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What did medieval archers wear?

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Postby Patron of the lego » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:06 pm

The crossbow was also considered unchivarous also. EDIT however the french however did use crossbowmen in battles such as agincourt.
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Postby Sir Kohran » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:53 pm

Patron of the lego wrote:The crossbow was also considered unchivarous also. EDIT however the french however did use crossbowmen in battles such as agincourt.


Interesting that the weapon considered to be unchivalrous, the crossbow, was the first shoulder based missile weapon - essentially the prelude to the gun, which marked the eventual end of chivalry.

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Postby Damien » Fri Jun 29, 2007 7:27 am

I'm actually pretty sure that the majority of a army was made of archers. Since bows are arrows were pretty cheap weapons in the MA.


Never in history, that I am aware of. Again, it depends on the exact era, but generally speaking in Western Europe -- the majority of any armed force was either cavalry (skirmishing parties or raiding parties, which were often one in the same) or, more often, close infantry.

Only the English during the late medieval period made extensive use of archers. And even then they were never the majority of the army. Never more than half, and rarely that.

And there's a good reason for this: archers are not, generally, very effective as they pertain to medieval Western Europe. Even the overly-famed English/Welsh longbowman were not nearly as effective as they are made out to be, with all of their greatest victories being thanks in large part to circumstances not related to archery (poor leadership of the enemy, terrible terrain, etc).


That is, they would wear their house symbol rather than a unified faction symbol (like, say, a falcon, or a lion)?


Concerning knights specifically? This is generally accurate, although the 'house symbol' wasn't always that particular knight's own family. A household knight would wear the livery of his lord, not his own. Likewise, in the early medieval period when the rules of heraldry were non-existant and just developing, knights would wear whatever suited their fancy, and not necessarily any symbol of meaning.


The crossbow was also considered unchivarous also. EDIT however the french however did use crossbowmen in battles such as agincourt.


The belief that knights held projectile weapons 'dishonourable' is a weird half-truth. In fact, many knights were competant bow- or crossbowman, using those weapons when hunting. The whole thing surrounding projectiles and knights is more a matter of culture and social concerns than honour. If knights held these weapons dishonourable, they would have disdained even fighting near such troops on their -own- side. Rather, they hated these weapons because of the social rammifications of their use; they hurt 'chivalric' warfare and damaged a knight's high status in society and in the military.

The end of chivalry was the invention of a more modern style of warfare, an event that knights all over Europe could see coming, and really did not like, and fought against quite diligently, if ineffectually. That is one of the reasons the French continued to attempt massed cavalry charges against the more modern English army. It was an attempt to recapture a method of warfare that was dying out and relegating knights to a figurative role rather than a practical one.

Crossbows and bows were inconvenient and just plain ruining things. Had nothing at all to do with notions of honour or chivalry (except in the barest sense).


the crossbow, was the first shoulder based missile weapon - essentially the prelude to the gun, which marked the eventual end of chivalry.


And the hand-gonne wasn't too far behind, showing up in the 13th century, when crossbows had only recently reached their higher levels of sophistication (windlass, etc).
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Postby Shadowviking » Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:24 pm

Damien wrote:
That is, they would wear their house symbol rather than a unified faction symbol (like, say, a falcon, or a lion)?


Concerning knights specifically? This is generally accurate, although the 'house symbol' wasn't always that particular knight's own family. A household knight would wear the livery of his lord, not his own. Likewise, in the early medieval period when the rules of heraldry were non-existant and just developing, knights would wear whatever suited their fancy, and not necessarily any symbol of meaning.



But, wasn't there a point in time where you could have, say, ten knights, all working for the same lord, but all with different symbols?
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Postby Aliencat » Fri Jun 29, 2007 10:07 pm

Damien wrote:
I'm actually pretty sure that the majority of a army was made of archers. Since bows are arrows were pretty cheap weapons in the MA.


Never in history, that I am aware of. Again, it depends on the exact era, but generally speaking in Western Europe -- the majority of any armed force was either cavalry (skirmishing parties or raiding parties, which were often one in the same) or, more often, close infantry.

Only the English during the late medieval period made extensive use of archers. And even then they were never the majority of the army. Never more than half, and rarely that.

Probably the single most famous battle fought between the years 500 and 1500 was the battle of Agincourt where king Henry the V of England's army marching to Calais from the south of France consisted of approximately 6500 archers and about 1500 men-at-arms. Especially during the 100-years war period (1337-1438) English armies were known to have a vast majority of archers over other troops, we're talking 80% archers, 20% other, or even more.

Also during the later half of the Reconquista (722-1492), the Almoravid armies were known to consist mostly if not entirely of archers.

Both of the above are Western European wars that are generally known to have had countless battles with more archers than any other troops on certain sides.

Damien wrote:And the hand-gonne wasn't too far behind, showing up in the 13th century, when crossbows had only recently reached their higher levels of sophistication (windlass, etc).

Though hand-gonnes did exist as early as th 13th century, they were never used nearly as much as the crossbow until the late 15th century in the Hussite and Bohemian wars. Those have the earliest recorded battles with extensive use of handheld gunpowder weapons.
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Postby engineerio » Fri Jun 29, 2007 10:14 pm

This is a very interesting topic. Does anyone have links to picutres of the garb you are discussing?
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Postby Aliencat » Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:09 pm

Sure, here are some pictures of what English Longbowmen are reputed to have looked like:

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

And here's an impression of your average Almoravid archer, if we go by what the books say:

Link 4
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Postby Damien » Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:37 am

But, wasn't there a point in time where you could have, say, ten knights, all working for the same lord, but all with different symbols?


