It may be observed at the system of feudalism existing in different countries of Europe was not identical even though they had following common features:
(1) In the first place feudalism held that God had given the country to the king who was its lord. The king could give this land to nobles called vassals. These nobles were lords of their territory or fief and could hand over a part of their fiefs to lesser lords and have vassals of their own.
Secondly, the feudal lord enjoyed absolute power over his land and could tax inhabitants residing on that land. Likewise the sub-vassals enjoyed similar power over inhabitants living on territory under their control and acted as little king over them.
Thirdly, the lords as well as vassal had certain rights and duties. The lord was expected to afford protection to his vassal, if he was threatened by a powerful enemy; to ensure him justice in the feudal court; to treat well wife and children of his vassal; to take the consent of the vassal if he wanted to build a castle on his fief.
On the other hand, the vassal was expected to make payments to the landlords on three occasions the lord’s eldest son was knighted; the eldest daughter of the lord was married; or if the lord was captured and money had to be paid for his release. In case of death of a vassal his successor had to pay an inheritance to tax to take up the fallen inheritance. The vassal was obliged to extend hospitality to the lord when he passed through his territory.
Fourthly, every lord could hold courts for his tenants and the vassal was duty bound to assist the lord in his court. He was also expected to bring all his disputes before the lord’s court.
Fifthly, the feudal lords maintained army consisting of mounted followers called knights. There was no system of permanent military forces and the king had to summon the great lords to provide fighting forces. The great lords in turn called upon their vassals to provide soldiers and the latter on their vassals. As a result, quite often it took months before the armed forces were provided to the king.
Sixthly, the feudal lords considered themselves as superior than the rest of the community. They lived a luxurious life and found finances through taxation, extortions and robbery. Most of the common people worked as serfs and tilled the lands of the lords. They had to pay a major portion of the products of their industry to the lords. The serfs were tried to lend and could be bought or sold like slaves.
Finally, feudal system was hierarchical with king at the top and the peasants at the bottom. In between these stood the Dukes and Earls, Barons and Knights.