Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Pavilion of the Lord d'Espiry at the Fountain of Tears, 1450

...his pavilion, which was white with a vermillion upper border, showing the colors of the robes described earlier (worn by d'Espiry and his servants in their procession to the field) and within, hanging behind his back on the ceintre* he had a rich cloth of gold....**

...his pavilion, which was in the manner of a a little tent of white satin, decorated and adorned as you will hear later...the knight's pavilion was opened and within there was a rich black cloth of gold hung behind him and extending over a large chair, and it was a floorcloth (marchepié) for the whole pavilion and for more than two ells outside.... ***

D'Espiry seems to have had a talent for drama. When his pavilion was opened he was seen fully armored in his chair with his legs crossed "resembling a Caesar or one of the Worthies in his triumph" with his bannerolle in his hand, in the midst of saying his prayers, which he completed before he began his combat. He was accompanied by four young squires about 12 or 13 years old: two were nephews of a friend and two were his sons. He requested and received permission for the young squires to watch his fight from inside the lists.

*Cintre could mean either the inner suface of a vault or arch, or the wooden scaffolding on which a masonry arch or vault was built. For a pavilion, this may have meant an internal wooden hoop.

**Chastellain, Georges, and Jean Le Fèvre. 1825. Chronique de J. de Lalain. Paris: Verdière. p.256

***La Marche, Olivier de, Henri Beaune, and Jules d'Arbaumont. 1883. Mémoires d'Olivier de La Marche: maître d'hôtel et capitaine des gardes de Charles le Téméraire. Paris: Librairie Renouard, H. Loones, successeur. pp. 182-183

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The Count d'Armagnac Overheats and Drinks Too Much Water, 1391

Many gallant deeds were done this day, which was the feast of St. James and St. Christopher. It was so very hot, that those who bore arms thought they were in an oven, for there was not any wind; and the young men at arms were overpowered by the heat, and unable to exert themselves. Add to this, that the force of the lord de Milan was three to one of the Armagnacs. The dust oppressed them so much, they could not see each other; but the Armagnacs, in this, suffered the most. This was an unfortunate day for the count, who was so overcome by the beat, and near fainting, that he withdrew from the battle, without friend or foe knowing whither he was gone. He had retreated to a small grove of alders, through which ran a little brook; and he no sooner felt his feet in the water, than he thought he was in paradise, and seated himself by the side of the stream. He, with some difficulty, took off his helmet, and remained covered only by the linen scull-cap, and then plunged his face in the water, at the same time, unfortunately, drinking large draughts; for he was thirsty from the heat, and could not quench it. He drank so much, that his blood was chilled, and a numbness of limbs seized him, with a strong inclination to faint. He could not move, and lost the use of speech. His attendants knew not what was become of him, and were the more uneasy, because many prisoners had been made: they therefore ceased fighting.

A short time after this, a squire belonging to the duke of Milan perceived the count d'Armagnac, and wondered much, when he saw him, who he could be; for it was visible he must be some knight or man of high rank: he called out, "Who are you? Surrender; for you are my prisoner." The count heard him, but could not make any answer, as he was unable to articulate, but held out his hand, and made signs that he surrendered. The squire then endeavoured to raise him, but, finding his attempts vain, seated himself beside him, while the skirmish was still continued, and many gallant actions performed.

Sir James de la Berme, being a prudent and valorous knight, perceiving the day was his own, and that many of the enemy were killed and wounded, but that his men were growing weary, and the Armagnacs increasing by fresh men from their camp, ordered a retreat to Alexandria, his men vigorously defending themselves as they retired. The squire, who had fortunately found the count d Armagnac in the state I have. mentioned, unwilling to leave him behind, for he thought him a person of distinction, called to some of his companions to assist in carrying him to the town; and declared that whatever he should receive for his ransom, he would handsomely divide with them for the trouble they would have. They complied with his request, and, with some difficulty, carried him to the squire's lodgings in the city, where the count was disarmed, undressed, and put to bed. By this time, sir James de la Berme had, with his men, re-entered the place, and barricaded the bars and gates, having many prisoners with them. They disarmed and refreshed themselves with what they found at their quarters, as did likewise the Armagnacs, who had been at this skirmish, on their return to the army.

When it was mentioned in the camp that no one knew what was become of the count d'Armagnac, they were much alarmed, and some went to search the places in the neighbourhood where the skirmish had been fought, but, to the great dismay of their companions, they returned without having discovered any traces of him. The squire, into whoso hands he had fallen, desirous to know who he was, addressed himself to a Gascon squire, a man of honour that had been made prisoner, and begged of him to accompany him, with the person who had captured him, to his lodgings. They went thither, and the Lombardy squire led the Gascon to his chamber, where the count d'Armagnac lay bitterly bemoaning. He brought a candle near his face, and said to the Gascon, "My friend, do you know who this man is?" The Gascon, leaning down to examine his features, instantly recognized him, and replied, — "Yes, I ought to know him well; for it is our commander, the count d'Armagnac." The Lombardy squire was rejoiced to hear his prisoner was of such distinction; but the count was so very ill he heard nothing they asked of him. Upon which, his master said; "Come, come, let us leave him quiet, that he may recover himself," and they all quitted the chamber. He died, however, that same night.

FROISSART, J., JOHNES, T., & SAINTE-PALAYE. (1874). Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the adjoining countries, from the latter part of the reign of Edward II to the coronation of Henry IV. London, Routledge. Johnes Tr. Vol 2. Book 4. Ch. 26 p. 493

The unfortunate count showed the symptoms of water poisoning or water intoxication. Don't let this happen to you!

The outcome must have been a grave disappointment to the Milanese squire.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The People on Rick Santorum's Planet Are Very White

Beneath the perpetually grey overcast skies of Planet Santorum, they lost most of their ability to produce melanin.

Also, on Planet Santorum, wild and crazy transgressive anarchist rebellion consists of wearing a sweater vest underneath your grey sweatshirt.

Suggested Viewing Sequence for the Star Wars Saga

Machete Order. Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Muscle v. Armor: Unhorsing

Unhorsing a man has all the advantages of throwing a man to the ground in foot combat. In addition, an unhorsed rider has much further to fall, and a greater chance of injury when he hits the ground. When the Earl Of Mar jousted in London in 1393 "he was cast both hors and man, and ij of his rybbis brokyn with þe falle" and he later died in York as he was being carried home on a litter.

Besides being dismounted with a lance stroke a man could be wrestled out of the saddle, as described by the Monk of St Denis in his account of the de Carrouges vs. le Gris duel in 1386. "With his left hand he seized the top of his opponent’s helmet, and drew Jacques toward him and then pulling back a little, threw Jacques to the ground where he lay weighed down by his armor. Jean then drew his sword and killed his enemy, though with great difficulty, because he was fully armored."

William Rishanger reports the encounter between the future Edward I and the count of Chalons at a tournament that got out of hand, the 'little battle of Chalons' in 1273.
The count penetrated Edward's formation and came very close to him, and finally cast aside his sword, and put his arm around Edward's neck, and gripped him with all his strength and tried to pull him from his horse. But Edward held himself stiffly upright, and when he felt the count gripping him firmly he put his spurs to his horse and pulled the count out of his saddle, so that he was hanging from his neck, and vigorously shook him off and cast him down to the ground.

