SX-66N Housecarls, Anglo Saxon/Danes



A Housecarl was a non-servile manservant or household bodyguard in medieval Northern Europe.
The institution originated amongst the Norsemen of Scandinavia, and was brought to Anglo Saxon England by the Danish conquest in the 11th Century. They were well-trained, and paid as full time soldiers. In England, the royal housecarls had a number of roles, both military and administrative.

According to 12th Century Danish historian, Svend Aggeses, Cnut’s housecarls were governed by a specific law, the “Witherlogh” or “Lex Castrensis”. Their organization in a band or guild was Scandinavian in character, but the legal process the “Witherlogh” defines is mainly derived from canon law, directly or through Anglo Saxon laws.
The “Witherlogh” defined an etiquette, such as Housecarls were to be seated at the kings’ tables according to a number of factors, among which skill in war and nobility. They could be disgraced by being moved to a lower place at the tables. This was mainly punishment for minor offences, such as not giving proper care to the horse of a fellow housecarl. After three such offences, the offender could be seated at the lowest place where no-one was to talk to him, but everyone could throw bones at him at will.

The murder of another housecarl was punished by exile, and treason was punished by death, and confiscation of all property.