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Feudal Relationships and Mutual Obligations of Lords and Vassals

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From the reading regarding Henry 1 of England from Ecclesiastical History, in Western Europe, kings were highly respected in the community. They acted as the overall judge on their land. The kings had the power to deliver judgment on their subjects (Burr, 1998). All subjects were supposed to show respect for their king, and in case an individual spoke badly about the king, the king had the power to punish such a person or send the person to exile. In addition, all subjects were supposed to respect the families from which the kings came from. The king would publicly summon an individual, who would be found guilty of speaking against his brothers or other members of his family. Such an individual would be required to confess his/her offenses publicly, and then, the king would deliver his judgment depending on the seriousness of the offense committed (Burr, 1998).

In the reading regarding Henry 1 of England from Ecclesiastical History, King Henry had summoned Robert of Bellecircme, accusing him, of committing several offenses against him and his brother, the duke of Normandy. Robert did not respond to the king’s summon. Instead, he flew away, were he formed his own castle and sought support from his allies and relatives to defend him against the king. After engaging in unsuccessful confrontations with the king’s garrison, Robert finally surrendered to the king. Using his position as the final source of judgment on the land, King Henry 1 banished Robert from his kingdom (Burr, 1998).

From ‘The Lais of Marie de France,’ during the Age of Invasions in Western Europe, the society was divided into two categories: the lords and the vassals. The lords were those who owned riches and wealthy, while the vassals were those people who acted as slaves or servants to the lords. Both the lords and the vassals had mutual obligations toward each other. As illustrated in ‘The Lais of Marie De France,’ vassals’ obligation to their lords was to provide advice whenever they were faced with difficult situations. For instance, when the wife of the other wealthy man gave birth to two daughters, her damsel advised her to abandon one the daughters in a church, instead of killing her. The damsel gave the advice to her master as a way of assisting her from suffering the shame of having given birth to two children at the same time (Le Fresne, n.d.).

Vassals also had an obligation to protect their lords and their properties. From the reading regarding Henry 1 of England from Ecclesiastical History, the vassals always accompanied King Henry whenever he went out either to deliver judgment to offenders, or to look for offenders. In addition, the vassals had a mutual obligation of informing their lords about all matter, which they deemed important. For instance, when Robert of Bellecircme refused to honor the king’s summon and opted to escape, it is stated that a royal servant was the one who informed him about Robert’s disappearance (Burr, 1998).

On the other hand, one of the lords’ obligations to their vassals was to ensure continuity of their generation. This means that the lords had an obligation to get married, and have children. The lords’ children would become the heirs of their fathers’ land, hence providing continuity of the lords’ families (Burr, 1998). In ‘The Lais of Marie De France,’ when Gurun took Le Fresne as his concubine, the vassals advised him to look for a wife to marry, so that he would have children who would become the heir of his land (Le Fresne, n.d.). In addition, the lords had an obligation to listen to the advice of their vassals. For instance in the reading regarding Henry I of England from Ecclesiastical History, when a group of earls and magnates  allied to Robert went to the king asking him to consider reconciliation, a group of knights allied to the king shouted loudly to the king, asking him not to consider their plead. As his obligation to his vassals, the king took the advice, and sent the earls and magnates away (Burr, 1998).

From ‘The Lais of Marie De France,’ it is clear that the Western Europe society expected women to respect men. Women would always kneel before men or present themselves in a humble manner whenever they were in presence of men. For example, during the wedding night of Le Codre, her mother knelt before her husband to beg for forgiveness, after she discovered Le Fresne was her daughter.

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