ROYAL ARMOURIES OBJECTS IN CONTEXT SHEET 4 Detail of a cavalry charge from the Battle of Pavia Infantry attacking a castle. The Horrid Shock- the mounted knight Norman Knights In 1066 at the Battle of Hastings the Norman cavalry proved decisive against the Saxon infantry and helped William of Normandy win the battle.
In the eleventh century all mounted troops were termed milites or knights regardless of their status.
In 1066 some of these knights were great lords with vast estates, others lived in the great lord’s household with little or no land, some were given lands by their lord in return for military service.
Some of the poorer knights recorded in the Doomsday Book only had land worth one and a half hides (180 acres) with an income of £2 per annum.
Mercenaries were also hired by early Norman kings such as Henry I.
Knights were often given armour by their lord, which was returned on their death.
Accepting arms and armour from a lord implied giving homage and supporting his military campaigns.
In the Bayeux Tapestry Harold Godwinesson is depicted being given armour by William, indicating his support for William’s bid for the English throne.
In 1066 knights wore mail shirts made from rings of metal riveted or butted together.
Celts and Saxons had also worn mail shirts.
They were a very effective defence against swords and flexible, allowing movement.
However they were not effective against steel tipped arrows or crushing blows from a mace or hammer.
The shirts were split at the front and the back so that Norman cavalry could ride their horses comfortably.
A mail shirt could cost as much as a horse in 1066 and only the wealthiest knights wore them.
By 1215 a mail shirt was less expensive costing anything between 60p and a pound.
Under the mail shirt Norman knights wore linen undershirts and padded and quilted undergarments to prevent chaffing and bruising, or cracked or broken ribs from a heavy sword blow.
The usual Norman helmet was conical in shape with a nasal bar protecting the nose.
This was worn over a coif or mail hood that protected the back of the neck.
Under the mail coif an arming cap made from padded and quilted material deadened the impact of any blow.
Often mail coifs were attached to mail shirts.
It was very difficult to identify a knight under coif and helmet.
At one point in the Battle of Hastings William had to remove his headgear to prove to his troops that he was still alive.
Norman cavalry fought in groups of about ten knights who would charge together at the enemy.
These shock tactics were very effective, and could panic footsoldiers into flight.
The Norman knight used a 9-foot (3m) light lance with a sharp metal point, which was couched or tucked under the right arm in the charge.
The force of impact necessary to unhorse or injure another mounted knight with a couched lance was dependent on the momentum of the horse.
In order to be able to withstand the backward force of a lance on impact the Norman knight stood in the stirrup, straight-legged.
The saddles were consequently high at the front and back to keep the knight on his horse.
Norman lances were light and could also be thrown like javelins or used downwards against footsoldiers.
They were very effective.
William Marshal killed the future Richard I’s horse with a single thrust of the lance.
Lances were easily broken and were of little use in a melee or close combat.
Knights were also equipped with a broadsword, which they used in melees to cut and slash.
By 1200 knights wore mail chausse, or leggings, which were strapped to the leg by leather cords.
Mail mitten gauntlets were often attached to the sleeves of mail shirts.
Gauntlets had leather palms to allow knights to grip their weapons.
The style of helmet had changed from the conical Norman helmet to that of the Great Helm by 1200.
This was worn over a mail coif with a padded ring that suspended the helm above the shoulders.
Padded thigh defences, cuisses, made from quilted material protected the thighs.
Cuir Boulli, or hardened leather, was also worn to protect knees and elbows.
Under the armour an aketon made from quilted and padded buckram, was worn.
The Norman knight of 1200 was completely covered from head to toe in mail.
Over the top of the mail shirt or hauberk, a cloth surcoat was worn which was often emblazoned with the coat of arms of the wearer.
The distinctive kite shaped shield of the Norman knight was designed to protect a rider on horseback.
Straps allowed it to be slung over the left shoulder and back when riding.
Round shields were used by footsoldiers throughout the Middle Ages.
There is also evidence in the Bayeux Tapestry that shields were used to show the symbol of the owner.
By the twelfth century a heraldic device or coat of arms had become standard for knightly families.
Early coats of arms were often visual puns on the names of knights.
Roger de Trumpington used trumpets on his coat of arms.
William the Conqueror lost three horses in the Battle of Hastings and had to be supplied with new mounts.
War-horses were very valuable, usually costing about a year’s wages for a knight.
Prices varied from 2 pounds in 1250s to 168 pounds in 1338.
