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oaths-lnks- 4/2/06


A set of web links to information on medieval oaths of fealty, loyalty and homage by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon.


NOTE: See also the files: fealty-art, Fealty-n-t-SCA-art, fealty-msg, p-swears-msg, 25-years-late-art.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: liontamr at ptd.net

Subject: Links: I Swear! Historical Oaths of Fealty, Loyalty, and Homage

Date: June 26, 2004 2:40:30 PM CDT

To: StefanliRous at austin.rr.com


Greetings, my faithful readers!


This week's Links List is about Swearing--Oaths of Loyalty, Fealty, or

Homage, that is. They aren't all the same thing: In my opinion: An Oath of

Fealty is a purposeful subjugation of ones self to an overlord, offering

your (usually military) services in exchange for protection. Fealty is often

combined with other oaths, which makes the business of sorting out the oath

a little tricky; Oaths of Loyalty will bind you to another's cause, opinion,

and interest until released; Lastly, an Oath of Homage is a promise of

friendship, honor, common interest, and support whenever it is needed or

called upon.  Don't take my interpretation at face value, however. Read on,

and make up your own mind!


Below you will find excerpts of various Historical Oaths (no matter what

they are called, they sound remarkably alike--the difference, I suspect is

in the sub-text and small print). In addition, there are articles on the

subject and several historical images of Oaths in action. Several of the

Images include the traditional clasping of the swearer's hands between that

of the Royal/Lord, or the presence of holy relics upon which to swear. In

addition, you might find it interesting to note that a kiss of peace is

historically traditional to seal the bargain (and may be the root of the

hand-clasping and kiss at the alter between bride and groom, since a

permanent legal bargain has been struck). If you read through all of the

below information, you may find that some researchers are of the opinion

that women did not swear oaths, but could receive them. It's all food for



Your faithfully,




Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon

modernly known as Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt






3 Historical Images, slow to load, of Oaths in progress. Well worth waiting



Charles the Bold receiving oath of fealty from his military captains

Military ordinance of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy

Master of Fitzwilliam 268

Bruges, 1475


Image and description


Bayeaux Tapestry Harold's oath of Homage over Holy Relics


Image and description. Heavy on the graphics, may be slow to load.

Also see http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MEDharold.htm">http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MEDharold.htm for a wider

image of the same panel at bottom of page.




This is a professor's study page---but there are some great images including

an uncredited one wherein a noble swears an oath to a king (note the clasped

hands and the nobel's four arms--two clasping hands, and two pointing out

the extent of the lands around him).


Charter of Homage and Fealty: Medieval Source Book


(Site Excerpt) "I become your liege man of life and limb and truth and

earthly honors, bearing to you against all men that love, move or die, so

help me God and the Holy Dame. " The same shall be said in French. .....Then

shall the clergy and the people that stand about hold up their arms and

hands on [brode] and loudly answer, "We will it and we grant it. Be it so!

Be it so! Amen."




(Site Excerpt) If William and Harold had ever met, it could have been only


Harold's journey in Gaul.  Whatever negotiations Harold made during

that journey were negotiations unfriendly to William; still he may,

in the course of that journey, have visited Normandy as well as

France or Anjou.  It is hard to avoid the thought that the tale of

Harold's visit to William, of his oath to William, arose out of

something that happened on Harold's way back from his Roman



Fief Ceremonies 12th Century


(Site Excerpt)

First they did their homage thus, the count asked if he was willing to

become completely his man, and the other replied, "I am willing' ; and with

clasped hands, surrounded by the hands of the count, they were bound

together by a kiss. Secondly, he who had done homage gave his fealty to the

representative of the count in these words, "I promise on my faith that I

will in future be faithful to count William, and will observe my homage to

him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit."

Thirdly, he took his oath to this upon the relics of the saints. Afterward,

with a little rod which the count held in his hand, he gave investitures to

all who by this agreement had given their security and homage and

accompanying oath.


Campus Library: Homage


Site Excerpt) Knights did homage to the lord. Afterwards they would take up

their fiefs and offices and whatever they had rightfully and legitimately

obtained. Homage was the act of a feudal tenant by which he declared

himself, on his knees, to be the hommage or bondman of the lord.


The Manner and Form of the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of England

1385 - 1460 from Chronique website


(Site Excerpt) The Archbishops shall ask the Will of the People: When the

prince has rested himself in his chair or other throne ordained in the

aforesaid pulpit, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the four costs of the

pulpit, with a high voice, shall inquire the will of the people touching on

the king's coronation. While this is done he king shall stand in his throne,

facing the corners to which the Archbishop speaks. After the question, an

anthem will be sung: Ffirmenteur manus tua.


