Culture: Plantagenet English
Setting: early Hundred Years War, France mid-late 14thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources, Secondary Sources)
* Wise 1976 p12-13
"In the fourteenth century neither France nor England had the financial resources to engage in prolonged warfare yet the Hundred Years War did create large armies, attracting landless knights, younger sons and bastards of lords, and those seeking to gain a knighthood in the field, from all parts of Europe. These men, together with the ordinary foot soldiers, formed themselves into Free Companies after the Condotta style and hired out to the most generous side, seeking fame, fortune and perhaps land. However, because these Free Companies were independent of both England and France and had no means of making a living except by war, they were extremely difficult to disband when a campaign came to an end, and the men who hired them were forced to find fresh battles for them to fight in order to prevent a lapse into brigandage. Thus the Free Companies had an influential role in the wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. ... The Free Companies which took part in these local wars frequently remained in the area long after their leaders had abandoned their projects, so creating further problems.
"After the French defeat at Poitiers in 1356 many of these Free Companies resorted to brigandage as a means of making a living, usually establishing themselves in a stronghold from which they could terrorise the surrounding countryside into paying tribute, capturing for ransom any wealthy travellers who had the misfortune to pass through their area, and sometimes uniting with other armed bands to sack a poorly defended town."
* McGlynn 2008 p xi
"The myth of chivalry has proven persistent. The allure of Chaucer's 'verray, parf[a]it gentil knyght' remains irresistible for its image of a powerful warrior devoted to the ideals of bravery, honour, loyalty and self-sacrifice, all in the service not just of his lord or lady, but also for his role as protector of the weak, the elderly, the young and the defenceless. That Chaucer could describe his knight in such terms appears initially to military historians as a contradiction in terms: a gentle knight was not much use on the battlefield. Chaucer was writing in the second half of the fourteenth century, at a time when the ravages of the Hundred Years War and violent peasant uprisings had racked England and France with breathtaking brutality .... Chaucer, with his high connections and travels across Europe, was well aware of these brutalities. . His 'parfait, gentil knyght' was a call to an idealized version of knighthood, prompted by the horrors of endemic warfare and social unrest.
"Chaucer was following in the tradition of a long line of medieval writers who sought to mitigate the excesses of war in the Middle Ages through an appeal to the nobler instincts of knights. This literary genre ... explores medieval writers' attempts at reform in calling for a return to the true values of chivalry. However, at the same time, other writers were calmly accepting -- or, indeed, were encouraging -- the waging of war against non-combatants as the most practical way to achieve victory, even going so far as to justify these measures as being in accordance with chivalric values."
Armor (Helmet, Jupon, Plate, Gauntlets)
* Reid 2007 p74
"The two armies at Crécy were dressed and equipped in much the same fashion. [CONTRA Seward 1978 p51-52] Knights wore armour that was more efficient and lighter than that worn at Halidon Hill, which for the English was important, now that they had adopted the Scottish habit of fighting on foot wherever a suitable defensive position could be found. The gambeson was no longer worn, making the wearing of armour not quite so hot to fight in. The hauberk was generally made of chain mail, with back and breast plates worn over it, while the lower body was protected by overlapping horizontal hoops of steel loosely riveted together and fastened to the back and breast plates allowing full body movement. The upper leggings were protected by mail leggings and cuissarts, a new form of armour made of padded leather with strips of steel riveted to it and strapped round the thigh; the cuissarts were brightly coloured. The lower leg was armoured with plate armour over the shins and strapped on over the mail leggings. The arms were protected in a similar fashion to the legs. Steel gauntlets were worn and caps of steel or cuir-bouilli defended the knees and elbows; bands of loosely riveted steel guarded the shoulders. On top of their armour all knights wore the jupon, a tightly fitting sleeveless garment sometimes padded but always finished in an expensive cloth such as silk or velvet, and beautifully embroidered with the knight's heraldic arms. The conical bascinet, with or without a visor, was replacing the helm, and the camail, a curtain of mail to the shoulders, was attached to the bascinet by lacing."
* Seward 1978 p51-52
"In 1346 an English man-at-arms was still armoured mainly in 'chainmail' of interlinked metal rings. A shirt of this mail, over a padded tunic, covered him from neck to knees and was laced on to a conical helmet which was open faced but which had a visor. (The great barrel helm was seldom worn in battle nowadays.) He had steel breastplates and plates on his arms, together with elbow pieces and articulated foot-guards over mail stockings. Over all he wore a short linen surcoat. English knights were noticeably old-fashioned compared to the French [CONTRA Reid 2007 p74], for across the Channel Philip VI's paladins had their shoulders and limbs also covered with plate, and helmets (bascinets) with hinged, snout-like visors which had breathing holes. Their surcoat had been replaced by the shorter leather jupon."
* Prestwich 1996 p23
"There followed during the Hundred Years War a rapid move towards the full-scale adoption of plate-armour. The great helm, often featuring an elaborate crest, had become a piece of specialised tournament armour. For battle, the lighter bacinet was far more practical. One characteristic form was fitted with a projecting snout-like visor, which could be easily raised. Breastplates may have developed first for tournaments, but were soon incorporated into battle-armour. Unfortunately, the habit of wearing flowing surcoats, or tighter jupons, over body armour makes it impossible to determine many details with precision. In 1368 Thomas Erskine, a Scot, was given permission to buy armour in London and take it to Scotland where he needed it to fight a judicial duel. He needed a bacinet, breastplate and backplate, a pair of 'bracers' for his arms, with cuisses and greaves for his legs."
