thegns was a title given to those members of society in late Anglo-Saxon England who held at least five hides of land and were under the obligation of serving the king in battle. Their nearest predecessor was the gesith, their successors the knights of the post-Conquest period. The rank was hereditary but could be attained by ceorls who came to own five hides. Though there were many gradations within the ranks of thegns, their wergeld in Mercia and Wessex was six times that of a ceorl. The spelling has been preferred by historians to distinguish them from Scottish thanes, who were barons or clan leaders.
Sandra M. Dunkin
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