Post-classical history



In November 1389 Jean de Boucicaut and two other French paladins, Renaud de Roye and Jean de Sempy, sent heralds across western Europe with a challenge to the knights and squires of all nations to fight them in the lists ‘without pride, hatred or ill will’ over a period of thirty days on the march of Calais. The truce of Leulinghem was followed by a sudden upsurge of interest in jousting, of which Jean de Boucicaut’s great tournament was only the first and most famous symptom. The habit of fighting died hard. Elaborate and conventionally choreographed pageants provided opportunities for men to exhibit their status and test their courage, strength and horsemanship in one-to-one combat. These occasions had less than ever to do with the actual practice of war. But they became potent symbols of national rivalry, somewhat like modern sporting internationals. Indeed this one was initially viewed with misgiving on both sides of the Channel, precisely because it was seen as a continuation of the war by other means at a time when both governments were committed to peace. The King of England would not issue safe-conducts until the last minute. The councillors of Charles VI raised no objection but muttered in private. They were afraid that it would stimulate national rivalries and, worse, deal a damaging blow to French prestige if their champions were defeated. Anxious remarks were made about the short stature of Boucicaut and his friends.

The tournament opened in spite of the misgivings on 21 March 1390 outside the abbey enclosure of Saint-Ingelvert near Ardres, surrounded by the flat wastes of the coastal plain of Picardy. A hundred and twenty English knights and squires responded to the challenge in addition to more than forty Castilians, Germans and Scots. They included most of the great names of English chivalry: Holand, Bolingbroke, Beaufort, Mowbray, Percy, Fitzalan, Clifford, Courtenay. Yet it was war, not sport, and old animosities were never far below the surface. On a tree outside their brightly painted pavilions the three French champions hung two shields decorated with their ‘arms of peace’ and ‘arms of war’. The challengers were required to strike one or other to signify whether they would fight with tipped lances, blunted swords and wooden bucklers, or with real weapons of war. They all chose the arms of war. The participants heard mass at the beginning of each day and then fought each other according to stylised rules in measured-out lists, watched by the heralds and a crowd of supporters and ladies pressed against the barriers. Yet lances and swords were broken, helmets shattered and horses killed. None of the contestants died but many were wounded, some, like John Holand, Earl of Huntingdon, so badly that their companions feared for their lives. Jean de Boucicaut and Renaud de Roye were both forced to withdraw to their tents for several days to nurse their injuries.1

The men who organised the jousts of Saint-Ingelvert had many emulators. A rather similar although less grand tournament was fought in May 1390 between English and Scottish knights. Like the participants at Saint-Ingelvert they fought with sharpened lances. According to the official chronicler of Saint-Denis groups of itinerant English men-at-arms travelled through France challenging all comers to fights at which both sides regarded their national honour as engaged and considerable ill feeling was generated. In the autumn of 1390 Richard II sent invitations across western Europe to a three-day tournament at Smithfield beneath the walls of London, which was destined to be an even more extravagant affair. The English King took part himself. Large contingents attended from both France and the Low Countries. Blunted weapons appear to have been used but there were plenty of other outlets for the repressed violence and patriotism of the participants. At the closing banquet at Windsor castle some of the French knights refused Richard II’s gifts and jeered audibly as Philip of Burgundy’s son-in-law, the young Count of Ostrevant, was admitted to the Order of the Garter, discarding the jewelled badge of Charles VI’s livery as he did so.2


The Count of Foix once observed that there were ‘more great feats of arms done these fifty years than in the three centuries before’. What above all united those who fought at Saint-Ingelvert was the sense of having participated in great events, a view almost universally shared by the generation of soldiers who had lived through the war. Even the English and the Gascons, who had had the worst of the fighting since 1369, behaved as if the deeds of their greatest contemporaries redeemed them from the stigma of failure. At the lowest point of England’s fortunes in the 1380s there were still Englishmen drawn to the fighting by the impulse to earn fame in a struggle which their descendants would speak of with awe. In July 1383 Peter Courtenay, a younger son of the Earl of Devon who had already won a reputation for recklessness among his contemporaries, appeared before the French King in Paris and demanded the right to fight a duel against Gui de la Tremoille. Courtenay had no quarrel with La Tremoille. His object, he said, was to demonstrate the superiority of English chivalry and vindicate the reputation of the English nation by fighting a prominent counsellor of the Duke of Burgundy whose status was roughly comparable to his own. Gui de la Tremoille was willing. When taxed with the fact that there was no issue between the two men he replied that it was enough that Courtenay was an Englishman and he a Frenchman. The French royal Council disapproved and after a certain amount of hesitation the King was prevailed upon to forbid the duel. Courtenay was loaded with gifts and went on his way, boasting that there was no one in France willing to take him on. Ultimately he had to settle for a less prominent opponent who fought him on the march of Calais later in the year and won. What is interesting about this story is the way in which it personalised the war with France. Courtenay, a comparatively obscure English nobleman, wanted to take his country’s quarrel for a brief moment upon his own shoulders in order to stand out among those who were fighting a famous war.3

The cult of war and personal prowess was never more powerful than in the 1380s when both countries were on the verge of exhaustion and astute politicians on both sides had begun to realise that force of arms would never decide the issue. In France the extravagant public celebration of the life and deeds of Bertrand du Guesclin in the abbey of Saint-Denis in May 1389 was an extraordinary moment. Nine years after the great Constable’s death and a month before the truce which would bring the war to an end, the French court marked the passing of a heroic period in their country’s history. ‘With him died all chivalry; with him perished all courage; with him was all honour buried,’ sang Eustache Deschamps, one of the earliest authors of the Constable’s remarkable posthumous fame. A mediocre professional versifier called Cuvelier (‘that poor fellow’, a contemporary called him) wrote an enormous biographical poem full of picturesque fictions which would be copied, abridged and plagiarised for more than a century to come. Thus did a minor Breton squire and sometime mercenary captain take his place with Hector, Joshua and Charlemagne as the Tenth Worthy, the man whose deeds Joan of Arc herself would honour half a century after his death by sending a ring to his widow, then a very old woman still living in Brittany.4

Cuvelier’s life of Du Guesclin was addressed to an age obsessed with the recording of its own history and convinced of its political and moral significance. The Chandos Herald, a better poet and a more accurate historian than Cuvelier, wrote his verse life of the Black Prince in about 1385, placing his hero among the great warriors of history, alongside Julius Caesar, King Arthur and the mythical Clarus King of India. The bloody deeds of Sylvester Budes’s Breton company in Italy were celebrated in rhyming couplets by his chaplain ‘for love and honour of gallantry in arms and our Holy Mother the Church’. The anonymous ‘Book of Deeds’ of the French Marshal Jean de Boucicaut was commissioned by his companions in arms in his lifetime. Nor was it only soldiers who were commemorated in this way. The prolix and inaccurate verse life of John de Montfort written by his secretary is one of the earliest literary monuments of Breton patriotism. Philip Duke of Burgundy commissioned the life of his father Charles V by Christine de Pisan ‘so that the noble life and great deeds of the wise King should be recorded in a book and the memory of his example preserved for ever.’5

By far the most remarkable monument to this mood of historical narcissism was the chronicle of Jean Froissart, one of the great literary masterpieces of the late middle ages. Froissart was a clerk of bourgeois stock who came from Hainault, a francophone principality of the German Empire. In 1361, when he was about twenty-four years old, he arrived at the English court as a chaplain in the household of Queen Philippa. Living at what was then the most glittering court of Europe he conceived the ambition of writing a great history which would serve as a ‘perpetual memorial of the gallant and noble adventures which have happened in the wars of England and France and the lands around’. After the Queen’s death in 1369 Froissart left England and began to write, following the course of the war more or less as it was fought. By the time of his death in about 1404 he had completed four books, carrying the story from the last years of Edward II until the death of Richard II in 1399 and filling fifteen stout volumes in the only complete modern edition. Froissart travelled widely in search of material, spending by his own reckoning a quarter of his income on hotel bills. He was welcomed at the courts of England, France and Scotland, of Aquitaine and Béarn. He was a determined collector of letters of introduction. He buttonholed the famous and the powerful wherever he went. He never passed by the chance to interview an eye-witness, however humble. As a historian Froissart had many faults. He was often taken in by braggards with fishermen’s tales. He was hampered by his ignorance of geography and uncertain grasp of chronology. And, like Thucydides, he could not resist dramatising his tale with theatrical incidents, spurious detail and long, invented speeches. But at his best he is remarkably well-informed.

What is, however, most striking about Froissart’s work is the fame which he achieved among his contemporaries while he was writing it. Arriving at the court of the Count of Foix in November 1388, the chronicler was greeted by Gaston Phoebus as an old friend. Although they had never met, the Count said, he felt that he already knew him well having heard so many men speak of him. Gaston went to some trouble to get his own version of the facts into Froissart’s pages. He was not the only one. ‘You write that down,’ snapped one of the Black Prince’s courtiers after regaling the chronicler at dinner with his thoughts. ‘Master Jean, tell me,’ enquired the Bascot de Mauléon as they sat together in the great hall at Orthez castle, ‘do you have enough information about me?’ ‘Have you got the story of Mauvoisin castle in your history?’ asked the Béarnais knight Espan de Lion as they passed beneath it on the road to Lourdes. ‘No,’ said Froissart, ‘tell me.’

The chronicler had no doubt that his work would outlive him. ‘In future years when my body has rotted in its grave,’ he wrote, ‘this noble and exalted history will be widely read and taken up with pleasure by gallant and noble men everywhere.’ He was right. More than a hundred contemporary or near contemporary manuscripts of the Chronicles survive and many more once existed. Copies found their way into royal and noble libraries across Europe. The Duke of Anjou appropriated a copy of Book I, which was being decorated in a Parisian illuminator’s workshop for presentation to Richard II of England. The Duke of Berry had a superbly bound copy in red leather with brass clasps. More than a century after the chronicler’s death Henry VIII, the last King of England to entertain the old continental ambitions of Edward III and Henry V, commissioned a translation from the courtier-poet Lord Berners. ‘What condign graces and thanks ought men to give to the writers of histories who with their great labours have done so much profit to human life,’ Berners wrote in his preface; ‘… what pleasure shall it be to the noble gentlemen of England to see, behold and read the high enterprises, famous acts and glorious deeds of their valiant ancestors?’6


The three-part division of medieval society into those who fought, those who prayed and those who laboured retained a strong hold on the imagination of contemporaries long after it had ceased to represent reality. In the fourteenth century it was still taken for granted that the King’s wars were the business of the nobility. The springs of valour, wrote Christine de Pisan, were courage, honour and fear of disgrace, all qualities which could be expected only among men of gentle birth. Peasants and townsmen marching with the army were good for nothing but brute labour. Philippe de Mézières agreed. The common people came only ‘for presumption or loot’. Indeed it was part of the ‘horrible tyranny’ of the companies that they were largely recruited from such people. But for all its constant repetition this was a literary conceit. The differences between the King’s armies and the free companies were a good deal less striking than the similarities and they continually learned from each other. Most prominent routiers were the sons of noblemen, even if many were younger sons or bastards. And the military service of the Crown was far from being the exclusively noble vocation of literary convention.7

Men-at-arms, the trained cavalrymen who provided the attacking force of every royal army, were in principle recruited from the ranks of the nobility, an elastic term embracing the large class of untitled but substantial provincial landowners whom in England one would call ‘gentry’. As a rule of practice the principle was sound, if only because this class was the main source of men with the experience of handling horses and weapons and the resources to buy them. But it was never formally or consistently applied. In England, nobility was too loosely defined to be an absolute qualification for cavalry service. Knights, it is true, were readily distinguishable. They had been formally dubbed. They were expected to have a minimum income from land and a higher standard of mount and equipment. They received a better rate of pay. But most men-at-arms were not knights. They were squires, a protean term widely used by poets and novelists, tax assessors and by the draftsmen of successive sumptuary laws designed to keep men of inferior degree in their place. The status of a squire defied definition. All that could be said with confidence was that it necessarily excluded those who were too poor to arm or mount themselves. A certain gentility was no doubt expected but it was not easy to insist on it. Many of those who served as squires in Sir Robert Knolles’s campaign of 1370–1 were recruited from pardoned outcasts, criminals and jailbirds. Until the last years of the fourteenth century English squires did not even have coats of arms. In 1389 Richard II granted the status of gentleman and the title of squire to one John de Kingston together with the right to bear the arms argent ove une chapeure d’azure, ovesque une plume d’ostrich, de geules. It is the first surviving royal grant of arms, but what is striking about the grant is the occasion for it. John de Kingston had received a challenge to a duel from a French knight and needed his enhanced status in order to accept it. This man had obviously been fighting as a man-at-arms in France. He had won nobility by military service, not the other way round. Many others did the same without troubling themselves with points of form. As the herald Nicholas Upton observed a generation later,

… many poor men have become noble through their service in the wars of France by their own wisdom, strength or valour or by the divers other virtues which ennoble a man. Such men have taken coats of arms for themselves and their heirs by no other authority than their own.8

Even in France, where nobility was better defined, it proved impractical to limit the recruitment of men-at-arms to gentlemen. Royal ordinances had permitted the mustering of townsmen as men-at-arms since the 1350s and the practice was certainly older than that. When, in January 1374, Charles V issued his famous ordinance governing the recruitment and conduct of his armies he advised his captains to be cautious about hiring ‘men of low estate’ because they tended to be ill-equipped and undisciplined. But the only rule that he imposed was that a cavalrymen should be fit for the job, known personally to his captain and ‘of a standing fit for service at our wages’. In France, as in England, captains raised their own companies of men-at-arms and presented them to the marshals at the outset of each campaign. The captains themselves were usually noblemen and no doubt preferred to recruit men of their own kind, but growing difficulties of recruitment made this a counsel of perfection. The heralds who assisted the marshals’ officers at the muster could probably recognise the knights but they were outnumbered ten to one by squires whose status was impossible to verify. Froissart said of his contemporaries in France very much what Nicholas Upton would say about the English. A man without land or money who had an able body and agile limbs would find plenty of noblemen to employ him in the wars. ‘You cannot imagine what fine adventures and great fortunes can be had by the pursuit of arms,’ the chronicler wrote in his preface, ‘but you will find in this book if you but read it, how men became knights and squires and advanced themselves in their profession more by their prowess than by their lineage.’9

These developments were assisted by the tactical revolution of the fourteenth century which progressively diminished the role of the heavily armed cavalryman in battle. In about 1340 Sir Geoffrey Luttrell had had himself painted on a page of his famous Psalter in the British Library seated on a caparisoned charger as his wife and daughter handed him his pennon and buckler. It is the classic image of the fourteenth-century man-at-arms. Yet at the time that the Luttrell Psalter was commissioned English men-at-arms had been fighting their battles on foot for many years. They remounted only to finish off a defeated enemy or pursue him from the field. The last notable mass cavalry charge to be carried out by an English army in this period came in the closing moments of the battle of Poitiers in 1356, when Sir James Audley and the Captal de Buch remounted their horses to complete the rout of the French army. As for the French they increasingly copied the English tactical system. Their only major pitched battle in this period, against the Flemings at Roosebeke, was fought on foot. Men-at-arms fought in infantry formations, in the English case in tactical co-operation with archers. They carried their lances on foot, using them as pikes. Their war-horses were left at the back with the grooms and pages. Swordsmanship and brute force were more important than horsemanship. Ancient skills, slowly mastered from an early age and nurtured by men of wealth and leisure, retained all their old prestige but became progressively less valuable on campaign.