* Anglo 2000 p205
"With regard to war, the anonymous author [of Modus armandi milites ad torneamentum] simply lists aketoun, plates de Alemayne ou autres, along with bone gorgeres, gladius, haches a pik, et cultellus. He also mentions a shield but notes that it is rarely carried in war because it hinders rather than helps. For mounted lance play (Ad hastiludia), only aketoun, haubert, gambisoun of silk, steel plates, and bacyn et galea are specifically named ...."
* Norman & Pottinger 1979 p92-93
"Sword blades were of varied types; some were purely for thrusting, others were designed so that they could be used for both cutting and thrusting. Many knights carried a thrusting sword hung on the front of their saddle, as well as the dual-purpose sword on the hip-belt. The exclusive thrusting sword had a stiff blade of diamond cross-section tapering from the hilt to the point, which was sometimes reinforced for piercing."
* Edge & Paddock 1988 p87
"The exclusive thrusting swords had stiff, sharply tapered blades of diamond section and by 1360 a portion of the blade nearest to the cross-guard was left blunt, forming a ricasso, so that the index finger could be wrapped over the guard to give more control over the point. These swords generally had elongated pommels of fig or scent-bottle shape, which would allow both hands to be used; a hand placed behind the pommel would give extra impetus to a thrust."
* Wise 1976 p70-71
"By the second half of the fourteenth century plate armour was being used so extensively, and protected the wearer so efficiently, that an entirely new type of sword began to appear; the thrusting sword, or estoc. In cross-section the blades of these new swords were either an elongated diamond or a flattened hexagonal shape, in both cases without a fuller. These narrow, stiff blades, tapering to a very sharp point, were designed solely for thrusting at the chinks in armour. Contemporary illustrations often show the estoc being held against the shoulder, rather like a lance or spear, and in the fifteenth century these swords were frequently without sharpened edges, making them entirely a thrusting weapon.
"Such swords, aiming for small cracks in an opponent's armour, needed much finer control than the earlier slashing swords, and to achieve this knights began to hook their forefingers over the base of the blade, above the crossguard. About 1360 that part of the blade, the ricasso, was left blunt for between one and two inches. This gave rise, at the end of the century, to a bar branching out from the front half of the guard and curving round in a loop to protect the forefinger. The estoc remained popular in the next century but never replaced the slashing sword, which continued to be used alongside it."
* Edge & Paddock 1988 p87
"As in previous centuries, the sword remained the knight's principal weapon, but from the beginning of the century new varieties started to emerge. These were designed either to deliver a very heavy cutting blow or specifically for the thrust, to deal with the ever-increasing weight and robustness of the knight's armour. Long-bladed swords of war with grips of increased length continued to be popular as they were capable of delivering a blow that could shear off a limb, but an intermediate type emerged which was designed both to cut and thrust. This had a double-edged blade which was wide at the shoulders, but which tapered rapidly to a sharp point for thrusting."
* Norman & Pottinger 1979 p92-93
"The blade of the dual-purpose sword was usually wide near the hilt and sharp on both sides but tapered to a very sharp point for thrusting. One sometimes reads that the medieval sword was a clumsy weapon, blunt and unwieldy. No one who had ever held a genuine sword in his hand could say that, since they feel so perfectly designed for their purpose as soon as one's hand closes round the grip. The few still in their original condition are very sharp indeed. Many blades were a good deal longer than formerly, and, to balance the extra weight, the grip was also made longer and the pommel was often of elongate shape as well. In order to get a better grip when thrusting, the first finger was sometimes hooked over the front bar or the cross-guard, and so that this finger should not get cut, a short section of the blade was occasionally made with a thick unsharpened edge, later called the 'ricasso.'"
Daggers (Quillon, Ballock, Rondel)
* Seward 1978 p52
"The basic weapon of both English and French was a long straight sword, hung in front at first but later moved to the left side and balanced by a short dagger on the right (called a misericord or 'mercy' on account of being used to dispatch the mortally wounded)."
* Edge & Paddock 1988 p88
"By the middle of the century, knights are depicted wearing daggers as an accompaniment to the sword. These would appear to have been of three basic forms. The quillon dagger resembled a small sword, usually with a hilt decorated and formed en suite with the sword. The ballock dagger, as depicted on the brass of William de Aldeburgh in Aldeborough, Yorkshire, had a hilt consisting of a grip, usually of wood, horn or brass, which formed rudimentary quillons. The final form, which appeared later in the century, was the rondel dagger. An early example, dated to the 1350s, appears on an effigy at Clehonger in Hereford, but it is not until the 1380s that it is commonly illustrated; after 1400 it appears on brasses practically to the exclusion of all other types. It consisted of a blade with a hilt in the form of a grip mounted to either end with a roundel or disk of metal or occasionally wood."
* Bull 1991 p63
"Daggers were commonly worn on the belt opposite the sword. Some were matched to the sword with straight quillons; the 'ballock' dagger was equipped with a phallus-like grip with round lobes below, and the 'baselard' had a cruciform pommel and a diamond-section blade."