An estate of inheritance in land without limitation to any class of heirs or restrictions on alienation; the most extensive interest in property recognized by the common law. (Hogue, Arthur R. Origins of the Common Law, 256)
The following excerpt is from the prologue of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer:
The Man of Law’s Portrait (The Lawyer)
309: A sergeant of the lawe, war and wys,
310: That often hadde been at the parvys,
311: Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
312: Discreet he was and of greet reverence —
313: He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise.
314: Justice he was ful often in assise,
315: By patente and by pleyn commissioun.
316: For his science and for his heigh renoun,
317: Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
318: So greet a purchasour was nowher noon:
319: Al was fee symple to hym in effect;
320: His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
321: Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
322: And yet he semed bisier than he was.
323: In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
324: That from the tyme of kyng william were falle.
325: Therto he koude endite, and make a thyng,
326: Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng;
327: And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
328: He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote.
329: Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;
330: Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
Today, you’ll often see the term fee simple still used in documents when you take ownership of a house.