Week forty-seven: PRISAGE (probability 3312), by David Sutton

PRISAGE is the former right of the English kings to two tuns of wine from every ship importing twenty tuns or more. In what may seem our own excessively taxed age, it may come as some comfort to reflect that historically the common man and hard-working citizen has been screwed every which way more or less since time began by fat cats in positions of power desiring to finance wars, royal weddings, large tombs and the like. Here are some other words for ancient taxes, tolls and duties, that must often have made the mediaeval peasant wonder if it was really worth getting up in the morning:

CARUCAGEa tax on the CARUCATE, first imposed by Richard I in 1198, a CARUCATE being as much land as a team of oxen could plough in a season
CORNAGEa feudal service, being a form of rent fixed by the number of horned cattle
FUMAGEa tax on owning a hearth
GABELLEa tax on salt
GRAINAGEa duty on grain
HIDAGEa tax formerly paid to the kings of England for every hide of land
LASTAGEa duty formerly paid for the right of carrying goods, etc
MERCHETa fine paid to a lord for the marriage of a daughter
METAGEa charge for having your goods weighed
MURAGEa rate levied for upkeep of a city's walls
PAVAGEa charge for paving streets
PONTAGEa toll paid on bridges, or a tax for repairing bridges
POUNDAGEa charge for keeping stray cattle
SCAVAGEa toll formerly levied in boroughs on goods offered for sale by outsiders
SESSa local rate for maintenance of soldiers
STREETAGEa toll for street facilities
TALLAGEa tax levied by the Norman and Angevin kings on their demesne lands and towns, or by a feudal lord on his tenants
THIRLAGEa form of servitude by which the grain produced on certain lands had to be ground (or at least paid for) at a certain mill
TITHE, TYTHE, TEINDthe tenth of the produce of land and stock taken as a tax for church purposes
WARDCORNthe payment of corn in place of military service

Against these must of course be set certain traditional rights like TURBARY, the right to take peat, and PANNAGE, the right to pasture one's swine in a forest, but we'll leave those for another day.


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