The fyrd, in England before William the Conqueror took over, was the part-time military -- a bunch of amateurs who were duty-bound to serve up to two months per year in the armies of the king. (Anything past the two months was strictly voluntary.) The earls and thanes fought and also brought others from their lands to serve, but a large number of possible fighters would not be part of the fyrd unless fighting actually came near enough to threaten their village (in which case they wold run out and join their side.) Compare to the professional housecarls.

Fyrd is an Anglo-Saxon word denoting the armed levies raised by a king for the defence of the kingdom.

The original meaning of the word was that of a 'journey', which came to describe a group of men who made the journey, and then came to have the specific meaning of a force of men on an armed expedition.

The king granted the land, and attached to the land came an obligation to send a representative to serve in the king's forces at the rate of one man for every five hides of land. Each individual normally served for between sixty and ninety days with each hide of land being charged in kind for goods to the value of four shillings towards the maintenance of the representative sent.

There were penalties for the failure to attend when summoned and for desertion and cowardice in face of the enemy, the offender being placed at the king's mercy for all of his land and for his very life .

From information at

Fyrd (?), Fyr"dung (), n. [AS.; akin to E. fare, v. i.] Old. Eng. Hist.

The military force of the whole nation, consisting of all men able to bear arms.

The national fyrd or militia. J. R. Green.


© Webster 1913.

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