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Random Fact #1

Like many people with a small business, I’m proud to be called a freelancer, but the word was originally more sinister than it is now. It meant a mercenary.

A “freelance” was, quite literally, a knight whose lance was pledged to no lord or cause, and who was therefore free to hire it out to anyone who could pay. It’s not certain, though, whether the word is actually mediaeval in origin. It seems to have been first used by Sir Walter Scott in his historical novel Ivanhoe.

Still, the idea was there, especially in the 14th and 15th centuries,during the Hundred Years War. Soldiers were constantly being left at a loose end by their leaders inconsiderately making peace treaties, and many found the solution of forming themselves into mercenary bands, known as Free Companies. The most famous of these was the White Company, under Sir John Hawkwood, which played a significant role in 14th century Italy.

Of course, if you hire a freelancer now, you can be confident that you won’t find an unemployed knight turning up on your doorstep. But that’s where the word came from.

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