One of the great misconceptions that many people hold about the Middle Ages in Europe is that they were a time uniformly devoted to royalism and monarchy. The typical picture is that of a king, attended by his retinue, waging war against other kings, each surrounded by servile knights willing to fight to the death for the honour and welfare of His Royal Majesty. Such a picture, however, presents a woefully inadequate image of the rich tapestry that was medieval government. Monarchy varied in its strength, and was sometimes even elective. Quite often, aristocrats were masters in their domain and waged wars with each other upon their own authority. Free cities abounded across the continent, many with decidedly un-monarchical governments.