When Froissart spoke of the opportunities which war opened up to young men of talent he was thinking of men-at-arms. But the dream was shared on a humbler scale by others with no pretensions to nobility and few expectations of fame. They were bowmen, pages and ‘varlets’ and specialised tradesmen such as artillerymen, carpenters and miners.

Longbowmen were a significant part of every English army and had a critical place in English battle tactics. Traditionally recruited at the rate of one archer for every two men-at-arms, the proportion tended to increase and by the end of the 1380s was nearer one for one. These men were drawn from the peasantry of the Welsh marches and rural England and occasionally from the streets of the towns, especially London. They were rarely gentlemen. But they had to practise their art constantly and to possess a horse, simple armour and a sword and buckler, all of which meant that they were generally men of some standing in their own communities. A few rose from humble beginnings to great eminence. That conservative spirit Sir Thomas Gray had noticed in the 1350s that the fighting in Normandy was being done mainly by ‘mere commoners’ many of whom had enlisted as archers and ended up as knights and even captains. Sir Robert Knolles, who accumulated one of the largest military fortunes of his time, was a man of exceedingly obscure origins who almost certainly began his career as an archer. The same was probably true of his fellow Cheshire men Sir David Craddock and Sir Nicholas Colfox, both of whom were the sons of Nantwich townsmen, and Sir Hugh Browe, whose father was a yeoman of Tushingham. The Italian condottiere Sir John Hawkwood almost certainly first enlisted as an archer. He was the son of a rich Essex tanner and began his career as the apprentice of a London tailor.10

Bowmen were a less significant component of French armies. The conventional proportion appears to have been one for every four men-at-arms. Moreover, they were usually outsiders, generally Italian cross bowmen. Charles V maintained a permanent corps of Genoese crossbowmen. To maintain their quality their numbers were limited in 1373 to 800 men, who were recruited by the Doria, the Grimaldi and other specialised war contractors. For the major campaigns and local operations numbers were made up by recruiting in the larger towns. Most towns maintained companies of crossbowmen drawn from their own citizens, whose main purpose was to defend their walls but who were available for field service when required. For the great army recruited for the invasion of England in 1386 about 2,500 French crossbowmen were conscripted to supplement the 1,100 Genoese crossbowmen, the largest force of archers deployed by the French since the 1340s.11

Like their English counterparts and for much the same reasons, crossbowmen were generally men of some substance. Pages and varlets by comparison represented the lowest form of military existence. They were not paid by the war treasurers. They were not included in the muster strengths before the campaign or the body counts after an engagement. They were unmourned by their companions when they died, as they did in great numbers since they were vulnerable to disease, wore only rudimentary armour and were not worth taking for ransom. Yet there was on average one of them for every man-at-arms, which meant that they must have constituted at least a third of every major field army. Pages were simple body servants employed by men-at-arms to follow them to war. Most of them were boys with no military function, whose main task was to carry their master’s helmet and lance on the move, to attend to his food and comforts and care for the horses and equipment. Varlets (sometimes called gros varlets or, more revealingly,pillards – ‘looters’) were usually slightly older men who performed many of the same functions but also carried weapons and counted as combatants. They fought beside their masters. They acted as foragers and camp guards. Some of them were even mustered asmen-at-arms. The varlets were men of little training who stood out even in the ugly world of fourteenth-century warfare for their casual violence, brutality and incendiarism. Uprooted from their communities to fight in distant campaigns they were generally paid off when the campaign was over and released into the murky underworld at the margins of military life until another campaign brought them the chance of another job. A few served indiscriminately on both sides.

The lives of many of these men are told in the vast record of pardons preserved in the registers of the French royal chancery. But they were the lucky ones with the influence and money to buy forgiveness. The judicial register of the Châtelet prison in Paris, which survives for a period of just over two years between 1389 and 1392, contains the biographies of a large number of soldiers’ servants and varlets, patiently recorded by the clerk of the court in the brief interval between their arrest for house-breaking or cutting purses and their death on the public gibbet at Montfaucon. Most of these wretches had been thrown onto the uncertain job market of fin-de-siècle Paris in the aftermath of the truce of Leulinghem. Jacquet de Lyembois had served for two decades as the varlet of various men-at-arms when he was brought in for stealing four écus from his last master, a Genoese captain of crossbowmen. His confession revealed a rootless petty criminal living by theft and frauds in the intervals between military employments. He had not returned to his home at Douai since his teens. Girard de Sancerre, a soldier’s servant for twenty years, had led a very similar existence in the intervals of serving with the armies in Flanders, Guelders and Languedoc. Jean Petit, brought in for picking pockets in the street, had served with men-at-arms in his native Normandy and joined the Guelders campaign of 1388, supplementing his wages with thefts from his fellow soldiers. Oudinot Guigne was arrested for breaking into a house in Montmartre with a gang of thieves. He turned out to have served continually in the wars for sixteen years, carrying the helmet of a squire in the retinue of the Viscount of Rochechouart. The picture of the unemployed, violent and thieving soldier’s varlet became so familiar to the judges of the Châtelet that it came to serve as a badge of infamy, justifying torture and death when mere misfortune might have deserved more sympathy. Jean de Noyon, an unskilled labourer brought in for stealing a silver saltcellar, had served just twice in the armies, both times in order to raise cash to support his family. But that was enough to persuade his judges that he was an incorrigible recidivist. They sent him to the gallows. At the end of most of these accounts, after a brief record of the date, time and manner of their execution, appeared the usual notation for the accountant: ‘no worldly possessions’.12


Increasingly the distinction which mattered on both sides was not between noble and non-noble but between professional and occasional soldiers. Philippe de Mézières distinguished three classes of men-at-arms: the first comprised noblemen who served only when the King was at the head of his host; the second were men who were in continuous service against the enemy; and the third were non-nobles, ‘even labourers’, who had made a profession of arms and served for loot and pay.13Allowing for a certain overlap between the categories this is a broadly accurate picture of military life in both England and France. In the later fourteenth century the first class tended to dwindle in favour of the second and third. The older tradition which treated military service as a duty owed to their rank by men who were mainly occupied in land management and local politics survived, but was no longer capable of supplying the numbers of trained men required for a long and debilitating war. By the end of the following century it would be almost extinct. The jumped-up archers of whom Sir Thomas Gray complained and the soldiers’ varlets arrested by the sergeants of the Châtelet were all professionals of their kind, men who lived by war and little else. At the opposite extreme the same was true of the three French knights responsible for organising the jousts of Saint-Ingelvert as well as a fair number of their English adversaries.

The change was due partly to demographic and economic factors, but mainly to a significant shift in the character of the war. French writers of the period distinguished between war ‘with the host’ and war ‘on the frontiers’.14 War with the host was fought by large field armies commanded by the King or a prince of his blood in which most of the participants were occasional soldiers serving to justify their status. The war on the frontiers was fought mainly by professionals in permanent service. The last three decades of the fourteenth century were pre-eminently the age of the frontier war. Gone were the impressive hordes serving for a few weeks each year which had stood in line at Buirenfosse and fought at Crécy and Poitiers. Gone were the great pitched battles in which princes gambled the fate of nations. Charles V reconquered most of Aquitaine in the 1370s with small, elite armies of mounted men which remained in service for months at a time, winter and summer. It was a war of sieges, border raids and skirmishes, aimed primarily at controlling territory and fought by troops drawn from permanent garrisons and fixed bases. Endurance, mobility, surprise, rapid concentration and dispersal were their tools. Beginning with the occupation of Brittany and Lower Normandy before 1360 English strategy had haltingly moved in the same direction. For a time, after the war reopened in 1369, the English tried to combine a strategy of border operations conducted from fixed bases with a reversion to the great continental field armies which had been so successful in the heyday of Edward III and the Black Prince. But the commanders of these armies had no answer to the French strategy of avoiding battle and emptying the countryside of supplies. They were unable to withstand the relentless harassment of their flanks and foraging parties as they moved through the forests and the plat pays of France. For a mixture of tactical and financial reasons the English abandoned large-scale field operations in France altogether after 1381.

The kings whose presence had been the main draw for noblemen now rarely took the field in person. Charles V never commanded his own armies. Edward III made a number of abortive plans to do so, but his last campaign was fought in 1360. Richard II commanded an army in Scotland in 1385 and two in Ireland in the following decade but never fought in France. It is no coincidence that the only occasions when the war briefly reverted to the older pattern of immense, largely non-professional armies serving for short periods were the campaigns led by the youthful Charles VI between 1382 and 1388. Many of those who enlisted in these royal armies had never fought a major campaign before. The Datini factor in Avignon, whose main business was selling arms to French soldiers, reported in the summer of 1386 that he was doing a roaring trade selling chain mail and helmets to southerners heading for Sluys to take part in the French invasion of England. These were gentlemen, but they evidently lacked even the most basic military equipment. Yet, although such men made up a large proportion of Charles VI’s armies in the 1380s, the kernel of these great hordes remained the corps of professional soldiers formed in the continual dogfights on the marches of Calais, Brittany and Aquitaine and in the French expeditionary armies in Italy and Castile. When the host was paid off these were the men who returned to garrison duties, ‘not like others who mark the end of their great exertions by returning to a life of ease and idleness’ as the contemporary biographer of Jean de Boucicaut smugly remarked.15

The new pattern of the war called for much longer periods of service by people with different skills. In England even major field armies commonly contracted to serve for a full year. The men who joined Knolles’s army of 1370 indented for two years and some of those who followed John of Gaunt to Castile in 1386 were away for three. Service in the garrisons of the march could keep a man abroad for a decade or more. These were difficult conditions for men with sheep to shear, grain to harvest and influence to cultivate at home. There was a progressive divergence between the outlook and way of life of the professional soldier and the rest, which was accentuated by the growing luxury and refinement of civilian life. As early as the 1350s a note of contempt for soldiers who were too fond of the creature comforts of their homes crept into the works of hardened professionals like Geoffrey de Charny. The wars of the late fourteenth century, respecting neither the season of the year nor the hour of day, made far greater demands on those who fought in them. It required constant training, great physical endurance and weapons-handling skills of a high order. The poet Eustache Deschamps thought that in time of truce or peace a soldier’s life should be passed in jousting, military exercises, mock assaults and hunting. It was, perhaps, a counsel of perfection, but there is no doubt that many soldiers took it seriously. Jean de Boucicaut, who became Marshal of France in 1391, kept fit by constant exercise. He vaulted onto his horse in full armour without using the stirrup. His did muscle exercises in heavy chain mail. He went on long cross-country runs. He watched his weight, taking small helpings and little wine at meals. He may have been more dedicated than most and indeed we know that he was sometimes mocked for it. It was, however, professionalism like Boucicaut’s that persuaded the Provençal jurist Honoré Bonet that bearing arms should be the sole occupation of a soldier. In his widely read treatise on the law and practice of war Bonet gave it as his opinion that a soldier should not even own land lest it distract him from his trade. In the last three decades of the fourteenth century the main burden of the war was borne by men for whom fighting was their main and often their sole occupation.16

Between 1385 and 1387 the commissioners of the Constable of England toured England taking evidence in the famous litigation between Sir Richard Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor about the right to display the arms azure a bend or. A fair number of the witnesses who gave evidence before them were professional soldiers, some of whom had enjoyed long and full careers. The squire Nicholas de Sabraham, who gave his age as ‘over sixty’, had served with Balliol and Bohun in Scotland in the 1330s, with Edward III at Crécy and Calais, then in Normandy, Brittany and Gascony in the 1350s and before Paris in 1359. In times of peace and truce he found other wars to fight. He turned to crusading, fighting at Alexandria under the King of Cyprus. He invaded Castile with the Black Prince. Later he served in the defence of Constantinople and fought with Sir John Hawkwood’s company in Italy and with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. Interestingly, Sabraham never had himself dubbed as a knight. Yet he was clearly a professional soldier deriving most if not all his income from war wages and the profits of war. Cheshire, the county from which many of these witnesses came, was a highly militarised society. But much the same pattern emerges from the evidence in other cases before the Court of Chivalry. Sir Nicholas Goushill, a witness in the hotly contested dispute between John Lord Lovell and Thomas Lord Morley, declared that he had borne arms for thirty-five years in Scotland, Ireland and all over France, serving in the retinues of at least seven different captains. The thumbnail autobiographies at the beginning of such depositions suggest that many other veterans enjoyed active careers extending over thirty years or more. Most had taken up arms in their teens, sometimes as young as thirteen or fourteen, and carried on year after year for as long as their health allowed. Generally they retired from active service by the age of fifty but some served for much longer. Sir John Richford, who had first seen action at the battle of Sluys in 1340 when he was fifteen, had recently served in Richard II’s army of Scotland at the age of sixty.17

