Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

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IDEEDEE
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Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby IDEEDEE » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:19 pm

Help!!! Having been spoon-fed by Hollywood & TV the impression that a lot of spear-armed infantry (from 1100 to oooh, say somewhere mid 14thC) will carry shields, I have been frightfully disappointed that 3 weeks diligent searching of contemporary pics to back a desire to equip mid 13thC infantry English with same has thus far failed to substantiate this (illusion...?). I'm not talking high-status bods or knights on foot, but genuine footsoldiers -higher status than the "I've got my dress, pointy -stick & padded coif" variety, but below knightly class. Am I missing something? Is this another Holly-TV-Reenactorism ? Any pointers gratefully received..



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:55 pm

You are talking serjantz of the professional military kind. It's not just their shields that are elusive - history tends to completely ignore these people because they were not nobles, so they didn't count (literally) and battlefield casualties only included people with "sir" in front of the name, everyone else went in a pit. They also get ignored in contemporary artwork, whether it is sculpture, bronzes, stained glass, wall paintings or manuscript illuminations.

The general view is that their equipment was similar to, but inferior to and less costly than, that of a knight. For mid-13th century English knights you could take the contemporary work of Matthew Paris as reliable:

battle-of-bouvines matthew paris.jpg


Remove the heraldry and top-quality helm and you are left with the makings of a military serjant. Clearly, if a man needs two hands to wield his weapon, the shield would become an inconvenience so practical considerations have to be taken into account.


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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Biro » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:11 pm

There are some depictions to be found. If you have a copy of ospreys English mediaeval knight 1200 to 1300, page 12 shows one on an elephant! The Mac Bible also has an image of an infantry man in a siege with a large, earlier style flat topped kite.

You could also try looking at the dead in the manuscript images. Chances are that your commoners will be found there.

But yes, shield use seems to be at a minority in favour of larger weapons, which kind of hints at the start of the growth of supplemental armour in the same period.



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby IDEEDEE » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:22 am

Cheers chaps.

Brother Ranulf may well be right... I've done loads of peering at contemporary images (esp. the Mac Bible, Matthew Paris, the major psalters etc. plus other, less well-known ones at manuscriptminiatures.com etc. etc.) over the months, but apart from the rare individual (like the Mac Goliath, some odd Flemings in a block and, as Biro says, the occasional guy in a siege situation & elephant man,) most footsoldiers seem shield-less or look suspiciously like knights sans cheval (i.e. - for mid 13thC - in "baby-gro" mail & surcoat). There does seem to be a real paucity of relevant images of serjantz/middling/lower class foot with shields - esp. given the impression received from "uniform books", wargame figures, Victoriana, pics of reenactors & the screen (multiple shudders :wink: )...

The Mac/Morgan Bible has really impressed me over the months and, although I know that taking one source as Gospel (no pun intended) is dangerous, it seems odd that, given the detail the artist(s) bothers to render for all social classes, so few foot shields appear.. Or maybe he just didn't like doing shields.... :wink: I'll carry on with the quest, while awaiting, with bated breath, being pointed in the direction of a pic of a near-phalanx of shielded sejantz.... :)



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Biro » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:01 am

I suspect this one is probably the best you'll find:

http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/ ... 10va&b.gif

It's difficult to guage who would be a serjent and who a knight - especially since is wasn't uncommon for serjents to be mounted too. I tent to look at this image and see 3 people on foot with shields. They all have mail and surcotes, but none are wearing mail chausses which makes me think they are definate infantrymen as opposed to dismounted knights. Interestingly, the one on the far right has a shield that looks more like the standard heater that the mounted troops are using, the other two are larger flat-topped-kite-style

Yes, it is a siege - but surely there must be a number of the larger shields in circulation - even if only for that purpose. But I tend to think that they may have been more common. The Assize of arms of 1252 lists swords as a very common weapon for almost all incomes. Shields are not mentioned at all - even amongst knight-level, so are they assumed? or provided? I wouldn't expect someone to go to war with a sword but no shield. But then spears aren't really mentioned to. Would they be provided? Again, I wouldn't expect them to go to war with no spears...

So difficult to say, other than that they were present and used by infantry - but not by the majority. We do tournament-style displays - and often have serjents using shields to support their knights - because it makes for a better-looking combat than spears, but based on the (scarce)evidence I would expect a mid-13c infantry-line to be mainly spears/glaives, with maybe a smattering of shields.



