Homage is another complex issue about which there are very divergent perceptions. Milsom regards homage as critical to the personal relationship between lord and tenant in the 12th century. In particular, homage was 'precedent' to tenure, that is a lord would not accept a tenant unless homage had first been performed -- homage was prior and tenure subsequent. 'Heirs' would not be accepted until they had performed homage. Moreover, integral to discretionary lordship, lords could refuse to take homage and thus refuse to accept a tenant or heir. The force of homage resided in a personal oath of allegiance, which involved honour and becoming a lord's man (hence the equivalent ME 'manning'), and the breaking of which was the original meaning of felony and was performed by a formal diffidatio.
Hudson does not accept that homage was constitutive of tenure; it existed as a question of loyalty in many other forms of relationship which did not involve land. Reynolds expands on the same argument as Hudson, finding that homage was simply one form of many personal relationships. Both consider homage not crucial to tenurial relationships.
Hudson is futher sceptical about homage since, he believes, it did not begin to occur in private charters until the late 12th century, and then irregularly, although he recognises the problem of argument from silence.
Argument from silence may be especially problematical, since homage was very much an oral and physical ceremony prior to the grant of land. The physical nature of the ceremony is in fact illustrated (from the opening initial of the Italian Liber Feudorum) on the cover of Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals, the physical abasement, cupping of hands, and oath of loyalty.
Further to Milsom's advantage is the issue of the writ de homagio capiendo, employed in the late 12th century, forcing lords to accept homage and thus a tenant. If homage were not prior and central, then this royal intervention would seem to be illogical.
Finally, what should be made of those many clauses in 12th-century charters which seem to emphasise that homage had been taken before the grant? -- Et sciendum quod de hoc tenemento cepi homagium suum; propter homagium; quando fecit sibi homagium; et homagium suum cepit; pro hac uero recognitione et donacione predictus Willelmus mihi homagium fecit; Et ego Radulfus inde homagium cepit; cepi homagium; et homagium inde accepi; et inde homagium eius accepi; and many more examples.
Homage was a singularly secular relationship, since ecclesiastics and religious were prohibited from performing homage (and thus did not acknowledge lordship).