Horse armour was used in Europe after the Crusades.
Often this was cloth, felt or quilted barding which covered the horse but allowed movement.
Metal protection for the head of the horse, the shaffron, could also be used, but only by the wealthiest individuals.
One of the earliest Saharans, owned by the Earl of Warwick, is in the War gallery in the Royal Armouries Museum.
In the late fifteenth century horse armour was not worn on the battlefield.
The twelfth century saw the beginnings of tournament as practise for war.
Richard I had legalised tournaments in England in 1194.
In 1066 William had rewarded the men who had fought with him at Hastings with land and honours.
In the twelfth century it was still possible for a fighting man to gain wealth and lands by feat of arms.
Participation in tournaments soon became a prerequisite for knights and part of the ceremony of knighthood.
By the thirteenth century knights were expected to be accompanied by a retinue in tournament and war.
It had become so expensive for a knight’s ceremony that only the richer families could afford, not only the armour, but also the banquet and accompanying tournament.
For instance in 1306 those knighted alongside Edward III had to provide a helmet, hauberk, lance, sword and spurs and the equipment to make a ceremonial mattress, robes and quilt.
The increasing costs of equipping a knight restricted this elite to a couple of hundred of the landed classes by the end of the thirteenth century.
The Crown, aware that its military might was declining, decreed in 1242 that all those owning land worth £20 per annum were expected to take on knighthood or pay a fine.
In the fourteenth century the rank of knighthood was extended to include wealthy merchants like Michael de la Pole, a fishmonger’s son from Hull.
The mounted knight protected by mail dominated the eleventh century battlefield.
However, in the twelfth century battles of Henry I’s reign and the civil war between Stephen and Matilda were fought on foot by knights.
By the early 1200s castles had been rebuilt in stone and were difficult to besiege.
The defendant’s security meant that they had little need to exit their defensive fortifications.
Hence most warfare in the reigns of the early twelfth century monarchs was siege warfare.
Henry I and II destroyed retainers’ castles to prevent them being used as strongholds and by the thirteenth century the role of the mounted knight on the battlefield as shock tactics was resumed.
By the fourteenth century knights were wearing coat armour, fabric armour lined with hardened plates of metal, whalebone or cuir boulli.
These were worn over a mail shirt or hauberk.
Jupons, padded and quilted military coats, were worn over a mail shirt or as defences in their own right.
The coat of arms of the knight could be emblazoned on these fabric defences to show their rank and family connections.
The helmet shape had changed to a pig-faced basinet worn over a coif.
An aventail of mail was attached to the basinet to protect the neck and throat.
Plate armour for the thighs and shins, iron gauntlets and shoes could also be worn.
By 1415 the wealthier knights were wearing plates of armour over their mail shirts, but beneath their jupons.
Early plate armours were made from metal, whalebone or cuir bouilli, and often covered with fabric.
In 1386 Richard II paid one hundred shillings for plates covered with red or black velvet.
Pairs of plates comprised a solid breast and back plate; breastplates could be strapped around the back or constructed from sections of hardened metal that encircled the upper torso.
A small minority of the wealthiest soldiers on the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses were equipped with a complete armour of plate metal.
This was called ‘white armour’, probably because it was not covered with fabric.
The very design and decoration of plate metal armour helped to reflect the knight’s status, wealth and power.
The most popular helmet was a sallet.
The Great Helm had been relegated to the tournament field.
Mail armour continued to be worn in sections to protect gaps in plate armour such as elbow joints and underarms.
Most armours worn in England were imported from Italy, Flanders or Germany; the Milanese fashion being the most popular. The cost of armour varied, but in the twelfth century a knight might be armed for five pounds.
By the end of the thirteenth century this had risen to about one hundred pounds.
In 1285 those holding land worth more than 15 pounds were to provide their own hauberk, iron breastplate, sword, dagger and horse.
Edward III paid nearly seven shillings (35p) for a pair of metal gauntlets in the 1300s and 2 pounds for a war helmet.
But the most expensive piece of armour Edward purchased was a cotton and fustian trapper for his horse to prevent him being rubbed by his iron armour.
This cost two pounds and twelve shillings (£2.60).
By 1475 the cost of providing armour was about 100 shillings (5 pounds) for a suit of plate, and up to 80 shillings (4 pounds) for a horse.
Light cavalry were also used as scouts, spies and prickers.
Scouts and spies assessed the lie of the land, which was essential before accurate maps were made.
