World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0008942439
Reproduction Date:

Title: Feudatory  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Princely state, Bhopawar Agency
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


For other uses, see Vassal (disambiguation).

Template:English Feudalism A vassal or feudatory[1] is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held as a fiefdom.[2] The term can be applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies. In contrast, a fidelity, or fidelitas, was a sworn loyalty, subject to the king.[3]

Western vassalage

In a fully developed vassalage, the lord and the vassal would undertake a commendation ceremony composed of two parts, the homage and the fealty, including the use of Christian sacraments to show its importance. According to Eginhard's brief description, the commendatio made to Pippin the Younger in 757 by Tassillo, Duke of Bavaria, involved the relics of Saints Denis, Rusticus, and Éleuthère, Saint Martin, and Saint Germain, which had apparently been assembled at Compiègne for the event.[4] Such refinements were not included from the outset it was time of crisis, war, hunger, etc., and those who were the weakest needed the protection of the knights who owned the weapons and knew how to fight. Feudal society was increasingly based on the concept of "lordship" (French seigneur), which was one of the distinguishing features of the Early Middle Ages and had evolved out of Late Antiquity.[5]

In Charlemagne's time, the connection slowly developed between vassalage and the grant of land, the main form of capital at that time. Contemporaneous social developments included agricultural "manorialism" and the social and legal structures labelled — but only since the 18th century — "feudalism". These developments proceeded at different rates in various regions. In Merovingian times, monarchs would reward only the greatest and most trusted vassals with lands. Even at the most extreme devolution of any remnants of central power, in 10th-century France, the majority of vassals still had no fixed estates.[6]

The stratification of a fighting band of vassals into distinct groups might roughly be correlated with the new term "fief" that hat started to supersede "benefice" in the 9th century. An "upper" group comprised great territorial magnates, who were strong enough to ensure the inheritance of their benefice to the heirs of their family. A "lower" group consisted of landless knights attached to a count or duke. This social settling process also received impetus in fundamental changes in the conducting of warfare. As cavalry superseded disorganised infantry, armies became more expensive to maintain. A vassal needed economic resources to equip the cavalry he was bound to contribute to his lord to fight his frequent wars. Such resources, in the absence of a money economy, came only from land and its associated assets, which included peasants as well as wood and water.

Difference between "vassal" and "vassal state"

Many empires have created vassal states out of cities, kingdoms, and tribes that they wish to bring under their auspices without having to conquer or govern them. In these cases, vassalage (or suzerainty) just means forfeiting foreign policy independence in exchange for full autonomy and perhaps a formal tribute. A lesser state that might be called a "junior ally" would be called a "vassal" as a reference to a domestic "fiefholder" or "trustee", simply to apply a common domestic norm to diplomatic culture. This allows different cultures to understand formal hegemonic relationships in personal terms, even among states using non-personal forms of rule. Imperial states that have used this terminology include Ancient Rome, the Mongol Empire, and the British Empire.

See also




  • Cantor, Norman, The Civilization of the Middle Ages 1993
  • Rouche, Michel, "Private life conquers state and society," in A History of Private Life vol I, Paul Veyne, editor, Harvard University Press 1987 ISBN 0-674-39974-9
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.