Rishanger, William, and Henry T. Riley. 1865. Willelmi Rishanger, quondam monachi S. Albani, et quorundam anonymorum, chronica et annales, regnantibus Henrico Tertio et Edwardo Primo. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green. pp. 79-80 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

Alien in the Galley

Alien in the Galley by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Another Star Saga illustration, with product placement for Plengfruit jelly.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Disarms

A disarmed opponent is much less threatening than one who isn't. Medieval combat manuals taught many disarming techniques, and combatants in recorded medieval armored combat often did their best to disarm their opponent. For example, in the Annesley vs. Katrington fight of 1380:
they began the battell, first with speares, after with swords, and lastlie with daggers.The esquire [...] ouerthrowne. They fought long, till finallie the knight had bereft the esquier of all his weapons, and at length the esquier was manfullie ouerthrowne by the knight.*

Georges Chastellain reported that when Jacques de Lalaing fought on foot against Jean de Boniface in Ghent in 1445, "Sir Jacques, who was strong and powerful, hastened towards the knight, and struck downwards so sharply that he made him lose and drop the axe out of both his hands."**

As usual, Olivier de la Marche gave a different and somewhat less impressive account of Lalaing's perfomance. In his version, Boniface seized Lalaing's axe with his left hand, Lalaing took a great step backwards and pulled it from Boniface's grip, and at this point the judge threw down his baton and stopped the fight.***

Chastellain reported how the squire Jacques d"Avanchier was disarmed at the Pass of the Fountain of Tears in 1450.
They fought well and valiantly for 12 or 14 blows, and then d'Avanchier closed with the knight of the pass and took his axe in one hand. Then the knight of the pass quickly took d'Avanchier strongly by the gorgerin, and pulled him for three or four paces, so that he lost the axe out of both his hands and it fell to earth****

Once again, de la Marche gave a somewhat different report, noting that d'Avanchies was a small man of slight build.
..the knight, recovering the lower spike of the axe, struck him so strongly on the gorgerin that the squire stepped back more than two paces. And when the squire, who was determined and self-assured, saw the danger of the knight's weapon,and knew that the longer it went, the less he would be able to sustain the weight of the weapon, he ventured to advance, axe in hand, right up to Sir Jacques, and seized the knight's axe with his right hand, and quickly secured it with his left hand, abandoning his own, to hold that of his companion more strongly. I remember that the squire's axe remained leaning against Sir Jacques.

But the knight took two or three big steps backwards, pulling the squire, who held his axe, after him with all his force and with that retreat the squire's axe fell to the sand, but the squire did not lose his grip at all. And when the judge saw the squire disarmed he threw down his baton and had them taken. Jacques d'Avanchies was dispossessed of his axe, and holding and retaining in both hands that of Sir Jacques, and I was so close that I heard Sir Jacques say "let go of my axe, because you can't have it"*****

*Raphael Holinshed Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland London, 1587 Volume 6, pp. 424-425

**Chastellain, Georges, and Jean Le Fèvre. 1825. Chronique de J. de Lalain. Paris: Verdière. ch. 29 p. 101 Translation copyright Will Mclean 2012

***La Marche, Olivier de. 1837. Les mémoires de Messire Oliver de La Marche: augmentés d'un estat particulier de la maison du duc Charles Le Hardy, composé du mesme auteur. Paris: [s.n.]. p. 440 Vol. 3 ch. 16, p. 418 Translation copyright Will Mclean 2012

****Chastellain, ch. 72 p. 263

*****La Marche, Vol. 3 ch. 21 p. 440

The Bastard of Glarains vs. Perrot de Lignais, 1375

The bastard of Glarains was the same Savoyard bastard that Froissart renders as Clarins in his account of the combats at Vannes. Perrot Lignais, a Gascon of the English party, had accused the French lord of Montravel, who had been his prisoner, of bad faith. Glarains took up the quarrel, although, he said "I am neither a friend nor relative of the lord of Montravel" offering to fight with the condition that the loser would become the prisoner of the winner.

...and Lignais found his fine tent set up in the lists, to disarm in and receive his companions who had come with him, and Glarains likewise, and each had a chair. And while they were in their chairs they asked them if they had anything more to say, and they said not. Immediately they had the heralds cry "Do your duty!" (Faites vos devoirs)

And they came together doing their arms splendidly, four strokes the one on the other, after throwing the lance, with the sword. But the bastard of Glarains drove his adversary Perrot de Lignais back a good six paces while fighting with the sword. And the strong bastard threw down his sword and went to seize the Englishman Lignais with his hands. And holding him strongly the bastard carried him to the ground and threw himself upon him, and lifted his visor, and gave him three blows in the face with his gauntlet. And when the Englishman felt himself struck and in a bad way, he surrendered, shouting so loudly that he could easily be heard. Nonetheless, Glarains drew the Englishman's sword, and wanted to kill him, when the duke of Bourbon said that it was sufficient, and he had done enough.

Orronville, Jean d', and A.-M. Chazaud. 1876. La chronique du bon duc Loys de Bourbon. Paris: Renouard. Ch. 34, p.99 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

Jaques de Lalaing vs. Jean Pientois, 1450

The following Wednesday, which was the 14th day of September, Sir Jacques de Lalaing presented himself for the ninth time in that month, which was the last month of the Pass. And it should not be forgotten that Sir Jacques had already fought eleven times in the field.

On the other side a squire of the duchy of Burgundy presented himself, named Jean Pientois, and the two of them armed themselves in their pavilions. And axes were presented to them because the squire had touched the white shield and had requested 52 strokes with the axe.

With the cries and ceremonies done, the host of the enterprise issued from his pavilion, armed, dressed in the colors of the targe touched, as he had done before. And the host of the enterprise had no armor on his right leg.

On the other side issued the said Jean Pientois, armed appropriately with his coat of arms on his back and his head armed with a salade with a haussecol* of mail, very much like the host of the enterprise. And certainly the squire marched in good array, and the champions were both splendidly equipped.

And they fiercely met there, and the squire tried to strike with the lower point of his axe but the knight beat aside the blow. And there he sought to wound the squire, but he stepped back and beat aside the blow. And so they pursued each other on one side and the other with many blows given and struck with great force and fierceness and all their strength.

When about 30 strokes had been struck with the axe, Sir Jacques released his weapon and took that of his companion and held it so strongly that the squire was unable to make use of it. And Sir Jacques held his own axe close to the head, and struck many blows with the upper spike at the face of his companion, and the squire beat them all aside with his right hand with his gauntlet closed. And he beat aside the assault of the knight very vigorously, and the squire with his closed gauntlet struck with all his force at the face of the knight.

He in turn beat aside those strokes, while with his arm he continued to hold the axe of his companion,

And they continued their battle in this way, until the squire was wounded and bleeding from the point of the axe in his face. And after having fought for a long time they were taken and parted by those that guarded the lists.

Sir Jacques said to the squire “It is not honorable to fight with your fist like a woman". To which the squire responded “If you had not taken my axe I would have fought you with my weapon, and the hands of a man are made to attack and to defend”.

*haussecol: a neck defense that could also cover the face up to the bottom of the lip.

La Marche, Olivier de. 1836.-1839 Les mémoires de Messire Oliver de La Marche: augmentés d'un estat particulier de la maison du duc Charles Le Hardy, composé du mesme auteur. Paris: [s.n.]. 1837 Vol. 3, ch. 22 p. 443 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

Cute, Fluffy, and Armed

Cute, Fluffy, and Armed by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

From the Star Saga computer game.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Binds

In the Lalaing vs Douglas fight in Scotland in 1449, Lalaing used a grip to prevent his opponent from using his dagger against him. Had Douglas not known the counter to the grip, Lalaing could have disarmed him.
The two knights, James Douglas and Jacques de Lalaing approached each other and pressed each other so closely that they had no weapons remaining to them neither the one not the other except for a dagger that the Scotsman held; and the said Sir Jacques held him by the arm near the hand in which he held the said dagger, and he held him with the other hand beneath the elbow, so that they turned themselves around the lists by the strength of their arms, and that went on for along time.

la Marche, Olivier de Mémoires Paris 1884 II. 105 Translation copyright Will McLean 2007

This grip and its counter is taught in Fiore dei Liberi's early 15th century fighting manual, the Fior di Battaglia or Flos Duellatorum.

