Lord vassal relationship definition dictionary

liege subject - Memidex dictionary/thesaurus

lord vassal relationship definition dictionary

A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. . which the historian's view of vassalage are based were reviewed, with translation and commentary. “Feudalism,” meaning either a period or a regime dominated by lords inseparably involved a tenurial relationship as well, the vassal holding land of his lord. The covenant meaning of binding or establishing an relationship between two The suzerain stated that as victor and lord over the vassals he had spared them.

Indeed bishops can often be found on the battlefield, fighting it out with with the best. As in any other context, the strongest argument in feudalism - transcending the niceties of loyalty - is naked force. The Normans in England or in Sicily rule by right of conquest, and feudal disputes are regularly resolved in battle. But feudalism also provides many varieties of justification for force. And the possession of a good justification is almost as reassuring to a knight as a good suit of armour.

One excellent excuse for warfare is the approval of the church. In the pope virtually commands the Normans to attack Sicilyby giving them feudal rights over territory not as yet theirs. Similarly Rome lets it be known that the Holy See is on the side of William when he invades England in Another important form of justification is a dynastic claim to a territory. Generations of marriages, carefully arranged for material gain, result in an immensely complex web of relationships - reflected often in kingdoms of very surprising shape on the map of Europe.

A simple example is the vast swathe of land ruled over in the 12th century by Henry II. Stretching from Northumberland to the south of France, it has been brought together by a process of inheritance and dynastic marriage. More complex, but equally typical of Christian feudalism, is the case of Sicily. In the 11th century the Normans seize it by invitation of the pope.

In the 12th century the island is joined to distant Germany because the German king marries a Sicilian princess. And in the 13th century it is linked with France because the pope, intervening again, is now opposed to the Germans. Fiefs tend to become hereditary, reducing the personal link between vassal and lord. Payments of money begin to replace the original simple obligation of armed service. Religious institutions - monasteries, abbeys, bishoprics - take their place in the hierarchy, providing administrative and sometimes even military support for their feudal lords, while growing prosperous through the efficient administration of their manors.

The original feudalism, a structure of personal relationships, tends in one direction towards centralized monarchy - and in another towards anarchy. In some regions kings successfully use the feudal hierarchy to reinforce their own position at the top of the pyramid.

This happens in England where William I starts with a clean slate, distributing conquered territory on his own terms to his followers and in France where the Capetian house has the accidental benefit of a long unbroken succession of direct male inheritance.

By contrast in Germanywhere the elected German king proves unable to assert strong authority over his elective peers, the feudal pyramid declines into a discordant group of independent fiefs - some held by noble families, some by religious institutions, and a few by the burghers of the developing towns.

The weaknesses in European feudalism are evident by the 13th century, but the system of interconnecting feudal obligations remains a central theme in Europe until at least the 15th century. The vassal's principal obligation to the lord was to provide "aid," or military service. Using whatever equipment the vassal could obtain by virtue of the revenues from the fief, the vassal was responsible to answer to calls to military service on behalf of the lord. This security of military help was the primary reason the lord entered into the feudal relationship.

In addition, the vassal sometimes had to fulfill other obligations to the lord. One of those obligations was to provide the lord with "counsel," so that if the lord faced a major decision, such as whether or not to go to war, he would summon all his vassals and hold a council.

The vassal may have been required to yield a certain amount of his farm's output to his lord. The vassal was also sometimes required to grind his own wheat and bake his own bread in the mills and ovens owned and taxed by his lord. The land-holding relationships of feudalism revolved around the fief. Depending on the power of the granting lord, grants could range in size from a small farm to a much larger area of land. The size of fiefs was described in irregular terms quite different from modern area terms; see medieval land terms.

What is a Covenant? Bible Definition and Meaning

The lord-vassal relationship was not restricted to members of the laity; bishops and abbotsfor example, were also capable of acting as lords. There were, thus, different "levels" of lordship and vassalage. The King was a lord who loaned fiefs to aristocrats, who were his vassals.

Meanwhile, the aristocrats were in turn lords to their own vassals, the peasants who worked on their land.


Ultimately, the Emperor was a lord who loaned fiefs to Kings, who were his vassals. This traditionally formed the basis of a "universal monarchy" as an imperial alliance and a world order. Common features of feudal societies Features common among feudal societies, but which do not necessarily define them, include: An overwhelmingly agrarian economy, with limited money exchange, necessitating the dispersion of political authority and the substitution of arrangements involving economic support from local resources.

The strength of the Church as an ally and counterpart to the civil-military structure, supported by its right to a share tithe of society's output as well as substantial landholdings, and endowed with specific authority and responsibility for moral and material welfare.

The existence of structures and phenomena not of themselves explicitly feudal urban and village organizations, royal executive power, free peasant holdings, financial and commercial activity but each incorporated into the whole. Alongside such broad similarities, it is important to note the divergences both within and between feudal societies in forms or complexity of noble association, the extent of peasant dependency or the importance of money payments as well as the changes which occurred over time within the overall structure as in Bloch's characterization of the eleventh-century onset of a "second feudal age".

