Thursday, 13 September 2012

Homage and Fealty

Homage is “done”, fealty is “sworn”.

Very generally the bond of tenure of land is complicated with another bond, that of homage and fealty; the tenant either has done homage and sworn fealty, or is both entitled and compellable to perform these ceremonies. The right and the duty go together; in one particular case it may be the lord, in another it may be the tenant, who will desire that these solemnities should be observed, for each of them may thereby gain something.

The ceremony of homage  is much the same all Europe over. Essentially, the tenant puts his hands between the hands of the lord and says: “I become your man of the tenement that I hold of you, and faith to you will bear of life and member and earthly worship [or of body and chattels and earthly worship], and faith to you shall bear against all folk  who can live and die], saving the faith that I owe to our lord the king.”

In the Laws of Henry I we may find the high-water-mark of English vassalism. Every man owes faith to his lord of life and limb and earthly worship, and must observe his lord’s command in all that is honourable and proper, saving the faith due to God and the ruler of the land; but theft, treason, murder, or anything that is against God and the catholic faith, such things are to be commanded to none, and done by none. Saving these, however, faith must be kept to lords, more especially to a liege lord, and without his consent one may have no other lord. If the lord takes away his man’s land or deserts him in mortal peril, he forfeits his lordship; but the man must be long suffering, he must bear with his lord’s maltreatment of him for thirty days in war, for year and day in peace. Every one may aid his lord when attacked and obey him in all things lawful; and so too the lord is bound to help his man with aid and counsel in all things, and may be his warrant—at least in certain cases—if he attacks or molests another.To kill one’s lord is compared to blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; it is a crime to be punished by a death cruel enough to seem a fit beginning for the torments of hell. If, on the other hand, the lord slays his man who has done no wrong, the offence can be paid for with money.

Homage is a bond of law (vinculum iuris) by which one is holden and bound to warrant, defend and acquit the tenant in his seisin against all men, in return for a certain service (per certum servitium) named and expressed in the gift, and vice versa whereby the tenant is “really” bound (re obligatur) to keep faith to his lord and do the due service; and such is the connexion by homage between lord and tenant that the lord owes as much to the tenant as the tenant to the lord, save only reverence.

Vassalism and Felony: Vassalism will be found in the fact that a man can hardly “go against” any one at his lord’s command without being guilty of the distinctively feudal crime, without being guilty of “felony.” Common law, royal and national law, has, as it were, occupied the very citadel of feudalism. Whatever may be the etymology of felony, there can be no doubt that originally the word came to us from France, and that in France and elsewhere it covered only the specifically feudal crimes, those crimes which were breaches of the feudal bond and which would work a forfeiture or escheat of the fief, or as the case might be, of the lordship; for the lord might be guilty of felony against his man just as the man might be guilty of felony against his lord. A mere common crime, however wicked and base, mere wilful homicide, or theft, is not a felony; there must be some breach of that faith and trust which ought to exist between lord and man.

Later all the hatred and contempt which are behind the word felon are enlisted against the criminal, murderer, robber, thief, without reference to any breach of the bond of homage and fealty.

The oath of fealty, fealty is "sworn" and it is worthy of observation that the oath is conceived as less solemn than the symbolic act and can be exacted in many cases in which homage is not exigible. The tenant stands up with his hand on the gospels and says: Hear this my lord: I will bear faith to you of life and member, goods, chattels and earthly worship, so help me God and these holy gospels of God; some add an express promise to do the service due for the tenement.

An oath of fealty (faithfulness), is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God. Fealty was sworn between two people, the obliged person (vassal) and a person of rank (lord). This was done as part of a formal commendation ceremony to create a feudal relationship.

The forms of a free man's homage and fealty: "I become your man from this day forth, for life, for member and for worldly honour, and shall bear you faith for the lands that I claim to hold of you; saving the faith that I owe unto our lord the king * * I shall be to you faithful and true, and shall bear you faith of the tenements I claim to hold of you, and loyally will acknowledge and will do the services I owe you at the times assigned. So help me God and the Saints." 

Breaking an oath is perjury.

Extracted and paraphrased from the following references

The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I, Volume I
by Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland
Second Edition
The Law Book Exchange Ltd
Union, New Jersey 1996

Book II, Chapter 1. Tenure
Section 6, Homage and Fealty
Page 296


Ranulf de Glanville (1812). A Translation of Glanville. W. Reed. pp. 215–.

 Ranulf de Glanville (1812). A Translation of Glanville. W. Reed. p. 222.

Sir Edward Coke; Sir Thomas Littleton; Francis Hargrave; Charles Butler, Sir Matthew Hale, Heneage Finch Earl of Nottingham (1832). The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Or, a Commentary Upon Littleton : Not the Name of the Author Only, But of the Law Itself ... : Haec Ego Grandaevus Posui Tibi, Candide Lector.  Homage. J. & W.T. Clarke.

Sir Edward Coke; Sir Thomas Littleton; Francis Hargrave; Charles Butler, Sir Matthew Hale, Heneage Finch Earl of Nottingham (1832). The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Or, a Commentary Upon Littleton : Not the Name of the Author Only, But of the Law Itself ... : Haec Ego Grandaevus Posui Tibi, Candide Lector. Fealty. J. & W.T. Clarke.

Lyttelton (1769). The History Of The Life of King Henry the Second. Homage. pp. 110–.

Fealty and Homage: Enthronment of the Archbishop Elect.
The Life and Times of St. Anselm: Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of The Britains.
The Feudal System was fully established in England in 1085 by law 52 of King William the Conqueror

This was passed at a meeting of king with his Great Council at Old Sarum that year, and later enforced at the oath taken on Lammas Day at Old Sarum in 1086.

