What is a Fyrdman of Calontir?

Written by Hersir (Now Sir) Halvgrim Adalradarson. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

To most, the answer to this question should seem rather easy but in truth it can be quite complex, it is the basis of an ages long debate both within and outside the Order. You’d probably be surprised at the resolve that is possessed by various “sides” of the issues within the Order. Luckily as of yet no one side within the Order has gained any grip stronger that the others. I believe this is the norm as the order will always be changing. Many firmly cling onto the ideas on which the order was founded, by this I mean this side values several fundamental parts of what Master Brummbar’s article covers in this edition of the BoP.

Now the Fyrd (and Hirth) were created at a time when there was almost no Chivalry in Calontir. They were created so that Calontir could acknowledge and reward/army martial accomplishments on the field, which for what ever reason, did not seem forthcoming from the Midrealm. That this was a large issue is expressed in the words of Brom Blackhand’s song “Calontir Stands Alone”:

” We haven’t got belted Chivalry, Waes Hael, Drink Hael.
We fight for love of battle, we, Waes Hael, Drink Hael.
But on battlefields many we’ve stood the test,
Proved our bravery, skill, and our honor’s the best,
We shall smite our foes ’til
Calontir stands alone.”

 

Though Master Brummbar’s above words are wise, many (including Brummbar himself) are quick to point out, these ideals are from a time long ago. Calontir and her army have grown and changed since then, the Fyrd (and Hirth) must as well……

Some believe that we must continually reevaluate what the orders standards must be. 

I myself have been on various sides of the fence in my time as a Fyrdman but I currently believe that the reevaluating theory is best (at the moment;) 

Law

For the easiest answer to the eternal debate of “What is a Fyrdman of Calontir?”, lets consult Kingdom Law.

The following is copied from the online version of Kingdom Law, I believe it is the most up to date version: 

(click here to skip the legalese)

II-205 THE FYRD OF CALONTIR

There shall exist within the Kingdom of Calontir a system by which recognition is given to fighters and archers through titles that reflect their skill as fighters or archers and as representatives of Calontir. The lower rank is that of Fyrdman of the Fyrd of Calontir. The Fyrd shall be composed of two equal but separate branches; the fighters, called the Iren-Fyrd, and the archers, called the Boga-Fyrd. An individual may qualify and be granted membership by the Crown in both branches of the Fyrd.

Elevation to the Fyrd rests with the Sovereign, after consultation with such members of the appropriate branch of the Fyrd as the Sovereign shall desire. Any such elevation shall be proclaimed by the Crown to the populace at an official Court of the Kingdom of Calontir or upon the field of honor.

Elevation to the Fyrd shall confer upon the recipient an Award of Arms and shall entitle such individual to all rights, privileges, and ensigns attendant thereto. FYRDMEN may be styled and announced in the Calontir Order of Precedence as such. The Fyrd shall be ranked equally in the Order of Precedence with the Orders of the Torse, the Golden Calon Swan and the Leather Mallet. Membership in the Fyrd shall assure the recipient, according to seniority, of a position in the Calontir Order of Precedence before those Awards of Arms not given with any Order, but after Court Baronages.

The Fyrd may adopt, by approval of the Crown and by mutual consent, such rules for its internal governance as the Fyrd may find useful, such bylaws not being in conflict with the Laws and Traditions of Calontir.

IREN-FYRD: Elevation to the Iren-Fyrd may be conferred upon those individuals meeting certain requirements; including authorization in at least two weapon systems and competence (proficiency) in at least one weapon system, demonstration of support of the Calon Army and potential for leadership, which should include the ability to carry out standard Calontir Army commands. Said individual must also display honorable behavior both on and off the field.

Fyrdmen of the Iren-Fyrd may wear the badge of the Iren-Fyrd, emblazoned: Sable, on a pile embattled between two spears in pile argent a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

BOGA-FYRD: Elevation to the Boga-Fyrd may be conferred upon those individuals who display proficiency in at least one archery system, demonstrate support for the Calontir army on the archery field, and whose conduct is consistently honorable both on and off the field.