The great majority of these men fought in the ‘war with the host’. But the ultimate professionals, in England as in France, were those who fought the ‘war on the frontiers’. The Cheshire knight Sir Hugh Browe put his finger on the difference when he told the Constable’s commissioners that he could not say whether the Scropes had worn the disputed coat of arms in war, for they performed their military service in the great expeditionary armies whereas he, Browe, had served for twenty years entirely ‘in the garrisons and companies of France’. Browe had served most of his time in Brittany, where he had been Knolles’s captain at Derval. A generation of retainers of the Prince of Wales served as provincial seneschals and garrison commanders in Rouergue, Quercy and Poitou. They left home as untried youths for the marches of France and were rarely seen by their friends and kinsmen. The Cheshire squire John Stratton, who probably went to Gascony with the Prince in 1355, married there and apart from a short sojourn in England in the late 1370s remained until his death in 1397, serving in the armies of successive seneschals. Another Cheshire man, Sir William Mainwaring, left for Gascony in 1371 and served there until he died in 1399, making only rare and brief visits to England. Henry Bolingbroke’s friend Sir John Norbury had begun his career with the English companies in Brittany in the 1360s and over the next three decades served for long periods as a professional garrison commander at Libourne, Fronsac and Brest as well as fighting with the English mercenary corps in Portugal in 1385 and in Bolingbroke’s retinue in Prussia in the 1390s. He must have spent the greater part of his adult life overseas. These are just a few of the professional soldiers whose careers have left regular traces in the records but they are representative of thousands more who were too lowly or unremarkable for their lives to be retraced or who embarked hopefully on a career brought suddenly and inconspicuously short by an arrow in the throat or an axe in the skull. ‘We are men of all sorts,’ said Norbury to the Portuguese King, ‘but all looking for the life of arms and adventure.’18

A broadly similar pattern emerged in France, where the conduct of war was increasingly entrusted to men who did very little else. In 1372 Charles V was directly paying fifty garrisons, most of them on the marches of Normandy, in addition to the standing armies maintained on the marches of Calais and Aquitaine and the permanent companies of Bretons, Genoese and Welshmen. These men were more or less permanently under arms. The border campaigns were led by captains whose names appear in French muster rolls year after year. Some of them, like their English counterparts, served the King for decades. Yon de Garencières was already an experienced soldier when he commanded a French military mission in Scotland in 1336. Yet he attended the jousts of Saint-Ingelvert more than half a century later and was still bringing his men to the King’s armies in 1392. The Breton captain Maurice de Tréséguidy had been among ‘the Thirty’ who fought in the famous arranged battle of 1351. He was still active at the end of the century, when he fought with the French army against the Turks at Nicopolis. Marshal Boucicaut’s military career spanned thirty-seven years from his first campaign in Castile in 1378 at the age of twelve to his capture on the battlefield of Agincourt in 1415. Similar histories can be found among the military retainers of the great princely houses. Guy de Pontailler, who rose to be Marshal of Burgundy, first appears in the muster rolls in Saintonge in 1351 and did not retire from active service until after the abortive invasion of England in 1386. These were the wonderful old men whom the Knight of La Tour Landry described for his daughters, travelling from one noble household to the next, holding the company spellbound with tales of a lifetime’s adventures. The Duke of Bourbon’s standard-bearer Jean de Châteaumorand fought in his master’s retinue almost every year from 1370 to 1390. After the forty-year truce with England in 1396 he took service with the Byzantine Emperor, acting as captain of Constantinople for three years between 1399 and 1402. Châteaumorand survived into a forgetful dotage, regaling the Duke’s biographer with colourful and inaccurate anecdotes about his master and dying well into his eighties in 1429. The careers of humbler men are more difficult to discover. But the same continuity of personnel penetrated down to a level well below the commanders. A great captain like Bertrand du Guesclin was able to call on the same men-at-arms year after year to serve in his retinue. It is clear from the mass of pardons for miscellaneous acts of violence which survive in the French chancery registers that regular service in the armies was a career chosen by many minor landowners on the margins of gentility. References to their ‘long service in the wars’ were a commonplace of such documents. This man had ‘fought armed and mounted in our wars in Flanders, on the march of Picardy and in Scotland with our Admiral’. That one had ‘always served us and our forbears and ridden with Du Guesclin in his time’.19


The motives of men who chose the life of a career soldier were too varied for generalisation. The pursuit of fame, honour and adventure is a persistent theme of the literature of the period. The bonds of patronage and dependence propelled men into war service behind the banner of some great man. Flight from debt, crime or domestic catastrophe were all important recruiting agents. In both countries landless younger sons were often drawn to the soldier’s life. There was always a large number of noble bastards on the French King’s payroll.20 The prolonged decline in incomes from land and the scale of war damage and social disruption in regions such as Picardy, Flanders and Brittany must have added to the attractions of a military career.

Money was an almost universal factor in men’s calculations. The daily wage of French men-at-arms and bowmen rose steadily during the latter half of the fourteenth century in response to the difficulties of recruitment and the broader economic pressures which pushed up earnings everywhere after the Black Death. The standard wages paid by the French war treasurers for field service were fixed in the 1360s at twenty sous a day for an ordinary knight, the equivalent of four shillings sterling. A banneret received twice as much, a squire half. These rates, which were about a third higher than those paid before 1360, remained in force until the 1390s when they were increased again by some fifty per cent. By comparison with other paid employment, they were generous, equating to the income of a small manor. But they had to be set against the substantial costs of army life. A man-at-arms or a crossbowmen was required to bring his own horse, clothing, armour and weapons. French troops, who were generally fighting on their own territory or that of their allies, were expected to pay their way on campaign. That meant buying food and lodging for themselves and fodder, straw and shoeing for their horses, and paying the wages and keep of their servants. These expenses must have varied considerably from one occasion to the next but the fragmentary evidence which survives suggests that they consumed a large proportion of a man’s earnings.

The more prominent professional soldiers did better. Captains of companies received, on top of their wages, a fixed monthly fee known as an état which served as a recruitment bonus and a mark of status. The rate varied according to the dignity and importance of the captain but was in principle one franc per man per month. Garrison commanders, who were almost always professionals, also received more. On the march of Normandy, for example, the captain of Bayeux, who served for seven years from 1371 to 1378, was paid 300 livres a year and 400 livres in the difficult year 1372. In addition he received his état and about 1,000 livres in gifts from the King over the period of his captaincy plus irregular receipts such as fines for minor breaches of discipline and fees for inspecting other garrisons of the region. The captain of Caen, which was the seat of the Lieutenant and the most important French fortress in Lower Normandy, received 1,000 livres a year in the same period.21

Although it is impossible to prove, it seems likely that regular pay at adequate rates contributed much to the reputation and success of French arms in the latter part of the fourteenth century. Certainly that is what is suggested by the contrasting experience of England. The customary rates of pay in England had been fixed in the early part of the reign of Edward III at two shillings a day for a knight bachelor, twice that for a banneret and half for a squire. A mounted archer got six pence a day, half the rate paid to a squire. These rates had served well enough before 1360. But by 1369 they were low, about half what was being paid to soldiers fighting in the armies of the King of France. With the resumption of the war it was found necessary to offer significant increases in order to attract recruits. The army which served under John of Gaunt in Picardy in 1369 was paid at one and a half times the ‘customary’ rates. In the following year the army of Sir Robert Knolles was paid double rates for the opening period of the campaign. However, the English government’s resources proved to be incapable of sustaining war wages at this level. Troops serving in garrisons or at sea continued to be paid at single rates. And from 1372 onward increasing financial stringency forced Edward III’s ministers to revert to single rates even for their continental field armies. The last expeditionary army which is known to have received more than the customary wage rates was the small army of the Earl of Pembroke which sailed for Gascony in May 1372. At the same time, the government put an end to the century-old system by which the King paid compensation for horses lost on campaign. This measure, which was adopted in France at about the same time, achieved significant financial savings but the change greatly increased the financial risks associated with military service, especially for the higher ranks who had more and dearer mounts.22

The result of the sharp deterioration in English terms of service was that men-at-arms were more difficult to recruit and constituted a declining proportion of England’s continental armies. Belted knights were particularly rare as gentry families with the means to support the status increasingly declined to do so. The rewards were simply not good enough to justify the heavy investment in training, equipment and horseflesh. The figures are remarkable. In the early campaigns of Edward III in the Low Countries and Brittany, between 1338 and 1343, about a quarter of the men-at-arms were knights. This was still the rule of thumb, at least in theory, when the war was resumed in 1369. Eleven years later when the Earl of Buckingham invaded France the proportion had fallen to six per cent. By comparison the proportion of knights in French field armies remained roughly constant at about eleven or twelve per cent from the 1350s to the end of the century.23

The English King’s ministers were well aware that low pay was one reason for their recruitment problems. But instead of increasing the basic rate they responded by spending more on recruitment bonuses. ‘Regards’, as these bonuses were called in England, were paid to captains who contracted to furnish companies of men-at-arms for the King’s service. The traditional rate was 100 marks per quarter for every thirty men-at-arms. This was a very substantial sum, nearly four times the standard état paid to French captains. It represented at least a third of the wage bill of a company of men-at-arms. From 1370 the traditional rate was doubled and generally remained at that level even when war wages were reduced. The combination of high recruitment bonuses and low wages had a baleful effect on English armies. The main beneficiaries were the professional captains and war contractors who could make substantial fortunes by finding recruits. They either indented directly with the Crown or entered into subcontracts with great magnates to furnish troops for their immense retinues. In either case they pocketed the regard. Quite frequently they also paid war wages to their men at rates even lower than the Crown rates which they were themselves receiving. The predictable result was to depress the quality of recruits. The Northumberland knight Sir John Strother, who contracted to find thirty men-at-arms for the retinue of the Earl of March in 1374, may have found some of them in the traditional way among his friends and tenants but a substantial part of his retinue was hired in the great pool of unemployed soldiery in and around London. Half of his known recruits could not even call themselves squires. Sir Hugh Hastings, who raised a company for the Earl of Buckingham’s invasion of France in 1380, made up his numbers in much the same way, also in London. Very few military subcontracts survive, and these ones represent a very small sample, but there is a good deal of anecdotal evidence that across England captains were recruiting men by scraping the barrel of military manpower. John Lord Neville of Raby was accused in the Good Parliament of taking a retinue to Brittany which was well below its nominal strength and composed of ‘inadequate fellows such as boys and other worthless people for which he drew full payment of his wages’. How far Neville was personally responsible for this state of affairs, as opposed to the captains whom he retained, is impossible to say. But he was certainly not the only man to lead a ragged band of roughs to war alongside the traditional elite of trained cavalrymen. The Duke of Gloucester personally supervised the muster of the men-at-arms recruited for the naval campaign of 1387 in order to ensure that it did not include ‘cobblers and tailors from London and the cities, such as had previously been recruited on low pay in order to put money into the purses of their captains’.24

Profits of war contributed a growing proportion of military earnings even in France, where war wages were relatively high. Writing about the soldiers who returned from Castile in 1387 Froissart observed that the men who had thrown themselves into the daily round of pillage and robbery could be recognised at once by their grand horses, satchels of gold and silver and bulging chests full of valuables; whereas those who had simply subsisted on their wages returned impoverished, ill-mounted and bedraggled. The successes of French arms in this period brought a rich crop of ransoms to successful military entrepreneurs. A much larger number helped themselves to plunder and patis not only when operating in Flanders, Italy and Spain but in their own country as well. For English soldiers, fighting on conquered land and paid irregularly at wretched rates, the prospect of loot and ransoms was the critical element in every financial calculation. Indeed pay rates were commonly fixed on that assumption. Sir Robert Knolles’s army of 1370, which contracted to serve for two years, was offered generous pay for the first three months but thereafter was expected to live entirely on the profits of war. Unlike French soldiers, who kept whatever they could take, English soldiers had traditionally been required to surrender a proportion of their takings to the captain whom they served. He in turn was required to surrender the same proportion of what he received to his own captain and so on up to the King. A serious attempt was made to compensate soldiers for their reduced opportunities and poor rates of pay by increasing the proportion of their takings which they were allowed to keep. Traditionally a half, it rose in the last three decades of the fourteenth century to two-thirds. In practice widespread evasion and fraud increased it still further.25

The main consequence of this growing emphasis on profits of war was to broaden still further the gulf between professional and occasional soldiers. Professionals were not only more skilful and persistent in the pursuit of loot and prisoners but tended to fight the kind of war in which these were easier to come by. The French policy of emptying the countryside in the path of the enemy and avoiding major engagements ensured that there was little money to be made out of field service in the late fourteenth century. The lion’s share of war profits was made by garrison troops and by the permanent forces of the march who were almost invariably professionals. They were derived from the patis exacted within riding distance of occupied fortresses; from safe-conducts sold to merchants and refugees; and from plunder and prisoners taken in the constant raids into the surrounding country. Sir Hugh Browe, the man who told the commissioners in Scrope v. Grosvenor that he had served throughout his career in garrisons and companies of France, made a modest fortune for his efforts which he laid out in buying land and influence in his native Cheshire. The Craddock family, which had served over two generations as administrators and garrison commanders on the march of Aquitaine, came back rich enough to build the splendid new chancel of Nantwich church. Sir Thomas Trivet was one of the many garrison commanders who showed how money could be made even in defeat by a captain who chose the right moment to sell out. By comparison very few of those who joined the great continental chevauchées made any money at all beyond their wages and regards. The Kent knight Sir Thomas Fogg was a career soldier who had known both the best and the worst of England’s fortunes. He had made considerable sums as a professional garrison commander in Lower Normandy and Brittany before 1370. But his service was consistently unprofitable during the following decade when he fought in the main English expeditionary armies on the continent and briefly at Calais. He was captured on John of Gaunt’s march through France in 1373–4 and spent several years on parole trying to raise his ransom. Fogg was a lifetime retainer of Gaunt, just as he had previously served his father-in-law Henry of Grosmont. But years later in his old age he would tell anyone who cared to listen that half a lifetime of service to the Duke of Lancaster had cost him 10,000 marks of his fortune.

As the chronicler Froissart once observed, losses were part of the chances of war: ‘une fois perte, autrefois gaing’. In the reign of Richard II, however, Fogg’s was a far commoner story than the dazzling tales of the Knolleses and Calveleys of an earlier generation. Few new fortunes were being made in the 1380s even by professionals. Cherbourg and Brest probably remained profitable for their non-resident captains and perhaps for the soldiers stationed there right up to their final surrender in the 1390s. But they were the exceptions. Ransom districts were exhausted and depopulated. Calais and its satellites were hemmed in by French garrisons which prevented the establishment of ransom districts in Picardy and Artois. The English had lost all of their other fortresses north of the Loire and nine-tenths of the territory that they had once held in the south-west. On the shrunken borders of Aquitaine there was still money to be made from patis, but except perhaps at Fronsac it was being made by Gascons, not Englishmen and by routiersrather than regular troops.26


Armies were communities on the move whose structures of authority tended to replicate those which were familiar in ordinary life. They depended on traditional notions of hierarchy and status which did not readily accommodate professional soldiers. Bertrand du Guesclin, the most famous professional soldier of his day, was a former freebooter who came from the lowest level of Breton society consistent with gentility. He was famously awkward in the presence of men who outranked him socially. According to Froissart Du Guesclin had serious misgivings about accepting appointment as Constable in 1370. ‘The office of Constable,’ he told Charles V,

carries great power and status. Whoever would do the job properly must perforce exercise command over great and small alike. Look at your brothers here, at your nephews and cousins, all of them men used to commanding men-at-arms in raiding forces and field armies alike. How am I supposed to exercise command over them?