Absolutely. Feudal levies would technically be under their lord while wearing their own heraldry. But household troops would wear their lord's heraldry, or a variation thereof, since they would not have their own. It really depends on the time period and area.


king Henry the V of England's army marching to Calais from the south of France consisted of approximately 6500 archers and about 1500 men-at-arms.


Well firstly, those are absolutely drastically incorrect numbers. An army of that size would be very hard to aquire in the medieval era. Historians all seem to agree that we cannot trust the numbers passed down to us. Especially since most medieval people could not really count. Likewise, the numbers are often exaggerated for a particular type of troop.

You'd have, for instance, a Frenchman explaining the loss by saying there were 'three times as many archers and the arrows were too thick to withstand!' Likewise, you'd have English clergy (clergy most often gave us our details on battles, as they tended to have a much higher instance of literacy than anyone else) claiming huge numbers of whatever troop they favoured. Numbers given for Agincourt, just in historical record, span a huge margin. Some claim as many as 20,000 archers, others as few as 600. The same may claim the men-at-arms numbered anywhere from 1 to 10 thousand.

Historical evidence and logistics seems to indicate there could -not- have been such a huge margin of archers at any given time in one area. Just wasn't possible to raise them and get them around since they were irregular troops. Modern estimates put the entire English army at only about 6000 troops - with the French having likely about 12-1500.

The other problem with historical records is that they have a strong tendency to ignore 'unimportant' troops. Meaning, you'll have a vast number of serjeants and other levy infantry that simply are not counted at all. All told, you end up with, at most, a 1:1 ratio of archers to everything else. So like I said earlier - about half the army.


Also during the later half of the Reconquista (722-1492), the Almoravid armies were known to consist mostly if not entirely of archers.


The Almoravids were not Western Europeans. To point a fact, the Byzantines were fond of larger numbers of archers to other troops as well. But they, also, were not Western Europeans.


Though hand-gonnes did exist as early as th 13th century, they were never used nearly as much as the crossbow until the late 15th century in the Hussite and Bohemian wars. Those have the earliest recorded battles with extensive use of handheld gunpowder weapons.



That is correct. Indeed, the hand-gonne was simply NEVER used as much as the crossbow. No firearm enjoyed that much widespread use until the musket. They just weren't effective enough until then.
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Postby Shadowviking » Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:42 am

Damien wrote:
But, wasn't there a point in time where you could have, say, ten knights, all working for the same lord, but all with different symbols?


Absolutely. Feudal levies would technically be under their lord while wearing their own heraldry. But household troops would wear their lord's heraldry, or a variation thereof, since they would not have their own. It really depends on the time period and area.



Thanks, that's all I needed to know.
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Postby Aliencat » Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:11 am

Damien wrote:Historical evidence and logistics seems to indicate there could -not- have been such a huge margin of archers at any given time in one area. Just wasn't possible to raise them and get them around since they were irregular troops. Modern estimates put the entire English army at only about 6000 troops - with the French having likely about 12-1500.

I wonder what you base this on, because in a recent re-assessment (2006) of the troops in the battle of Agincourt it was indeed agreed on by all parttaking historians that the numbers previously assumed were incorrect, and they came to the conclusion there were a total of about 8000 troops, approximately 6500 of which were longbowmen. Of course we can speculate on this forever but the simple fact remains, neither of us was there so let's not litter this thread any further with disagreements on numbers ;)

Damien wrote:The Almoravids were not Western Europeans.

The Almoravid enhabited the southern half of Spain and Portugal for over 700 years, that's about as west as you can go and still be in Europe.
True, their roots were in northern Africa, but they considered Iberia as much their homeland as the Spaniards, and because of this they are officially reckoned a European faction according to the Catalunya History Museum in Barcelona.
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Postby Damien » Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:18 am

because in a recent re-assessment (2006) of the troops in the battle of Agincourt


Whose assessment, though.



neither of us was there so let's not litter this thread any further with disagreements on numbers


Fair enough.


True, their roots were in northern Africa, but they considered Iberia as much their homeland as the Spaniards


Absolutely. But they were still no more Western European as the French were Middle-Eastern while inhabiting Syria.
There's certainly a difference, to my mind, between being Western Europeans, and being players in the Western European theatre. The Almoravids were certainly more products of their roots than of the country they were conquerors of.

Another example would be the Normans in England, who were largely of Franco-Norman descent, and should be considered Franco-Normans in concerns to English history. They weren't native English. For a lengthy time period they even kept French as the 'high language' of England. Nor were the Sicilo-Normans Sicilians or Italians at all. And they remained 'not Italians' for as long as they inhabited Sicily & Southern Italy, which was as long as the Almoravid's inhabited Spain and Portugal (almost, the Normans finally either co-mingling and disappearing or leaving Italy in about the 1500s - a little over 600 years after they initially arrived).

Of course, it's all academic nitpicking, but it's fun to talk about. :)
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Postby Shadowviking » Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:40 am

Damien wrote:
Of course, it's all academic nitpicking, but it's fun to talk about. :)

Yes it is! Unfortunately, it's already gone over my head... :P ??
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Postby Aliencat » Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:03 pm

Damien wrote:Of course, it's all academic nitpicking, but it's fun to talk about. :)

Aha so I'm not the only one enjoying this :) I was just starting to worry we were going off-topic and boring the crap out of everyone lol
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