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The housecarls of earl Haraldson

Housecarls are the personal retainers of a Norseman, be he a powerful farmer, an earl, or jarl. The housecarls of a king is called the hird. The word is derived from the Old Norse huskarl, which simply means "houseman." These men have volunteered to join a household in exchange for payment, food, weapons, and protection.

Notable housecarls


  • Orginally housecarls where simply free men who joined a household as a workforce. Fighting and protecting their master was not their primary function, but an unspoken expectation. Eventually the military role took over completely.
  • Housecarls could be loved as family members in the household they served, as evident by runestones raised by lords after their housecarls and housecarls after their lords.
  • After the invasion of the Danes in the early 11th century, the concept and name of the housecarls became co-opted by the Anglo-Saxon nobility.