In fact, he never did. His own campaigns were fought mainly with his own military retinue and other companies of professionals, largely without the participation of the higher nobility. When he fought with the princes of the royal blood or the heads of the great noble houses, they took command and he served as their adviser. Many of the campaigns of the last three decades of the fourteenth century were led by men whose social standing was no higher than Du Guesclin’s and who did not have the authority of his office. Yet the great Constable’s concerns were widely shared. In 1387 the French royal Council appointed Guillaume de Neilhac and Gaucher de Passat, two minor noblemen who had served the Crown as professional captains for many years, to command an army of 2,000 men-at-arms in Castile. These two made much the same point as Du Guesclin had done seventeen years before: ‘this is too great an enterprise for mere knights like us.’27

Their concern about their authority was not fanciful as English experience showed. The English produced a number of talented commanders in the late fourteenth century who had risen from relatively humble beginnings. Many of them had served their apprenticeship like Du Guesclin with the free companies in France and Castile. They had no difficulty in taking command of the minor campaigns fought by small task forces composed of men like themselves. But the great chevauchées which represented the high points of the war were a different matter. One campaign after another threw up serious problems of organisation, discipline and command, often originating in the tensions generated by the presence of professional captains. Sir John Chandos was a man of gentle but obscure birth who had risen entirely by royal patronage. He was a famous soldier, widely admired on both sides, who rose to become Constable of Aquitaine and the Prince of Wales’s principal military lieutenant in the duchy. Yet in 1364, when Chandos was in command of the Anglo-Breton army at the battle of Auray, Sir Hugh Calveley refused to comply with his order to take command of the rearguard, a task which he regarded as demeaning. Calveley eventually backed down. Five years later in 1369, when Chandos was serving as the Prince’s lieutenant on the march of Poitou, the young Earl of Pembroke refused to serve under him. His advisers persuaded him that it was not fitting for an earl, even one almost entirely lacking in military experience, to serve under the command of a banneret. Unlike Calveley, Pembroke did not back down. As a result the two men had to divide their forces and operate in different sectors of the march.

The appointment of Sir Robert Knolles to command the expedition sent to France in 1370 was a notable break with tradition which proved to be a turning point in more ways than one. Knolles, like Du Guesclin, was a freebooter by origin and inclination. His whole career marked a reversal of traditional hierarchies, symbolised by the manner in which, years before, he had been dubbed as a knight at the hands of two of his own subordinates after the capture of the city of Auxerre. For some men this was the world turned upside down. The captains serving under Knolles in 1370 included a knight of the Garter, a baron and the heir of another and several other distinguished noblemen. Anticipating trouble Knolles took the unprecedented precaution of requiring them to swear an oath to co-operate with him before the expedition left England. The experiment was not a success for reasons which went some way to vindicate traditional notions of rank. For all his military skills and formidable personality and in spite of the King’s letters patent and the captains’ oaths Knolles was unable to impose his authority on his companions. As a result his army fell apart in the course of the campaign.28

Fourteenth-century practice smoothed the impact of rank and personality by making the command of armies to some extent a collective exercise. Every military commander surrounded himself with a council of advisers to guide him and transmit his decisions to the rest of the army. Philippe de Mézières thought that an army commander’s council should comprise ten or twelve experienced knights of whom at least four or five should be with him at all times in addition to a lawyer or two to resolve disputes among the men. Some such practice was invariably followed in both English and French armies. Even the experienced and self-confident Bertrand du Guesclin had a small group of trusted companions ‘by whose views he was guided in all things’. After 1371 men of Knolles’s kind would be obliged to exercise their military skills in English armies at one remove as members of a council of war, where their influence was often very great but less conspicuous. The Earl of Buckingham commanded the great continentalchevauchée of 1380 with hardly any military experience behind him. The real direction of the campaign was supplied by Sir Robert Knolles, his brother-in-arms Sir Hugh Calveley and two other professional captains, William Lord Latimer and Sir Thomas Percy. The crusade of the Bishop of Norwich was another campaign conducted under the nominal leadership of an august novice, guided by a council of war packed with professional soldiers.29

A large part of the organisational difficulties encountered by army commanders arose from the absence of any effective chain of command. On the march and in battle the larger field armies were formed into ‘battalions’, each under a single commander who was generally a great nobleman, or in France one of the military officers of the Crown. A battalion had no fixed size. It was, as Honoré Bonet said, as large or as small as the marshals chose to make it. The larger ones could be several thousand strong. But battalions were essentially formless. The company remained the basic building block of the armies of both sides and there were no intermediate officers between its captain and the battalion commander. Companies were generally highly cohesive social units united by powerful bonds of mutual loyalty and dependence. Varying in size from half a dozen men to several hundred, most of them were recruited in a limited geographical area where their captain was a prominent figure. They generally included large numbers of his kinsmen, neighbours, friends and tenants. They fought under his banner or pennon. They took his name as their war-cry: ‘Guesclin! Clisson! Sancerre! Sempy! Laval!’ They followed his orders even if it meant abandoning the rest of the army on the field or engaging in independent operations of their own. ‘By the laws of war,’ said Froissart, ‘no man can be blamed for following his own lord and captain.’30

In both countries attempts were made to create more cohesive armies by replacing the old solidarities of the military aristocracy with more formal lines of authority. In France there had already been several experiments in this direction, beginning with the elaborate ordinance of John II in 1351. The most ambitious scheme of reform was devised by Charles V of France. His ordinance of 1374 on the organisation of the armies required every captain to hold a commission from the King or his lieutenants. It insisted that a company should comprise a hundred men-at-arms, no more or less, divided into chambres of ten men each. Larger companies were to be split up and smaller ones amalgamated and placed under a captain nominated by the King. Every captain would be held personally responsible for the indiscipline of his men. No one was to withdraw from the army without leave. The scheme produced mixed results. But a hierarchy of units began to take shape; and the notion slowly took root that the company was part of a larger unity whose loyalty was owed to the Crown not just to its own captain. Writing in the early 1350s the famous French paladin Geoffrey de Charny still saw the army not as an organic body united by common bonds of discipline but as a group of men engaged in the pursuit of honour and reward subject to a common code of values which exalted individual courage and achievement. He thought it a nice question whether a man who disobeyed orders in pursuit of personal glory was entitled to demand his contractual remuneration. Few people would have had any difficulty with that question a generation later. In the 1380s the jurist Honoré Bonet considered that a man-at-arms was bound to obey the commander of the army in which he served on pain of death. A man who attacked prematurely or withdrew from the army without leave to pursue his own adventures was liable to be summarily beheaded by the constable’s order even if his insubordination resulted in a triumph of arms. Froissart’s view about the primacy of the captain’s authority was becoming old-fashioned even as he wrote it. The disciplinary functions of the constable and the marshals underwent a notable expansion in this period. A growing range of offences was brought within their purview: cowardice, desertion, feigned illness and self-inflicted wounds and fighting within the ranks.31

Very similar developments were occurring in England. In 1385, at the outset of Richard II’s campaign against the Scots, a comprehensive set of ordinances of war was issued in his name as the army passed Durham. Its very first clause provided that ‘all manner of men of whatever nation, rank or condition they be, shall obey the orders of the King and his Constable and Marshals on pain of his life and goods.’ Much of the rest of the document was concerned to limit the autonomy of individual companies and to restrain the countless acts of indiscipline to which men were provoked by the pursuit of private profit and glory. Companies were assigned to battalions whose commanders they were required to obey. No man was to shout out his own name or his captain’s as his war-cry. None was to cry ‘havoc’ in the host without authority, the traditional signal to break ranks and begin the competitive scramble for prisoners and booty. None was to march ahead of his battalion or to go off on mounted raids without specific orders. Quarrels about the distribution of spoil were to be referred to the Constable and the Marshals rather than settled by violence. A range of penalties was decreed for infractions, from death at one extreme to the confiscation of a horse and armour or the loss of an ear at the other. It is possible that less elaborate codes of discipline had been issued in earlier campaigns but these are the earliest English ordinances of war to survive and they were used as a model for all subsequent documents of the same kind.32

The new solidarity received visible expression in the growing use of uniforms. Companies still followed the heraldic banner of their captain and embossed his arms on their carts and tents as they had always done. Philip of Burgundy had 2,000 miniature pennons of his arms made in 1383 to be distributed among the men of his battalion in the campaign in Flanders. Another 4,000 were made in 1386 for the battalion which he intended to lead to England. His fellow commanders probably did the same for their battalions. But national emblems increasingly superseded the disparate war-cries and confused mass of heraldic emblems and livery colours which had enabled an earlier generation to distinguish friend from foe. In French royal armies the use of the upright white cross against a black or red background, which had begun tentatively in the 1350s, had become compulsory for urban contingents by 1369. It was the general practice in all French royal armies by the end of the century. Richard II’s Durham ordinances required every man in the army regardless of rank or nationality to wear a large red cross of St. George over his armour, back and front, and prescribed the death penalty for any enemy who was caught wearing one. Gascons wore the St. George’s cross just as Englishmen did to show that they were on the same side. In Scotland somewhat similar ordinances had been issued by the commanders of the Franco-Scottish host a few weeks earlier calling for the St. Andrew’s saltire to be worn on their tunics by both national contingents.33


For most men-at-arms in both countries the story of a campaign opened with an indenture. This was a written agreement with a captain by which the man-at-arms agreed to serve in his company. In England the system of indentures had by now attained a high degree of elaboration and was all but universal. The man-at-arms undertook to present himself at the muster when summoned, ‘sufficiently’ armed, mounted and equipped. If he contracted to bring other soldiers with him the exact number and type were stated. If the company was to serve overseas, provision was made for shipping. The period of service was specified. Terms were agreed for the distribution of spoil, generally matching the terms of the captain’s own indenture with the King. Rates were agreed for war wages and regards together with the intervals at which they were to be paid. Some of these documents bear the marks of hard bargaining with several hands and untidy erasures and insertions on stained paper.

The fourteenth century was a law-minded age and the indenture was only the first of a number legal instruments to be executed before a soldier set out to war. In an age in which perjury was common and the proceedings of the courts were frequently turned by favour, bribery or violence, the judicial records are filled with stories of property seized from men who were away at the wars. It was the responsibility of the captain to obtain letters of protection for anyone of his company who was leaving landed wealth behind him. These letters, which were issued in hundreds in the weeks preceding every great continental campaign, stayed all legal proceedings against men who were absent on the King’s service. The richer soldiers with more complicated affairs would also petition for letters of attorney, which allowed them to appoint representatives to conduct their affairs while they were away. Finally there was a will to be made, often hurriedly on the night before leaving home or at the port while the ships were being brought to the beaches and quaysides for loading. Richard Lord Poynings was surely not the only member of John of Gaunt’s army of Castile to write his will ‘de ma main en haste’ by Plymouth Sound as he waited for the order to embark.34

A soldier’s paid service began at the muster. The word comes from the French montre (‘show’). Its purpose was to record the strength and status of the men presented by company captains and to inspect their horses, armour and weapons. The result was recorded by a clerk in a muster roll which served as the basis on which the captain would be paid for his company. Immediately after the muster the captain was entitled to receive an advance for his men. In France, the practice was to pay a month’s wages at the muster with fresh advances following at regular intervals during the campaign. English armies received more generous advances, a quarter’s wages and regards being normal and six months’ not uncommon. But in England the perpetual penury of the government meant that the advance was sometimes all that a man saw of his wages for many months or years. The procedure for taking the muster was much the same in both countries. In England it was generally taken at the port of embarkation by chamber knights who were not part of the army and were thought for that reason to be more independent. In France the muster was generally held in an open space beneath the walls of a town such as Arras, Angers or Tours, located some way back from the theatre of war at the hub of a regional road network. The work was done by officers appointed by the Constable, the Marshals and the Master of the Archers, men who were sworn to do their duty and like their English counterparts were chosen from those who would not themselves be serving in the army. Froissart has a graphic description of a muster of the English garrison of La Rochelle in 1372 which must have been very familiar to the soldiers who read him. Some sixty men paraded before the mustering officer on horseback in full armour, which they had spent hours polishing the night before. The mustering officer passed down the line finding fault here and there. ‘You there, where’s the rest of your gear? Find it if you don’t want your pay docked.’ ‘Yes sir.’ Elaborate precautions were taken against fraud. Musters were required to be held in the open air in daylight. The roll was drawn up in several counterparts. Men-at-arms were listed by name and status. Horses were branded on the thigh to ensure that the same beasts were not re-presented by another company.35

Yet, in spite of the growing administrative elaboration, mustering officers and pay clerks were frequently incompetent or corrupt and fraud was endemic. Timeless tricks feature regularly in the literature and ordinances of the period. The same equipment was passed from company to company as each presented itself in turn to the mustering officers. Captains borrowed men from each other to make up the contract strength and lied about their status. The mustering officer could not be everywhere at once. Substantial companies were sometimes mustered before clerks whose knowledge of equipment and horseflesh must have been very limited and who seem to have been easily gulled. John Lord Neville of Raby presented his company at Southampton in 1375 to a clerk who failed to notice serious deficiencies of both numbers and quality. The possibilities of fraud did not end there. Captains were supposed to have their pay reduced pro rata for men who deserted or died after the muster and were expected to repay their advances. But the ample records of the English financial administration reveal few cases in which this actually happened. French practice appears to have been more rigorous. Their musters were more strictly supervised. There were regular ‘reviews’ in the course of the campaign, generally on the first day of each month, at which the exercise was repeated in order to take account of casualties, desertions and losses of equipment, a practice which was not systematically adopted in English armies until the fifteenth century. But even in France there were constant complaints about the negligence and corruption of mustering officers. The war treasurers were widely believed to take bribes for overlooking irregularities. Charles V complained in 1373 that his companies of Genoese crossbowmen were serving at well below their payroll strength and that many of them were not Genoese or even crossbowmen but ‘worthless, low-grade fellows hired for a pittance’. It was notorious, his councillor Philippe de Mézières later recalled, that captains drew pay for 500 men-at-arms, who never had more than 250 in their companies and some absconded with their advances as soon as they had received them.36

