[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

re: oaths of loyalty vs. oaths of fealty

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

Corun wrote: 

> >Count Dafydd ap Gwystal (pay attention Dafydd, I'm about to take you name in
> >vain ;-) cleared things up for me.

Corun, I hope you understand that it is a grave insult to add unnecessary
vowels into the name of a Welshman?  ** Gwystl **, no "a".

Christopher Storme of Kintail responded in part:

[stuff about the South, Civil war, immigration, and the military deleted] 
> So.... If I swear loyalty that's absolute!  But if I swear fealty I must
> obey only legal orders.  Yet these are still very absolute, an oath you
> swear to live by wereas if you just promise you have some leaway.  
> Please remember that to many of us any oath is just that, you have sworn you
> very life if neccesary, at least as long as it is a legal command.  The key
> word is "SWEAR".


We cannot entirely escape our modern attitudes, nor should we.  But
fundamentally an oath is a verbal contract.  Nothing more, nothing less.
You make contracts every day, most of them very minor (rental cars, credit
card payments).  There is nothing magical here.

In the middle ages an oath was often sworn on some holy item to call the
power of that saint to witness the oath (and hopefully to punish the
transgressor).  Earlier, oaths were sometimes sworn on swords or other
treasures, with the animistic notion that if the oath was violated, the
sword would turn in your hand, the shield would split, and other terrible
things would happen to the (by the?) items you swore on, as direct
retribution for your falsehood.

But that is punishment for breaking the contract.  It has nothing to do
with the _substance_ of the contract.

Oaths, whether of fealty or loyalty, were simply contracts in the middle
ages.  Oral contracts were very common indeed; much more common than
written contracts.  A common attitude in the SCA is that "fealty", or any
other "oath", has a predefined value, and we should just debate what that
value is.  Frankly, this is silly.  My oath to the King is fealty.  But it
is the substance and the wording of the oath that define my duties and
obligations, and any limitations on that contract.  Corun's fealty is very
different from mine -- he has responsibilities to the populace of Storvik
and responsibilities to the Crown, and duties in both directions.  So he
swore a different oath than mine (I'm certain, since mine is in Welsh :^).

My fealty wording says, basically, that I will protect the weak, maintain
the right, give my sword in time of war and my counsel in time of peace,
and obey the lawful command of the Monarchs.  Somebody else might say,
simply, "I will be your man."  (Homage).  The meaning of "I will be your
man" is largely implicit.  My fealty, on the other hand, is entirely
explicit -- it lists out what I will do, under what conditions.  

Personal military aid			Time of war
Advice and counsel			Time of peace
Protect the weak			All the time
Maintain the right (uphold justice)	All the time
Obey the Monarch's Command		When it is lawful

So first off, many clauses of this contract are limited.  I am under no
obligation to obey any unlawful command of the King, period.  Given such
an order, I do as I think best.

Second, the fealty is a whole contract.  If the King gives me a lawful
command that I think is Unjust, two clauses of the fealty are now in
conflict.  I cannot keep the fealty unbroken because the King has made it
impossible.  So again, I do as I think best.

There is nothing complicated here.  An oath is a verbal contract.
The meaning of a contract is defined by the words in it.

Dafydd ap Gwystl, Knight and other stuff

List Archives, FAQ, FTP:  http://sca.wayfarer.org/merryrose/
            Submissions:  atlantia@atlantia.sca.org
        Admin. requests:  majordomo@atlantia.sca.org