Life in Anglo-Saxon England
The ties of kinship, the wergeld, the role of Anglo-Saxon kings, and the status of women in Anglo-Saxon society.
Anglo-Saxon Life - kinship and lordship
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR
The strongest ties in Anglo-Saxon society were to kin and lord. The ties of loyalty were to the person of a lord, not to his station. There was no real concept of patriotism or loyalty to a cause. This explains why dynasties waxed and waned so quickly. A kingdom was only as strong as its war-leader king. There was no underlying administration or bureaucracy to maintain any gains beyond the lifetime of a leader.
Although the person of the king as a leader could be exalted, the office of kingship was not in any sense as powerful or as invested with authority as it was to become. One of the tools kings used was to tie themselves closely to the new Christian church. The practice of having a church leader anoint and crown the king was part of this move to join God and king in peoples' minds.
This emphasis on social standing led to an interesting court system. The courts did not attempt to discover the facts in a case; instead, in any dispute it was up to each party to get as many people as possible to swear to the rightness of their case. The word of a thane counted for that of six ceorls. It was assumed that any person of good character would be able to find enough people to swear to his innocence that his case would prosper.
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