Translated from medieval Latin word vassusmeans "servant." But does this mean that the vassal is the last person in the hierarchy of power? Far from it. Medieval feudal law, where this concept was born, does not at all consider a vassal a mere serf-serf or even a free plowman on the lands of the lord. This is the knightly nobility, the aristocracy, which itself owned the land and people. But she was a vassal of the overlords, their lords. The myth of a direct hierarchy of power in a feudal society is quite common. Let's see who, to whom and to what extent obeyed in medieval Europe.
Passage of vassals
Можно сказать, что феодальная система отношений evolved in two ways. On the lands of the Roman Empire, with the weakening of the central power, the chief executives, governors of the provinces, came to the political arena. They ceased to submit to the metropolis and declared themselves the main overlords of the lands. To manage a vast territory and collect taxes, these seniors appointed their people — parantella (distant relatives) and clients (free warriors who were patronized by the senor). The land at the same time passed into hereditary possession. In the territories dominated by German law, the vassalage took shape as conquest. Captured land officially belonged to the lord. He granted part of the territory to his soldiers, on condition that the latter would carry military service in his army and submit to it. Thus, a vassal is a "man of the sword" belonging to the knightly class.
Теперь рассмотрим систему отношений, которые associated suzerain with his subordinates. Since the ownership of land and people was inherited, and the lords and vassals were considered aristocracy. The patron gave not only a part of his territory, but also the ability to administer court, including the supreme one. Dependence on the suzerain on the lands of Roman law was more conditional than in the north of Western Europe, dominated by German customs. But everywhere the ritual of taking the vassal oath - ommazh. We have enough written testimonies to get an idea of how this rite took place. The overlord was sitting on a high chair, and the vassal stood before him with his head uncovered, kneeling on one knee. He swore to be faithful, to appear at the first call of "horse, crowded and armed," to support the seigneur, and even give money for redemption if he is captured. The overlord graciously extended his hands to him, where his vassal put his palms. This ritual event ended with the kiss of the world. In some lands, homage was made every time a vassal's offspring entered the knight class. But in some places there was enough "foie" - a documented ommage of the ancestor of the genus.
It is a mistake to think that the seigneur gave hissubordinate land. He simply handed it over for indefinite use. Thus, the land ownership of a vassal nominally remained the property of the overlord. However, feiff passed from father to son by inheritance, and the peasants who inhabited this flax, considered themselves subjects of a smaller feudal lord. Do not forget that the hierarchical system in the Middle Ages was very extensive. The king was a nominal ruler, but the dukes, earls and princes also took homage from their vassals - Viscounts, marquises and barons. This intricate system of feudal relations led to the fact that some vassals took the oath of allegiance to different overlords, and the lower levels of subordination did not submit to the highest, because they did not bring them to homage.
Transition to absolute monarchy
Vassalitet as such originated in WesternEurope at the beginning of the Middle Ages and finally established in the kingdom of the Franks in the VIII-IX centuries. Louis the Pious by his decree only confirmed the hierarchical dependence of the feudal lords. At first, this system worked well. But later feudal fragmentation led to the fact that the royal power weakened. The main overlord became dependent on his vassals. The royal domain became one of the equal provinces of the country. In order to strengthen their power, the supreme overlords, through wars and the destruction of castles of recalcitrant aristocrats, introduced a practice called immediatisation. Beginning with Philip II, the sovereigns of France fought to ensure that the whole aristocracy, from the small knights to the big landowners, swore allegiance to the king. Otherwise, the possession of a vassal was confiscated and controlled by a seneschal, an authorized officer, and the recalcitrant noble became a faidite (possession).
In case the state conquered in the militarydispute another country, the defeated territory was not always annexed. The feudal system of relations implies that a vassal is an independent principality or even a kingdom that recognized the sovereignty of a stronger kingdom. Galician ruler Danila committed an ommage in the Golden Horde in the middle of the 13th century, and in 1478 the Crimean Khanate became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.