The Soldier in later Medieval England

England’s Wars, 1272 – 1399

20 – 22 July 2009
University of Reading, ICMA Centre

Organised by ‘The Soldier in Later Medieval England’ Project team

Confirmed speakers, titles and abstracts


Professor Philippe Contamine, L'Institut francais

De Raoul, comte d'Eu, à Charles d'Albret: être connétable de France pendant la guerre de Cent ans: Office, fonction, image

Professor Michael Prestwich, University of Durham

Edward I’s armies

Dr Andrew Ayton, University of Hull

The dynamics of recruitment and military service in fourteenth century England

Conference papers

Rémy Ambühl, University of St Andrews

Reversal of fortunes in the 1370s: The experience of English prisoners of war in France.

Ransom case studies have quite often focused on the fate of French prisoners in
the hands of the English, highlighting the disastrous socio-economical consequences that their capture had on their lives. In an attempt to balance this point of view, this paper will explore the experience of English prisoners of war in the context of the French reconquest in the 1370s. How deep was the impact of the English reversal of fortunes on the issue of prisoners of war? To
answer this question, I will examine the fate of various English (and Gascon) soldiers captured by the French as well as their hopes for assistance.

Professor David Bachrach, University of New Hampshire

Edward I's Centurions: Professional Fighting Men in an Era of Militia Armies

The numerically preponderant element in Edward I's wars of conquest in Scotland were the foot soldiers, who comprised as much as 90% of all personnel. These men have received far less attention, however, than the very small numbers of mounted fighting men, particularly the knights and their retinues. In large part, this focus on the mounted forces has been driven by the view that foot soldiers were of little value in war, and largely an undisciplined rabble. "Edward I's Centurions" challenges this last assumption by showing that a substantial portion of the foot soldiers in Edward I's Scottish wars were, in fact, professional fighting men led by officers, the cententarii/constabularii, who made their professional careers leading foot soldiers on campaign.

Dr Adrian R Bell, University of Reading

The soldier, 'he riden, no man ferre'.

The later fourteenth century is blessed with sources enabling historians to create portrayals of colourful careers in arms. The Court of Chivalry gives the soldier's own accounts, whilst the portrait of the knight in the Canterbury Tales perhaps delivers an image of (allegedly) perfect military accomplishments. We can now add to this the soldier database, which provides evidence of both actual and intended service for the English crown. Using this we can reconstruct some full and representative case studies of soldiers and where they chose to fight. We can also look carefully at the depositions in the court of chivalry and consider if the witnesses were braggards, or by contrast, were deliberately understating their level of military service. Finally we can find out which soldier was best: who had the longest record of service; who took part in the most varied campaigns; who was the most modest; who was the youngest; who was the oldest; and of course who rode the furthest.

Professor Douglas Biggs, University of Nebraska – Kearney

‘Chasing the Chimera in Spain: Edmund of Langley in Iberia, 1381/82’

In the summer of 1381 Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge, led a polyglot expeditionary force of roughly three thousand men that included English, Gascon, and Castilian elements to Portugal as the first stage in a broader effort to invade the kingdom of Castile and place his elder brother, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, on the Castilian throne. In the autumn of 1382 what was left of this expeditionary force returned to England in Castilian ships paid for by the Castilian king after eighteen unfortunate and unproductive months in Iberia. Historical scholarship has been divided as to who was to blame for the disaster in Portugal in 1381/82. This paper takes a fresh look at the campaign and focuses on the leaders of the expedition, the campaign itself, and whether or not the men who mutinied against the earl of Cambridge were actually the cause of the collapse of the English in Portugal or whether they were merely scapegoats.

Dr Michael Brown, University of St Andrews

‘Exercitus Scottorum’ and ‘Familia magnatorum’: Military Recruitment and Organisation in Fourteenth-Century Scotland.

Warfare had a central significance for Scotland in the fourteenth century. During the years between 1296 and 1357, the sovereign status of the Scottish realm and the identity of its ruling dynasty were a matter of almost unbroken campaigning. Though the frequency and extent of fighting diminished in the second half of the century, the conflict with England still led to regular warfare in southern Scotland. Despite this importance, examination of the way in which Scottish forces, large and small, were raised and organised has been limited and has tended to rest on major assumptions, reflecting the relatively sparse level of available evidence, especially for major hosts. By focusing, in particular, on the role played by nobles in the recruitment of contingents for military service, this paper will reassess the character of Scottish forces and place them in the context of contemporary changes in English and continental armies. The result will be a picture of Scottish military practices which were much less dependent on the traditions of common service by untrained and unretained freemen than traditional accounts indicate.

