hölðr (ON) hauldr (ON) noun

A Norwegian class of landowners who possessed allodial land. The concept was borrowed in England and became OE hold. A hölðr has been compared to the slightly later ‘statesman’, a type of landowner in Northern and Eastern England and to the modern Norwegian odelsbonde. In GuL a hölðr is also referred to as an óðalborinn maðr and in BorgL as an árborinn maðr. The legal status of a hölðr according to Gul was between a landed man (lendr maðr, see lænder) and a householder (bóndi, see bonde). The primary distinction between a landed man and a hölðr was that the former had received land from the king whereas the latter had not. A hölðr was entitled to double wergild (as compared to a householder), and they could pass on twice as much property to an illegitimate son. In Gul and the LandsL a hölðr had the right to be an einfyndr (i.e possessor of sole rights) when coming upon a drift whale of a certain size. Moreover they, along with householders, were permitted more prestigious burial plots than freed men and thralls. Some earlier commentators have viewed the hölðr as a type of landed aristocrat. In LandsL a hölðr is strictly defined as someone who has inherited allodial land from both his father and mother, and it has been suggested that this criterion meant that there were relatively few hölð and that they became increasingly fewer as the Middle Ages progressed.

According to Bj, everyone in the Niðaros township was accorded the rank of hölðr. In GuL this notion of ‘freeholder’s rights’ (hauldsrett) is expanded to include all free men in places where strangers came together, such as cities, fishing areas and trade stations. In FrL the king’s page (skutilsveinn) also holds the rank of hölðr, as do the king’s goldsmith and the captains of his ships. In GuL (ch. 200) Icelanders on trading voyages to Norway were granted the rights of a hölðr for three years, but those of other countries only the rights of a bóndi. A similar law attributed to St Olaf decreed that Icelanders should hold the rank of höldr when visiting Norway (DI i.65.2). The term is not otherwise used in Iceland, and in JB it has been substituted with riddari (q.v.). The term is not found in the Danish or Swedish provincial laws, but it does appear in some Danish place names.

In courts, a hölðr was preferred for serving on jury panels, but they could be replaced by householders if necessary (cf. FrL). Their importance declined sharply in the later Middle Ages as their property was absorbed by the nobility and the church, and the number of tenant farmers (leiglendinger, see laigulenningr) increased.

freeholder ONorw FrL Mhb 8, 49 ArbB 17 Rgb 34 LlbA 15 LlbB 7 Bvb 11
ONorw GuL Kvr, Mhb

CV s.v. höldr; F s.v. höldr; Hagland 2011; KLNM s.v. bonde, bøter, hauld, stænder; LexMA s.v. bauer, bauerntum, odal; NF s.v. bonde; ONP; Phillpotts 1913; Pons Sanz 2007; RGA s.v. odal; Riisøy 2005; Vogt 2010

  • ‘hölðr’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/2220