Fealty Contracts

Fealty Contracts in the Kingdom of Valyria are agreements entered into between a liege lord, also called a suzerain, and a vassal, also called a liege man/woman. The fealty outlined in such contracts are a special type of relationship unique to feudal societies. Fealty contracts are different than other contracts in that they involve a lifelong pledge of loyalty, service, and sometimes taxes from the subordinate party, in return for protection and sometimes even land from the superior party. These contracts persist beyond the limits of a single lifetime, and remain in effect through subsequent generations.

As a social system, feudalism is based on the concept that every person in the society “has a lord.” Feudalism is a tiered structure with everyone subordinate to some other who is himself subordinate to yet another, up a pyramid until finally terminating at the sovereign, who is Liege over all. The different “tiers” of the feudal pyramid in Valyria are called “social classes“. In general, every rank that falls below can be “vassals” to some or another rank above. A colonus or serf can be a vassal to a knight, but could also be vassal directly to the King. There is one exception to this, and it is the freeman class, who neither is a vassal to a lord nor has vassals. ( Freemen may be part of boroughs, however, and a boroughs is itself a vassal with its own fealty contract called a town charter. )

The intense bond of loyalty inherent in feudal contracts gives them a sacred character. This loyalty is considered absolutely necessary in feudal societies because of the constant threat of war. The lords who share their land need absolute certainty that those who hold the land from them will be dependable, because their output of resources and military service are what keep the lord in power. Likewise, it is the lord’s leadership and devotion to fighting that protects those in his service. The fealty contract is a written testament to this loyalty. It is often accompanied by a ceremony called “homage” which involves a supplicant kneeling before the lord and taking his hands in his own, with an entire community in attendance as witnesses. This homage often takes place at a church or other sacred location, and the words written in the contract might be spoken aloud. As such, fealty contracts are to be taken as the glue that holds society together.

The nature of the relationship between the different social classes necessitate different forms of fealty contracts. The more prestige a class has, the more stipulations and detail are necessary within the wording of the contract. Below are offered different examples of fealty contracts for different social classes giving their fealty.

  1. Sample Ducal Vassal Contract (to a king)
  2. Sample Comital Vassal Contract (to a duke)
  3. Sample Baronial Vassal Contract (to a duke)
  4. Sample Colonus Vassal Contract (to a gentlemann)

Because Chronicles of Elyria includes contracts, we will be combining written drafts of wording as seen in the links above with the standard “clauses” that scribes are able to insert into contracts via game mechanics. This means that fealty contracts in Valyria will have both a game mechanics component and a component that is observed by the “honor system.”

Fealty in Valyria is serious business. If the terms of these oaths are violated, it is considered a grave offense under Feudal Law, and the offender can expect exile and disseisen.