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|Feudal land tenure|
|Feudalism in England|
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas (faithfulness), is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God. Fealty and homage are a key element of feudalism.
In medieval Europe, an oath of fealty (German: Lehnseid) was a fundamental element of the feudal system in the Holy Roman Empire. It was sworn between two people, the obliged person (vassal) and a person of rank (liege lord).The oath of allegiance was usually carried out as part of a traditional ceremony in which the liegeman or vassal gave his lord a pledge of loyalty and acceptance of the consequences of a breach of trust. In return the liege lord promised to protect and remain loyal to his vassal. The rights conferred on the vassal were so similar to actual possession that it was described as beneficial ownership (dominium utile), whereas the rights of the lord were referred to as direct ownership (dominium directum).
In the Late Middle Ages, the investiture and oath of fealty were invariably recorded by a deed; in modern times this replaced the traditional ceremony. Where the geographical distance between the two parties was significant, the lord could name a representative before whom the oath was to be sworn.
The whole contract including the oath of fealty was part of a formal commendation ceremony that created the feudal relationship.
The term is also used by English-speakers to refer to similar oaths of allegiance in other feudal cultures, as with medieval Japan, as well as in modern political contexts.
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