LIEGE, an adjective implying the mutual relationship of a feudal superior and his vassal; the word is used as a substantive of the feudal superior, more usually in this sense, however, in the form " liege lord, " and also of the vassals, his "lieges." Hence the word is often used of the loyal subjects of a sovereign, with no reference to feudal ties. It appears that ligeitas or ligenlia, the medieval Latin term for this relationship, was restricted to a particular form of homage. According to N. Broussel (Nouvel examen de I' usage general des fiefs en France, 1727) the homage of a "liege" was a stronger form of the ordinary homage, the especial distinction being that, while the ordinary vassal only undertook forty days' military service, the liege promised to serve as long as the war might last, in which his superior was engaged (cf. Ducange, Glossarium, s.v. " Ligius ").
The etymology of the word has been much discussed. It comes into English through the O. Fr. lige or liege, Med. Lat. ligius. This was early connected with the Lat. ligatus, bound, ligare, to bind, from the sense of the obligation of the vassal to his lord, but this has been generally abandoned. Broussel takes the Med. Lat. liga, i.e., foedus, confederatio, the English " league," as the origin. Ducange connects it with the word lilies, which appears in a gloss of the Salic law, and is defined as a scriptitius, servus glebae. The more usually accepted derivation is now from the Old High Ger. ledic, or ledig, meaning " free " (Mod. Ger. ledig means unoccupied, vacuus). This is confirmed by the occurrence in a charter of Otto of Benthem, 1253, of a word " ledigh-man " (quoted in Ducange, Glossarium, s.v.), Proinde afiecti sumus ligius homo, quod Teutonice dictur Ledighman. Skeat, in explaining the application of " free " to such a relationship as that subsisting between a feudal superior and his vassal, says " ' a liege lord ' seems to have been the lord of a free band; and his lieges, though serving under him, were privileged men, free from all other obligations; their name being due to their freedom, not to their service " (Etym. Did., ed. 1898). A. Luchaire (Manuel des institutions franfaises, 1892, p. 189, n. i) considers it difficult to call a man " free " who is under a strict obligation to another; further that the " liege " was not free from all obligation to a third party, for the charters prove without doubt that the " liege men " owed duty to more than one lord.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)