Aside from the contrast between free and unfree obligation, allegiance was often given to more than one lord, while an individual might possess attributes of more than one rank.

Nor should the medieval theory of the "three estates" or the "three orders" of feudal society—"those who make war" miles, knights"those who pray" priests, monks and "those who labor" peasantsserfs bellatores, oratores, et laboratores be considered a full description of the social order: While those excluded from the first two came over time to be counted among the third, nobles and clerics alike assumed administrative functions in the feudal state, while financial support was relied upon increasingly as a substitute for direct military service.

Nobles were defined by the occupation they obtained and no longer by right of birth and are placed in power by the investiture. The values of men who fought under the first of the "three orders" were first, his horse, second, his son, and third, his wife. A soldier's horse, in feudal society, was considered the price of two and a half generations or two men and a boy.

The role of women consisted of maintaining the household economy: Controlled peasants and regulating what crops will and will not be grown and sold. The church willingly supported the three orders. While few would deny that most of FranceEnglandparts of Spain and the Low Countries, western and central Germany and at least for a time northern and central Italy satisfied Bloch's criteria over much of the period, the concept remains of greatest use as an interpretive device for comparative study of local phenomena, rather than as a blanket definition of the medieval social order.

Feudal system during the Middle Ages - World History - Khan Academy

History Early forms of feudalism in Europe Feudal society evolved in its developed form in the northern French heartland of the Carolingian monarchy of the eighth-tenth centuries, but has its antecedents also in late Roman practice. Feudalism reached its most developed form in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Vassalage agreements similar to what would later develop into legalized medieval feudalism originated from the blending of ancient Roman and Germanic traditions.

The Romans had a custom of patronage whereby a stronger patron would provide protection to a weaker client in exchange for gifts, political support, and prestige. In the countryside of the later Empire, the reforms of Diocletian and his successors attempted to put certain jobs, notably farming, on a hereditary basis.

As governmental authority declined and rural lawlessness such as that of the Bagaudae increased, these farmers were increasingly forced to rely upon the protection of the local landowner, and a nexus of interdependency was created: The landowners depended upon the peasants for labor, and the peasants upon the landowners for protection.

Ancient Germans had a custom of equality among warriors, an elected leader who kept the majority of the wealth land and who distributed it to members of the group in return for loyalty. The rise of feudalism The Europe of the early Middle Ages was characterized by economic and population decline and by external threat.

Feudalism evolved as a way of maintaining a stable population engaged in farming towns had been in decline since the end of the Western Empire and to ensure that levies could be raised to face down external threats. Decline of feudalism Feudalism had begun as a contractthe exchange of land tenure for military service. Over time, as lords could no longer provide new lands to their vassals, nor enforce their right to reassign lands which had become de facto hereditary property, feudalism became less tenable as a working relationship.

By the thirteenth century, Europe's economy was involved in a transformation from a mostly agrarian system to one that was increasingly money-based and mixed. The Hundred Year's War instigated this gradual transformation as soldier's pay became amounts of gold instead of land. Therefore, it was much easier for a monarch to pay low-class citizens in mineral wealth, and many more were recruited and trained, putting more gold into circulation, thus undermining the land-based feudalism.

Land ownership was still an important source of income, and still defined social statusbut even wealthy nobles wanted more liquid assets, whether for luxury goods or to provide for wars. This corruption of the form is often referred to as "bastard feudalism. The nobles were independent and often unwilling to cooperate for a greater cause military service.

By the end of the Middle Ages, the kings were seeking a way to become independent of willful nobles, especially for military support. The kings first hired mercenaries and later created standing national armies. The Black Death of the fourteenth century devastated Europe's population but also destabilized the economic basis of society. For instance, in England, the villains were much more likely to leave the manorial territory—seeking better paid work in towns struck by a labor shortage, while the crown responded to the economic crisis by imposing a poll tax.

The resulting social crisis manifested itself in the peasants' revolt. Examples of feudalism Feudalism was practiced in many different ways, depending on location and time period, thus a high-level encompassing conceptual definition does not always provide a reader with the intimate understanding that detail of historical example provides. Karl Marx also used the term for political ends. In the nineteenth century, Marx described feudalism as the economic situation coming before the inevitable rise of capitalism.

For Marx, what defined feudalism was that the power of the ruling class the aristocracy rested on their control of arable land, leading to a class society based upon the exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under serfdom. Marx thus considered feudalism within a purely economic model. Eleventh century France Among the complexities of feudal arrangements there existed no guarantee that contracts between lord and vassal would be honored, and feudal contracts saw little enforcement from those with greater authority.

This often resulted in the wealthier and more powerful party taking advantage of the weaker. Such was allegedly the case of Hugh de Lusignan and his relations with his lord William V of Aquitaine.

Between and Hugh wrote or possibly dictated a complaint against William and his vassals describing the unjust treatment he had received at the hands of both. Hugh describes a convoluted intermingling of loyalties that was characteristic of the period and instrumental in developing strain between nobles that resulted in competition for each other's land.