Grips could also be used to bind and inhibit an opponent's weapon, as when Jacques de Lalaing fought Jean Pientois in 1450.
When about 30 strokes had been struck with the axe, Sir Jacques released his weapon and took that of his companion and held it so strongly that the squire was unable to make use of it. And Sir Jacques held his own axe close to the head, and struck many blows with the upper spike at the face of his companion, and the squire beat them all aside with his right hand with his gauntlet closed. And he beat aside the assault of the knight very vigorously, and the squire with his closed gauntlet struck with all his force at the face of the knight.

He in turn beat aside those strokes, while with his arm he continued to hold the axe of his companion,

And they continued their battle in this way, until the squire was wounded and bleeding from the point of the axe in his face. And after having fought for a long time they were taken and parted by those that guarded the lists.

La Marche, Olivier de. 1836.-1839 Les mémoires de Messire Oliver de La Marche: augmentés d'un estat particulier de la maison du duc Charles Le Hardy, composé du mesme auteur. Paris: [s.n.]. 1837 Vol. 3, ch. 22 p. 443 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

LEGO in Space

I am proud to be part of a culture whimsical enough to build a LEGO model of the International Space Station inside the ISS.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Knockdown Blows

It was very advantageous to send an opponent to the ground in armored combat. Wrestling throws could accomplish this, but so could a forceful blow.

To "push" or pousser often occurs as a technical term in medieval accounts of combats written in French. What seems to distinguish a "push" from other thrusts is that it's expected to include a lot of momentum transfer, and to knock the target back or down if everything goes right. This would be in contrast to a jab or rapid pool-cue pop.

When Galiot de Baltasin and Phillipe de Ternant fought on foot with lances in 1446 they did each of their pushes with the lance with a run-up of seven paces on each side:
And they came to meet each other with a push of the lance, so harshly that the stroke from Galiot broke the point of his lance, a good half finger width, and lord de Ternant hit Galiot on the edge of his bassinet, and broke clear through it. The lord de Ternant took a step in completing the blow, and as he gave the blow he drove his foot nearly a foot deep into the sand.

la Marche, Olivier de , Mémoires Paris 1884 II. 70-72 Translation copyright 2006 Will McLean

At Vannes in 1381 Clarins, a bastard of Savoy, struck his opponent, Edward Beauchamp, to the ground twice with his spear.
Then came the last, Edward Beauchamp and Clarins de Savoye. This bastard was a tough and brave squire, and as well formed in all his limbs as the Englishman was not. They ran at each other with a hearty good will: both set their spears on their breast in pushing; so that Edward was struck down and backwards, which angered the English greatly. When he was raised up, he took his spear and went against Clarins and Clarins against him, but the Savoyard again struck him to the ground, which made the English very angry: they said, Edward is too weak against this squire, and the devil was in him to joust against the Savorard. He was carried off among them, and said he would fight no more.

Froissart, Jean, 1867-1877 Oeuvres ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, Brussels Vol. 9 pp. 326-327 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

Similarly, at Noseroy in 1519 "one of the men of arms of the sustainers, named Jean de Chantrans was carried to the ground by a stroke of the large end of the lance, by Claude de Bussy, lord de Vescles."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Medieval Aliases

I'm accumulating a file of alternative spellings for medieval names of interest to me. Perhaps you will find it helpful as well. I've optimized the format for Google Search.

There are several sources for the diversity, including:

Christian names from the same root are spelled differently in the common speech of different countries, and differently in Latin, and differently today.

Different languages use different spelling rules for the same sounds. The name of Verchin or Werchin from what is now northern France was recorded as Averxiu by Aragonese scribes.

Reliably consistent orthography was not a realistic goal in a society that could not produce dictionaries cheap enough for broad distribution.

Given Names and Nicknames
Clignet OR Clugnet (Blinky)
Colomat OR Collemach
Jean OR Jehan OR Johan OR Johannem
Pere OR Pierre
Tanguy OR Taneguy OR Tanneguy OR Tenneguy

Full and Surnames
Jean Werchin, Seneschal of Hainault
Werchin OR Verchin OR Averxiu

Jean Carmen
Carmen OR Carmin OR Carmenien OR Carneau OR Kerneau

Seneschal OR senechal OR senescal OR senescall OR senescallum

Hainault OR Hainaut OR Haynau OR Hynnault OR Henaud OR Henaude OR Henaut
Moncada OR Montcada OR Moncade
Santa Coloma OR Sante-Coulombe

Saturday Night in the Mesozoic

Saturday Night in the Mesozoic by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Throws, Part 1

In all-out armored combat, putting your opponent on the ground is very advantageous. You can strike down at him when he has limited or no ability to defend himself. Alternatively, you can fall on him with the aim of pinning him beneath your armored body. As an added bonus, he may be injured when he hits the ground.

Wrestling throws are one way to do this. When a team of seven French fought against seven English in 1402, one of the French champions was selected mostly for his skill at wrestling.
There was some difficulty made over Champagne, because he had never been at war nor at such work, but he was one of the best wrestlers that you could find. And because of this the Lord of Barbasan said to the Duke of Orleans: "My lord, let him come because as soon as he holds his enemy in his hands and comes to grips with him, he will, by wrestling, throw him down and discomfit him."And so leave was given to Champagne like the others...

And as for Champagne, it was as they said it would be. When he joined with his man, he gave him a wrestling fall so that he fell beneath him and so surrendered.

Jean Juvenal des Ursins Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2 p.421-423 Translation copyright Will McLean 2003

The bastard of Glarains also threw his opponent beneath him in his 1375 combat:
But the bastard of Glarains drove his adversary Perrot de Lignais back a good six paces while fighting with the sword. And the strong bastard threw down his sword and went to seize the Englishman Lignais with his hands. And holding him strongly the bastard carried him to the ground and threw himself upon him, and lifted his visor, and gave him three blows in the face with his gauntlet. And when the Englishman felt himself struck and in a bad way, he surrendered, shouting so loudly that he could easily be heard. Nonetheless, Glarains drew the Englishman's sword, and wanted to kill him, when the duke of Bourbon said that it was sufficient, and he had done enough.

Orronville, Jean d', and A.-M. Chazaud. 1876. La chronique du bon duc Loys de Bourbon. Paris: Renouard. Ch. 34, p.99 Translation copyright Will McLean 2012

When three Frenchmen fought against three Portuguese in Paris in 1415, the Frenchman la Roque put his opponent on the ground with a sort of European jujutsu.
It happened by fortune that Rumaindres who was held to be the most powerful of the six was fighting with his axe and pushing with the spike with all his force against la Roque to make him retreat. When la Roque felt that Rumaindres was putting forth all of his strength to make him recoil, he stepped back a pace and with this move Rumaindres fell on one knee. Then la Roque struck him and stretched him out on the ground.

Jean Le Fevre, Seigneur de Saint-Remy Chronique Paris 1876 I. 208-211 Translation copyright Will McLean 2003
And when they came to their axes the one who fought la Roque pierced him beneath the top of his piece, and when he felt that the iron of his axe was taken within the harness, he began to push strongly, seeking to open up the harness. And when la Roque perceived this, he held himself firm, with the intention of doing what he would do next: when he perceived that the Portuguese leaned forward to push more strongly, all of a sudden with the swiftness of his body with which he was most skillful, he stepped back so that the Portuguese fell, carried away headlong. La Roque gave him two strokes with the axe on the head, so that he was thoroughly stunned, and drew his sword to thrust him in the behind: others said that he lifted his visor and that he wanted to strike him in the face. Anyway, whatever he did, the Portuguese surrendered, and was discomfited, and taken by the guards.