Dr Christopher A. Candy, Texas Tech University

The Thin Edge of the Wedge: Retinues in Edward III's Scottish Wars

The English military leadership during the first part of the Hundred Years’ War relied on a body of men who learned their craft in Edward III’s Anglo-Scottish wars. Many such as Reginald Cobham gained prominence by contracting with Edward III to provide military retinues in Scotland. Subsequently such men became trusted commanders and the linchpins of Edward’s campaigns in France. Using household and government records, this paper will illustrate how this remarkably narrow group of men provided retinues for Edward III’s early conflicts and were tightly connected with the crown and one another.

Adam Chapman, University of Southampton

Rebels, Uchelwyr and Parvenus: Welsh knights in Edwardian Wales

The importance and distinction of the order of knighthood has been much discussed and the changing responsibilities and role of men so dubbed is still a matter of debate. Wales in the years after its conquest by Edward I provided the backbone of English armies yet the military careers of Welsh leaders – and those rare few who achieved the rank of knight – have received precious little attention. By the accession of Edward of Woodstock to the title of Prince of Wales in 1343, near continuous warfare in Wales, Scotland and France had been the backdrop to the experiences of the Welsh population for over eighty years. The Welsh were regarded as a belligerent and warlike race and its elite regarded war as a key part of their social function and identity. The wars of Edward I, his son and grandson provided the Welsh with an experience of near continuous campaigning. Welshmen contributed a disproportionate number of soldiers to English efforts against the Scots and the French. If knighthood was the ultimate reward in a militarised society, why was it granted to so few Welshmen whose skills and abilities contributed so effectively to that rare thing in the lands of medieval Wales; relative peace?

Dr Peter Crooks, Trinity College, Dublin

Ireland in the Age of English Intervention, 1361–99

The appointment of Lionel of Antwerp as king’s lieutenant of Ireland in 1361 heralded four decades of unprecedented military commitment on the part of the English crown to its Irish lordship. The greatest challenge facing the captains who fought in this most atypical theatre of English war was to decipher the bewildering patterns of Irish politics. Even the basic task of identifying the enemy was complex. This paper reviews the often-contradictory attitudes of the residents of Ireland to military intervention. One trend was integrative: the revival of royal interest in Irish affairs presented the colonists of Ireland with new opportunities for political advancement; by the same token, several soldiers of English birth were absorbed into the settler community. Yet, the influx of soldiers and administrators also created tensions between the English by blood (those born in Ireland) and the English by birth (those born in England). Conflicts such as these—tinged with cultural prejudice—are typical of colonial situations and may be characterized, paradoxically, as ‘crises of integration’. The paper also explores the Gaelic response to English intervention. Gaelic Ireland was a fragmented polity. The English government sought to capitalize on this and to conquer individual Gaelic lordships through division. Gaelic chiefs employed a range of strategies, from submission and cooperation to fierce resistance, in order to negotiate their survival. Although the fissiparous nature of Gaelic politics was a source of weakness, it was ultimately the very decentralization of Gaelic Ireland that subverted the English effort at a military conquest. The fifteenth century was to show that compromise was a safer route to domination than coercion.

Professor Anne Curry, University of Southampton

Disciplinary ordinances: an international code?

The earliest known extant set of disciplinary ordinances for an English army date to 1385 - the expedition led by Richard II to Scotland. Intriguingly, we also have the ordinances produced in Scotland for the Franco-Scottish army of the same year. This paper focuses on a comparison of the two sets, bringing in also the almost contemporary disciplinary ordinances for English navies found in the Black Book of the Admiralty. This discussion will be widened to consider the concept of an 'international code' of military discipline in the late fourteenth century.

Professor Kelly DeVries, Loyola College, USA

The English in the Southern Low Countries during the fourteenth century: the medieval ‘Belgian’ perspective.