Troop movements could also be reported to allay the risk of being ambushed.
In the Wars of the Roses both sides used scouts to determine the movements and possible intentions of the enemy.
Prickers were light cavalry used to maintain order amongst the infantry, preventing them straggling on the march or deserting a battlefield.
They would use their lances to prick the reluctant infantryman into action. Facing the Enemy- the footsoldier Footsoldiers were always less well protected than their lords.
In 1066 the infantry on both sides would have worn fabric protection with only one or two being able to afford a mail shirt.
The bulk of the army would have worn woollen and linen clothing, or even a leather jerkin.
A leather cap may also have been worn.
In the thirteenth century a man holding land worth 5 pounds was expected by law to provide his own padded doublet (jack), breastplate, sword and dagger.
Men with land worth under 5 pounds but over 40 shillings were not expected to provide armour, but only weapons such as a polearm or a dagger.
By the fourteenth century the armour of the richer footsoldier included a mail shirt, a brigandine and a sallet helmet.
A brigandine was made of rectangular iron plates riveted inside a fabric doublet.
These were very flexible, but expensive, costing as much as 33 shillings (£1.65) in 1470.
Polearms developed from the spear used by infantry in 1066.
The spear was the principal weapon of the Norman footsoldier and was used at the Battle of Hastings.
In the fourteenth century Scottish footsoldiers used the spear or pike very effectively, standing close together and lowering their pikes in a hedge against oncoming troops.
This was an effective tactic against cavalry and could break a cavalry charge, as horses do not like impaling themselves on sharp metal tips.
In 1314 Scottish pikemen defeated English cavalry at the battle of Bannockburn.
During the Wars of the Roses pikes were 12-foot (4m) long.
Other polearms developed from the spear such as the bill and the poleaxe.
The bill is a long hafted axe incorporating a hooked blade and one or more spikes, used on farms for cutting hedgerows.
It could be used to hook a knight off his horse.
The Poleaxe, a spiked hammer wielded in two hands, was widely used in foot combat on the battlefield in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Crossbows were used in 1066 and throughout the medieval period including the Wars of the Roses but they were unable to counter the longbow.
Although the impact of the crossbow bolt was very powerful, the length of time needed to reload meant that they were mainly used in siege warfare.
Castle or town walls offered protection to crossbowmen whilst reloading.
On the battlefield a pavise, a large shield, was used by crossbowmen as protection.
The prime weapon for English footsoldiers during the medieval period was the longbow.
In 1285 all men aged between 15 and 60 holding land worth under forty shillings (2 pounds) were required by law to have a bow and a sheaf of 24 arrows.
Edward I first used longbowmen in his Welsh and Scottish campaigns and it was this weapon that effectively changed medieval warfare in the late thirteenth-century.
In the Welsh campaigns English longbowmen disorientated ranks of Welsh spearmen with a barrage of arrows and created enough space for the English cavalry to charge and disperse the enemy.
In 1346 Scottish troops were overwhelmed at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, by a hail of English longbow arrows.
By the Hundred Years War, the use of the longbow on the battlefield by the English was well established.
In 1346 at the Battle of Crecy volleys of arrows decimated charging French cavalry before hand to hand foot combat began between English and French knights.
The use of the longbow on the battlefield led to knights dismounting and fighting on foot alongside archers, as horses were exceptionally vulnerable to arrows.
A cavalry charge could not be effective under a barrage of arrows. However, the longbow was not an advantage in the Wars of the Roses as both Yorkists and Lancastrians used them.
Battles usually began with a volley of arrows from both sides.
The Battle of Towton, near Leeds, in 1461 began with an archery duel in a driving blizzard.
The Lancastrian army, downwind of the Yorkists, disintegrated and fled.
The cavalry was used to drive the Yorkists back.
This use of archers by both sides in the Wars of the Roses led to the resurgence of the cavalry as shock troops, charging after the initial archery duel.
At the Battle of Barnet in 1471 3,000 troops were put to flight by a cavalry charge.
Lances had increased in size since 1066 and in 1470 were about 15-foot (5m) long.
Made from Yew, longbows could shoot 15 arrows a minute and archers could hit a target up to 250m following constant training from boyhood.
From the late I 200s all boys over the age of 7 were required to practise at the village butts, usually after church on a Sunday.
To this day marks can often be seen on the sides of church doors where longbow arrows have been sharpened before practice.
There were many different kinds of arrowheads developed for hunting or warfare.
