chapter  XI
VASSAL HOMAGE
Pages 18

TO be the ‘man’ of another man: in the vocabulary of feudalism, no combination of words was more widely used or more comprehensive in meaning. In both the Romance and the Germanic tongues it was used to express personal dependence per se and applied to persons of all social classes regardless of the precise legal nature of the bond. The count was the ‘man’ of the king, as the serf was the ‘man’ of his manorial lord. Sometimes even in the same text, within the space of a few lines, radically different social stations were thus evoked. An instance of this, dating from the end of the eleventh century, is a petition of Norman nuns, complaining that their ‘men’—that is to say their peasants-were forced by a great baron to work at the castles of his ‘men’, meaning the knights who were his vassals.1 The ambiguity disturbed no one, because, in spite of the gulf between the orders of society, the emphasis was on the fundamental element in common: the subordination of one individual to another.