Edward III had a unique relationship with the principalities of the Southern Low Countries. Drawing on economic considerations, brought about by their reliance on English wool, Edward formed alliances with Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut and Liège that allowed him to wage war in and near to them for almost forty years, and for his army to be supplied by them with foodstuffs, funds and, at times, troops. But how did those in the Southern Low Countries feel about their relationship with England at this time? This paper will rely on fourteenth-century narrative sources from Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut and Liège to show that, while there may not be enough evidence to substantiate the existence of an “English” party in these principalities during the reign of Edward III, as asserted by some modern Belgian historians, the close relationship between these two medieval regions and especially the leadership of King Edward III against France, was valued greatly. For those in the Southern Low Countries this relationship would remain valid for a few years after Edward’s death, until 1383 and the attack of Flanders by the Bishop of Norwich.

Tiago Viula de Faria, St Johns College, Oxford University

English service and servicemen in Portugal during the reign of Richard II

English political activity in Portugal in the Middle Ages was never as intense
as during the last quarter of the fourteenth century. This paper examines
English service in Portugal in its various forms, whether military, political,
or diplomatic, while attempting to trace its evolution and the effects caused
within Anglo-Portuguese relations at the period. Attention is also directed to
a number of those involved directly in English assignments to the region.

Xavier Hélary, University de Paris I, Sorbonne

French armies around 1300

After the last crusades led by a French king (Saint Louis in 1270 against Tunis, Philippe III in 1285 against the King of Aragon), the transformation of war in the end of the XIIIth century led to the occupation for a long time of hostile areas (Aquitaine, Flanders). The heart of this paper deals with the recruiting, the composition and the financing of the armies gathered by three French kings : Saint Louis, at the end of his reign, Philippe III (1270-1285) and Philippe IV the Fair (1285-1314). The most important idea insists on the transition from a feudal army to a paid one. The consequences must be taken in account: if the expenses explode, it is necessary to create new taxes and extraordinary incomes. At the end of Philip the Fair’s reign, the royal host is already the army defeated at Crécy and Poitiers : are the Last Capetians to be blamed?

Emeritus Professor Michael C.E. Jones, University of Nottingham

The Breton Soldier in the Late Fourteenth Century

After 1341 there were few regions of western Europe in which Breton soldiers did not fight. Relatively spared by the Black Death, Brittany became from the 1350s an important recruiting ground for seasoned troops of all kinds. Even before Bertrand du Guesclin was named Constable of France in 1370, they often made up a major contingent in any royal army, a tradition continued under a second Breton Constable, Olivier de Clisson. They also seized other opportunities for service: many campaigned in Italy; some retained links with Spain, others went on crusade. This paper will analyse these differing experiences and assess some social and economic consequence for developments in the duchy at large.

Professor Donald Kagay, Albany State University

Muslim and Christian Border War in Late-Medieval Iberia

An end-game phenominon of the seven-hundred-year-old Reconquest was a series of border wars between Castlian and Granadan rulers in the two-and-a-half centuries after the completion of the Great Reconquest in 1250. On the Christian-Muslim front, these conflicts ranged from small and formulaic forays against the Granada frontier fought by Castilians and other foreign crusading tourists and wide-ranging expeditions along the Straits of Gibraltar that presage the Catholic Kings' final assault on the Nasrid kingdom. This paper will focus on these north-south conflicts but will also deal with the east-west conflicts that reconquest victories imposed on the Christian victors themselves.

Dr Andy King, University of Southampton

Parliament and War; the Military Experience of Knights of the Shire, 1369-1400

The Commons in Parliament played an increasingly influential role in English politics in last years of the reign of Edward III, and the reign of his grandson, Richard II; and war was the central issue which dominated political debate in parliament. But when they debated war, how many knights of the shire knew whereof they spoke? What was the collective military experience of parliament? And did this experience have any impact on political debate?

Craig Lambert, University of Hull

The Maritime dimension of the siege of Calais 1347: New findings, New Interpretations.