The most effective war arrow was the bodkin arrow that was needle sharp and could pierce plate metal armour, if it hit the surface of the armour at a right angle and was travelling at sufficient speed.
Swine’s feathers, or wooden stakes, were placed in a line in front of archers for protection whilst shooting at the enemy.
War swords were valued at half the value of a longbow.
Arrows cost 5 shillings, a bow 5 shillings in 1470s.
In the Wars of the Roses artillery was used.
Although handguns had been used at the Battle of Crecy in 1346 they were not very effective.
By the 1440s large gun carriages had been placed on wheels which made them easier to move and use on the battlefield.
Stone shot was initially used for bombard, or early cannon, which was usually made by stonemasons on the battlefield.
By the 1470s guns such as serpentines used lead and iron pellets.
However the aim of these early cannon was not very accurate.
At Barnet in 1471 a night bombardment by the Lancastrians totally overshot Edward IV’s army and proved ineffective. Recruitment From 1066 English armies were recruited by the feudal system.
In return for the grant of his lands each lord had a duty to provide a number of armed men for the king in the event of war.
By the fourteenth century this system of recruitment had become unsatisfactory with English infantry being little more than a mob of men who remained in the army as long as their ammunition and provisions lasted.
One knight from Shropshire, John de Leyburn, owed a very strange duty to the king if called to provide men for war.
He had to provide a horseman with a lance, a coat of mail and a piece of gammon.
The horseman only had to fight for the king as long as the piece of gammon lasted.
If the king did not consent to pay for further military duties the horseman went home when he had finished his gammon.
Another knight, Hugo fitz Heyr, came to fight in 1300 with a bow and one arrow.
He fired this as soon as the Scots were seen and then left for home.
Edward I during his campaigns in Wales and Scotland gradually abandoned the old system in favour of a new one based on the payment of wages in cash.
Under the new system of recruitment, the king concluded agreements with individual barons.
The barons agreed to provide a specified number of knights, men at arms, etc.
For an agreed period of time or for a particular campaign, and the king agreed to pay the daily wages of the company.
Most contracts by the time of Edward III were written out in the form of an indenture.
These contracts could also contain a clause requesting a knight’s service in the tournament.
Armies were raised in the fifteenth century by signet letters from the King or a commission of array.
Under the commission of array, all men aged 16-60 were obliged to fight for 40 days a year for their lord, in their own county.
They were not permitted to fight outside their county.
This could cause difficulties.
In 1471 Edward IV released his levies after the Battle of Barnet as they had served their time and sent for fresh troops which arrived ten days later.
These sorts of delays could cost an army dearly.
In 1469 at Edgecote Edward IV was waiting for reinforcements to arrive, found that they were blocked by the rebel army, and was forced to flee overseas to Holland.
In the Wars of the Roses, when both the Yorkists and Lancastrians were mustering armies, confusing situations could arise.
In 1471 Sir Henry Vernon was summoned by both sides, fearing to offend either party he remained neutral.
The cost of hiring an army could be very expensive.
During the Hundred Years Wars a duke was paid 13 shillings (65p) a day, earls 8 shillings (40p), bannerets 4 shillings (20p), knights 2 shillings (l0p), esquires 1 shilling (5p), and mounted archers 6d (2.5p).
Infantry were paid 2d (1p) a day.
These rates of pay remained the same in the Wars of the Roses.
The cost of providing a troop of men with wages could be very great.
Lord Percy provided 100 men at arms during the French Wars at a cost per day of £15.15.
The size of armies differed throughout the medieval period.
In the twelfth century a banneret’s retinue consisted of about 15 knights.
Robert Clifford from Skipton Castle had a retinue of 4 knights and 18 squires.
The English armies used in the Scottish Wars comprised 1,000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry drawn from England, Wales and Ireland.
By the Hundred Years War the size of a banneret’s retinue had risen to about 60.
During the Wars of the Roses the size of personal retinues had grown to the extent that lords were able to raise armies of 2-3,000 men easily to challenge the Crown.
The Battle of Towton in 1461 was the biggest battle of the Wars of the Roses.
It was fought by two unusually large armies and both the fierceness of the fighting and the eventual rout of one side led to enormous casualties.
Probably 40,000 fought that day and more than 10,000 of them died. This is a pilot produced by the education department.
If you have any comments please contact the Education Department on 0113 220 1812. (Gw/02/02/00).
Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, LS10 1 LT.
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