A man-at-arms’ most expensive possessions were his horses and his armour. When the Black Prince directed in his will that his body should be escorted to the grave by two of his great war-horses and two men wearing his armour, he was exhibiting even in death the soldier’s two principal marks of status as well as following a practice which was becoming conventional among men of his caste. A squire was expected to have a ‘covered’ war-horse and a knight two of them. These were great beasts with the strength, agility and speed to carry a heavily armoured man-at-arms into battle. In addition to his war-horse a man-at-arms needed a palfrey to ride on the march and, if he could get shipping space for them, a sumpter for his baggage and a rouncy for his servant. This represented a considerable investment in horseflesh. Surviving horse valuations suggest that the average knight rode on a horse worth between £20 and £30 while his squire had an animal worth nearly £10. The largest and finest war-horses (known as destriers) could cost as much as £100. A man’s horse was a visible sign of his standing. But it might also make the difference between life and death. When Sir John Falconer was killed in a skirmish outside Benavente in the Castilian campaign of 1387 his companions knew that it was his low-grade horse which had done for him.37

Armour was becoming increasingly elaborate, especially in France where much attention was devoted to protecting soldiers from the destructive power of the English longbow. Most armour was still made of chain mail which was cheaper and lighter than plate and allowed freer movement and better ventilation. Mail remained ‘the good, the better and the best of the trade’ as an experienced arms dealer observed in 1385, but its defects were well known. The excavations carried out in the grave-pits at Wisby in Sweden, where a Danish army wiped out a ramshackle force of Swedish peasants and townsmen in July 1361, have provided powerful evidence of the lethal effect of archery on old-style armour. A large number of the victims had been killed by missiles shot into the air which fell vertically from above, splitting the links of their mail hoods and penetrating the skulls beneath. Mail hoods had already disappeared in France and England largely for this reason. Light steel or iron helmets (known as ‘bacinets’) with long neck-pieces at the back and moveable vizors over the eyes had become the universal item of equipment of the fighting man. As time went on the coat of mail was in turn superseded by plate body armour. Carefully contoured to present oblique surfaces to an enemy, well-made plate was practically impervious to arrows and bolts and gave a high degree of protection against lances, swords and axes. In the following century it would develop into elaborate articulated suits of armour, made of light, carburised steel hardened in the blast-furnaces of Italy and Germany. But in the late fourteenth century complete suits of plate armour were still too heavy and rigid for comfort. They appeared on funerary monuments and in tournaments but rarely in battle. Charles VI wore mail on campaign. John of Gaunt and his companions appeared in mail for their conference with the King of Portugal at Ponte de Mouro. Like most of their men-at-arms they wore it in combination with plate pieces: breast-plates, thigh and arm pieces and gauntlets covering the forearm and wrists.38

There is some evidence that the sums expended on horseflesh declined in the later fourteenth century, at least in England, possibly as a belated response to changes of battle tactics.39 Armour protection, on the other hand, became ever more costly. The Datini branch in Avignon offered bacinets at 6 livres with vizor, 4 without, with an extra 4½ livres for the camail of chain mail which was suspended from the bacinet to protect the throat and shoulders. A complete mail coat cost more than 14 livres. Scattered fragments of evidence suggest that in France it cost about 25 livres (say £6) to buy basic armour for a man-at-arms with no pretensions to status. This represented about two months’ war wages for a French squire. In England even the humble archer, protected by nothing more than his helmet and a boiled leather jacket, cost more than £2 to equip. At the opposite extreme the Duke of Burgundy could pay 100 francs (about £17) for a single suit of chain mail made in Milan. Thomas Duke of Gloucester’s armour was valued after his death at£103. All this was on top of the cost of buying at least one long sword, a long dagger (in effect a short sword) and several ten-foot wooden lances with metal-tipped points. In 1339, at the time of Edward III’s first continental campaign, the Hainault chronicler Jean le Bel had been astonished by the cavalcades of English men-at-arms wearing the latest plate pieces on their armour. He associated their swagger with a generation of English victories over France. But there is some anecdotal evidence that English men-at-arms of the late fourteenth century were no longer willing or able to lay out the great sums required. Half a century later other foreign observers, this time Portuguese, remarked on the shoddy equipment with which the army of John of Gaunt set out on their disastrous invasion of northern Castile.40

The growing demand for armour generated by half a century of war was met by an increasingly elaborate network of dealers supported by substantial industries. In both England and France armourers had traditionally worked from small workshops in a few centres, predominantly Paris and London. Their resources were quickly overwhelmed and their prices rose steeply, especially after the announcement of major campaigns. Supply expanded rapidly to fill the gap. In France the royal arsenal at Rouen turned out mass-produced armour and weapons in great quantity. Major industrial armouries grew up in Italy, Germany and the Low Countries, which acquired a virtual monopoly over certain lines such as plate pieces. The Datini firm sold large quantities of Italian plate armour into France. Bohemian dealers set up depots in London, one of which was found in 1387 to be holding a stock of nearly 700 pieces. By the end of the fourteenth century the trade had developed on highly organised and specialised lines: steel plate from Milan or Prague, helmets from Montauban, padded jackets from Toulouse, crossbows and bacinets from Genoa, gunpowder artillery from Châlons and Troyes, sword-blades from Germany and daggers from Castile. The Duke of Burgundy acquired his best swords from the famous cutlers of Bordeaux, just like his English and Gascon adversaries. The poet Eustache Deschamps cursed them all, these ‘swine’ who waxed fat on the tools of death.41

For most English armies the campaign opened with the departure of the mounted columns from Calais, their banners unfurled as they passed Ardres or Marquise into French territory. For the French, whose strategy was inevitably reactive, it opened less flamboyantly with the march to the front from a more or less distant mustering point. Their commanders must have started out with a rough mental image of the geography of the region in which they were operating and a broad strategic plan. Yet the lack of even rudimentary maps must have made detailed campaign planning exceptionally difficult. When the Earl of Buckingham entered France in July 1380 he had barely set foot in the country before and most of his companions were as ignorant of it as he was. Froissart reports that a halt had to be called on the first day for a council of war about ‘which roads they should take to accomplish their objectives’. It is clear that the Earl was heavily dependent on the recollections of his more experienced military advisers and on information obtained from scouts, prisoners and local guides. In this he was not at all unusual. The valiant captain, advised the ancient knight in Les Cent Ballades, rides often over the country where he is to fight and imprints the roads and fords on his memory. These, together with bridges and major cities, were the main points of reference. But there was much ignorance about them. Even Olivier de Clisson, marching north in the first days of the campaign of 1382, had to ask his companions about the course of the River Lys which marked the frontier of Flanders. ‘I do not know this land of Flanders,’ he explained; ‘I have never been here in my life.’ It is clear that Clisson had no maps. These difficulties were aggravated by the roughness of the roads and the changeable character of landscapes in an age when rivers could flood a valley overnight or change their course in a season and abandoned land was quickly covered by impenetrable forest and scrub. Bridges were routinely broken by the enemy and had to be repaired by throwing improvised timber carriage-ways across the stumps. In front of every army went a great corps of pioneers armed with picks, spades, axes and scythes to smooth the way for the wagons and hack away at the dense vegetation. Edward III’s pioneer corps in 1359 was 500 strong. The French army had 1,800 pioneers in Flanders in 1382 and no fewer than 3,000 when crossing the Ardennes in 1388.42

The problems of supply tended to dominate the strategy of English commanders, determining the route of the army and often the fate of a whole campaign. The English had an elaborate victualling system for supplying their permanent garrisons in France by sea. Calais was supplied from a permanent depot on the Isle of Thanet. Brest and Cherbourg were dependent on supplies shipped out from southern England and the Channel Islands. Even inland fortresses such as Derval, Saint-Sauveur and Fronsac were occasionally victualled from England. Supplying field armies on the move in hostile territory was a more difficult problem which the English never mastered. In his prime Edward III had tried several times to organise a supply train for his armies operating inland in France. Great wagon trains, loaded with biscuit, dried vegetables and salted meat and fish, accompanied the expeditions of 1339, 1340 and 1346. The Reims campaign of 1359–60 was the most ambitious exercise of its kind involving, according to the chronicler Jean le Bel, more than 10,000 horse-drawn carts. In 1346 and 1359 plans were laid to seize harbours to serve as coastal depots from which the carts could be refilled. These ambitious plans invariably failed. Experience showed that the food was either consumed or wasted within a very short time. The coastal depots proved difficult for the English to capture, or else the supplies reached them too late. With the arrival of all-mounted armies in the 1350s the wagon trains found it hard to keep up. John of Gaunt tried again when he invaded France in 1373, but his wagons were unable to cross the flooded rivers of northern France and the army ran out of food within a month of leaving Calais. During the difficult winter of 1386–7, when Gaunt was in northern Castile, an attempt was made to bring in cargoes of grain from England to supply his starving army. This was an ambitious undertaking in mid-winter, which may have refilled the stores of the Duke’s household but made little impression on the rest of the army.43

English armies in France encountered growing difficulties in living off the land. A large army on the move ate as much as the population of a substantial town. It was likely to exhaust the available supplies in any locality in a very short time. Whenever they could, English armies in France marched in columns following separate routes several miles apart in order to ease the burden on foragers. Even so they had to move on quickly to fresh territory or starve. Fodder for horses was even harder to find than food for men. Sieges posed special difficulties of supply. A siege army was rooted to the spot, its foragers forced to look for supplies over ever greater distances the longer the siege lasted. This was one reason why the English rarely attempted them. The French knew how to exploit these weaknesses. They became adept at emptying the countryside around the armies of the English. Their persistent cavalry attacks on foraging parties were highly effective. John of Gaunt’s army of 1373–4 was destroyed by hunger without ever engaging significant numbers of the enemy. The army with which he invaded Castile in 1387 suffered the same fate. In 1381 Gaunt’s brother Thomas of Woodstock was forced by supply problems to abandon the siege of Nantes and ultimately to return to England.

French armies operating on their own territory were in a different position. In theory they were forbidden to live off the land and in practice unable to do so for very long, for the same iron laws of supply applied to them. Few regions of France were capable of sustaining dense concentrations of soldiers from local resources whether they were friends or foes. Unlike the English, however, the French could bring supplies overland through friendly country from considerable distances, especially where there were navigable rivers. Philippe de Mézières thought that field armies should be supplied by a central commissariat, buying in bulk and issuing rations. He even gave some thought to the appropriate military diet. But in practice this was only ever done for the armies recruited for the abortive invasions of England in 1385 and 1386. Both of these enterprises involved immense supply operations supervised by royal officials across much of northern and western France. They marked a departure from the general rule, which was that French troops did not receive rations but were expected to buy their own supplies out of their advances.

It was left to private enterprise to ensure that there were goods for the soldiers to buy. Every French army was followed by a great tail of commercial victuallers who themselves depended on an extensive network of suppliers and carriers. They set up markets every evening at the edge of the encampments. The formula proved capable of almost infinite expansion. Operations in the Low Countries, a region ‘without wheat, grain, vines or fruit to despoil’, presented a particular challenge. The huge French host, more than 30,000 strong, which was recruited to confront the Bishop of Norwich’s crusade in 1383 was kept supplied throughout the campaign by an extensive system of seaborne and river-borne convoys organised by a Parisian wholesale grocer called Nicholas Boulard. When Charles VI invaded Guelders in 1388 the indispensable Boulard was once more in charge. He is said to have laid out more than 100,000 écus on the victualling operation. Huge bulk purchases were made in Germany, Burgundy and Champagne and carried on barges down the Rhine and the Meuse. Wholesalers from Utrecht and the towns of Brabant brought in more from across the Low Countries. The campaign was a logistical disaster but not for want of organisation.44

The fact that every company, indeed every individual, had to fend for himself meant that the hardships of the march were very unevenly distributed. The richest soldiers and those who were associated with the household of a great nobleman were often able to maintain a level of personal comfort which defied the elements and the problems of transport. We cannot know how long the French supply train would have lasted if it had ever landed in England in 1386, but the Duke of Burgundy’s household would have fared better than most. The list of stores laid in for them included 812 casks of wine, 105 beef and 447 mutton carcasses, 450 salted geese and 100 fresh ones, 4,550 fish, 294 hams, 22,000 eggs, 840 whole French cheeses and 136 English ones. The Duke was one of the more munificent commanders but his practices probably differed only in degree from those of other princely captains. Philippe de Mézières railed against army commanders who maintained sumptuous tables for their guests, offering banquets that were eaten off silver plate and lasted several hours amid the squalor of a military encampment. We are told that in the midst of the disaster that overcame the Anglo-Portuguese army in Castile in 1387 King John of Portugal ‘never failed to have his three dishes of beef a day, minced, roasted or boiled’. For the mass of the army, however, marching through hostile territory in the latter part of the fourteenth century was a physically draining experience involving serious hardship even if there were no engagements. Those old soldiers who recorded their experiences remembered the aching ribs and backs, the discomforts of sleeping on the ground and rising in the clothes that they had worn for weeks, the intense cold in winter, the bright summer days in which the hot sun beat down on men encased in thick leather and metal, the long periods of famine, the foul billets and crowded camps.45

Many of them must also have remembered the boredom of long days in the saddle or uneventful watches from the walls of garrisoned towns and castles. The dullness of much military life was at the root of most disciplinary problems. Soldiers occupied themselves with chatter and reminiscences. They sang songs, a handful of which are recorded out of many more that were once known by heart. Kings and princes and their intimates had their own amusements. Edward III hunted for boar with his leading captains during the Breton campaign of 1342–3. For the campaign of 1359–60 he brought a pack of hounds and a team of falconers with him from England. Several of John of Gaunt’s captains are reported to have brought their hunting dogs and falcons with them to Castile in 1386. Others brought dogs for company, like the French knight killed in the Poitou campaign of 1372 whose aged hound refused to abandon his grave. The Duke of Berry paid ten francs to a nearby householder to feed the animal for the rest of its days.46