The siege of Calais in 1347 was arguably England’s greatest military endeavour in the fourteenth century. Between September 1346 and September 1347, at one time or another, some 8,000-10,000 soldiers occupied positions outside the town. Unfortunately, the absence of a detailed set of payrolls renders an examination of the fluctuations in manpower, which undoubtedly occurred throughout the siege, an un-realistic goal. This is indeed a great loss, as a detailed set of pay records would show the periods of greatest intensity and therefore illuminate the varying stages of the whole operation. Fortunately, however, there are a complete set of pay accounts relating to the maritime contingents that served thought the siege. That these have rarely been consulted before as led to a misunderstanding as to how the siege was prosecuted. The aim of this paper is to bring to light these sources and by doing so argue that a re-interpretation of the scale, scope and timing of the whole operation needs to be considered.

Dr Alastair J. Macdonald, University of Aberdeen

Scottish Strategy and Tactics, 1369-1402

This paper will analyse the sophistication and effectiveness of Scottish military activity against England between 1369 and 1402. This period offers rich possibilities to consider what can be seen as successful Scottish military endeavours alongside complete failures. The author will seek to explain these divergent Scottish experiences in war, most marked at the tactical level by battlefield victory (Otterburn, 1388) and defeat (Humbleton, 1402). Analysing these encounters raises issues of the challenges of trying to comprehend the realities of combat from scanty and problematic source materials. At the strategic level, consideration will be given to how ‘success’ in warfare can be characterised, and the extent to which the Scots acted in pursuit of coherent strategic aims they hoped to achieve through military action. It is hoped that broad conclusions will be reached about the nature of military endeavour in Scotland and further afield.

Dr Iain MacInnes, University of Aberdeen

‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bruce? Balliol Scots and ‘English Scots’ during the Second Scottish War of Independence’

Much historical analysis has been undertaken in recent years on the history of the period from 1332 to 1357, the conflict that has become known as the Second Scottish Wars of Independence. These studies have rightly discussed the war as both a period of renewed civil conflict within Scotland between the supporters of Bruce and Balliol, and a resumption of Anglo-Scottish warfare following the active entry of Edward III. The combination of Edward Balliol’s triumphant return to reclaim his throne and Edward III’s military might prompted many Scots to reconsider their allegiance to the Bruce dynasty. Indeed, many who claimed to support David II had been forced into observing such a political outlook by the strong hand of Bruce force, utilised by Robert I to ensure support for his new dynasty. But there remained Scots, both in Scotland and in exile, who supported the Balliol cause, and who would raise their heads once more after Edward Balliol’s return. And there were those individuals who, either through political alienation or because of the redrawn areas of influence in a divided Scotland, who assisted and served the English crown. Some of the major examples of Balliol and pro-English Scots have received historical attention, but the depth of support, and the actions of men of lesser standing, has not. It is the purpose of this paper, therefore, to look in greater detail at those Scots who served Edward Balliol and Edward III, the possible reasons for their choice of allegiance, and the extent of their activities.

Randall Moffett, University of Southampton

Arms and Armour of Late Medieval Southampton, 1300-1400

In Late Medieval England the responsibility of defence was distributed to all ‘able-bodied’ males of the kingdom. This system was the primary method employed for manpower by English kings to maintain security in their realm from both external and internal threats they faced. Towns and their inhabitants played a vital role in this system. While in recent years more work has come forward regarding their involvement in this defensive organisation many avenues remain to be further explored. One such issue is the arms, armour and other military equipment that was employed by townsmen and town government for their security. This paper will discuss the arms, armour and artillery of Southampton 1300-1400, their employment and implications in the town’s defence found in literature and archaeological contexts.

Dr Michael Penman, University of Stirling

Faith in War: the religious experience of the Scottish soldiery, c.1272-c.1399

The Scottish army at Bannockburn (1314) kneeling to be shriven with their king by clergy carrying the relics of 'Scottish' saints like Columba and Fillan has proved an enduring image: but what further evidence can be found for the religious experience of Scottish knights and soldiers below the rank of king, prince or earl? This paper will survey 13th to 16th century chronicles, Crown financial rolls, ecclesiastical records (including acts of patronage) as well as poetry and song, in search of: clerical provision for Scottish armies during war; their religious observance during campaigns on the Anglo-Scottish borders and in Ireland; soldiers' attitudes to particular saints, relics, religious festivals and the churches of their enemies; and the Scots soldiery's attitudes to death and burial. Was the piety of the Scottish soldiery altered by the intensity and atrocities on both sides of conflict with England after 1296 and changing forms of military recruitment, technology and tactics? Did the Scottish soldiers' religion differ from that of their king and feudal superiors? Can we find evidence of earlier practice fossilised in the later medieval and early modern record?

