Scotland itself and the feudal system, dating from the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata. In recognition as allodial Barons par le Grâce de Dieu not barons by a feudal crown grant, the Baron of the Bachuil has the only coat of arms in Scotland granted a cap of maintenance with a "vair" (squirrel fur) lining (as opposed to ermine) by the Lord Lyon Court.[6]

Another exception is Somerset House which was vested in His Majesty explicitly not in fee simple, and is held to be allodial.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Express, Britain. "Domesday Book glossary". Britain Express.
  2. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Allodium" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 698.
  3. ^ Holt, James (1997). "Politics and Property in Early Medieval England". Colonial England, 1066–1215. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 115–6. ISBN 978-1-4411-7794-0.
  4. ^ C.T. Onions, ed., Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, s.v. "allodium" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 26–27.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Susan (1994). "Fiefs and Medieval Property Relations : 3.1 The concept of the fief". Fiefs and Vassals. Oxford University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-19-820458-2.
  6. ^ Livingston, Niall (2006). The MacLeas or Livingstones and their Allodial Barony of the Bachuil (PDF). Baronage Press. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.


  • Otto Brunner: Land und Herrschaft: Grundfragen der territorialen Verfassungsgeschichte Österreichs im Mittelalter. Darmstadt 1984 (unveränderter Nachdruck der 5. Auflage von 1965).
  • K. H. Burmeister: "Allod". In: Norbert Angermann (Hrsg.): Lexikon des Mittelalters. Bd. 1. München [u.a.] 1980.
  • William Bennett Munro, 1907, The Seigneurial System in Canada: A study in French Colonial Policy Harvard Historical Studies, Vol. XII, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

External links[edit]