The An Tir Handbook, 3rd Edition, May XXXIII/1998
Customs, Etiquette, and Playing the Game
Fealty & Homage
Feudalism is a medieval way of organizing the people involved in the S.C.A. Feudalism publicly formalizes student-teacher, leader-follower, and friend-to-friend relationships. Feudalism has two components: fealty and homage.
Fealty is a promise between two people to be friends and protect each other. Homage is a promise by one person to let another be in charge. So two friends might swear fealty so that everybody knows that if you mess with one, you're messing with both. A King would have his officers swear homage so that everyone knows that they work for him. When an homage is made, it is made with a fealty, so that the person who gives the orders is bound to treat the person who takes the orders as a friend.
A person who has sworn fealty and homage is known as a vassal. The person who they swear it to is known as their lord or lady (which can be confusing because a person's significant other is also known as their lord or lady). As a lord or vassal you make sure that the vassal stays out of trouble and has a good time. As a vassal to a lord you make sure that the lord stays out of trouble and has a good time.
These relationships are made formal by public ceremonies with witnesses where the rights and duties of each partner and the grounds for ending the relationship are stated. The teacher would promise to teach the apprentice about working metal and the apprentice would promise to work hard and try to learn. The lord might promise to make sure the vassal gets fed at events, the vassal might promise to help with the dishes, and so on.
Squires are the vassals of Knights. The main job of a squire is to learn the things necessary to be a Knight. Knights are the vassals of the King. The main job of a Knight is to support the King's rule and teach squires. The King is nobody's vassal, so he is known as the liege, or most senior, lord. His main job is to keep the Kingdom running smoothly so that everyone has fun. The King has no lord, but he is bound by his promises to his vassals and can lose his power if he violates those oaths.
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