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By H. W. C. Davis
Text in [square brackets] was added especially for this online publication by Ellopos
IV - FEUDALISM
These tenants-in-chief have on their estates a number of sub-tenants, who are bound to them by similar contracts and a similar personal relation. The homage of the sub-tenant to his immediate lord ought to be qualified by a reservation of the allegiance which all subjects owe to the King. Whether this reservation shall be made or, when made, shall have any practical consequences, will depend upon the King's resources and personality.
Where effective, it means that he can claim from the sub-tenants the discharge of certain national duties, can call on them for military service, can judge them in his court, can tax them with the consent of his council, that is of their lords; on the other hand, it means that these sub-tenants may not allege the commands of their lord as an excuse for making war upon the King or committing any breach of the public peace. Where the general duty of allegiance has lapsed into oblivion, the tenant-in-chief is in all but name a dependent king, and the feudal state becomes a federation under a hereditary president, who occasionally arbitrates between the members of the federation and occasionally leads them out to war.
Cf. Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Ancient Rome * Ancient Greece * The Making of Europe
Davis' Medieval Europe in Print or for Amazon Kindle