Fyrdmen of the Boga-Fyrd may bear the badge of the Boga-Fyrd, emblazoned: Sable, on a pile embattled between two longbows in pile argent a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

For a more argumentative answer to “What is a Fyrdman of Calontir?” I would refer you to Rhianwen’s recent comments of the Calonlist:

“Like any polling order — hell, like any large group of people — what *exactly* it means to be Fyrd varies a little bit with whom you talk to.

Fyrdmen are expected to be reasonably good fighters, which includes not only skill but honor. They are expected to be able to handle leadership roles on the field. If a command is given, the Fyrd are able to carry it out — not just understand it, but actually execute it and help the people around them to do so as well. This, in combination with our largish population, is why the Fyrd are often referred to as “the backbone of the Army”.

Mix the above statements with the “what does and does not constitute support of the Army” and you have a whole heck of a night of debate;)

Origins and Purpose

OK, so know we know what law says a Fyrdman of Calontir is, why do we need them? what is their purpose?

The answer to that lies in our origins and for that we can consult Master Craig’s The Chronicles of Calontir”, Volume I, Foundations, page 11, paragraph 2 :

“On that same day, (29 July, AS XIII), The first Fyrdmen were appointed: Ternon, Bellwood, Ironhand, Humpk and Guillaume de la Chien Blanc. It should be said that Brummbar created the Hird and the Fyrd to let the fighters rank each other to better aid their growth. He saw in the Midrealm only knights and squires; the squire being a household position, without rank, that said naught of one’s ability as a fighter. The Hird would be the guard of the warlord (and later prince) and the Fyrd would be the militia. Neither the Hird nor the Fyrd were orders like the Cross and the Lily, but were more like military ranks. The members of these orders were chosen by the regional marshal after receiving reports from marshals across the region. If one left Calontir, the rank did not then follow. The orders of the Cross and Sword of Calontir were announced but not yet opened. Mark well those days, sons and daughters of Calontir, for then the Falcon was born.” .

So, what is the purpose of the Fyrd of Calontir?  I believe it is two fold (at least), one purpose lies in the Order and the other lies in the award itself.

  • Normally at any given foreign war, the Fyrd comprise the biggest part of the Army, they are the basic militia (the backbone) of the Calon Army. This is the purpose of the Order.

  • With the ranking system in place Calontiri fighters can get an idea of where we stand in the martial “pecking order” of the Kingdom. This is the purpose of the award itself.

Some would suggest that there is a third purpose also. I have become more and more convinced that this “other” purpose  isn’t a true third purpose but  just a combination of the two purposes mentioned above. This “third” purpose is also covered in Rhainwen’s post to the Calonnet when she says:

“We also function as an Order, and not just for polling purposes. If a member (or a man-at-arms) goes terribly awry (getting a little thick, for example), we can act as a mob to bring him back into alignment.”

This has been a very important role in Calontir’s history and its benefits (and their origins) can be seen in Master Craig’s article, Why Calontir has fewer “BLOWSHUCKAGUYS” than other Kingdoms” from Volume 4 of the BoP.

Comparison to the Historical Fyrd

This is brought up from time to time. Some would say we are a good representation of our Historical counterparts and some say we aren’t even close, myself, I say we are a middle ground of the two belief.

Some things we do are great representations of what the Historical Fyrd were, some aren’t.

Some of the good points are:

We do a pretty good job of paying tribute to the meaning of the actual word fyrd. In its oldest form the word fyrd  meant “a journey or expedition”, however, the exact meaning of the word, like the nature of the armies it is used to describe, changed a great deal over time. It is a well know fact that traveling is looked at highly among all the Orders, but it is my opinion that it is really looked at by the fighting orders. Another eternal debate is over this factor when it comes to candidates and although it isn’t 100% necessary to travel to be made a Fyrdman,  it is a fact that those that travel ascend the path at a slightly higher pace that those that can’t travel for what ever reason. By keeping true to this factor I think we pay tribute to the oldest (original?) meaning  of the word.

Another of the things that we do right is that we do a pretty good representation of the local militia standards held be the West Saxons. Their establishment consisted of three general types of army: 

  1. the national host

  2. shire forces led by individual ealdormen,

  3. and the war bands of individual thegn’s

the natural counterparts seem to be:

  1. The Calon Army in its entirety

  2. shire forces/local militia

  3. households (which have very little influence here in Calontir or in the Armies structure)

When it boils down to it, the Fyrd are the local militia and though we aren’t all local to each other, when it comes down to it, the local forces (local militia) gather to comprise the Kingdoms Army.  

Just as when Harold Godwinson called together the Fyrd  (and Housecarls) to defend his lands from Hardrada and “the Bastard”, the Fyrd of Calontir rally to their King when he beckons them to join Him in making war. 

Another likeness we (the Fyrd as well as the Army) share with the historical fyrd (at least the earlier versions) is something Tacitus wrote about when describing the 1st century  Germanics.

Tacitus tells us:

‘They choose their kings for their noble birth, their leaders for their valour. The power even of the kings is not absolute or arbitrary. As for the leaders, it is their example rather than their authority that wins them special admiration – for their energy, their distinction, or their presence in the van of fight…..
‘No business, public or private, is transacted except in arms. But it is the rule that no-one shall take up arms until the tribe has attested that he is likely to make good. When the time comes, one of the chiefs or the father or a kinsman equips the young warrior with shield and spear in the public council. This with the Germans is the equivalent of our toga – the first public distinction of youth. They cease to rank merely as members of the household and are now members of the tribe.

Now that whole statement is Calontir over and over again, but tell me is that last line us or what?

Though even our men at arms (and our support crews) are just as much a part of the Army as any other fighter, when I was made a Fyrdman it was at that moment that I really knew that I was accepted as a Calontiri, some might dispute this fact but time and time again I have heard my  younger Fyrd brothers say the same thing after they were initiated into the Order, so there has to be some truth to it!

And that first (underlined) line, that is clearly the same ritual that we use when TRM’s induct a new candidate into the Order, it is done publicly and the new member is even equipped with a spear, sometimes with the Orders badge and sometimes with an actual spear head.

I guess the thing we have done best over the years has to do with the statement:

Calontir and her army have grown and changed since then, the Fyrd (and Hirth) must as well……”

Very often in the discussions regarding comparing ourselves to the Historical Fyrd, people who have done research will state that they have documentation that the Fyrd, in X timeframe under Y King did Z. Usually shortly after, someone else will post documentation of Fyrd in A timeframe, under B King, doing something different. In evaluating this, we see that the Historical Fyrd did the same thing the Calon Fyrd have done, changed to meet the needs of the Kingdom as it is now, and I would bet this is a trend that will continue in the future.

Well, after the above pat on the back I could stop but I feel the need to be honest and state that thought we are doing some things right when it comes to a fair representation, there are a few small things that we do that set us apart from our historical counterparts.

The first issue I will mention is something we don’t do well when it comes to a historical comparison but this isn’t a bad thing;p

The Historical Fyrd were (at least in the beginning) basically a peasant levy, probably very poorly armored and armed with farming tools (a lucky Fyrdman might have a spear) and swords would be right out as swords were only owned by the well to do. As the levy consisted mostly of farmers it would be fair to say that they were also poorly trained when it came to combat also. I wont even go into armor as it wouldn’t be fair to compare the two situations but I don’t think it would be unfair to say that the average Calontiri fighter is alot better armed and has alot better training and grasp of simple tactics than the average historical Fyrdman had, again, this isn’t a bad thing (for our Army anyway;)

Now, on that same thread, later models of the Historical Fyrd suggest that members were the veterans of the army, VFW’s if you will (Veterans of Foreign Wars.) As mentioned above it is possible to become a Fyrdman and never have been to war with the Calon host, it is very rare but possible. I don’t necessarily think that these rare occasions are bad things but when comparing the two versions, this sticks out.

Well now, I’ve babbled on for quite a bit now and I think this is a suitable place to end this article. I know many of you already knew all the information contained above but I am hoping that you enjoyed the way it was put together. I also hope that some of our newer folks read this and have gained some insight on the Order (No!,  we are not just those guys (and gals) that Pee together, we are much more;).

Lastly, I’d like to take credit for this whole article but I can’t, a large part of this article was gleaned from a discussion between myself and HL Barbarossa, he gave me the fuel for thought and I took his thoughts, combined them with my own and this is what I was able to construct. I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my words if I have done so I apologize, to do so certainly wasn’t my intent, I would also ask that you find me (either in person or via email) and let me know how I did so, so I can rectify the situation;)

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