Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A seneschal was an officer in the houses of important nobles in the Middle Ages. The most basic function of a seneschal was to supervise feasts and domestic ceremonies; in this respect, they were equivalent to stewards and majordomos. Sometimes, seneschals were given additional responsibilities, including the dispensing of justice and high military command.
The British scholar H.S. Bennett described the seneschal's role by saying that "the seneschal must know the size and needs of every manor; how many acres should be plowed and how much seed will be needed. He must know all his bailiffs and reeves, how they conduct the lord's business and how they treat the peasants. He must know exactly how many penny loaves can be made from a quater of corn, or how many cattle each pasture should support. He must for ever be on the alert lest any of the lord's franchises lapse or are usurped by others. He must think of the lord's needs, both of money and of kind, and see that they are constantly supplied. In short, he must be all-knowing and he is all-powerful". According to historian Henry Hallam, the first seneschals to receive judicial functions did so by an edict of Philip II of France in 1190, and "acted as the king's lieutenants in his domains".
Term is probably of Gothic origin.
This entry in part from Webster's Dictionary (1913)
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