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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Glossary of Political, Property & Government Terms (T to Z)

Definitions of political, legal, & property terms, as well as terms related to government; from medieval times until the present day.


Note. For brevity, some definitions on this webpage refer to eg. "King" or "Emperor" rather than eg. "King or Queen" or "Emperor or Empress" etc. Throughout history, there have been examples where women held power in their own right; rather than as consorts.



See Types of Government

Tenant in Chief:

Lord or institution (often the Church) holding land directly from the King. All Earls were Tenants in Chief.


See Types of Government

Third Penny:

The local earl's one-third share of fines in shire or hundred courts, often allocated afterwards to a particular manor or church as income.

Third Reading:

UK Parliament: The final brief debate for Members of Parliament or The Lords, about a proposed Parliamentary bill (new law), following the report stage. If approved by Members of Parliament, the bill will then be passed for consideration by the House of Lords.

If later approved by Members of the House of Lords, the bill will go for Royal Assent.
Third Sector, Non Governmental Organisations, Civil Society, Big Society:

Originally, organisations which were run neither by government, nor wholly for profit. Has been use to cover:

  • Government services delivered by charities, under government contracts
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Non-profit sector
  • Not-for-personal-profit sector
  • Social firms such as cooperatives & mutuals
  • Charities
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Lobby organisations & "think tanks"

See also: Fourth Estate.

Third Way:

Politics. Syncretic attempt which tries to (or claims to), combine the best ideas or people, taken from a variety of backgrounds & sources; from both the Left & the Right of politics.


In Greek mythology, one of the second generation of deities, based on Mt. Othrys, children of Uranus (Heaven) & Gaia (Earth). These days, someone who wields great influence or power in their chosen field; eg. Industry, politics, media, etc.


One tenth of a person's produce and income, due as a tax to support the church.

Titular (Position):

Formal position, figurehead, without any real authority.

Top Drawer, vs. Not from the Top Drawer:

Someone considered to have social status, influence, skills.

Top Table:

Table at a formal gathering or meal, where the most important or influential people are seated.


See Types of Government

Tories, Tory Political Party:

UK Parliament: Originally a term of abuse – a reference to Irish rebels (isolated bands of guerrillas who resisted Oliver Cromwell's nine-month 1649–1650 campaign in Ireland) – who opposed the Whigs by supporting the Roman Catholic James Duke of York to succeed King Charles II: They were first labelled "Abhorrers," later "Tories." Tories supported the existing political order & the established church. Effectively, Tories were successors to the Cavaliers / Royalists of the English Civil wars.

Later, the Tories changed significantly, particularly during the 19th century leadership of Disraeli. The current Conservative Party is often labelled "Tory."

Town Air is Free Air:

Words used in the ancient charters of many towns, to proclaim the freedom of any escaped serf who lived there for a year and a day without being claimed by his lord.

T.R.E. (tempora regis Eduardis):

Abbreviation in the Domesday Book meaning in the time of King Edward the Confessor – the last King recognised as lawful by William the Conqueror – whose death on 5th January 1066 initiated the events leading to the Norman Conquest. So, the Domesday Book uses the reign of King Edward – not King Harold – as the lawful baseline for land holdings and taxation.


Chief financial officer of the realm, and senior officer of the Exchequer. See also: Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Treasury Bench:

UK Parliament: Front bench to the right of the Speaker in the Chamber of the House of Commons; Traditionally reserved for members of the government.

Trial by Combat (Also Trial by Battle):

Medieval process of determining guilt, or a dispute, by combat between the accuser and the accused. Sometimes, champions were permitted. The assumption was that God would intervene and decide the case. Officially abolished in Britain in 1819.


The right to cut peat or turf, also the place where these are cut. Most of the hills around Hemyock had turbaries.

Types of Government:

See Government, types of


Ruler or person who uses their power unjustly and / or oppressively.



Term meaning that the youngest son would inherit the estate or office of his father. This was customary in some Devon farming families until modern times. The logic was that the older sons would marry and be helped to move away onto new lands, leaving the youngest son to stay at home, help his parents and eventually inherit. See also Borough-english.


The (Worldwide) Islamic community.

Universal Suffrage, Universal Franchise:

Electoral system where all adults from all backgrounds who meet the same basic qualifying conditions, have the right to vote in elections; meaning that men & women, rich & poor, have an equal right to vote. Some small groups of people such as felons may be excluded, but there should be no onerous obstacles or qualifying conditions which prevent ordinary people from registering or voting.

Widely regarded as the best & fairest electoral system, but can result in the larger number of poorer voters voting for unsustainable levels of benefits financed by taxation on the smaller number of richer voters; leading eventually to serious problems.

Also, despite pressure to reduce the minimum voting age, there are fears that some younger people would not have the maturity, life experience, or independence from the influence of teachers & parents etc. necessary to cast an informed vote.

Upstairs, Downstairs:

Formerly. The comparison between life & living conditions for the wealthy (upstairs) & their servants (downstairs).

Useful Idiot:

Derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending that cause's real goals, and who is often used cynically by the cause's leaders. Originally used during the Cold War to describe non-communists regarded as susceptible to communist propaganda and manipulation.



Free man who held land (fief) from a lord to whom he paid homage and swore fealty. He owed various services and obligations. These were primarily military but he was also required to advise his lord and pay him the traditional feudal aids required on the knighting of the lord's eldest son, the marriage of the lord's eldest daughter and the ransoming of the lord should he be held captive.


An official who rules a country, colony, province or city as the representative of the Monarch. See also Types of Government


Administrative unit containing about 5 to 10 Hides and inhabitants. Equivalent to the secular parish. The vill usually contained several manors. As the feudal system declined, the vill took over importance from the hundred and manor. Later, the parish took on the duties and responsibilities, for example during the nineteenth century, the sick, poor, and destitute sometimes relied on the parish for aid.

