Viking Jarls by Rob Shackleford
Here are more Viking Blogs for your research:
|Vikings at Home
At the top of the Viking social hierarchy was the class known as Jarl, which were essentially Earls. These individuals were often quite wealthy and did not need to perform any hard labour throughout their life. They did tend to participate in battles and raids but often did so as chieftains and warlords rather than standard warriors.
But social standing might be fluid. Jarls, too, might become strong and rich enough to make himself a king, or could lose much of what they owned and move down into the ranks of the karls.
Jarls held their wealth in property, number of followers, treasure, ships and estates. A jarl’s retainers or followers expected to be rewarded with good food, drink and clothing as well as with treasure and a share of land. Jarls protected the honour, prosperity and security of their followers. In return, the jarl’s retainers were expected to support him, go with him on raids and follow him into battle.
The Viking enclave of Iceland did not have kings or earls (jarls), as did the other Norse countries. Kings and jarls in Norse lands were regional (rather than national) rulers in the beginning of the Viking era. But by the end of that era, individual kings had consolidated their power over most of the Scandinavian lands. The title of king or earl could be inherited, or it could be conferred by prominent supporters or the leader of military forces.
Viking Kings were not viewed as sacred, or special. Instead, they were viewed as exceptionally able and imperious men. The concept of a regal king was foreign to Norsemen. Dudo of St. Quentin records an encounter between a party of Danes and King Charles of the Frankish kingdom. In the presence of the king, the Danes were ordered to show their submission by kissing the foot of the king. The leader of the Danes refused. One of his followers complied. But, rather than kneeling to kiss the foot of King Charles, the Dane stood, grabbed the king’s foot, and lifted it up to the level of the Dane’s own head, dragging the king out of his seat and onto the floor. With the king held upside-down, the Dane kissed the foot.
The king was expected to be generous not only with food and drink, but with clothes and weapons and gifts. He was expected to maintain his own and his followers’ honor against outsiders. He had to lead. He was required to be a strong fighter, daring, crafty, and hard, since he sometimes fought hand to hand beside his men. He had to be a good public speaker, cheerful and inspirational, able to inspire and buoy his men.
Even once the fourth class of kings and queens emerged later in the Viking Age, the status of the Jarl still remained very well-respected and wealthy. The only difference was that there were now not the most powerful group in Viking society and were frequently tasked with personally overseeing large sections of land for the King’s use.
Some links for your Viking Research
About the author:
Hi, I am Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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|Travelling New Zealand
|Travelling the UK
|India by Royal Enfield
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