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Posted on May 7th, 2014, by

Traditionally, the relationships between lords and vassals in the Medieval epoch were determined by clear rules and norms. At the same time, the relationships between lords and vassals were vulnerable to consistent changes in the course of time under the impact of changes in the socioeconomic relations and political situation in feudal Europe. In this regard, it is possible to trace the evolution and changes in relationships between vassals and lords through the analysis of “The Poem of the Cid”¯ and “The Trial of Joan of Arc”¯, which revealed consistent changes that had occurred to lord-vassal relationships in the course of several centuries from the early and mid-Middle Ages to the late-Middle Ages. In fact, the key change had occurred in regard to the position of the monarch, who was treated as equal in the time of El Cid and who tended to the supremacy and absolute power in the time of Joan of Arc.

First of all, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that El Cid violated traditional lord-vassal relationships, which implied that the vassal should be totally subordinated to his lord. In this regard, El Cid was vassal of his King Alfonso VI. However, by the 11th century the lordship of the monarch was rather nominal than real and often noblemen did not obey to this principle because they considered themselves free of their vassal obligations to the King. This is why El Cid created his own fiefdom, although he was called to service by King Alfonso VI (Simpson, 125). In such a way, he treated himself as being equal to the King, while the King was viewed just as another nobleman among many noblemen that ruled in their own fiefdoms. Such attitude to the monarch, who formally remained the lord of all noblemen within his kingdom, was widely-spread because noblemen had the economic basis to maintain their fiefdoms independently of the King. This is why they did not obey to their King. However, in the time of El Cid, such actions still came into conflict with traditional feudal lord-vassal relationships.

In such a situation, the expedition of El Cid to Granada is another manifestation of his independence of his King that means that he considered being natural to act as he wished, regardless of the position of the King. Therefore, in the mid-Medieval time, the nobility treated the King as equal. Noblemen created their own armies and were full rulers in their fiefdoms and they did not consider the King to be able and having the legal ground to interfere in their affairs or influence their decisions. At the same time, vassals of noblemen were subordinated to their lords only that means that they were not subordinated to the King or any other vassal.

Instead, Joan of Arc revealed the violation of traditional rules and principles of lord-vassal relationships. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that Joan of Arc always remained to be an outsider among the French nobility. Aristocrats had never really accepted her or treated as equal (Hobbins, 195). The popularity of Joan of Arc among average people made her a heroine. However, her background and the lack of support from the part of nobility led her to the execution. In such a way, she was never a part of nobility. In stark contrast, she was not only an outsider but also the violator of existing rules and norms because she, being a peasant, did not obey to her lord. Instead, she acted as she considered being right because she believed in her role as a person, who had revelations from God.

When she was asked to respond questions concerning her faith, she refused to tell about her revelations from God to anyone but to the King. In such a way, the strict subordination of lord-vassal relationship can be clearly traced as Joan put the King above the church. This was the manifestation of the rising absolutism. The support of the King and nobility could have saved Joan of Arc but they refused to help her because she belong to the lower class, peasantry. Therefore, she was not supposed to be supported by the nobility as she was an outsider of their class. At the same time, she revolutionized the relations between vassals and lords. She was one of the first persons, who openly declared that she, being a vassal of her lord, does not obeys to her lord but to the King directly. This principle contradicted to the principle of lord-vassal relationships in the time of El Cid.

Thus, Jonan of Arc did not obey to her lord, as she was supposed to, but she insisted that she would obey to the King directly. This intention of Joan of Arc to violate traditional relations between lords and vassals is clearly seen in her refusal to tell about her revelations from God to anyone but the King. Hence, the shift in vassal-lord relationships to absolute power of the King as the superior lord for all vassals became obvious.

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