Very occasionally one hears of wives accompanying their husbands on campaign. John of Gaunt’s wife Doña Constanza accompanied him to Castile in 1386 in her capacity as joint pretender to the throne and the wives of his captains served to decorate her court. But they also took part, presumably by choice, in the exceptionally arduous campaign across the plain of northern Castile when they might have stayed in comfort in Portugal. It was commoner for women to accompany their husbands in garrisons or on the marches. Sir Richard Totesham had his wife with him in the citadel of La Roche-Derrien during the siege of 1347. She was nearly killed as the French artillery demolished the chamber in which she was feeding their baby. Some of these women were plainly formidable personalities in their own right. Sir Robert Knolles’s wife Constance helped him to run his garrisons in Brittany, visiting England on his behalf to find supplies and recruits. James Mascy’s wife took command of the citadel of Millau during her husband’s absences. Sir Digory Say’s French wife actively participated in the defence of Gençay against her fellow countrymen, supported by his French step-daughter. Renaud lord of Pons left his wife in command of the town. She held it against him when he defected to the French in 1371. This lady certainly earned the golden goblet with the Lancastrian symbol of the white hart, which John of Gaunt presented to her in gratitude. Others preferred to acquire mistresses in situ, like Sir John Cresswell at Lusignan if the author of Mélusine is to be believed, or Sir John Devereux, who appropriated the wife of a local worthy when he was captain of La Souterraine. Most soldiers no doubt found relief as soldiers always have, in rape or prostitution, but some formed powerful and long-lasting attachments to their concubines. The English mercenary William Gold, one of Hawkwood’s lieutenants in Italy, was distraught when his French girlfriend of two decades left him. The archives of the Gonzaga lords of Mantua contain a cache of letters in which he tried to enlist their help to find her. ‘Sweet love conquers the proudest hearts …’, Gold wrote. ‘It vanquishes the strong. It casts down the tallest towers. It drives men to violence. And all of this has befallen me for Janet’s sake, so much does my heart long for her.’47

There was probably only one pastime apart from sex which almost all soldiers had in common regardless of rank, and that was gambling, which reached epidemic proportions in the field armies and garrisons of both sides. The Black Prince had a special purse for gambling money on his campaign in Languedoc in 1355. Philip of Burgundy, Bertrand du Guesclin and Olivier de Clisson were all inveterate dice-players. The Count of Savoy gambled away at least 2,000 francs in 1386 while waiting to embark with the French army of England. These were gorgeous personages and their losses probably did no harm except to themselves, but among ordinary soldiers gambling became a serious disciplinary problem. Soldiers gambled at everything: generally at dice but also at archery,paume and any other sports and games where they could find someone to wager money against them. As Geoffrey de Charny observed, games were no longer games when played for money. Quarrels over stakes and winnings were the source of countless fights and acts of treachery or negligence. A remarkable number of fortresses were reported to have been lost and encampments attacked while the sentries were busy gaming.48

‘Lance, mine and assault ladder’ were the chief tools of war according to the contemporary authors of Les Cent Ballades, all of them experienced professional soldiers.49 The experience of men in battle is hard to reconstruct. The rare eye-witness accounts, if they descend to detail at all, rarely rise above a jumble of discrete incidents. Froissart, the great descriptive artist of these years, was good at absorbing the experience of others and injecting his own imaginative insights. But so far as can be discovered from his work he never saw a town assaulted or witnessed a pitched battle. The only army which he may have followed on the march was the French army which fought in Flanders and Artois in 1383. It is not easy for one who has never taken part to imagine the collective courage and indifference to death which enabled the French garrison of Limoges to fight on in the open spaces of the city against overwhelming odds or the English to fight their way up the scaling ladders placed against the walls of Ypres as artillery fire raked them from the sides and the men ahead of them were hurled to their deaths in the ditch below.

It is above all the physical intimacy of these encounters which differentiates them from most modern warfare. The chronicler Geoffrey Baker, who derived his account from at least one eye-witness, tells us that at the battle of Poitiers the Earl of Salisbury ‘glowed in the warm blood which covered his sword’ while men around him ‘trod in their own guts and spat out their teeth’. Thomas Walsingham’s narrative of an encounter near Montebourg in 1379 between some 500 or 600 French troops and an English raiding force from Cherbourg was probably derived from a news-letter and embellished with what the chronicler had heard from others about the reality of fighting:

The French, who were much stronger than we were, forced us back with the impact of their first assault. Our archers protected us, covering the French with a dense cloud of arrows which wounded many of them and killed more. But they never flagged. They kept on coming at us, fighting with courage and spirit and forcing their way forward with their weapons, determined that if death was their fate they would die gloriously. There was a tremendous noise as the two armies met and swords crashed down on helmets and trumpets blared, while confusion reigned everywhere. Sir John Harleston, the English commander, was the first to fall. He threw himself into the French line and was cut down as the enemy swarmed about him like bees. Overwhelmed, he was left half-dead on the ground, trampled underfoot by men and horses … As the battle raged and the French began to get the better of it Sir Geoffrey Worsley, an experienced and determined knight, appeared at our sides with the reserve. He charged the French positions with his men, breaking up their line. Brave men every one of them, they laid about the French with their axes, slaughtering them like cattle. Not a blow was wasted. Not a man brought his weapon down in vain. Not once was it necessary to finish off an enemy with a second blow. The strongest helmets were smashed open. Some were so shattered that the two sides were as if fused together … and the man’s head inside crushed to nothing. Meanwhile another company of men who had been detailed to guard our horses and baggage in the rear … grabbed their weapons and seized more from the bodies of French soldiers lying on the field in order to fall upon the enemy from behind. Sir Geoffrey’s men, rampaging through the French positions, scattered them, breaking up their order and forcing them to surrender.

About 120 French troops were killed in this engagement and about the same number captured, nearly half of their whole force.50

In spite of the closeness and violence of fourteenth-century fights the numbers killed were surprisingly low. Most of the deaths occurred after the battle in the pursuit, when the vanquished were finished off as they lay helpless on the ground or tried to flee from the field. At the battle of Roosebeke the French army suffered modest losses but is said to have killed 3,000 Flemings as they lay wounded on the ground and many more as they fled for their lives along the roads. But if death was disproportionately the fate of the vanquished, injury was indiscriminate. The weapons used in medieval fights inflicted appalling injuries which left those who survived permanently disfigured or disabled. Sir Hugh Hastings, who died aged less than forty of disease contracted at the siege of Calais in 1347, appears on his famous brass in Elsing parish church in the prime of health and strength. But the recent exhumation of his remains showed that he was a human wreck. He suffered from advanced inflammation of the joints and most of his front teeth had been knocked out by blows to his mouth. Sir William Scrope the elder was completely disabled at the age of about twenty-two by wounds received at the battle of Morlaix (1342) and died two years later without recovering. Olivier de Clisson famously lost an eye at the battle of Auray (1364). Recovery from a serious wound was rarely complete and professional soldiers were easily recognised by scars. A muster roll drawn up in Provence in 1374 which, unusually, records the appearance as well as the names of the men, suggests that at least a quarter of them were scarred by the wounds of past campaigns, generally on their hands or faces. Breton soldiers returning from the wars were described by a contemporary as disfigured, mutilated, often part-blind and lame, with faces like the bark of a tree and stuffing still coming out of their jackets where swords had entered.51

Few aspects of fourteenth-century military life are as obscure as the treatment of disease and wounds. Medieval physicians worked in the tradition established by the second century Greek theorist Galen as their successors continued to do until the eighteenth century. Although they must often have supplemented their science with folk remedies of one kind or another we know very little about them except that they seem to have been largely ineffective. Dysentery and other infectious diseases endemic in crowded, ill-drained encampments were among the main sources of loss in medieval armies. The recovery rate was low. The prognosis was better for wounds. They were the province of the surgeons, men who lacked the formal learning and professional prestige of the physicians but were probably more useful. Their training had a significant empirical element which included some dissection and a good deal of observation, much of it derived from treating war wounds. Henri de Mondeville, the famous French surgeon of the early fourteenth century, had derived at least part of his knowledge from serving with the armies of Philip the Fair. His treatise on surgery, written in about 1312, was among the first to put forward a recognisably modern approach to the treatment of wounds based on the control of haemorrhage, the cleaning of the wound and closure with sutures, combined with nourishing diet and rest. Some of Mondeville’s ideas remained controversial in his own day and for a long time afterwards. The ancient notion (derived ultimately from Galen) that wounds should be kept open and encouraged to suppurate with caustic materials, thick ointments or poultices, so as to produce the ‘laudable pus’ by which evil humours were supposedly expelled, continued to command support among most academic teachers and writers until well after the end of the middle ages.52

As with so much medieval science, theory is better recorded than practice, which may have been more impressive. The evidence, fragmentary as it is, suggests that contemporaries were capable of distinguishing between some wounds and others and of applying the treatments appropriate to the conditions. It was well understood that the main priority was to wash out the wound with pure water or a natural disinfectant and to keep it clean. The great Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s father-in-law, knew that dirt and flies were the main enemies of the injured man, that wounds should be cleaned out with running water and dressed with compresses of ointment and clean white bandages. The contemporary French surgeon-physician Guy de Chauliac, whose famous and influentialGrande Chirurgie is said to have set back the academic study of wound treatment by two centuries, observed with a sneer that this kind of unlearned stuff was common wisdom among professional men-at-arms. According to Guy their practice was to clean out wounds with wine or spirits or oils from crushed herbs applied with wads of woollen cloth or cabbage leaves. This is borne out by other evidence. The regulations for supplying the town of Montauban against a siege in 1348 called for, among other things, a stock of cotton fabric, wads of wool, olive oil and ‘swint’ (ointment) for dressing wounds but also pepper, ginger and spices, dried grapes, figs and almonds to make poultices. Ointments, mainly herbal, were a staple of the medicine chests taken on campaign and were kept in readiness in garrisoned towns and castles. Other disinfectants employed included exotic resins, natural turpentine, honey and even, for inaccessible wounds beyond the reach of the scalpel, diluted compounds of arsenic. Guy de Chauliac dismissed the men who followed such practices as mere ‘mechanicals’ or ‘empiricals’ but they were doubtless doing what seemed to work. They were also surprisingly alert to the advantages of a good diet and plenty of rest. These must have been hard to provide in the field. But we have it on the authority of Philippe de Mézières that a reinforced diet was available for sick and wounded men at least in French armies. During his march around Paris in 1360 Edward III even arranged for sick English and allied soldiers to be allowed to withdraw to Burgundy to recuperate away from the war zone, a rare example of solicitude for wounded men who were more commonly abandoned to weaken and die by the roadside.53

Guy de Chauliac implies that men-at-arms treated each other’s wounds. In most cases they probably did. The Breton knight Geoffrey Budes was severely wounded in the unsuccessful assault on the walls of Ussel in February 1371. As he climbed the scaling ladder he was struck by heavy boulders thrown down from above and fell into the castle ditch with a broken arm, a fractured and dislocated hip and lacerations all over his body. He was rescued and taken to Clermont where his bones were reset with bitumen without medical intervention, apparently by his companions. The surgeons who later examined him in Paris found that some of the lacerations were still unhealed but that the fractures had mended perfectly. There were clearly occasions when professional attention was essential. Princes took their personal surgeons with them. Philip of Burgundy’s surgeon was summoned urgently to his side as he set out for the campaign in Poitou in 1372. John of Gaunt’s surgeon was retained to serve him wherever he might be needed ‘well and properly arrayed for war’. But these men were there to treat their master and his household and personal retainers. Only occasionally do we hear of surgeons being provided for humbler men. Some garrisons took local practitioners permanently into their service. But there is no evidence of organised medical services before 1415, when a corps of nearly two dozen surgeons served with the English army at Agincourt. Most soldiers who suffered battlefield fractures from swords or axes probably died of gangrene or other rapidly spreading infections long before help could reach them.54

Among those who survived their injuries arrow and bolt wounds were probably the commonest traumas calling for surgical attention. Crossbow bolts were made of iron. Arrows were tipped with metal which was frequently barbed. Extracting them was a delicate operation with a high risk of failure. A soldier’s head was vulnerable because vizors were commonly left open to allow the wearer to see better and to hear or shout orders. Guy de Chauliac had an array of instruments for extracting arrow-heads but warned that deep wounds to the head were usually incurable. This was probably too pessimistic, but the record of surgery was certainly uneven. Two barber-surgeons from York laboured in vain to remove the barbs from the head of King David of Scotland after his capture at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. The barbs remained there for twenty years, when they are said to have been removed by the miraculous intervention of St. Monan. On the other hand when an arrow penetrated six inches into the head of Prince Henry (the future Henry V) at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 it was successfully removed with a specially made instrument in a complicated and time-consuming operation of which a remarkable account survives written by the surgeon himself. But this was hardly a typical case. Prince Henry was an important patient and the surgeon was one of the most celebrated practitioners in England. Victims of arrow wounds were more commonly advised that it was safer to leave the metal in the wound and put up with the discomfort. ‘In surgery is perilous the cure but men might touch the arrow or come thereby’, wrote Chaucer in The Franklin’s Tale.55

Horses were if anything even more vulnerable than men, but we hear even less about their treatment. Horses suffered lance and arrow wounds and frequent fractures. They succumbed to camp diseases. They could not bear prolonged periods without food and water as men often had to. They sickened when floods brought down thick, muddy water from the hills. Major expeditions such as those of John of Gaunt in 1373–4 and the Earl of Buckingham in 1380–1 often resulted in catastrophic horse losses. Veterinary surgeons, so far as we can tell, were invariably ‘mechanicals’, not learned men, and consequently they have left few traces of their work. Some may have been little better than the author of the short manual on the care of horses preserved at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who advised prayer for all the more serious maladies. But a certain amount of practical veterinary lore must have been common among men-at-arms and their grooms who lived and worked all the time with horses. The Menagier de Paris,whose didactic instructions to his wife tell us so much about the life of prosperous urban households, also had advice to give to his grooms about the illnesses and treatment of horses, which he had presumably derived from observation over the years. Jean de Béarn, theAnglo-Gascon routier who commanded the Pyrenean fortress of Lourdes for much of the 1370s and 1380s, commissioned a treatise on veterinary science from a learned Catalan and dedicated it to Richard II. It is an academic compilation, largely derived from old Byzantine sources, which cannot have been of much practical use, but it at least suggests that there was serious interest in the subject. The sole surviving manuscript contains some striking illustrations of procedures for treating fractures, wounds and other ailments of horses which are more instructive than anything in the text.56