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby kate/bob » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:16 pm

Is the guy at the bottom of the wall shielding the guy with the crossbow rather than being a foot soldier with a shield?



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby IDEEDEE » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:56 am

Thanks Biro,

Yes, when looking at the Mac I've been assuming that the convention within that document is that dismounted & no mail chausees means "not a knight" (though I am also of course aware of other images from other sources that seem to show chausee-less knights).

It does seem odd that so few shields seem to be shown on footmen in the contemporary record when they seem to be in use earlier and there does not seem to have been a major shift in weapon types/practices. Common sense (shudder - so dangerous in a re-enactment context) would seem to suggest they would be used when lightly armoured & using a spear/single handed weapon (but then again, our group sometimes fight with polearms or pikes as early Landsknechts, in just hose, shirt, doublet & hat. I just came back from Germany with about 20 big bruises :D ). On the other hand, I do remember, as a lad, having "done" Romans at school, wondering why the US cavalry didn't have the good sense to bring the kit to form testudo when attacked by bow-wielding Indians :roll: :)

Like your site by the way.. Very interesting.

Just as a side note: reason I've been asking is that I've been doing some research for the Bonfire Societies in Lewes, who want to do something for the Battle of Lewes anniversary next year... Justifying the use of shields en-mass would have been nice... :)



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Biro » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:34 am

Heh, yeah.

I often (stupidly) try to use common sense to see if what I observe well, makese sense! I'm convinced that there was a shift from spear+shield to 2-h weapons amongst infantry when going from the 12th to the 13th century. It makes sense when you look at it next to armour developments. Henry IIs assize of arms probably does a lot to increase the amount of armour in use - especially gambesons. In addition, the standard knightly kit is full cap-a-pied mail - closing off all those gaps that the faster, 1-h spear/sword would be aiming for. We also see supplementary armours starting to appear on the knights - poleyns+shynbalds are rare, but there seems to be a common 'look' around surcotes that gives them stiff-looking shoulders/chests making me think there is some kind of stiff integral armour built in. Maybe hardened leather. Extra layers of gambesons appeared over mail, and armoured surcotes too.. All experiments in aditional armour. Perhaps in response to the increased 2-h weapon use, perhaps lance upgrades (that disk that I can never remember what its called that sits in the shoulder), perhaps crossbows.. Either way, it all points to the beginning of an arms race based on breaking through the armour rather than getting around it.

However, as I mentioned, the 1252 assize lists a lot of swords.. So if I were to reconstruct a Lewes infantry line, I'd probably say anything goes(apart from later pole weapons and 1-h spears). We don't really know the proportions of arms involved and can't really control the proportions at an event anyway.



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:59 pm

Biro wrote:perhaps lance upgrades (that disk that I can never remember what its called that sits in the shoulder),


Grapper?


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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Grymm » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:22 pm

Besagew/bessage


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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby IDEEDEE » Mon Jul 15, 2013 5:50 pm

Cheers Biro, very glad to hear the thoughts & opinions of someone much more seeped in the period than I..

Apropos; at Tewkers, this weekend just gone, I noticed a couple of Mac Bible-based gambesons on different stalls. Eye was particularly caught by one with integral mitts (German trader) obviously based on Mac. Quite thin (as indicated in the images) and if worn with another (also thin) armless pull-over would have been the very image of this particular "Mac look" (except for the colours/poss separate padded collar) http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images/maciejowski/leaf9/otm9vddetail7.gif Just out of interest, would you happen to be of the two thin gambesons (one sleeveless over a shorter, armed one) school of thought or the one gambeson with deep felled seams at the arm holes school..?

Cheers,



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Dingo8MyBaby » Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:17 pm

I have the over gamberson and when we do 1260 events I put it over the mail which over the full body gamberson - its makes the core body and thighs very well protected indeed.



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Re: Mid 13thC footsoldiers - and their elusive shields...

Postby Biro » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:08 pm

I'm of the 2-gamby view (but it's hard to say for sure since you never see them shown with different colours).

Kingsmirror describes wearing a gamby over mail (and one under) - makes sense to me that if you couldn't afford mail, the two gambies (with the same kind of thickness/construction) is still an option (and would probably look like your linked image).

Mine are quite thin (but stiff - more layers than stuffing) - and this works very well for me, either with or without mail. The protection you get from gamby--mail--gamby is much, much more than you'd expect - even with quite thin gambies.




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