Archibald Brown (1875). A law dictionary for the use of students and the legal profession. Feudal System - Law 52 of King William the Conqueror:  pp. 148–.ISBN 978-5-87811-869-9.

Oath of Salisbury August 1086

Archibald Brown (1874). A New Law Dictionary and Institute of the Whole Law: For the Use of Students, the Legal Profession, and the Public. Wm. S. Hein Publishing. pp. 155–. ISBN 978-0-8377-1949-8.

François Louis Ganshof (1964). Feudalism. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-7158-3.
Medieval Sourcebook: Two Reviews of Susan Reynolds: Fiefs and Vassals (1994)
Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Susan Reynolds (1996). Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820648-4.
by Fred Cheyette, in Speculum
by Paul R. Hyams: in Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Internet History Sourcebooks Project Link

La féodalité en crise. Propos sur « Fiefs and Vassals » de Susan Reynolds
E. Magnou-Nortier
Revue Historique
T. 296, Fasc. 2 (600) (OCTOBRE-DÉCEMBRE 1996), pp. 253-348
Published by: Presses Universitaires de France

Christopher Harper-Bill; Nicholas Vincent (2007). Henry II: New Interpretations. John Gillingham: Doing Homage to the King of France: Boydell Press. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-1-84383-340-6.

Jacques Le Goff (January 1980). Time, Work, and Culture in the Middle Ages. 'The Symbolic Ritual of Vassalage': University of Chicago Press. pp. 237–. ISBN 978-0-226-47081-8.

Fundamental Axiom of Feudalism in England

Nulle terre sans seigneur

No land without a lord.
No property [land] without a liege.

Nulle terre sans seigneur - Wikipedia

Statutes of William The Conqueror

Here is shown what William the king of the English, together With his princes, has established since the Conquest of England.

1. Firstly that, above all things, he wishes one God to lie venerated throughout his whole kingdom, one faith of Christ always to be kept inviolate, peace and security to be observed between the English and the Normans.
2. We decree also that every free man shall affirm by compact and an oath that, within and without England, he desires to be faithful to king William, to preserve with him his lands and his honour with all fidelity, and first to defend him against his enemies.

 A synoptical history of England. 1869. pp. 38–.

THE FEUDAL SYSTEM. Tho chief feature by which the Conquest was marked, was the introduction of the complete Feudal system,—a system, traces of which were to bo found in Saxon times; fines for alienation, reliefs under the name of "heriots," and even escheats—conditions incident to feudal tenure—being mentioned before the Conquest. By the feudal system, which was introduced, with the consent of the Great Council, A.d. 1086, the king was considered to be the supreme lord of all the land in the realm. It was divided into 60,000 estates, called " Knights' fees." For every knight's fee, the occupier, called a vassal, was bound to provide a knight or soldier for forty days in the year, to attend the king in his wars, as well as to be present when he held his court. The occupiers of these fees were called the tenants-in-chief of the crown. They had, however, the right to sub-let their land to others, called "Vavassors," of whom they became the lords, being themselves called "Mesne," or Middle Lords. Tho dependence of tho vassal on his lord was expressed by an act of homage, in return for which the lord conferred on the vassal theinvestiture or the right of possession of the land. The manner in which homago was rendered, though slightly varying in different countries, consisted, mainly, in tho vassal kneeling, putting his hands between those of his lord, and declaring that " he became his man {homo) from that day forth." In Franco it was customary for the vassal to kiss the lord's foot. It must be added, that this kind of tenure imposed on the vassal, besides the obligation of military service, certain other obligations •—1. The payment of a
fine called a relief, on the heir succeeding to the estate; 2. A fine for alienation, a sum paid to the lord when the tenant transferred the land to another; 3. The escheat, or return of the estate, if the vassal died without heirs; 4. Grants to the lord, called aids, on certain occasions; and 5. Wardship, or the right of keeping the lands of the heir till the age of twenty-one.

Vassalage had in it nothing humiliating. It was a kind of mutual contract, which could only exist by the formal consent of both parties. The kings of England wero vassals to those of France for their Duchies held in that country, while the latter were vassals to the Abbey of St. Denys.

A few remarks must be added on the political and social bearing of this system. The character of a feudal army, liable to serve only for forty days, was little adapted to schemes of foreign conquests:—an important check on the ambitious designs of warlike princes, at a time when standing armies were unknown. To this circumstance it was, in part, owing, that the wars between powerful monarchs were, in these ages, often attended with slight results, and with little loss of life. At the same time, the independence of the feudal lords, with numerous vassals, bound to serve them in the field, giving them the means of inflicting private injuries for which there was little hope of redress, was the real evil of the times.

Nor was the civil aspect of this system less important. The judgment of each by his peers was the basis of feudal justice. We have seen that it was part of the obligation of the vassal to attend the court of his lord. It was the duty of this court, composed as it was of those tenants who were the peers of each other, to assist in trying the complaints of the lord against his vassals, or ofone vassal against another. Whatever may have been the precise period at which the system of trial by jury assumed its present form, we undoubtedly have here the recognition of the great principle upon which one of the most valuable judicial institutions of modern times is based.

One important peculiarity attending the introduction of the feudal system into England remains to be noticed. When sub-infeudation was effected, it was customary for the vassal to swear allegiance, not to the lord in whom the ultimate property resided, but to the immediate lord of whom ho held the land. In a council held at Salisbury, A.d. 1086, William, however, exacted a direct oath of fealty to himself from all the sub-tenants, as well as from the immediate tenants of tho crown. The authority of the royal court was thus rendered paramount throughout the kingdom

No comments:

Post a Comment