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


Whether or not the Saxons had cavalry is an academic debate which has raged almost incessantly for most of this century. The problem is that there is no conclusive proof (if there were there would be no debate), though incidental evidence in support of the motion that they did is fairly commonplace, for which see the section on Saxon tactics. As I have concluded there, Saxons certainly fought mounted when in pursuit of routed or mounted enemies, and probably by the 11th century small bodies even occasionally fought mounted on the battlefield or at least knew how to - King Harold, while still Earl of Wessex, even served as a horseman in a Norman cavalry force during his enforced sojourn in Normandy in 1064.

If one were to accept Snorni's account of Stamford Bridge then the debate would be over and done with for good, for he mentions both cavalry and infantry in the Saxon army and provides a detailed account of their tactics, but there are currently valid reasons for treating his account with a degree of suspicion.

Nevertheless, there are enough (indeed, innumerable) references to Saxon horsemen in the sources to justify the inclusion of one in this section, who can be looked upon as a mounted infantryman or a cavalryman according to your convictions. This particular figure is based on several 11th century Saxon ms. illuminations, some of which show armoured horsemen and some unarmoured.
[Mounted Saxons in Prudentius' Psychomachia, 1000AD & 'Abram rescues Lot' in the Old English Hexateuch, 2nd quarter 11th century

Next: 122. SAXON STANDARDS in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath