Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  A Note on handgenginn maðr

A handgenginn maðr is closer to his king than a vassal, but of higher status than a retainer. He usually stays in the king's entourage while a vassal holds a fief and only serves at court during given times; though sometimes a handgenginn maðr would be sent off onto a mission. On the other hand, the handgengna menn were held in high respect for their choice, and a king who could claim many of them was considered a good and successful king. The process is called ganga til hands and is a mixture of elements also found in the investiture of a vassal and special traits. It is a typical Norse institution, not to be found in England, Germany or France.
It may not be found in England, but has strange resonances with the myths of Arthur's Knights (particularly if you adopt the view of Arthur as a Celtic king in the ruins of Roman Britain, with his companions rather than his knights). It also sits well with the courts of the dark ages Irish kings - the legends of the Red Branch and so forth.
Ian, I think the Celtic and Germanic lord/warrior-vassal-whatever relationships had more in common than both compared with, say, the businesslike Roman clientshp. Feudalism developed from the Germanic 'Gefolgschaft' but when it became more an institution to distribute power from above to below (king-duke-lord-minor vassal) it became more formalised and lost some of the personal aspect of such relations. Such a feudal pyramid never really developed in Norway, so the strong personal bond between lord and handgenginn maðr survived longer. There was also a clash of the Anglonorman feudality with the older Gaelic bonds of the sort often called 'clan system' (though I think the modern word has not the exact connotations).
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States. You may also find the odd essay about Geology, Mediaeval literature, and some poetry translations.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History which doesn't pay my bills. I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.