According to Hugh's account William wronged him on numerous occasions, often to the benefit of William's vassals. Many of his properties suffered similar fates: William apparently neglected to send military aid to Hugh when necessary and dealt most unfairly in the exchange of hostages. Each time Hugh reclaimed one of his properties, William ordered him to return it to whoever had recently taken it from him. William broke multiple oaths in succession yet Hugh continued to put faith in his lord's word, to his own ruin.

In his last contract with William, over possession of his uncle's castle at Chizes, Hugh dealt in no uncertain terms and with frank language: You are my lord, I will not accept a pledge from you, but I will simply rely on the mercy of God and yourself. Give up all those claims over which you have quarreled with me in the past and swear fidelity to me and my son and I will give you your uncle's honor [Chizes] or something else of equal value in exchange for it.

My lord, I beg you through God and this blessed crucifix which is made in the figure of Christ that you do not make me do this if you and your son were intending to threaten me with trickery. On my honor and my son I will do this without trickery.

lord vassal relationship definition dictionary

And when I shall have sworn fidelity to you, you will demand Chize castle of me, and if I should not turn it over to you, you will say that it is not right that I deny you the castle which I hold from you, and if I should turn it over to you, you and your son will seize it because you have given nothing in pledge except the mercy of God and yourself.

We will not do that, but if we should demand it of you, don't turn it over to us. While perhaps an embellishment of the truth for the sake of Hugh's cause, and not necessarily a microcosm of the feudal system everywhere, the Agreement Between Lord and Vassal is evidence at least of corruption in feudal rule. Twelfth century England Feudalism in twelfth century England was among the better structured and established in Europe at the time.

However, it could be structurally complex, which is illustrated by the example of the barony of Stafford as described in a survey of knight's fees called The Black Book Exchequer Thus, either a fief could provide the service of a knight, or an equivalent amount of money to allow a lord to hire a knight.

The knight's fee value of a fief varied based on the size and resources of a particular fief. The lord of Stafford, Robert of Stafford, was responsible for 60 knight's fees for his Stafford fief.

Thus in all, the 26 sub-fiefs paid 51 fees. Further, some of these sub-fiefs had sub-sub-fiefs with fees of their own, and sometimes went a layer below that. In all, 78 fiefs were part of the Stafford estate, 26 of them reporting directly to Robert and the rest layers below. It was a system of tenants and leases and sub-tenants and sub-leases and so on, each layer reporting vassalage to the next layer up.

The knight's fee was the common base unit of denomination. Often lords were not so much lords presiding over great estates, but managers of a network of tenants and sub-leases. Some of the Stafford tenants were themselves lords, and this illustrates how complex the relationships of lord and vassal could become. Henry d'Oilly, who held 3 fees from Robert of Stafford, also held over 30 fees elsewhere that had been granted to him directly by the king. Thus while Henry was the vassal of his lord Robert, Henry was himself a lord and had many sub-fiefs that he also managed.

These complex relationships invariably created loyalty problems through conflicts of interests; to resolve this the concept of a liege lord was created, which meant that the vassal was loyal to his liege lord above all others no matter what.

However, even this sometimes broke down when a vassal would pledge himself to more than one liege lord. From the perspective of the smallest land owner, multiple networks of lordship were layered on the same small plot of land. A chronicle of the time says "different lordships lay on the land in different respects.

This led to a curb in the relative local democracy in the Viking era, in favor of local lords who succeeded in exercising administrative and judicial power over their less powerful neighbors. The King also depended more on such vassals and their resources.

Examples of semi-feudalism Outside of a medieval European historical context, the concept of feudalism is normally only used by analogy called semi-feudalmost often in discussions of Japan under the shoguns. In addition, some modern states still retain some vestiges of historic feudalism.

Pakistan and India The Zamindari system is often referred to as a feudal-like system. Originally the Zamindari System was introduced in the pre-colonial period to collect taxes from peasantsand it continued during colonial British rule. After independence Zamindari was abolished in India and East Pakistan present day Bangladeshbut it is still present day in Pakistan.

In modern times historians have become very reluctant to classify other societies into European models and today it is rare for Zamindari to be described as feudal by academics; it still done in popular usage, however, but only for pejorative reasons to express disfavor, typically by critics of the Zamindari system. Inthe greater part of the rural population—someof an estimated total population of 1,—were serfs.

Tied to the land, they were allotted only a small parcel to grow their own food.

lord vassal relationship definition dictionary

Serfs and other peasants generally went without schooling or medical care. They spent most of their time laboring for the monasteries and individual high-ranking lamas, or for a secular aristocracy that numbered not more than families. In effect, they were owned by their masters who told them what crops to grow and what animals to raise. They could not get married without the consent of their lord or lama.

lord vassal relationship definition dictionary

A serf might easily be separated from his family should the owner send him to work in a distant location. Serfs could be sold by their masters, or subjected to torture and death. Along with the upper clergy, secular leaders did well. A notable example was the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army, who owned 4, square kilometers of land and 3, serfs.