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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2008 3:03 pm    Post subject: Anglo-Saxon heriots (long post)         Reply with quote

According to practically everywhere I go, a heriot is "a payment which a feudal lord could claim from the possessions of a dead serf or other tenant; essentially a death tax."

Page 29 of "Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight" states that King Canute created laws about heriots in respect to station. I am giving each it's own section for better organization.

An earl's heriot was "8 horses, 4 saddled and 4 unsaddled", "4 helmets", "4 coats of maille", "8 spears", "8 shields", "4 swords", and "200 mancuses of gold". This seems to easily equip 4 horsemen (I am assuming unsaddled means a beast of burden) and 4 unarmored footmen, however, at the time there are only 4 earls in all of the Anglo-Saxon lands, so it seems to be a very small stipend for having died. I think it is more likely all this equipment would go to four of the mounted infantry, with replacement spears (which break) and shields (which have been taught to me as disposable).

A lesser theign, which I assume refers to everyone serving under the earls, has a heriot of "A horse and his trappings" and "his weapons". I am operating under the assumption that "his weapons" are one spear, one shield, and one sword, and that the horse "and his trappings" refers to a horse saddled for riding. This would be enough to equip a single unarmored cavalryman. It gives no reference to a payment in money (scutage?). "His weapons" could also mean everything he owned weapon (and possibly armor?) wise at the time of death, though this would seem to be a great way to deprive his heir of equipment.

The text concludes with naming those "closer to the king", which, as it comes after the lesser theign's section, I am assuming means those of special mention, but not of particularly high rank. It states that these closer men owe a heriot of "two horses, one saddled and one unsaddled", "one sword", "2 spears", "2 shields", and "50 mancuses of gold. This seems enough to equip one unarmed horseman and one unarmored footman. This "closer" person is paying less than a quarter of the earl's heriot, but what appears to be significantly more than the "lesser" nobles. Is there a rank between Earl and Theign at this time, or would this be the "special mention" I referred to earlier? These could refer to the huscarl's, who, if I'm not mistaken, form the kings personal army.

The requirements established, I move on to the actual question of my post. Firstly, where do these heriots go? When a lesser theign dies, does his "horse and weapons" go to the earl he serves under, or to the king? It would seem that if an earl was to die, it would be awarded to the king as the earl is a tenet under him, and a heriot goes from the tenet to the owner. Secondly, this calls for a lot of horses, which fits in with the Anglo-Saxon "mounted infantry" approach to warfare, though why the distinction between "saddled" and "unsaddled"? I had assumed an "unsaddled" horse could include those too old or otherwise not fit for bearing a person, though gear itself could be fairly heavy -- why not a mule as a requirement instead? The riding horses wouldn't have to be conditioned for battle if they're not being used as the Normans, would they? Thirdly, what is the point (purpose) of the heriot? A king's earls owe him military service, and the earls equip their theigns and the theigns equip those they bring to war with them(and the fyrd of common men who fight in defense of their part of the country from what I recall), but what would a king do with the (small) grant he gets for an earl or theign dying? Wouldn't it be more universal to receive a tax in only gold, as that could also be used for infrastructural improvements and scutage? I wouldn't think that the 4 earls would die often enough to make this tax amount to much of anything, especially if you're equipping the kings personal huscarls, who probably have their own equipment already.

I am trying to understand this perspective of Saxon England, as I am reading into the 11th century, in particular the Norman/Saxon interaction around and after Hastings.

M.

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Kelly Powell




Location: lawrence, kansas
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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll wait until after war of the lillies is over (next sunday) and I'll flag this to the fyrdman and huscarl talk board...Calontir has a huge following of the anglo-saxon ways and I am sure someone has the info.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Awesome. I was wondering if my post made enough sense to spark interest in a discussion. I am very young, of course Razz

M.

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Philip C. Ryan




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will ask a couple of my group members this weekend. They may know exactly to what you are asking.

Personally, I would think this heriot would go to whomever was the person's lord. Men were out to get rich and increase their household troops and armies during those times of constant warfare. This could be a simple way to ensure that they got the "tools of war" as opposed to anyone else. Simple greed.
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Kelly Powell




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd bet money that a lot of the heriots would go back to the deceased persons family....most likely as a way to ensure loyalty of the deceased members son or family.....Sort of saying "here, while by law it is mine I give you back your fathers sword.....serve me as he did and your lands and wealth will increase." Or something along those lines....maybe helping a young freeman or thane by arming his new household and letting him know which side his bread was buttered....Or I could be talking straight out of my wahzoo Big Grin ...Some of this is what I would do if I was a high mucketity-muck....Does not mean it ever happened.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 5:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kelly Powell wrote:
I'd bet money that a lot of the heriots would go back to the deceased persons family....most likely as a way to ensure loyalty of the deceased members son or family.....Sort of saying "here, while by law it is mine I give you back your fathers sword.....serve me as he did and your lands and wealth will increase." Or something along those lines....maybe helping a young freeman or thane by arming his new household and letting him know which side his bread was buttered....Or I could be talking straight out of my wahzoo Big Grin ...Some of this is what I would do if I was a high mucketity-muck....Does not mean it ever happened.


I would think that the commercial value of keeping or reselling a bunch of swords and other equipment would be less than having loyal armed retainers ?

If one didn't give it back to the family one would have to give it to another potential fighter/warrior to get some use out of it: So in your example, assuming that the son(s) or family was a valuable asset i.e. good fighters and liked or at least trusted to be loyal giving the equipment back would be more " politically " effective as well as saving the trouble of finding a new " user " of the swords.

It might not be all or nothing though: Some or all of the Gold might be kept but most of the arms and armour returned but maybe instead of given they would be on a lend/lease basis ...... " Here is your father's sword to hold and use in my name in my service " type of thing as you suggested.

This might work differently if the sword was so good and famous that the new owner might want to keep it ?

Or, the " Lord " might keep a low quality sword and give back a better sword to show special favour ?

I too would be curious if any of these speculations are reflected in historical reality ?

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