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SAXON SELECT FYRDMEN

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


116 & 117.      SAXON SELECT FYRDMEN

The 'Select Fyrd' consisted of lesser nobility and others due for service under the 5 hide system. Being a selective militia their equipment was much better than that of the general Fyrd. By Cnut's time thanes were expected to serve with sword, spear, shield, byrnie, helmet and horse. The sword was often gold-hilted.

116 is characteristic of the 9th-11th centuries. His short corselet is a mail version of the leather jerkin worn by 113. 117 dates to c. 1035. He wears a knee-length byrnie unusually split at the sides, with sword-belt worn underneath, and an iron-strengthened Phrygian cap. The panel on his chest probably represents a mail reinforce; these panels occur in only a few sources, largely 11th century, including the Bayeux Tapestry where it is exclusive to the Normans. Since it appears here, where no coif is worn, it was obviously nothing to do with securing a frontal opening.

Leather armour also continued to be worn on occasion, as in 1063 when, fighting the lightly-armed Welsh, Earl Harold persuaded his men to substitute boiled-leather armour for their mail and to carry lighter weapons presumably javelins rather than axes and thrusting spears.



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