Jean Juvenal des Ursins Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2 p.503 Translation copyright Will McLean 2003

Herves de Meriadet, fighting with Jacques and and Simon de Lalaing in Scotland in 1449 against three noble Scotsmen, also threw his opponent to the ground.
And on the other part came Herves de Meriadet and the Scotsman came to hit Meriadet with a push of the lance; but Meriadet turned aside the blow with the handle of his axe, so that the lance fell out of the hands of the Scotsman and Meriadet followed up so vigorously that before the Scotsman was able to unsling his axe he entered within, and with a throw carried him to earth. And Meriadet stepped back to let the Scotsman rise who was quick, light and of great courage, and he lifted himself quickly and ran under at the said Meriadet for the second time, and Meriadet who was a man who was one of the most redoubted squires of his time, strong, light, cool and dextrous in arms and in wrestling, received the Scotsman coolly and with great watchfulness and soon after made an entry on the Scotsman. And with that entry he gave such a great blow that he carried him to earth with a stroke of the axe, and quickly the Scotsman sought to lift himself, but Meriadet put his palm and knee against the back of the Scotsman, and again made him fall and kiss the sand. And despite the request that Sir Jacques de Lalaing had made of him, the said Meriadet, seeing the two knights wrestle together, went to aid the said Sir Jacques, but the King of Scotland threw down his baton and had them parted with the said Meriadet free in his battle to rescue his companions at his pleasure.

Oliver de la Marche, Memories Paris 1884 II. 105 Translation copyright Will McLean 2007

Georges Chastelain, Lalaing’s biographer, adds that when Meriadet’s opponent was on the ground:
…if he had strived to destroy his body, he could well have done so, and lightly done it, as the arms were à outrance, but he did not wish to hit him either of the times he saw him on the ground, which was nobly done, and he deserves a reputation of great honor.

Georges Chastellain, Chronique de J. de Lalain ed. J. A. Buchon (Paris, 1825) p. 205

Dark Ages Warrior

Dark Ages Warrior by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Not entirely historically accurate, but I had fun drawing it at the time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Johnes' Translation of Froissart: St. Inglevert

Thomas Johnes was not a particularly accurate translator. Here are some things I think he got wrong in his translation of Froissart's account of St. Inglevert
Sir John Rousseau, an expert and valiant knight from England, but well known for his prowess in various countries, ordered his squire to touch the shield of the lord de Saimpi, who was already armed and mounted. On receiving his lance, he spurred his horse against the English knight, and the shock of their spears against the targets instantly forced them to stop. Each returned to his post, and it was not long before they commenced their second course with equal vigour: but when near, the horses swerved, which prevented their stroke. To their sorrow, they were thus obliged to return again to the end of the lists. They were more successful the third course; for they struck each other with such force, that the vizors of their helmets were broken off: the knights continued their career, and the Englishman tilted no more that day.

Should be "and the points struck in the visors so hard and so rudely that they were unhelmed"
A squire called Lancaster now stepped forth, and sent to touch the shield of sir Boucicaut. He was ready mounted to answer the call, and, having grasped his spear, they met most courageously: they struck their helmets, so as to make the fire fly from them, and it was astonishing they kept them on their heads. No harm being done, each returned to his post, where they made no long stay before they began their second course with great vigour, each hitting on his opponent’s target: the horses swerved, which prevented this from being a handsome or effectual tilt, but this they could not help. At the third lance they met, and the blow was so well placed, that the Englishman was unhelmed, and passed on to his post bareheaded all but the scull-cap, and would not that day tilt more.

Should be "bareheaded except for the coif"

Also, in the original French, several of the jousters are described as frisque or frisky.

Another reason why I love the 14th century.

The Seneschal of Hainault Performs a Deed of Arms in Valencia, 1407

In this same year, an enterprise of arms was undertaken by the good seneschal of Hainault, in the presence of the king of Aragon.

The combatants were to be four against four, and their arms axes, swords and daggers: the combat was to the outrance, subject, however, to the will of the judge of the field. The companions of the seneschal were: Sir Jacques de Montenay, a knight of Normandy, Sir Tanguy du Chastel, a knight from the duchy of Brittany, and a notable esquire called Jean Carmen. Their adversaries were from the kingdom of Aragon, and their chief was named Colomat de Santa Coloma, of the king of Aragon's household, and much beloved by him: the second, Sir Pere de Moncada: the third, Peyronet de Santa Coloma; and the fourth, Bernabo de l’Uovo.

When the appointed day approached, the king had the lists magnificently prepared near to his palace in the town of Valencia. The king came to the seat allotted for him, attended by the duke of Candie, and the counts of Sardinia and of Agnenne (Denia), and others of his high nobility. All round the lists scaffolds were erected, on which were seated the nobles of the country, the ladies and damsels, as well as the principal townspeople. Forty men at arms, richly dressed, were ordered by the king to keep the lists clear; and between their barriers was the constable of Aragon, with a great company of men at arms, richly armed according to the custom of the country. Within the field of combat were two small pavilions for the champions, that were well decorated and adorned with their arms, to repose in, and shelter themselves from the heat of the sun. On the arrival of the king, he made known to the seneschal, by one of his knights, that he and his companions should advance first into the field, since it had been so ordered, as the Aragonese were the appellants. The seneschal and his companions, on receiving this summons, instantly armed themselves, and each mounted their good coursers, which were all alike ornamented with vermillion silk trappings that fell almost to the ground, over which were sown many escutcheons of their arms. And so in noble array they left their lodgings, and advanced toward the gate of the lists. The before-named esquire marched first, followed by Sir Tanguy and Sir Jacqes de Montenay; and last of all, the seneschal, conducted by the seneschal du Chin; when, having entered the lists, they made their reverences on horseback to King Martin of Aragon, who paid them great honor.

They then retired to their tents, and waited an hour and a half for their opponents, who arrived like the others, in a body on horseback. Their horses' trappings were of white silk, sown with escutcheons of their arms. And after they had made their reverences to the king, they retired also to their tents, which were pitched on the right, where they all remained for full five hours thus armed. The cause of this delay was owing to the king and his council wishing to accommodate the matter so they would not fight. Because of this, many messages were sent from the king to the seneschal, proposing that he should not proceed farther; but he answered wisely and well that this enterprise had been undertaken at the request of Colomat, that he and his companions had come from a far country, and at great trouble and expense, to accomplish his desire, which he and his companions were determined to do. At last, after much discussion on each side, it was concluded that they should begin the fight. The usual proclamations were then made in the king's name; and the king at arms of Aragon shouted out loud and clear that the champions must do their duty. Both parties then issued forth from their tents holding their axes in their hands, and marched proudly towards each other.

The Aragonese had settled among themselves that two of them should fall on the seneschal, in the hope of striking him down: both parties were on foot, and they expected he would be at one of the ends of the lists above the others, but he was in the middle part. When they approached, the seneschal stepped forward three or four paces before his companions, and attacked Colomat, who had that day been made a knight by the king’s hand, and gave him so severe a blow with his axe, on the side of his basinet, that it made him step back and turn half round.

And each of the others came very valiantly against the opponent they had picked out. Then Sir Jacques de Montenay threw down his axe, and with one hand seized Sir Pere de Moncada by the lower edge of his lames. In the other he had a dagger with which he sought to wound him underneath. But, as both sides seemed to be getting thoroughly worked up, the king had them restrained.

And in truth, it appeared that the Aragonese would have been in great peril of having the worst of it had the matter been pursued to the utmost [outrance]. The seneschal and those with him were all four very powerful and strong, very experienced in arms, and equal to the accomplishment of any enterprise that might be demanded from them.

When the champions were retired to their tents, the king descended from his scaffold into the lists, and very gently requested of the seneschal and Colomat that the remaining deeds of arms might be referred to him and his council, and he would so act that they should all be satisfied. The seneschal, then falling on one knee, humbly entreated the king that he would consent that the challenge should be completed according to the request of Colomat. The king replied, by again requiring that the completion of the combat should be referred to his judgment; which being granted, he took the seneschal by the hand. And placed him above himself, and Colomat on the other side. He thus led them out of the lists, when each returned to his hotel and disarmed. The king sent his principal knights to seek the seneschal and his companions, whom, for three days, he entertained at his palace, and paid them as much honor as if they had been his own brothers. When he had reconciled them with their opponents, he gave them gifts and fine presents. And they departed thence on their return to France, and the seneschal to Hainault.

