3d Anaglyph of a Saxon War Axe
Saxon War Axe
The axe was the favourite weapon of the Saxon Huscarls. The blade, made of high carbon steel and mounted on an ash handle, created fearsome injuries in battle. In Old English Huscarl means 'Household Troops'; highly trained professional soldiers that served the king and his family.
This was the type of weapon that William the Conqueror's troops would have faced at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when they defeated Harold's army, which would have included over 2000 Huscarls. The Huscarls were introduced into England during the reign of Cnut when he re-organised his army in 1018, probably to incorporate the best English warriors into his personal guard. They were paid, housed and fed by the King and would have been an extraordinary financial burden requiring a special tax to cover it.
In addition to serving as an elite fighting unit the Huscarls also performed other functions such as tax collecting and other ministerial duties. Each Huscarl was expected to provide his own best quality arms and armour including a double edged sword, a mail shirt, helmet and spear as well as the long handled war axe. He would also own a horse to carry him to battle, although he would dismount and fight on foot.
After the Conquest of England by William the tradition of the Huscarls died out being replaced by the feudal system where the barons provided William with his army.