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.

Simple Homage v. Liege Homage

The oath known as "fealty" implied lesser obligations than did "homage". Further, one could swear "fealty" to many different overlords with respect to different land holdings, but "homage" could only be performed to a single liege, as one could not be "his man" (i.e., committed to military service) to more than one "liege lord".

Simple Homage merely meant one had taken an oath of fealty,
Liege Homage means becoming one's liege-lord's man, willing to fight and dies for him.

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

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.

Marc Bloch. tr. Manyon, ed. Feudal Society. Vols I and II Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-67757-4.
[La société féodale (1939)]

Marc Bloch (1961). Feudal Society. Volume 1 - The Growth of Ties of Dependence University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05978-5
[La société féodale, La formation des liens de dépendance.(1939)]
Chapter list:

Marc Bloch (1961). Feudal Society. Volume 2: Social Classes and Political Organization
University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-05979-2.
[La société féodale, les classes et le gouvernement des hommes.(1940)]

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