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Fyrd

FYRD, the name given to the English army, or militia, during the Anglo-Saxon period (see Army, 60). It is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the date 605. The ealdorman, or sheriff, of the shire was probably charged with the duty of calling out and leading the fyrd, which appears always to have retained a local character, as during the time of the Danish invasions we read of the fyrd of Kent, of Somerset and of Devon. As attendance at the fyrd was included in the trinoda necessitas it was compulsory on all holders of land; but that it was not confined to them is shown by the following extract from the laws of Ine, king of the West Saxons, dated about 690, which prescribes the penalty for the serious offence of neglecting the fyrd: "If a gesithcund man owning land neglect the fyrd, let him pay 120 shillings, and forfeit his land; one not owning land 60 shillings; a ceorlish man 30 shillings as fyrdwite." The fyrd was gradually superseded by the gathering of the thegns and their retainers, but it was occasionally called out for defensive purposes even after the Norman Conquest.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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