Feudalism and Court Services Vassals

Topics: Feudalism, Vassal, Fief Pages: 3 (1138 words) Published: May 20, 2011
Feudalism began in France around A.D. 900 and spread. The feudal hierarchy was an arrangement of rank resembling a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid was the king. In the feudal relationship the king was the suzerain, or lord, of a group of dukes and counts who were his vassals. Each of these vassals was in turn lord to lesser vassals, who had even less important vassals. At the bottom of the pyramid were the knights, who had no vassals. Lord and vassal owed certain obligations to each other. The vassal pledged to perform certain services for his lord, and in return the lord granted him a fief, or fee. A fief was anything that was considered useful or valuable. Usually, a fief was a piece of land, jurisdiction over the peasants who lived on the land, and ownership of the goods they produced. All fiefs were technically owned by the king, but a vassal held, in effect, all the rights of ownership of the fief as long as he performed the services required by his lord. The entire kingdom was divided into fiefs, except for the land held by the king personally. Feudal tenure was hereditary. When a vassal died, his heir did homage for his fief and swore an oath of fealty to his lord, promising to be faithful and render service. In the ceremony of investiture, the lord handed his vassal some symbol—such as a sword or a clod of earth—in token of title, and promised to defend the vassal's fief. If a vassal died leaving a minor heir, the lord usually became the guardian of the fief and managed it. If the heir was an unmarried daughter, the lord could select a husband for her because only a male could perform the services of the fief. Feudal services were the services that a vassal owed his lord varied. Military or Knight Service: A vassal was expected to serve his lord in war. Usually he served 40 days a year at his own expense if engaged in an offensive action against his lord's enemy. In a defensive action the term of service was unlimited. A knight was...
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