Monstrelet, Enguerrand de, and François Noël Alexandre Dubois. 1826. Chroniques d'Enguerrand de Monstrelet. Paris: Verdière [etc.]. Monstrelet, 1857, vol. 1 Chapter 14 pp. 129-133

Although the Buchon editions of Monstrelet date the Deed of Arms to 1403, Martín de Riquer reports that according to Aragonese documents the combat happened on May 30 of 1407.

Translation Copyright Will McLean 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Uncovering Attacks

One way to defeat armor was removing or displacing it. The Pas de la Dame Sauvage hosted by Claude de Vauldray in Ghent in 1470 gives one measure of the importance of this mechanism.

There were 16 mounted combats. Each consisted of one exchange of lance attacks, followed by the exchange of sword blows, ending after one or the other party struck 17.

During the lance attacks a grant gardebras was torn away, and a gardebras was torn away or unriveted twice.

During the sword attacks bevors were disabled three times by a damaged rivet or strap so they failed to protect the face, and one gardebras was unriveted.

At the Passo Honroso of 1434, during the 25 lances courses run in the first two challenges, four pieces af armour were torn away: the left arm twice, the right vambrace, and armor for the right hand.

Some helmets can be removed entirely by a skillful lance stroke. Jacques de Lalaing, jousting at Nancy in 1445, unhelmed two of his four opponents. Not only would this leave the victim very vulnerable in a real fight, the helmet could do damage on its way off. When Boucicaut was unhelmed at St. Inglevert in 1390 "the blood flew out of his nose."

Pieces of armor could also be carried away in combat on foot, as when Galiot de Baltasin and Phillipe de Ternant fought with two-handed thrusting swords in 1446. "On the third coming together, Galiot hit the lord de Ternant on the bottom of the right shoulder, and with that blow he pierced the gardebras, and carried it away on the end of his sword."

Edge blows cut also cut or break the straps or laces holding up the pauldron. This would not only expose the shoulder but hamper the affected arm. In the portion of the deed of arms fought at Noseroy in 1519 with two-handed swords, there were many "guardbraces brought down...(avalez)"

Also, positive mechanical catches to keep visors closed seem to have been a relatively late development: I know of no clear examples before around the middle of the 15th century and they took some time to become common. Earlier, visors seem to have depended entirely on the friction of their pivots to keep closed, and one or more vigorous upward thrusts could drive a visor open, leaving the face vulnerable to a following thrust. Monstrelet records that when Poton de Saintrailles fought Lyonnel de Wandonne at Arras in 1423: “watching his opportunity, he closed with Lyonnel and struck him many blows with the point of his axe under the visor of his basinet so that he raised the visor, and the face of Lyonnel was clearly seen.”

Hector de Flavy used a similar tactic against Maillotin de Bours in 1431 "Sir Hector, more than once, raised the vizor of his adversary's helmet by his blows, so that his face was plainly seen, which caused the spectators to believe Sir Hector had the best of the combat. Maillotin, however, without being any way discouraged, soon closed it, by striking it down with the pummel of his sword, and retreating a few paces."

So did John Astley against Philip Boyle, in London in 1442. "And that yere, the last day of…………… save on, there was a batayle in Smythfeld, withinne lystes, aforn the kyng, between the lord Beaufe a Arragonere and John Ashele squyer of the kynges house, a chalange for spere to cast pollex and dagger at the lord aforeseyd in brekynge of his gauntelette and reysyng of his umbrary*, and hadde hym at mischief redy to a popped hym in the face with his dagger, tyl the kyng cried hoo: and there the seid Asshle was mad knight in the feld."


Warrior with a Sword and Shield

Warrior with Sword and Shield by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

A little medievalish fantasy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Preview of Outrance and Plaisance

You can read a fair amount of my article on “Outrance and Plaisance” in preview at Google Books

Helmets Worn in Foot Combats at the Pass of the Fountain of Tears, 1450

This shows the range of helmets and neck defenses chosen for foot combat at this deed of arms. Where de la Marche and Chastelain differ I give Chastelain's description second (thus).

Pierre de Chandios: basinet, visor closed
Jean de Boniface: Italian armet (basinet) with black plumes
Gerard de Rossilon: round salade (chapel de fer of ancient fashion) and a haussecol of mail. At this time the haussecol seems to have been a defense for the throat and lower face. Chastelain's Chronique descibes one example that covered up to the bottom of the mouth. ...en teste n'avoit que une sallade sans visiere, parquoy le visaige estoit tout a nu, excepté que desoubz la gorge avoit une housecoule de maille qui le couvroit jusqu'a la bouche.
Claude de St.-Helene (St.-Bonnet), called Pietois: salade and barbute (bevor) Modern readers are most familiar with barbute as a term used to describe a type of helmet, popular in italy in the 14th and 15th century, that left the beard visible. De la Marche, like other contemporary French writers, uses the term differently, to describe a piece of armor that would cover a beard.
Aymé Rabutin, lord of Espiry: salade with a visor and short bevor. He throws aside the visor just before the fight.
Jaques d'Avanchies: visored salade with the visor raised and gorget (of strong mail) for the pollaxe fight, Italian armet with a grand bevor for combat with sword, that is to say estoc d'armes
Jean de Villeneuve, called Passquoy: war salade and a haussecol
Gaspart de Dourtain (Gaspar de Curtain): basinet, visor closed
Jean Pientois: salade and haussecol of mail (chapel de fer and a high bevor, coming almost to the eyes)

Jaques de Lalaing: basinet with a closed grand visor for the sword fight, otherwise in a small round salade with a small haussecol of steel mail.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Classes from Wizardry

Classes 2 by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Four of the original classes from the Wizardry computer game.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Intrusive Attacks

Penetrating armor takes a lot of effort. Striking where the armor isn't is much more efficient, if you can do it.

While eyeslots were usually a very small target on a medieval helmet, an accurate or lucky thrust could penetrate them, with unpleasant consequences. Chastelain reports that when Jacques Lalaing fought Diego de Guzman at Valladolid, Lalaing “turned the lower point of his axe, and struck three blows, one after the other, within the eyeslots of Diego, in this way: he wounded him in three places in the face…the first stroke on the left eyebrow, the next on the bottom of the forehead on the right side, and the third beneath the right eye….”

Given the number of blows that penetrated Guzman’s eyeslot without hitting an eye, I suspect that Lalaing was deliberately choosing angles of attack that were likely to produce a bloody wound, but unlikely to blind his companion.

And having achieved the difficult task of penetrating his opponent's eyeslot, it's possible that his point never left it for the next two blows, instead pulling back only far enough to shift to a different aim point on Guzman's face.

Lalaing's achievement was a difficult one against an opponent who could move, dodge, defend and strike back. To the best of my knowledge, it was unique in recorded medieval foot combats.

Not everyone fought with a closed visor, which significantly impaired the wearer's ability to see and breath. Lalaing himself often fought with his face entirely or partially unprotected, and many of his contemporaries made the same choice in single combat. Of the ten foot combats at the Pass of the Fountain of Tears in 1450, four of Jaques de Lalaing's opponents fought with their face fully or partially exposed, four with their visor closed, and in two the accounts are ambiguous. Lalaing fought only one of these combats with a closed visor, a series of blows exchanged with the estoc, struck with three advancing steps and little opportunity to parry. For the other combats he wore a small round sallet without a visor and with a mail neck defense.

