All countries of Western Europe in the IX-XX centuries were scattered. Germany, Italy and France were divided into thousands of separate dominions, which were ruled by dukes, counts or barons, who had unlimited power in their lands.
They tried serfs and free peasants, taxed the people, fought and made peace agreements as they saw fit. It was in those days that the words "suzerain" and "vassal" appeared.
Undivided power of overlords
A distinctive feature of feudal times was that the king had almost no power. Moreover, in most cases, the power of the ruler was so insignificant and weak that he had no influence at all on the political events taking place in the state.
That is, we can say that theoretically the state was ruled by a monarch, and almost all the reins of government were in the hands of overlords. To make the picture clearer, it should be clarified that the overlord is the supreme ruler of the territory, who is the main one in relation to all vassals subordinate to him.
In turn, the question arises, who is a vassal. Based on the foregoing, we understand that at that time it was calledlandowners who are completely dependent on their overlord. They swore an oath to him and, accordingly, had a number of duties both in military unit and in monetary obligations.
Thus, the feudal relationship itself is a series of interdependent landowners headed by a king whose power, as mentioned above, was highly questionable.
The chief overlord understood this very well, and therefore tried to maintain friendly relations with the most influential feudal lords of his kingdom, so that in case of danger or approaching hostilities, he could count on someone's help.
Royal thrones served as a toy in the hands of influential seniors. The power of each of them directly depended on how impressive the army one or another overlord had. This not only allowed them to fight among themselves, but also to encroach on the royal throne. The dukes or earls with the strongest troops could easily overthrow the king and put their viceroy in his place and effectively rule the kingdom.
The appearance of new vassals
In order to ensure their strength and power, many feudal lords practiced the distribution of part of their lands for the use of smaller landowners. Together with the territory, serfs and free peasants passed into possession, who were completely dependent on what decision the overlord made.
This, in turn, obliged the vassals to take an oath of absolutefidelity. At the first call of their overlord, they were obliged to appear in full combat uniform, armed, on horseback. In addition, they were to be accompanied by squires and a predetermined number of armed people trained in military skills from among the new subjects.