Land tenure is the name given, particularly in common law systems, to the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land. The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenants. The term "tenure" is used to signify the relationship between tenant and lord, not the relationship between tenant and land.
Historically in the system of feudalism, the lords who received land directly from the Crown were called tenants in chief. They doled out portions of their land to lesser tenants in exchange for services, who in turn divided it among even lesser tenants. This process--that of granting subordinate tenancies--is known as subinfeudation. In this way, all individuals except the monarch were said to hold the land "of" someone else.
Historically, it was usual for there to be reciprocal duties between lord and tenant. There were different kinds of tenure to fit various kinds of duties that a tenant might owe to a lord. For instance, a military tenure might require the tenant to supply the lord with a number of armed knights. The concept of tenure has since evolved into other forms, such as leases and estates.
The concepts of landlord and tenant have been recycled to refer to the modern relationship of the parties to land which is held under a lease. It has been pointed out by Professor F.H. Lawson in Introduction to the Laws of Property (1958), however, that the landlord-tenant relationship never really fitted in the feudal system and was rather an "alien commercial element".
The doctrine of tenure did not apply to personalty (personal property). However, the relationship of bailment in the case of chattels closely resembles the landlord-tenant relationship that can be created in land.