Canute the Great:
Granting of Fiefs, 1028
The fief combined the principal characteristics of the bencficium of the Romans, and
the personal relationship of the comitatus of the Germans. Whereas the beneficium was held
only for life, or for a limited period of time, the fief was hereditary. The first
documentary evidence of a fief is to be found in the ninth century. In the process of
feudalizing Norway the practice of enfeoffing subjects was a step in the engrossing of
political power by the Scandinavian kings.
Then King Canute proceeded; and, to be short in our tale, did not stop until he
came to Trondheim, and landed at Nidaros. In Trondheim he called together a Thing for the eight districts, at which King Canute was chosen king of all Norway. Thorer Hund,
who had come with King Canute from Denmark, was there, and also Harek of Thjotta; and both
were made sheriffs of the king, and took the oath of fealty to him. King Canute gave them
great fiefs, and also right to the Lapland trade, and presented them besides with rich
gifts. He enriched all men who were inclined to enter into friendly accord with him both
with fiefs and money, and gave them greater power than they had before.
Samuel Laing, ed., The Heimskringla, A History of the Kings of Norway, (New
York: The Norroena Society, 1911), p. 552; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H.
Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce
Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 330-331.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998