The 'Lectric Law Library's Legal Lexicon On



(Site Excerpt) HOMAGE - Obs. The oath taken by a vassal to signify his

relationship with the lord. it is a "contract," and binds both parties to

certain acts.


Land and Feudalism in Medieval England   by Magistra Rosemounde of Mercia


(Site Excerpt) Two other ceremonies, homage and fealty were also performed.

These were the most significant features of the feudal relationship. Homage

was the oath by which the vassal became the "man" of the lord. The vassal

placed his hands between those of the lord and pledged service, loyalty, and

devotion, and the lord pledged protection of the vassals rights.


An Oath of Robert the Bruce


During the Easter period while Edward was staying at Wark several Earls,

including both Bruce's, had declared fealty to him and they also promised:

'I will be faithful and loyal, and will maintain faith and loyalty to King

Edward, King of England, and to his heirs, in matters of life and limb and

of earthly honour against all mortal men; and never will I bear arms for

anyone against him or his heirs ... so may God help me and the Saints.'


Medieval Sourcebook:

"Feudal" Oaths of Fidelity


(Site Excerpt) I: An Anglo Saxon Form of Commendation [from Schmidt: Gesetze

der Angelsachsen, p. 404]  Thus shall one take the oath of fidelity:  By the

Lord before whom this sanctuary is holy, I will to N. be true and faithful,

and love all which he loves and shun all which he shuns, according to the

laws of God and the order of the world. Nor will I ever with will or action,

through word or deed, do anything which is unpleasing to him, on condition

that he will hold to me as I shall deserve it, and that he will perform

everything as it was in our agreement when I submitted myself to him and

chose his will.


Chivalry, Knighthood, and Castles


(Site Excerpt) The acts of homage and fealty created an arrangement that was

of mutual advantage to the king and the noble. The king gave certain

authority to the noble to rule within his territory and promised to protect

him. Usually he also granted a fief, which meant he gave the noble the use

of a certain piece of land. It was here that the vassal governed from a

castle. There was almost none of today's business, manufacturing, or

commerce. The serfs tilled the land on the noble's fief, or manor, and gave

part of the crops, as well as their labor on other projects, to the noble in

return for his protection and the right to farm the land.


Stefan's Florilegium: "The Feudal Contract: On Fealty in the SCA" by Ioseph

of Locksley.


Click Chivalry, then Fealty-art. (Article Excerpt) Each of these historical

periods, and cultures, had differing

concepts of the world, and we -can- accomodate all of them, with a little

effort -not- to be ethnocentric; to not take the attitude that

our -personal-period-of-choice, or our personal -interpretation- of that

period, is the "One True Medievalism."

One of the major dividing lines is "fealty." In the SCA, we use

something that we call "fealty," but there seems to be a great deal of

misunderstanding about it .... many people seem to think that "liege-fealty"

is the only "real" kind .... so why do we allow "Masters of Arms" and other

non-fealty swearing Peers?

SEE ALSO Fealty-msg: (Message Excerpt from ONE message in this file)  The

lord gained: 1. Military service (usually forty days a year offensive

action, all the defensive action necessairly, and some "garrison duty" in the

lord's keep. The vassal would have to provide all of his own equipment. For

larger fiefs, the lord may have to provide more warriors than himself, which

led to the layering system (ie, King would give land to barons, who would

give land to knights, etc.)

2. Prestige. The lord could summon his vassals to him when entertaining

visitors. The more vassals, the more prestige.

3. Advice. The lord could call upon his vassals for advice


Encyclopedia.com: Oaths


(Site Excerpt) vocal affirmation of the truth of one's statements, generally

made by appealing to a deity. From the earliest days of human history,

calling upon the gods of a community to witness the truth of a statement or

the solemnity of a promise has been commonly practiced. The force of the

oath depends on the belief that supernatural powers will punish falsehood

spoken under oath or the violation of a promise. The oath thus performs wide

legal and quasi-legal functions. It was the basis of the medieval process of

compurgation . It is still used in legal proceedings today...


Netserf: Hypertext Medieval Glossary: F


(Site Excerpt)

Fealty, Oath of:

1) The oath by which a vassal swore loyalty to his lord, usually on a relic

of saints or on the Bible.

   (MEDIEV-L. Medieval Terms)

2) The fidelity of a feudal vassal to his lord; a promise under oath to be


   (Hogue, Arthur R. Origins of the Common Law, 256)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org