Sallets are very frequently shown worn in contemporary illustrations with a significant gap between the bevor and the lower edge of the sallet where the wearer’s nose can be seen. Even with the most protective version of the sallet, with eyeslots in the visor or skull, it is possible to wear the sallet pushed back so that the wearer looks out, not through the eyeslots but beneath the lower edge of the sallet. This can provide much better visibility than trying to see though the eyeslots, but the shape of the sallet protects the face from most cuts. In this position the wearer also has some ability to rotate his head from side to side: perhaps 15 degrees in each direction even if the bevor is attached to his breastplate. If the wearer wants more protection he can raise one hand and easily adjust the angle of the sallet so that the sallet overlaps the bevor, while using the eyeslots for vision.

The partially or completely exposed face presented a bigger target than the eyeslots, although still not a large one. At the Pass of the Fountain of Tears the combatants frequently tried to hit their opponent in the exposed face. Jean Pientois was wounded below his eye and Gerard de Rossilon was struck on the right cheek with a single handed thrust of the upper spike of Lalaing's axe. Chaselain reported that he was wounded, but de la Marche said that Rossilon threw his right hand in front of him so that he was hit but not wounded.

The numerous breaths that perforated the visor of the typical helmet intended for foot combat presented another point of vulnerability. In at least one case, the chronicler suggests that a very acute point might actually slip through the breaths far enough to injure the face. De la Marche reports that when Bernard de Bearn, Bastard de Foix fought the Lord of Haubourdin in a continuation of the Pas de la Pelerin of 1446, Bernard bore an axe with a lower spike that was “long and delicate, fashioned so that it might easily enter the holes of a basinet, and long enough to do great damage to the face of his companion”. This seems to have been unusual enough to draw comment. A very slender spike would be vulnerable to breakage. Probably Habourdin had visor holes that were small enough to exclude the typical robust pollaxe thrusting point, but vulnerable to the unusually acute point chosen by Bernard de Bearn. Habourdin seems to have been distinctly miffed by Bernard’s tactic. “When he was advised of the subtlety of the said axe, he said that he didn’t want to make his companion take pains to pierce the visor of his basinet. He quickly had his detached and entirely put aside, so that his face remained entirely uncovered.”

A point could slide beneath the mail aventail without piercing it, as in the 1381 joust with sharp lances reported by Froissart.

"At the first onset, Nicholas Clifford stuck with his spear Jean Boucmel on the upper part of his breast; but the point slid aside, and did not take on the the steel breastplate, and glanced upwards, sliding all the way beneath the camail, which was of good mail, and, entering his neck, cut the jugular vein, and passed quite through, breaking off at the shaft with the head; so that the truncheon remained in the neck of the squire, who was killed, as you may suppose."

This case happened by mischance and horrified Clifford, but Fiore dei Liberi, writing in the early 15th century, recommended an upward thrust beneath the mail and into the head as a deliberate tactic when you can strike at an opponent's back.

In certain hand positions it is possible to thrust at the palm of a gauntlet, protected only by thin leather, or inside the back of the cuff to strike the unprotected wrist. This is exactly what happened in Jaques de Lalaing's fight with Thomas Que, and Lalaing was so seriously injured injured in his arm that he was unable to hold his axe with that hand.

It's also possible to defeat body armor by stabbing up beneath it, as in this 1403 encounter at Valencia recorded by Monstrelet:

"Then Sir Jacqes de Montenay threw down his axe, and with one hand seized Sir Pere de Moncada by the lower edge of his lames. In the other he had a dagger with which he sought to wound him underneath."

The back of the knee and inside thigh were often unarmored, although difficult to hit if you weren't behind your target.

Lames overlapped, but a thrust at the right angle could force between them without piercing the metal.

Cabaret d'Orville in his work La Chronique du bon duc Loys de Bourbon, reported that in the combat between Châteaumorand and Cloppeton at Vannes in 1381, Cloppeton was wounded with the lance "between the lames and the piece" so that he fell and was carried off the field. It seems likely that the piece in this case was the breastplate, the largest piece of the body armor. The articulation between it and the lames that covered the belly would be a relatively weak point in the body armor.

Mail has justly been described as several thousand holes flying in close formation. Unless the inside diameter of the rings is unusually small, a very acute point can pass through the mesh far enough to draw blood without breaking a single ring.

This fits with Joinville's description of the aftermath of Mansurah in 1250. The previous day, he and his knights suffered under heavy Saracen missile attack. He counted himself lucky that he was only wounded in five places. He and his knights were still able to fight, but none of them could put on their hauberks. This exactly what one would expect from many shallow puncture wounds.

Boltac's Trading Post

Boltac's Trading Post by ~WillMcLean on deviantART
This drawing is lightly modified from the version originally published with the first Wizardry computer game

Another Knight on a Dinosaur

Knight on a Dinosaur by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Knight on a Dinosaur

Knight on Dinosaur by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Blunt Impact

A weapon doesn’t have to cut or penetrate to be effective. A deed of arms done by the seneschal of Hainault in 1402 or 1403 gives one example:
And they came to fight with axes very fiercely. And taking a deceptive step away from his opponent, the seneschal brought his axe around and struck him on the hinge of bascinet and carried him to earth thoroughly stunned. And my lord the seneschal went before the scaffolds of the judges and asked him if he had satisfied them. And during this time the count of Bennevent did not say a word.
A deed of arms at Noseroy in 1519 provides another. During the fighting with two handed swords there were “many basinets and armets driven in.” A deeply dented helmet can be driven into the wearer’s skull, and even if the helmet isn’t dented enough force can be transmitted through the padding to stun or worse. Fighting with a two handed sword the count de Bussy “gave such a stroke to (Jean) de Falletans, on the armet, that he kneeled in the sand.” The prince d’Oranges “gave a stroke of the sword on the crest of the armet of Phillipe de Falletans so that he had to take three steps back from the barrier and was unable to fight any more that day.”

In addition to the risk of concussion, the inside of some helmets could be driven into the wearer's face by a sufficiently violent blow. Henry, the first duke of Lancaster, wrote in his Seyntz Medicines that" a man who frequents these tournamets has a nose damaged more than any other part". At Noseroy, Claude de Vienne was wounded in the head “to the effusion of blood” by a single handed sword stroke.

Powerful blows that fail to penetrate can also bruise the flesh beneath. According to the Chronicle of the Monk of St. Denis, partway through the jousts at St. Inglevert in 1390 Boucicaut and Reginald de Roye were so bruised "that they had to keep to their beds for nine days"

Broken arms and collarbones were common enough in jousting that Ponç de Menaguerra's late 15th century jousting rules included them explicitly in the scoring system. Suero de Quiñones had his right hand dislocated twice during the Passo Honroso of 1434.

Likewise, a non penetrating edge blow to the gauntlet can deliver enough force to injure the hand within it. The small plates of gauntlet fingers don’t spread the force of a blow over a very large area, and finger plates and scales don’t seem to have had any padding beyond that provided by the leathers they were riveted to.

Flexible mail can absorb some of the force of a blow where it drapes away from the body, as the weapon looses energy moving the hanging mail, but otherwise does little to spread the force of a blow. It essentially makes a sword act on the body like a narrow steel club, with a similar ability to inflict blunt trauma. Places where bones are close to the surface are particularly vulnerable.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brantôme and the Barriers

Brantôme described a bloody encounter between two infantry captains at the battle of Ceresole in 1544. Advancing before their troops they engaged in single combat with pikes, stabbing each other in the face. One was killed and the other left for dead. He contrasted their bravery and skill with "the infinity of cavaliers of the court who one has seen and still see at the barriers. Out of a hundred such combatants one can't find a dozen who encounter so well that they don't give most of their blows to the neck, stomach or the shoulders. They have a devil of a time giving a stroke to the visor of the sallade, against the cheek, forehead and the head: for that is precisely where you need to strike"

Brantôme, Pierre de Bourdeille, André Bourdeille, and J. A. C. Buchon. 1838. Oeuvres complètes de Pierre de Bourdeille, abbé séculier de Brantôme et d'Andréa, vicomte de Bourdeille. Paris: A. Desrez.
Vol. 1. p.94-95

Warrior with a Spear

Warrior with Spear by ~WillMcLean on deviantART


Castle by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

I drew this for the original Wizardry computer game.

