"With the passage of time the feudal system becomes more complex, more rigid, more open to abuse. Fiefs tend to become hereditary, reducing the personal link between vassal and lord. Payments of money begin to replace the original simple obligation of armed service.

"The original feudalism, a structure of personal relationships, tends in one direction towards centralized monarchy - and in another towards anarchy. In some regions kings successfully use the feudal hierarchy to reinforce their own position at the top of the pyramid.

"The weaknesses in European feudalism are evident by the 13th century, but the system of interconnecting feudal obligations remains a central theme in Europe until at least the 15th century. Thereafter the strong authority of kings, taxing and ruling from a central base, becomes for a while the norm in European government. But feudal customs and rights remain enshrined in the law of many regions (including
France, Germany, Austria and Italy) until abolished
either by the French Revolution or by the reforms of Napoleon."