SX-06B Saxon Housecarl with Red Shield
A Housecarl was known as a bodyguard in medieval Northern Europe.
The term originated in Scandinavia and was brought to Anglo Saxon England by the Danish conquest in the 11th century. Housecarls were well trained and were paid as full time soldiers. In England they had a number of roles, both military and administrative.
Harold Godwinson’s Housecarls had a crucial role as the backbone of his Army at Hastings. Although they were numerically the smaller part of Harold’s Army, their superior equipment and training meant they could have been used to strengthen the fyrd, or militia which made up most of Harold’s troops.
They would have traditionally been placed in the center around the leader’s standard, but also it is believed in the first ranks of both flanks, with the fyrdmen behind them.
At the Battle of Hastings, the Housecarls fought after Harold’s death, holding his oath to him until the very last man was killed.
The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Housecarls as footmen clad in mail, with conical helmets and fighting with the great two handed Dane Axe.