Of all the hazards encountered by medieval soldiers none was as fundamental to the balance of risk and reward as the danger of capture. In the course of a long professional career a prominent soldier was quite likely to be captured at least once and quite possibly more than once. Bertrand du Guesclin was captured four times in the space of eight years. He took considerable risks with his safety, especially in his early career, but his experience was by no means unusual. The French knight Tristan de Maignelay was captured by the English at the battle of Mauron in 1352 and again four years later when carrying the Dauphin’s standard at the battle of Poitiers. The Gascon hero Jean de Grailly, Captal de Buch, was captured by the French at the battle of Cocherel in 1364 and again at Soubise in 1372. Bertucat d’Albret was captured at least twice. The Gascon knight Bernard de Montet, who petitioned Richard II for help in 1382, claimed to have been captured six times in twelve years.57

The treatment of prisoners of war was governed by an elaborate mixture of legal rules and customary practice, which was progressively refined as the war continued. Human prisoners were legitimate spoil of war in the same way as armour, baggage or horses. They were at the mercy of their captors. This was more than an abstract idea derived from law-books. In the concluding stages of any decisive battle the survivors of the defeated army, exhausted, wounded or fleeing from the scene, were routinely massacred in cold blood unless their equipment showed them to be rich enough to be worth taking. If a man surrendered, it was an act of grace to spare him. The transaction was treated as a contract by which he put himself at the victor’s disposal in return for his life. The deal was commonly completed with explicit formulae which were universally understood and sealed by the delivery of a pledge, such as the prisoner’s helmet or right gauntlet, mementoes which would serve as visible evidence in case of dispute. ‘Be my prisoner, rescued or not, my lord of Langoiran, or you will die’, cried Bérard d’Albret’s captor, who had ambushed him on the Gascon march in 1379 and torn his helmet from his head as he lay on the ground. Bérard, who knew that his companions were close at hand, expected to be rescued. So he said nothing, whereupon his enemy drove the point of his dagger into his skull and killed him.58

Not all prisoners were ransomed. Some were appropriated by the King, generally on paying compensation to the captor, and detained indefinitely for political reasons. The leading Scottish prisoners taken at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346 were held in captivity for long periods because Edward III believed that by holding them he would reduce the Scots’ ability to resist him. The sons of Charles of Blois were incarcerated in England for more than thirty years for very similar reasons. Henry of Trastámara famously refused to treat with his English and Gascon captives after the battle of La Rochelle and instead kept them in prison in Castile for years. By custom the King of France was entitled to take over any prisoner worth more than 10,000 francs. He exercised this right more sparingly than his rival, but he was perfectly capable of it when it suited him. When the Captal de Buch was captured for the first time, in 1364, Charles V discharged him without payment in the hope of making an ally. On the second occasion, in 1372, the King refused to release him at all, even against a proper ransom, until he agreed to abandon his English allegiance. The Captal protested that his treatment was contrary to the law of arms. So did several of his courtiers, among them the French knight who had taken him. He received only 1,200 francs for his pains, which was much less than the prisoner’s value on the open market. But in point of law the King was right. So the Captal remained in the grim keep of Corbeil until his death in 1377.59

The moral of this story was that the practice of ransoming prisoners raised many issues other than money. Outside the ranks of the chivalrous class it was never free of controversy. A minority of churchmen felt that it put a price on mercy and treated human beings as chattels. A more significant criticism, because it was more widespread, was that the ransoming of captured soldiers served to strengthen the enemy and prolong the war. The prospect of ransoms also encouraged indiscipline in the army, as soldiers broke ranks and disregarded orders in the pursuit of prisoners. When French opinion turned against the whole knightly class after the disastrous defeat at Poitiers in 1356, one of the main accusations against them was that the ransom system was a conspiracy between men-at-arms on either side. It was said that they had more in common with each other than with the populations which supported them and preferred to make money out of the enemy than to destroy them. Similar complaints were heard in England when people began to turn against the war later in the century. By and large, however, the conventions of chivalry prevailed. Even such significant figures as Charles of Blois and Bertrand du Guesclin were ransomed if a suitable price could be fixed. ‘Among Christians, great and small,’ wrote Honoré Bonet, ‘the general custom is to take ransoms from one another.’60

Just as a prisoner had no right to be released against a ransom, so the mere fact of surrender implied no promise to pay one. That required a further agreement. Because the maintenance and custody of his prisoner could be expensive the lesser prisoners were in practice released quite quickly, often within a day or two of their capture, after a rough and ready estimate of their worth and a truncated discussion over a camp fire. These occasions were games of bluff on both sides. Captors threatened to keep the prisoner in captivity when they were in no position to do it. For their part, prisoners gave low estimates of their own worth, like the French knight captured by John Lord Neville at Carlisle during Jean de Vienne’s campaign of 1385, who hid his status behind lies and a false name. This man was exposed by a fellow prisoner, a turncoat who told his captors who the man was and what to charge. But, in general, captors had perforce to take their prisoners at their own estimation, a process which commonly resulted in quite modest ransoms. The chronicler Jean le Bel reports that most of the great horde of French prisoners taken at the battle of Poitiers got away lightly for this reason. The more notable captives fared worse. Their horses and equipment were too grand. Their arms were emblazoned on their tunics and readily identifiable by the heralds. They were almost invariably detained while enquiries were made, a full ransom negotiated and security obtained for its payment. This could be a difficult and long-drawn-out process, as prisoners kept in isolation in a foreign country, without friends or advisers to support them, struggled to weigh up the prospect of indefinite detention against the dangers of a ruinous freedom.61

Conventionally there were limits to what a captor could demand. When Jean de Grailly’s captor appealed to Charles V to release him against ‘finance courtoise’ he was invoking a widely held belief that among noblemen ransoms should be reasonable. Pope Gregory XI made the same point when he demanded that the ransom of his nephew Roger Beaufort (who had been captured at the fall of Limoges) should be reduced to a level consistent with the ‘laws of arms and the practices of noblemen’. Although the existence of such a principle was generally acknowledged, there was never any firm consensus as to what ‘finance courtoise’ was. According to Honoré Bonet a ransom should be:

… reasonable and knightly and such as the prisoner is capable of paying according to the usage of arms and of his country and pitched at such a level as will not disinherit his wife, children, relations and friends, for justice demands that they should have the wherewithal to live after the ransom has been paid.

This formula begged many questions and, as Bonet himself observed, the ideal was widely ignored in practice. Most captors made a rough assessment of what the prisoner could raise by selling assets and added something for the contribution which might be expected from his relatives and friends and, in the case of politically important prisoners, from his sovereign.62

At a time when cash was scarce and revenues from land were declining, even modest ransoms could be hard to raise. Many prisoners were ruined by the excessive demands made on them and the stiff terms on which credit was available from the few people who were in a position to provide it. Cash-rich entrepreneurs, often successful soldiers of fortune, provided loans and guarantees. The Earls of Arundel, Warwick and Suffolk and Edward III’s mistress Alice Perrers were among the English investors who put money into loans to prisoners of war, taking mortgages on their estates. A syndicate of English noblemen led by John of Gaunt undertook to advance the ransom of the Earl of Pembroke in 1375. Some of these transactions involved buying the captor’s rights over the prisoner, an arrangement which treated him as a marketable security. Shares in Olivier du Guesclin, the Constable’s younger brother who was captured near Cherbourg in 1378, were divided between at least seven parties, some of whom were certainly financiers. There was an active secondary market in prisoners’ obligations, which were often executed in bearer form and traded at discounts according to the due dates of payment and the practical likelihood of recovery. Edward III himself was a persistent but not particularly successful speculator in this market. In France rich Parisian merchants and officials bought up land and chattels from distressed prisoners at bargain prices, like the syndicate that bailed out Tristan de Maignelay. Bertrand du Guesclin, Olivier de Clisson and Gaston Phoebus of Foix all carried on a regular brokerage business, advancing cash for ransom payments and buying up prisoners at a discount to release or sell them at a profit.

Without financial accommodation of this kind the ransoming of prisoners would hardly have been possible, but it came at a heavy price. There was interest to pay. Hostages were required as security. Pledges were taken and charges executed. Foreclosures were frequent. The Norman knight Robert de Brucourt, who was captured at the battle of Auray in 1364, was held at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte for eleven years until he agreed to pay a ransom which was ten times the annual revenues of his domains in Lower Normandy. The money was raised by selling the property to Bertrand du Guesclin on terms which left him and his wife with two-thirds of the income for life to live on. Their heirs were left with nothing. Sir John Bourchier, who was captured on the Breton march in 1371, passed more than two years immured in the fortress of his captor before agreeing to a ransom of 12,000 francs, about three times the revenues of his English estates. Writing to his wife from his prison, he excused himself for having brought ruin on both of them by promising a sum so far beyond their means. He was afraid for his health, he said, if he remained incarcerated for much longer. ‘My true, beloved wife, I charge you by the love we bear each other to sell or mortgage all that we have, sparing nothing, for he whose health is broken has truly nothing left at all.’ Once the terms were agreed, Bourchier’s captor sold him at a discount for ready cash to Olivier de Clisson, while in England Lady Bourchier struggled for four years to raise the first instalment of the debt which would allow her husband to be released on parole. The records of both England and France are full of petitions by men who claimed to have lost everything as a result of being captured in the King’s service. Some of them may have been exaggerated but there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that stories like Brucourt’s and Bourchier’s were commonplace in both countries.63

The conditions in which prisoners of war were kept varied widely according to the means and generosity of the captor. The duty to protect his prisoner, which the captor assumed on the battlefield, entailed allowing him a minimum of comfort according to his status. Indeed, under the law of arms ill-treatment dissolved a prisoner’s obligations and entitled him to escape. But what counted as ill-treatment? Honoré Bonet thought that the captor’s obligation extended to supplying food, drink and a bed to lie on and to taking reasonable care for the prisoner’s health, but no more. He was entitled to confine his prisoner in a locked cell if he chose and was under no obligation to let him out for exercise or recreation. Strictly speaking a prisoner of war could be kept in leg-irons. This practice was regularly employed by routier garrisons to put pressure on prisoners and their relatives and is said to have been normal in Castile and Germany. But it was regarded with abhorrence by most noblemen in France and England and appears to have been used only against prisoners who had defaulted or against their hapless hostages. Sir Matthew Gournay, who captured Louis de Chalon at the battle of Auray in 1364, eventually lost patience with his prisoner’s inability to raise his ransom and had him put in leg-irons and kept on short rations. As a result his relatives found the money. His fate could easily have been worse. The Count of Denia, an Aragonese nobleman captured at the battle of Nájera, was obliged to deliver up his son to Gaston Phoebus of Foix as security for a loan. Fifteen years later, the loan still unpaid, Denia’s son was reported to be confined to a foul dungeon, loaded with chains and fetters.64

Outside the notorious prisons of the free companies, however, the treatment of prisoners was generally well above the minimum standard which the law of arms required. Gaston Phoebus did not treat other prisoners like Alfonso de Denia. The Albret brothers whom he captured at the battle of Launac in 1362 received a promise that he would not ‘martyr their bodies’. They were allowed out on parole to hunt in his forests and go where they wished in his domains provided that they were back by sunset. The Count of Saint-Pol met his future wife while living comfortably on parole at the English court at Windsor. Sir Thomas Percy, a prisoner of the battle of Soubise, was held in the forbidding fortress of the Marché de Meaux but he was at least allowed the run of the courts and corridors. In 1375, when rumours began to circulate that the Captal de Buch was being maltreated at Corbeil, it was said that the English had retaliated by inflicting the same treatment on Roger Beaufort. Both governments reacted with indignation to these reports. The papal legates at Bruges received formal assurances that Beaufort was being ‘held in a good chamber without chains or leg-irons and supplied with proper and decent provisions according to his needs’. From Paris the French King’s Chamberlain Bureau de la Rivière sent a report on the conditions of the Captal’s imprisonment, countersigned by the Captal himself. These were of course famous prisoners in the custody of the King whose maltreatment would have had serious repercussions. But lesser men appear to have received broadly comparable treatment in the castles of their captors. The fact that 4,000 francs of Sir John Bourchier’s ransom was attributed to the cost of his upkeep over some two and a half years suggests that he lived in reasonable comfort. He certainly had several servants with him, including his English squire, who were free to come and go with messages and errands.

