chapter  6
24 Pages

Feudal Oath of Fidelity and Homage

ByKenneth Pennington

In almost all human societies oaths embedded in rituals create social bonds.1 Medieval society was no exception. Among the ruling classes oaths were employed to cement bonds between lords and vassals in various ways. ese ceremonial gestures of allegiance also oered reassurance to lords who were competing for hegemony that their rivals would respect their possessions and holdings, by taking and receiving oaths that provided for the protection of their persons and property.2 e feudal oath of homage and delity that a vassal took to his lord is emblematic of the popular and scholarly image of medieval social, economic, and political relationships.3 Early examples that we have of the oath are formulaic but do provide us with many clues about what the liturgy of oathtaking might have been.4