Dominium directum et utile

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Dominium directum et utile is a legal Latin term used to refer to the two separate estates in land that a fief was split into under feudal land tenure.[1] This system is more commonly known as duplex dominium or double domain. This can be contrasted with the modern allodial system, in which ownership is full and not divided into separate estates—a situation known as dominium plenum "full ownership".


  • Dominium directum (or eminent domain, superiority): the landlord's estate consisting of the right to dispose of property and to collect rents (feu-duty) and feudal incidents (fees, services, etc.) accruing from it.
  • Dominium utile (or utile domain): the tenant's estate encompassing the rights to enjoy (use), make improvements to, or profit from property, and to keep the income or profit; includes e.g. the right to occupy and dwell on land and the right to keep the fructus naturales and emblements from agriculture.

The terms are built from Latin dominium ‘ownership’, directum ‘direct’, and utile ‘useful’.

Property is defined to mean a thing and those things that are naturally attached to it. For land, that would include buildings, trees, underground resources, etc. It would not include "movable" property, such as wagons or livestock.

  • The holder of the dominium directum is considered the superior (i.e., the lord); the holder of the dominium utile is considered the inferior (i.e., the vassal).
  • Dominium utile includes the tenant's right to keep any income or profit derived from the property.
  • The transfer of the dominium directum does not affect the rights of any holders of dominium utile. The holder of a dominium utile has no right of transfer. However, there were usually exceptions, such as transfer to a son in the event of death, although this would incur a fee known as heriot or relief.

The definition was constructed from the sources. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Additional explanations[edit]

The "lord" holding dominium directum may be anyone with sovereign power over the asset, such as a monarch or other nobility, or an established Christian Church.

Sources and references[edit]

  1. ^ See Fairfax's Devisee v Hunter's Lessee (US) 7 Cranch 603, 618, 3 L Ed 453, 458.
  2. ^ Shumaker, Walter A.; George Foster Longsdorf (1922). The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary (Second Edition by James C. Cahill ed.). Chicago: Callaghan and Company.
  3. ^ "Dictionary,". Archived from the original on February 3, 2008. Retrieved March 1, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ "The Free Dictionary by Farlex". Retrieved March 1, 2008.
  5. ^ "Scottish Language Dictionaries". Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved March 1, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ "The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707". K.M. Brown et al. eds (St Andrews, 2007), 1605/6/39. Retrieved February 15, 2008.

See also[edit]