Warrior with a Kite Shield

Warrior with Kite Shield by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Challenges Fought at Arras, 1423

How Poton de Saintrailles and Lyonnel de Wandonne Do Arms at Arras, in the Presence of the Duke of Burgundy

During this time, a deed of arms was performed at Arras, in the presence of the duke of Burgundy as judge, between Poton de Saintrailles on the one side and Lyonnel de Wandonne on the other. Poton had demanded of Lyonnel that they run together until they had struck on each other six strokes of the lance, or broken them. And Lyonnel, in return, had required of Poton that they would then fight together with axes so long as they could hold out. When the preparations had been finished, and the day of combat was arrived, Poton entered the field first as the appellant, very nobly accompanied by his people, and having made his reverence to the duke of Burgundy , who was seated on a scaffold, he then retreated. Soon after, Lyonnel entered, attended by Sir Jean de Luxembourg, who, all through the day, supplied him with lances, and some other lords and friends. He, like Poton, went to make his bow to the duke, and then retired to the end of the lists, and soon they prepared to run against each other. They ran many strokes very rudely, and there were several lances broken and crumpled on both sides. Finally, it was seen that the helmet of Lyonnel was somewhat broken by the point of the lance of his adversary, and his head wounded, but not seriously. When the duke knew of this, he made them stop running courses against each other, completing the arms on horseback.

On the morrow, the duke of Burgundy returned to his scaffold about ten o'clock in the morning, accompanied by the count de Richemont and the lords of his council, to be ready for the champions who were to do their arms on foot. Shortly after came Lyonnel, constantly attended by Sir Jean de Luxembourg, and, having made his reverence to the duke as before, withdrew into his pavilion to wait for his opponent. He was not long in making his appearance, and, doing reverence to the duke, retired to his pavilion also. Upon this, the customary proclamation was made by a herald, for every man to clear the lists, and for none to give hindrance to the champions, on pain of death. Lyonnel de Wandonne then, as appellant, issued from his tent, his axe in hand, and marched with long strides toward his opponent, who, seeing him approach, advanced to meet him. Lyonnel made a vigorous attack, throwing many great swinging strokes with his axe at Poton, and sometimes thrusting at him, without stopping or catching his breath. Poton coolly received the blows on his axe, turning some back with his strength. And watching his opportunity, he closed with Lyonnel and struck him many blows with the point of his axe under the visor of his bassinet so that he raised the visor, and the face of Lyonnel was clearly seen. Seeing his danger, Lyonnel with one hand seized Poton's axe under his arm, and Poton, taking hold of Lyonnel with one hand by the edge of his bassinet, scratched his face with his gauntlet. And while they were doing so boldly against each other, Lyonnel nearly reclosed his visor. And soon the duke had them restrained and conducted to him by those who had charge of the field, and ordered them henceforth to be good friends, as their arms had been achieved as they had earlier promised. On this they returned to their lodgings, where Poton kept a good table with his people.

The next Rifflard de Champremy, attached to King Charles, and the bastard de Rosebecque ran together with sharp lances. They broke many lances, but, in the end, Rifflard was pierced through his armor, so that one could see his side, but nonetheless was not pierced to the quick. With this blow the duke made them stop; and each party retired to his lodgings with his people. Within a few days after this last combat, Poton, with his companions, went back to the county of Guise.

From: Monstrelet, Enguerrand de, (La) Chronique d'Enguerran de Monstrelet. Paris 1860, Vol. IV Chapter viii p. 151-154

Translation copyright Will McLean, 2003

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Horses as a Force Multiplier for Armored Combat

Uccello: Detail from the Battle of San Romano.

Often, in mounted combat all or much of the energy of a blow is supplied by the horse, a much stronger creature than the man riding it. This is what made a mounted lance so dangerous.

The Bombadier, an early 19th century military manual estimates that a military horse gallops at almost 14 miles an hour, and so a pair of riders charging each other at the gallop have a closing speed of 27 mph.

Under these conditions a lance tip that did not glance could sometimes penetrate the front of a helmet or breastplate, generally among the thickest parts of a harness. For example, in two challenges fought at Arras in 1423, Monstrelet reports that when Poton de Saintrailles and Lyonnel de Wandonne jousted with sharp lances:
They ran many strokes very rudely, and there were several lances broken and crumpled on both sides. Finally, it was seen that the helmet of Lyonnel was somewhat broken by the point of the lance of his adversary, and his head wounded, but not seriously.

Two days later:
The next Rifflard de Champremy, attached to King Charles, and the bastard de Rosebecque ran together with sharp lances. They broke many lances, but, in the end, Rifflard was pierced through his armor, so that one could see his side, but nonetheless was not pierced to the quick. With this blow the duke made them stop; and each party retired to his lodgings with his people.

In each case the armor did its job of preventing serious injury. Against lighter armor elsewhere on the body the lance was more dangerous as in this encounter at St. Inglevert in 1390
The English knight hit sir Reginald a very severe blow on the top of his helmet, without otherwise damaging him; but sir Reginald gave him so strong a thrust on the target, (for at that time he was counted one of the stoutest tilters in France, and was smitten with love for a young lady that made all his affairs prosper) it pierced through it as well as his left arm: the spear broke as it entered, the butt end falling to the ground, the other sticking in the shield, and the steel in the arm.

Swords can be braced against the body and used like a short lance, as in the detail from Uccello's painting of the Battle of San Romano above. John Cruso, writing in 1632, recommends placing the pommel of the curiassier's sword against his right thigh:
...and so with his right hand to direct or raise the point to his mark, higher or lower as occaision serveth: either at the bellie of the adverse horse-man (about the pummmel of his sadddle) or at his arm pits, or his throat...

Pietro Monte, writing in 1509 and Ghislerio in 1587 recommend a position with the sword hand resting on or in front of the front of the saddle-bow. This would have allowed the rider to set the pommel or cross of his hilt against his saddle-bow, transferring the force of the blow's impact to his horse through the saddle.

Edge blows could also use the mount's momentum to strengthen a blow, combining that energy with force supplied by the rider's body, shoulder and arm. Duarte, King of Portugal, writing in the 1430s, stressed the importance of using the strength of horse and man together:
To give a forceful cut it must be made as the horse approaches and with the body and arm acting together. I find this very useful in the tourney, because when one strikes when at a standstill and with the arm alone the blow is comparatively weak, whereas if the horse is moving and the body and arm together it is far stronger.

(Sydney Anglo's translation). Duarte adds that roughly horizontal edge blows are more effective in mounted combat than descending vertical blows. He does not say why, but modern physics would say that these blows are better aligned with the vector of the moving horse, and so do a better job of increasing the velocity of the sword relative to the point of impact.

Interestingly, Duarte does not recommend a purely horizontal blow, but a somewhat oblique blow from high to low. Contemporary masters of martial arts understood that downward oblique blows were a natural way for the human body to deliver powerful blows. Germans called them zornhau, the instinctive blow of an angry man. Italians spoke of posta di donna, a position from which even a lady could hit hard.

Duarte's advice represented a wise compromise between the angle that would best align with the movement of the horse and the angle best suited to human biomechanics.

Modeling the physics of a swung sword is complicated. We can grossly oversimplify and say that human muscles can move the percussion point of a sword at about 48 mph. Pretend that the sword is a simple projectile, although the truth is more complicated. Now add that sword and target are galloping towards each other at a net velocity of 27 mph. The kinetic energy of the encounter more than doubles.

