For general holdings description read game mechanics on Holdings
Every county in Crusader Kings II has at least one holding. Holdings produce all levies and taxes, and are thus important, yet easily ignored. I'll be going into how the different types of holdings work, and how you can use them to your advantage.
Every county has at least one holding, and most have three. These holdings provide both income and taxes, and every holding is held by a character. There are three types of holdings:
- Baronies: Focus on troops
- Cities: Focus on tax
- Bishoprics: A middle ground between baronies and cities
Each of these three types have an associated character type; baronies are typically owned by nobles, cities by burghers, and bishoprics by clergy. Typically a barony will be the capital of a province, but there are some exceptions, and it is possible to switch the capital simply by granting the county to a someone of a different character type. The capital of a county is indicated in the top-right of the county overview, and whoever owns the capital owns the county.
In general, only clergy hold churches, burghers cities, and nobles baronies. However, it is possible to assign someone not of this type to a holding. If they have a holding on a higher tier however, they will almost always give the holding to a vassal instead. The reason for this is the large penalty associated with owning a holding of the wrong type; you lose out on 75% of the income of the holding. This means that tax-wise it cannot pay off to hold a holding of the wrong type rather than one of the right type. In fact with the exception of baronies, giving the holding to a vassal instead will get you higher tax unless you've got high stewardship.
On the other hand, you get the full levies of a holding if you own it rather than a vassal. You would still benefit more from holding a barony than any other type of holding, as they give the most troops, and will give you the most tax due to the wrong holding penalty.
Typically all holdings in a county will be held by vassals of the count, with the count vassalized to a duke or king. However, it is entirely possible for a county to be owned by someone who is not a noble. This can benefit the ruler's liege considerably, as he'll be able to charge different tax rates than he would with a noble. While noble taxes default to 0%, city taxes default to 25% and church taxes to 35%. Even at 10 or 20% noble tax, you'll be getting more from having a burgher or bishop as the ruler of a county.
However, doing so is not entirely without penalties. Any ruler at count level or above will get -30 opinion with his liege if his liege is not the same character type. So if you as a noble have a bishop ruling one of your counties, you'll get -30 opinion with him which could impact both tax and levies.
Second, bishops (if you're catholic) will only pay you any tax if they like you more than they like the pope. If they like the pope more than you, you'll lose out on tax entirely.
You can also appoint burghers or bishops as dukes, once again giving great tax benefits. However, they'll be getting -30 opinion with every vassal they have unless the vassals are the same character type, which is likely to reduce the tax trickling up to you. Even taking this into account however, you'll still probably get more tax from a bishop or burgher than you would from a noble. However, due to the -30 opinion, you'll end up getting less levies from that bishop/burgher's demesne.
Another major drawback is that bishop and burgher succession is generally much less predictable than noble succession. If you've got free investiture you can of course appoint every bishop, and thus control the succession entirely. However, if you've got papal investiture you have no control whatsoever over who rules the county/duchy after the first ruler dies. With cities you've got similar problems as cities are generally Open Elective, meaning anyone in the burgher's court can succeed.
Thus unless you are Orthodox, Heretic, Muslim, or Pagan, you'll risk losing out on taxes with bishops, while with burghers you cannot control the succession. You also as mentioned have to deal with some pretty big opinion penalties.
Do note that granting titles to bishops has the added benefit of giving you piety. You get 25 piety from granting a holding, 100 for a county, 200 for a duchy, 800 for a kingdom, and 6400 for an empire. Thus giving a few counties to bishops can be a great way to get piety which makes getting the Invasion CB pretty easy.
By appointing a burgher or bishop as the ruler of a county or duchy, you could reap major tax rewards. However, you'd likely end up with fewer levies, a higher risk of rebellion, and reduced control over succession.
If you think these drawbacks are worth it, I'd recommend experimenting with this tactic and seeing if you like it.
My summarized tips are as follows:
- Don't hold onto cities or bishoprics if you've got baronies you can fill your demesne with instead
- If you appoint a burgher or bishop as ruler of a county or duchy, you'll generally get much more tax from them
- Burgher/bishop counts and dukes will generally give less levies
- Burgher/bishop counts and dukes are more likely to rebel
- Burgher/bishop counts and dukes are more likely to get deposed by their vassals
- Bishop counts and dukes could end up paying all their taxes to the Pope rather than you
- If you don't have Free Investiture you cannot control bishop succession at all
- Burgher succession is extremely unpredictable
- If you need piety, grant titles to bishops
Written by Meneth