An ealdorman (modern alderman) was the prior magistrate of an Anglo-Saxon shire from 900 to the time of the Danes. The ealdorman, rendered in Latin as "dux" or (in early West Saxon charters) "præfectus" (which is also the equivalent of "gerefa", modern reeve, from which sheriff or shire reeve), was the chief magistrate of a shire (county) in Anglo-Saxon England. He commanded the army of the shire(s) and districts under his control on behalf of the king. They were appointees of the king and were originally mostly from the ancient and powerful families, but later were often chosen from among the king's "comites" (plural of "comes", meaning companion) and many, especially in the early Danish period, were new to high office. The term gradually disappeared as it was replaced by "eorl", the Danish term which evolved into the modern earl, the analogous term of which happens to be count, from the French "comte", derived from the Latin "comes". The ealdormen can be thought of as the early English earls, for their ealdormanries (singular ealdormanry, same meaning as earldom) eventually became the great earldoms of Anglo-Danish and Anglo-Norman England.

An ealdormancy was an Anglo-Saxon governing body over several shires, made up of more than one ealdorman.


*Stenton, Sir Frank M. "Anglo-Saxon England Third Edition". Oxford University Press, 1971.

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