When the the Bastard of Burgundy fought Lord Scales in 1467, the Bastard split Scales' visor with an edge blow, making a substantial opening in the metal, three fingers long and wide enough for a grain of wheat to pass through: "en la visiere a cost sy auant fendu que de trois doigs de large et vng gran de bled pouioit passer par la fente dont lespee fut escardee en deux lieux"

Although the horse's momentum could add considerable force to an edge blow, Giovanni Battista Gaiana, writing in 1619, recommended aiming at the opponent's pauldron or vambrace. These pieces were typically thinner than the helmet.

A Taxonomy of Muscle vs. Armor

An armored man can be defeated in many ways.

Direct Attacks:

Penetration. A sufficiently powerful blow can penetrate the armor far enough to injure the man inside. This is most likely to happen where the armor is thin. A pollaxe spike can penetrate very heavy armor, but it is a heavy, relatively slow weapon and the blow must be delivered with great precision to hit properly without glancing.

Impact. A heavy blow can do damage without penetrating the armor. For example, a sufficiently heavy blow to the head can stun a man inside his helmet, a smashing blow can break his fingers inside his gauntlet, and an edge blow against mail can bruise without penetrating or even break bones where they are close to the surface. A violent throw can injure a man inside his armor when he hits the ground.

Intrusive. Some attacks avoid the armor entirely: Targets include the eyeslots or open face, palms, behind the gauntlet cuff, back of the knees, stabbing upward from beneath a mail skirt, and sliding up under an aventail. Thrusts with acutely pointed weapons can also be intrusive, penetrating the center of the mail rings far enough to draw blood without actually breaking the metal.

Dislocation. Some wrestling techniques can dislocate or break limbs inside armor, and weapons can be used as levers to achieve the same result.

Compound Attacks:

Often an attack will not be intended to cause instantaneous injury, but to set the opponent up for a following attack. These include:

Uncovering. Blows can be aimed to drive up a visor so the face is exposed, or cut or break the laces holding up shoulder armor so that it slides down to expose the shoulder and hamper the wearer.

Disarming. Many techniques were used to either disarm an opponent entirely, or to beat a two-handed weapon out of one hand so it was temporarily ineffective.

Binds. Grips and locks can be used to control an opponent's arm or weapon so the he can't defend or attack effectively, move him into a vulnerable position, or prepare him for a throw.

Throws. Throws and knockdowns can not only cause direct injury: an opponent driven to the ground is much more vulnerable and less effective.

Exhaustion. The exertion of attack and defense in armor can render a man helpless with exhaustion or even kill him with heat stroke. In the Katrington-Annesley duel of 1380, Annesley was nearly blinded by sweat and close to exhaustion and Katrington died of heat stroke.

Am I missing any important category?

Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare by Robert Charrette

Available here.

Reviewed here and here.

Comprehensive and clearly presented.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

How Should the SCA Be Structured?

"The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe."

Recently, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) settled an expensive lawsuit. This is an except from their statement.

Several years ago, a former SCA member named Ben Schragger was convicted of the sexual abuse of multiple children that he allegedly met through the SCA from 1999-2001. He was sentenced and is currently serving a 62-year prison sentence. The Board, of course, permanently revoked his SCA membership.

After an initial civil lawsuit was filed and dismissed in 2007 against the SCA, a second civil lawsuit was filed in 2009 claiming that the SCA should be held liable for Mr. Schragger’s wrongdoing. The lawsuit also asked that the SCA be held liable for allegedly not having effective policies in place at that time to protect these children. Three SCA participants who were local officers during this time were also named as defendants in the lawsuit. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit demanded Seven Million Dollars ($7,000,000.00) in damages from the SCA. In accordance with Corpora and the Bylaws, the SCA agreed to indemnify the three individual local officers who were named in the lawsuit.

The SCA immediately tendered the lawsuit to its insurance companies and one insurer agreed to cover the SCA’s attorney’s fees incurred in defending the lawsuit. All other insurers refused to cover defense fees or indemnify the SCA in the event of a settlement or judgment.

In 2010, both insurance carriers threatened to file suit in Federal Court. They wanted a Federal Court judge to rule that the insurance policies did not cover the 2009 lawsuit and did not cover the defense or indemnification of the SCA or its officers in the 2009 lawsuit. As a protective measure, it was necessary for the SCA to file a pre-emptive lawsuit against both insurance carriers, demanding payment under the policies. In this lawsuit the SCA demanded coverage in California, where the SCA is headquartered. The SCA has been required to pay the attorney representing the SCA in this lawsuit against the insurance carriers. It stands to reason that payment of these fees has left the SCA in a precarious financial position.

In October of 2011, the victims agreed to settle for $1,300,000.00. This settlement was presented for approval to both the SCA’s insurers. The acceptance of this offer provides the SCA, Inc .with the assurance that there will be no further lawsuits brought by the victims of Ben Schragger and thus brings to a close the financial and legal risk to the Kingdoms, officers, and the SCA as a result of the lawsuit. One insurance carrier agreed to pay $450,000 of the settlement amount. The other insurance carrier has refused to contribute to the settlement. Therefore, the SCA has been forced to pay the remainder of this settlement, $850,000. This brings the total cost to the SCA for both the settlement and the related legal fees to over $1M.

The SCA is continuing its lawsuit against the insurance carrier that refused to contribute to the settlement and is seeking repayment of the full $850,000.

A single corporation, SCA, Inc., covers most Society activity. In Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Finland there are affiliated corporations that are responsible for Society activity in their jurisdictions.

It has been argued that a more decentralized corporate structure would make the Society less vulnerable to litigation. For example, all of the kingdoms might be organized as affiliated corporations. SCA, Inc. would control the common rules and standards for medieval recreation throughout the Society.

This model would have the advantage of limiting the worst case outcome of litigation. Presumably, had such a structure been in place before the recent unpleasantness, SCA, Inc. and the East would have been sued, but the other kingdoms’ assets would not be directly at risk.

In theory, by reducing the potential amount that could be won, some potential lawsuits would become unprofitable for the plaintiffs to litigate, and would either not be pursued or settled for a lower amount than under the current structure.

In the recently settled lawsuit, I do not think this would have been the case. Under the decentralized model I described, the assets of the local officers and their personal umbrella insurance, if any, and the assets of the East and the Society, Inc., and whatever umbrella coverage the hypothetical corporate structure provided to officers would all be at risk. This would seem to be enough to motivate the plaintiffs to pursue their claims at least as vigorously as they did under the current system.

There are disadvantages to the decentralized model as well as advantages. The collective entities being sued have shallower pockets. This makes them less attractive to sue, but also gives them less resources to mount a defense. A smaller entity might need to settle on unfavorable terms because it was simply unable to afford to fight to the finish.

And a decentralized organization can have higher total costs to litigate a given case. If the East was an independent corporation affiliated with SCA, Inc., the two entities would have divergent interests in a lawsuit, and probably each would want their own counsel.

There are other costs to decentralization, as each separate legal entity adds some additional work and expense.

There are also other reasons to want a more decentralized structure, but I think it’s a mistake to believe that decentralization would be a panacea for protecting the Society from expensive lawsuits.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Reproduction Mail

An useful thread on what to look for in evaluating modern reproductions of medieval and classical mail.

See also:
The Mail Research Society: Articles

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

SCA Errata Sheet: Sir and Master in the 14th and 15th Century

When speaking or writing in the third person, sir was used as a prefix to names of knights and priests. In direct address it was used much more broadly: in the Canterbury Tales the innkeeper is addressed as sire hoste, and a monk, friar, canon, summoner, cook, doctor, man of law, yeoman and Chaucer himself are all addressed as sir.

In the Paston letters master is used as a third person prefix for clerks, either lay or religious, as well as when the writer is an employee of the person described. Where the individual is identifiable these seem to have been the only uses in the letters. The records of Mercer's Company of London used master in the same way, and as a prefix for officers of the gild: the masters of the gild, aldermen and wardens. Ordinary masters of apprentices who were not officers were named without the prefix. Civic aldermen and mayors also received the prefix of master.