Essay: Role of Vassals in Song of Roland and Magna Carta

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This is an essay on Song of Roland and Magna Carta. The “Song of Roland”, circa 1100 ce, is one of the most imperative medieval epics and emulates some of the legends that grew up around Charlemagne. While crossing the Pyrenees on a return to France in 778, the Frankish rear guard was ambushed by Gascons.

The “Song of Roland”, circa 1100 ce, is one of the most imperative medieval epics and emulates some of the legends that grew up around Charlemagne. While crossing the Pyrenees on a return to France in 778, the Frankish rear guard was ambushed by Gascons. Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland, perished in the clash, as did the entire rear guard. Their story spread in oral form for centuries before finally being recorded. The” Magna Carta” (Great Charter) was a chain of concessions made by King John I (1199-1216 ce) to his rebellious barons. The failures of the Third Crusade, the expensive ransom of King Richard I, territorial losses in France and a astringent dispute with the Church aggravated great unrest in the kingdom. In the Charter, the king recognized the liberties of his vassals, the clergy and the towns and swore to rule by due process of law. Although not a bill of rights, the document did officially define the rights of the barons for posterity. The former is an epic and the latter is the first informal constitution that lead to parliamentary form of government.

The military elite and their families dominated the middle Ages. Yet, men and women of the noble classes were only a part of the total population. So how did the majority of the population fit into this feudal world? Identify first, most Europeans were dependent on the lords and vassals for protection and leadership. Because of this dependency, these other groups had to give in to the anxiety of the lords and vassals. Although the resulting relations between the elite and lower classes were mutual, they were also much more unequal and exploitative than the relationship between military leaders.

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