In Devonshire at the time of the Domesday Book there were 980 vills containing about 9000 hamlets or farms.

Ideas return! The UK government policy in recent years has been to devolve many duties and responsibilities to secular parish councils. (Note. These secular parish councils may share common boundaries with the Church of England parishes, but are different institutions.)


Wealthiest class of peasant. They usually cultivated 20-40 acres of land (sometimes as much as 100 acres), often as separate strips in different fields. He was also required to work on his lord's land or to provide a service to his lord.

Visegrad Four:

Political grouping: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic


Wardrobe (Medieval Office):

Medieval Government: Originally, simply the room containing the king's clothes, armour, archives, and treasure; later expanded to mean the department of clerks who administered the monarch's household.

During some medieval periods, when powerful barons seized control of the Exchequer in an attempt to control the monarch, and also because monarchs needed flexibility as they travelled around their realm, some monarchs greatly expanded the role of the Wardrobe, to bypass the Exchequer. The Wardrobe also became more important than the Chamber of advisers. The deputy Keeper of the Wardrobe, the Controller of the Wardrobe gained oversight of the monarch's Privy Seal, enabling the production of important documents & charters as well as their safe storage. But, some monarchs used this flexibility to borrow large sums, particularly from Italian bankers, to finance armed forces and wars. These large debts led to crises.

By around 1300, the Great Wardrobe was responsible only for expenditure on such things as clothing, textiles, furs and spices. Smaller Privy Wardrobes at various royal palaces mostly provided items for the personal use of the King when in residence. The Privy Wardrobe in the Tower of London came to specialize in the storage and manufacture of armour and armaments; it developed into an autonomous department of the State.

See also: Chancery & Exchequer.


Weapon-taking. Sub-division of land in areas formerly under Norse control - including Northern and Eastern areas of Britain - equivalent to Anglo Saxon Hundred.

Westminster, Palace of Westminster:

UK Parliament: Part of central London which contains the UK' two Houses of Parliament and other buildings associated with Parliament. Colloquial name for Parliament. Loosely based on the site of the former Westminster Palace. Traditionally, there has often been rivalry between inhabitants of the Westminster, and the Whitehall Palaces. There are often tensions between Parliament based at Westminster, and the Civil Service based at nearby Whitehall.

Westminster Bubble:

UK Parliament: Short-sighted, blinkered, distorted viewpoint which is said to affect many people associated with Parliament at Westminster; including Members of Parliament, their advisers, their officials, the lobbyists, and the media who report their activities; where people are said to spend too much of their time dealing only with people who have a similarly distorted viewpoint.

Whigs, Whig Political Party:

UK Parliament: Originally a term of abuse – a reference to Scottish cattle-drovers (stereotypically radical anti-Catholic Covenanters) – who wanted to exclude James Duke of York from succeeding King Charles II because he was a Roman Catholic. Whigs played a central role in the 1688 Glorious Revolution; favoured constitutional monarchy; opposed absolute monarchy; opposed Stuart Kings & Pretenders. Effectively, Whigs were successors to the Roundheads of the English Civil wars.

Whigs held power through much of the 18th century, between about 1714 & 1783. They purged their Tory rivals from all major positions in government, the army, the Church of England, the legal profession & local offices. Whigs supported the great aristocratic families, the Protestant Hanoverian succession, & toleration for nonconformist Protestants (the "dissenters", such as Presbyterians.) Later, Whigs drew support from the emerging industrial interests & wealthy merchants. Whigs supported free trade, the abolition of slavery & expansion of the franchise (suffrage). Despite their earlier opposition to Roman Catholic monarchs, Whigs supported Catholic emancipation.

Eventually in the middle of the 19th century, Whigs formed much of the new Liberal Party.

North America: Opponents of British colonial rule called themselves "Whigs," after about 1768, in preference to the name "Patriots." During the middle of the 19th century, another group called themselves "The Whig Party." This group supported the supremacy of the US Congress over the presidency. It favoured modernization, banking & economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. These policies appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers, & the emerging urban middle class. They had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. These Whigs included many active Protestants. They opposed Indian removal. This party split over the expansion of slavery.

Whip, Whip's Office, Types of Whip:

UK Parliament: The "enforcers" of political party discipline. Probably from the "whipper-in" who controls hounds in a hunt. Each party's whip's office issues three types of instructions to MPs who "take that party's whip":

  • Single Line Whip: Non-binding for attendance or voting; indicates that party's policy.
  • Two Line Whip (Double Line Whip): MPs should attend & vote unless they have permission from a whip. Strong indication of that party's policy.
  • Three Line Whip: Strict instruction for MPs to attend & vote in accordance with that party' policy.

UK Government: Part of central London which contains offices of many UK government departments; loosely based on the site of the former Whitehall Palace. Fragments of Whitehall Palace still exist, preserved within the modern buildings. Colloquial name for the UK Civil Service..

Witan (also called the Witenagemot):

Council composed of nobles and ecclesiastics which advised the Anglo Saxon Kings of England. Also chose the successor to the throne. Resembles the commune concilium.

Wool Sack:

Weight of wool, used for trade and for taxation. 364 pounds.


UK Parliament: "The Woolsack" is the large cushion seat for the Lord Speaker of the British House of Lords. This signifies the time when the nation's wealth was based largely on the wool trade. The modern Woolsack is stuffed with wool brought from around the Commonwealth. The larger "Judges' Woolsack" nearby, is for the "Law Lords."



Originally, an attendant in a noble household. Later, a commoner who cultivated their own land. See also: Man-at-Arms.


A measurement of land in Kent equal to one quarter of a sulong. Roughly equal to two virgates, although still considered to be the area of land which could be cultivated using two oxen.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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