A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. A mesne lord did not hold land directly of the king, that is to say he was not a tenant-in-chief. His subinfeudated estate was called a "mesne estate" or Afterlehen in the Holy Roman Empire. He was thus an intermediate or "middle" tenant, which status is reflected in the medieval French word mesne, in modern French moyen.
Although mesne lords continued to exist after the abolition of any further subinfeudation by the statute of Quia Emptores, with time and the loss of records (except in the case of former copyhold land), it came to be assumed that most land was held directly of the crown.
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