Scutage Law and Legal Definition

Scutage was a payment in feudal times from a vassal to an overlord. Scutage was paid to avoid military service, and was usually paid in cash. Scutage collection was most active in the later 12th cent., partly because of the rise of a professional military class of knights, and the great need for war funds to support the wars of the English king for his French territories in the 12th, 13th, and 14th cent.

The king obtained the necessary funds by scutages on his vassals and their subvassals. The barons protested against scutage, and pressed King John to end the practice. In the Magna Carta (1215), John pledged himself to collect scutage only with the “common counsel” of his barons. In later times, the more important vassals collected the scutage from their subvassals, acting as tax farmers. Scutage died out after the growth of taxes following the time of Edward III of England.