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"Feudal" Oaths of Fidelity


There is increasing uneasiness among scholars about the concept of feudalism as a term to describe non-monetized relationships between the land-holding aristocracy. Still various aspects of lordship and vassalage are documented. Here is are two typical oaths of fidelity..

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.

 

II: Acceptance of an Antrusian, 7th Century [from Roziere: Collection de Formules, No. VIII, Vol I, p. 8]

It is right that those who offer to us unbroken fidelity should be protected by our aid. And since such and such a faithful one of ours, by the favor of God, coming here in our palace with his arms, has seen fit to swear trust and fidelity to us in our hand, therefore we decree and command by the present precept that for the future such and such above mentioned be counted with the number of antrustions. And if anyone perchance should presume to kill him, let him know that he will be judged guilty of his wergild of 600 shillings.

 

from E. P. Cheyney, trans, University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1898]. Vol IV, No: 3, 3-5

 

 


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu