Vassals in the Middle Ages

How did Vassals play a part in feudalism?

Question: How did Vassals play a part in feudalism?

What I know:



-William the Conqueror divided his kingdom among his nobles, known as vassals.

-The land they were given was known as fiefs.

-In exchange for the land the nobles were expected to supply soldiers for the royal military.

-The system of dividing and dividing land which would come to dominate Europe for centuries was known as feudalism.



My findings

Vassals were nobles who were given land, and who provided knights/soldiers for the Royal Military. They maintained a close reciprocal "relationship" with their lords, and swore their loyalty to them.


Picture of a Vassal doing homage to his king, from an illuminated manuscript of the ninth century

What were Vassals? (Details/Evidence of findings)


  • Vassals (Nobles who retained land from the king) were expected to give a owed quota of knights to the Royal Military in return for land. These vassals served in the military in return for land, or fiefs.
  • Vassals could also be soldiers who owned land (given to them after a number of years of service to the military).
  • Vassals could divide their own land further to their own vassals (this became the concept of feudalism).
  • Vassals had to be loyal to their lords (the men who gave them land). Often the interests of a lord would be different that that of his vassal/s.
  • Vassals swore on holy relics to be loyal however they could participate in a formal ceremony “Defiance” where a vassal could renounce his loyalty.
  • The Lord and Vassal relationship was that of reciprocity. The Vassal would give the Lord an owed quota of knights and his loyalty, and the Lord would give the Vassal aid and benefits.



The Source

Dr. Richard Abels


The author of the article is a professional Medieval Historian from the United States Naval Academy, who specialises in Anglo-Saxon England and Military History. He also cited all his resources at the bottom of the article, which were mostly reference books, and no websites.