Dr Guilhem Pepin, History Faculty, Oxford

Froissart's Bascot de Mauleon: not an invented character

It has been recently supposed that the Bascot de Mauléon, the Gascon mercenary met by Froissart in 1388 in Béarn, was a character invented by the chronicler to group together different testimonies on mercenaries of the Hundred Years War. In fact, a contemporary and reliable list enumerating the fortresses possessed by ‘English’ partisans in Guyenne (or Aquitaine) mentions this Bascot de Mauléon. Considering this information, it is now possible to confirm with other sources the information provided by Bascot to Froissart and also shed new light on the careers of members of the Mauléon family.

Thom Richardson, The Royal Armouries

Armour in England 1325-1399

A dramatic change in the personal armour of the knightly classes
occurred across the whole of Europe in the middle of the 14th century,
the addition of plate armour on top of the mail defences that had been
worn since the time of the Roman empire. This change is documented in
England by the series of monumental effigies and brasses, as well as a
very few surviving examples. The story is supplemented by documentary
records, especially those of the armoury at the Tower of London, which
shed new light on the equipment of the English armies of the first half
of the Hundred Years War.

Professor Cliff Rogers, USMA

The Longbow, The Infantry Revolution, and Technological Determinism

In a 1993 article arguing for a fourteenth-century Infantry Revolution, I noted that development of the longbow in the late thirteenth century made an important contribution to the English strand of that phenomenon. Recently, this conception has been attacked from two directions. Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy have argued that no such technological innovation occurred (the longbow having always been in use), while John Stone has accused me of "technological determinism." In this paper I will argue, first, that the true longbow was indeed a technological innovation, and, second, that acknowledging its significance is not the same as succumbing to "determinism."

Dr David Simpkin, University of Reading

Total War in the Middle Ages?: The Contribution of Landed Society to the Wars of Edward I and Edward II

The intensive campaigns of Edward I and Edward II were made possible by a huge effort, both human and financial, on the part of their subjects. In a recent publication I showed that a minimum of around 84 per cent of the knights bachelor alive during the early fourteenth century gave military service at some point between the Welsh war of 1277 and the battle of Bannockburn. In this paper I aim to build on this finding by conducting an analysis of the military activities of landholders selected from the different corners of England. These samples will be drawn from the surveys carried out in 1284-5 (Kirkby’s Inquest), 1302-3 (returns to an aid for the marrying of the king’s eldest daughter) and 1316 (the Nomina Villarum). The paper will assess the shifting contributions of the gentry to the Crown’s wars, both regionally and over time. This will make it possible to trace the development of martial traditions within succeeding generations of the same families.

Andrew Spencer

A Warlike people? Gentry enthusiasm for Edward I’s Scottish campaigns, 1296-1307

This paper will examine how successful Edward I was in harnessing gentry support for his campaign in Scotland and ask whether that enthusiasm deteriorated over time. The paper will use evidence from a number of counties to trace participation in the various campaigns between 1296 and 1307 and will seek to provide political context for the emerging trends. Such a study will answer questions about the nature of Edward I’s rule in the last years of his reign and about the legacy he left to his son.

Dr. L. J. Andrew Villalon, University of Texas

Edward III’s Military Pardons in the Opening Stages of the Hundred Years War and Some Problems of Doing English Military History through the Calendar of Patent Rolls

Abstract: Literature dealing with royal pardons, both in Britain and elsewhere, is fairly sparse. In particular, the issuance of pardons in return for military service (called by some historians service pardons) merits far more attention than it has thus far received. This paper will deal with Edward III’s pardons conferred during the opening stages of the Hundred Years War, to wit, the period from the confiscation of Gascony by Philip VI (1337) to the Treaty of Brétigny (1360). Focusing in on certain key years, the paper will explore such topics as the numbers granted, the nature of the crimes being forgiven, the benefits reaped by the crown and the attitude of English parliaments, and changes in the nature of the documents over time. We shall also look at ways in which the internet and other electronic media have helped make possible far easier access to the sources necessary to researching a subject of this sort, in particular, the University of Iowa’s recent posting of the Calendar of Patent Rolls.



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