Even in these relatively benign conditions illness, boredom and depression were formidable enemies. Medieval castles were cold in winter and insanitary in summer. Confined within the walls of the castle of Machecoul, Bourchier complained that he was losing the use of his limbs, which was probably due to a combination of unfitness and premature arthritis. After his release he was able to rebuild his fortunes in royal service, ultimately becoming Richard II’s governor in Ghent, but many prisoners died in captivity or returned home with their health and spirits broken. Fourteenth-century men-at-arms were usually educated men but their habits did not fit them for a life without activity or companionship. Few of them could have matched the mental discipline of Sir Thomas Gray, who occupied himself in writing his chronicle while confined as a prisoner of war in Edinburgh castle, or Charles of Orléans in the following century, who wrote much of his finest poetry in captivity in the Tower of London.65

Given the disastrous consequences of capture for so many prisoners it is surprising that there were not more defaults. Escape from captivity was rare, especially in England. The most famous example was that of Hugh de Châtillon, Charles V’s Master of the Archers, who was captured on the Somme during John of Gaunt’s chevauchée of 1369. In about 1371 Hugh escaped from Nottingham castle, one of the strongest fortresses in the kingdom, with the assistance of a Flemish sea captain hired by his wife, and managed to get back to France via Scotland. Most prisoners who escaped took the easier course of absconding while on parole. A captor was practically bound to release his prisoner on parole once he had entered into a ransom agreement because there was usually no other way in which he could raise the money. Captors took hostages or guarantees where they could or insisted on part-payment first, but these precautions were not always possible. In many cases the captor’s only security was the prisoner’s undertaking to remain a ‘good and loyal prisoner’, to return to captivity if his ransom had not been paid within the time agreed and not to bear arms against his captor’s sovereign while his ransom was outstanding. Every effort was made to pile on the moral pressure to comply with these promises. A prisoner would be made to swear to keep faith on pain of being ‘reviled as a false knight, traitor and perjurer in every place where he may go’. The promises of prisoners were recorded in writing, drawn up under their seal and witnessed by notaries. Their oaths were sworn in the presence of the most impressive witnesses that could be found. When Sir Thomas Percy was paroled in July 1373 to find his ransom in England he was brought to the Louvre to swear his oath before Charles V, Bertrand du Guesclin and a great congress of princes and noblemen. Percy failed to raise the money and was back in captivity by December.66

Particular importance was attached to the prisoner’s promise not to fight against his captor’s sovereign while on parole. When Arnoul d’Audrehem was captured at Nájera he was arraigned before a jury of knights on the ground that part of the ransom due after his capture at Poitiers eleven years earlier was still outstanding. He defended himself on the ground that in Castile he should be regarded as fighting against King Pedro of Castile, not the Prince. Sir Thomas Felton was technically a prisoner on parole at the beginning of 1381 when Richard II’s Council appointed him to command the expedition to reinforce the Earl of Buckingham in Brittany. The outstanding balance of his ransom had to be hurriedly paid to Marshal Sancerre before the expedition sailed. A complex arrangement was devised with the assent of both governments, which illustrates how far contemporaries would go to adapt the conduct of war to the private interests of prominent captains. To enable Felton to invade France part of his debt was discharged in exchange for the release of Guillaume des Bordes, the former French captain in the Cotentin, who was bought by Richard II from his captor and transferred to Felton for the purpose. The rest was paid with Charles VI’s leave by a syndicate of French merchants in return for licences to sell 10,000 barrels of wine onto the English market, which would otherwise have been closed to them. Among men of the standing of Percy and Felton default was unthinkable. Ironically the same was true of Hugh de Châtillon. The evidence suggests that after his escape from Nottingham castle he actually paid his ransom in order to be able to accept appointment as Captain-General of the French forces on the march of Calais.67

Defaults were more common among younger men and occasional soldiers as well as at the rougher end of the profession. They returned home and went to ground or devised colourable grounds for defying convention. Bertrand du Guesclin himself was more than once accused of breaking his parole before he became Constable. Always conscious of his controversial past, Bertrand was inordinately sensitive to the charge and once famously had a man hanged in his armour from his own battlements for repeating it. He was not alone. Yon de Garencières, one of the grand old men of the court of Charles V and VI, had once fought a duel over a very similar accusation. Sir James Pipe, the English captain of the 1350s who occupied the margins of military respectability, had twice defaulted on his parole. There was no doubt much to be said on both sides of these particular disputes but manifest defaulters were unwelcome even to their own side. They dishonoured their kinsmen and companions, provoked reprisals from the enemy and exposed hostages and guarantors to imprisonment and even death. For this reason defaulters received no protection from their own government. In both England and France the Constable and the Marshals maintained courts, with juries of knights and specialised advocates, to hear cases under the law of arms, many of which were about prisoners and ransoms. A similar court was held by the Black Prince’s Constable in Aquitaine and after his departure by the Seneschal. When the much-captured Tristan de Maignelay absconded while on parole in France, leaving two hostages behind in England, he was arrested on the orders of Marshal Audrehem and kept in prison until he had paid his ransom. In Anjou in the mid-1350s defaulting French prisoners of war were being pursued by hue and cry and smoked out of caves on the orders of the French royal Seneschal. The courts and jails of England were equally available to French captors and evidently much used. Even so, outraged captors increasingly resorted to self-help. Many of them fought duels to vindicate claims against prisoners of war. A defaulting nobleman’s arms could be ‘reversed’, which involved displaying them in public places, upside down or broken, an insult so serious that in the following century it came to be accepted that only a King or his lieutenant could authorise it. The evidence is entirely anecdotal, but recorded defaults become rarer in the later years of the century and it seems likely that peer pressure and the threat of enforcement at home had much to do with this.68


Contemporary attitudes to the conduct of war were informed by an approach to the boundaries of the public and the private sphere which is alien to modern thinking. War was an occasion for private profit and private loss. Military service, the treatment of prisoners and hostages and the surrender of fortresses all depended on contract. In this respect they resembled other aspects of this brutal conflict, which were based on complicated relationships of personal dependence at a relatively low level. Lawyers had long ago declared that only a sovereign could lawfully authorise war and by the end of the fourteenth century the principle was increasingly acknowledged in practice. Mérigot Marchès paid with his life for ignoring it. Yet the role of the state in the conduct of its own wars was constricted by the essentially private interests of those who actually fought in them. The power of sovereigns was limited by the narrow financial margins on which they operated even in rich and intensively governed countries like France and England, constraints which left a large role for private enterprise. It was a world of hierarchy tempered by opinion, of violence fettered by bureaucracy, of law which reflected force without limiting it, of officers and tribunals existing side by side with authorised anarchy. Yet it is perhaps right to remember that although these are major themes of fourteenth-century warfare they are by no means peculiar to the fourteenth century. In Europe they persisted until nation-states acquired the financial resources to assert a monopoly of organised violence. Public war and private business remained inextricably mixed in most European countries until the seventeenth century. Some aspects of the same mentality, such as naval privateering and the purchase of military commissions, survived until well into the nineteenth. In England private companies were still being recruited for the army in the Napoleonic Wars. The modern treatment of prisoners of war as the exclusive responsibility of the state dates from the same period. The first, very limited, Geneva Convention was not drawn up until 1863.


1 Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 672–82; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 55–8, 105–51; Livre fais Bouciquaut, 65–74; Chronographia, iii, 97–100; ‘Joutes de St.-Inglebert’; Foed., vii, 663, 665–6. On arms of peace and war: Keen (1984), 205–6.

2 Foed., vii, 666; PRO E403/530, m. 6 (25 May); Cal. Doc. Scot., iv, no. 411; Westminster Chron., 436; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 672. Smithfield: Lettres de rois, ii, 261–2; Westminster Chron., 450, 450–2; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 686–8; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 253–69; Chron. premiers Valois, 315–16.

3 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), xii, 3; Gr. chron., iii, 53–5; Chronographia, iii, 54–6; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 392–6; Juvénal, Hist., 53.

4 Deschamps, Oeuvres, ii, 324–35 (quotation at ll. 254–6); cf, ibid., ii, 27–8, iii, 100–2, iv, 111, vi, 42–3; Mézières, Songe, ii, 243 (‘poor fellow’); Luce (1890), i, 231–43; *Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, ed. J. Quicherat, v (1849), 109.

5 Chandos Herald, Prince Noir, 50; Guillaume de la Penne, ‘Gesta Britonum’; Livre fais Bouciquaut, 10–11; Christine de Pisan, Advision Cristine, 114; St.-André, Libvre.

6 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), i, 1, xii, 2–3, 35, 109, xvi, 234; ‘Dit du Florin’, in Oeuvres. Poésies, ed. A. Scheler, ii (1871), 226–7 (hotel bills); Le Fèvre, Journal, 7 (D. of Anjou); Inventaires de Jean Duc de Berry (1401–1416), ed. J. Guiffrey, i (1894), no. 967; The Chronicle of Froissart, translated out of French by Sir John Bourchier Lord Berners,ed. W.P. Ker, i (1901), 1, 6.

7 Contamine (1997), 3–6; Christine de Pisan, Livre des fais, i, 200–1; Mézières, Songe, i, 530–1.

8 Coats of arms: Saul (1981), 16–25; CPR 1388–92, 72. Upton, De Studio Militari, ed. E. Bisshe (1654), 257–8.

9 Ord., iii, 232 (28), v, 658, 659 (4). Froissart, Chron. (SHF), i, 3.

10 Bell, 10 (Table 1) (proportions); Gray, Scalacron., 152, 156; Bennett (1983), 182 (Cheshire). Hawkwood: Temple-Leader, 6–7; Caferro, 38–9; Westminster Chron., 520.

11 Mézières, Songe, ii, 403. Genoese: Ord., v, 651 (26); Contamine (1972), 154–5. 1386: BN Fr. 7858, fols. 255–95; Cron. Tournai, 286.

12 Contamine (1972), 20–2, 178; Wright, 72–4. Proportions: Cat. Arch. Navarra (Comptos), xii, nos. 621, 623–4 (service in Navarre, 1378); PRO E101/68/11 (253) (service under Hotspur, 1387); E101/41/4 (service under Arundel, 1388); Contamine (1972), 20–1, 21n65 (France). Serving both sides: e.g. AN JJ111/115, JJ124/120. Crimes: Wright, 72–3; Gauvard, i, 413, ii, 528–40; Reg. crim. Châtelet, i, 130–7, 225–39, 456–62, 505–15.

13 Mézières, Songe, i, 530.

14 Mézières, Songe, ii, 403 (‘guerre en l’ost ou en frontières’); Cent Ballades, 165 (‘d’ost de guerre ou de frontière’).

15 ‘Ann. Arch. Datini’, xii, 92; Livre fais Bouciquaut, 39–40.

16 Charny, Book, 122–8; Deschamps, Oeuvres, i, 223–4; Livre fais Bouciquaut, 19–20, 24–6, 47–8, 57; Bonet, Tree, 131.

17 Controversy Scrope Grosvenor, i, 124–5, 241–2; Caferro, 200 (Sabraham in Italy); Ayton (1995), 91–3.

18 Browe: Controversy Scrope Grosvenor, i, 82; although in fact Browe had also served in the St.-Malo campaign of 1378 (PRO E101/36/32, m. 3) and in Buckingham’s chevauchée of 1380 (PRO C76/65, m. 28). Stratton: M.W. Labarge, Gascony. England’s First Colony, 1204–1453 (1980), 178; AHG, xvi, 156–8, 165–9; PRO E101/68/8 (183); E101/180/9, fol. 52; E101/181/1 (60); E101/181/4 (37); E403/472, m. 16 (1 Apr.). Mainwaring: Morgan (1987), 155–6, 158, 165. Norbury: ibid., 160; PRO E101/180/9, fol. 78vo; E101/181/1 (18, 24); C61/90, m. 1; John IV, Actes, nos. 418, 461, 1099–1100; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), xii, 138–9.

19 Permanent forces: *Rey (1965), i, 371–7. Garencières: Exch. R. Scot., i, 451, 453, 454; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 127, 150, xv, 30. Others: Contamine (1972), 590–1; Lalande; Dumay; Troubat, ii, 700. Livre Chev. de La Tour, 226. Du Guesclin: Letters B. du Guesclin, App. I; Gauvard, ii, 855–9.

20 Contamine (1972), 178–9.

21 Contamine (1972), 619–30, 641–3; Rey (1965), ii, 402–4. États: Ord., v, 660 (15, 16); Mézières, Songe, ii, 403; and examples at Mandements, no. 1830 (1378); *Terrier de Loray, PJ no. 93 (1385); BN Doat 203, fols. 135–136vo (1386). Garrison commanders: Gall. Reg., i, no. 4722; AN JJ112/14; Mandements, no. 513.

22 Ayton (1994), 109–10, 120–5; Contamine (1972), 146. 1369: PRO E101/68/4 (87) (Gaunt, 1369); E101/68/4 (90) (Knolles, 1370); E101/68/5 (103) (Gascony, 1372); E101/68/5 (95) (Edward III, 1372); E101/68/5 (111) (Brittany, 1372); E101/68/6 (120–1, 126) (Gaunt, 1373); E101/37/27 (43) (St.-Malo, 1378); E364/13, m. 13d (Buckingham) (Buckingham, 1381); E101/68/8 (197) (Portugal, 1381); E101/68/10 (250B) (Castile, 1386). Garrisons: for Calais see Compte Gunthorp, 20–6 (1371–2); PRO E101/68/6 (143) (1376); E101/68/8 (175). Sea: PRO E101/68/7 (149, 150, 162–167).

23 Sherborne (1964), Tables 1.1–1.4, 745–6; Bell, Tables 1, 3, 5; Powicke, 170–8; Saul (1981), 39–47, 50–9; S.M. Wright, The Derbyshire Gentry in the Fifteenth Century (1983), 8; Prince (1931), 361 (1338–9); PRO E36/204, fols. 105vo–110vo (1342). France: Contamine (1972), 180 (the author’s figures do not bear out his conclusions).

24 Regards: Prince (1933), 293–4; Ayton (1994), 111–20; PRO E101/68/4 (90) (Knolles, 1370); E101/68/5 (103) (Pembroke, 1372); PRO E101/68/5 (95) (projected campaign of Edward III, 1372); E101/68/6 (120–1, 126) (Gaunt’s campaign, 1373); E364/13, m. 13d (Buckingham) (France, 1380); E101/39/17, m. 1 (Portugal, 1381). Subcontracts: Sherborne (1964), 742–3; Goodman (1980), 116–20; Walker (1985), 103–5; Walker (1990)[1], 70–1. John of Gaunt was probably typical of great magnates in paying over his regard to his retainers and subcontractors: Walker (1990)[1], 67–9; PRO E159/153 (brev. dir. bar.), Mich. m. 5. Neville: Parl. Rolls, v, 311–12 (34). Buckingham: Walsingham,Chron. Maj., i, 808.

25 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), xiv, 132. Proportion retained: Ayton (1994), 127–37; Keen (1965), 146–7; ‘Private indentures’, 27–8; Contamine (1972), 197–8.

26 Browe: Hist. Parl., ii, 384, 385; Bennett (1983), 187, 189. Craddock: Morgan (1987), 175–6. Fogg: Sumption, ii, 274, 286; John IV, Actes, no. 19; PRO C76/56, m. 27; Parl. Rolls, v, 344 (129); Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 309. Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 186.

27 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), vii, 255; Chron. Bourbon, 189–91.

28 Chandos: Froissart, Chron. (SHF), vi, 156–7; vii, 168. Knolles: Foed., iii, 897–8; GEC, v, 977–9, xii, 942 (peers: Fitzwalter, Zouche); GEC, vi, 67 (K.G., Sir Thomas Grandison). Knolles’s knighthood: Gr. chron., i, 227.

29 Mézières, Songe, i, 514–15; Chron. Bourbon, 91 (Du Guesclin).

30 Bonet, Tree, 130; Contamine (1972), 78–81, 224; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 187–8.

31 Ord., iv, 67–70, v, 658–61; Contamine (1972), 81–3, 143–4, 188, 201, 224–5; Bonet, Tree, 122–3, 132–3; Orgeval, 42–50.

32 Black Book, i, 453–8; Keen (1995).

33 Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, ii, nos. 803, 1401, 1614. French cross: Cron. Tournai, 167; Contamine (1972), 668–70. St. George’s cross: Black Book, i, 456 (xviii); Chronographia, ii, 391. St. Andrew’s cross: Acts Parl. Scot., i, 554–5.

34 Prince (1933), 296–7 (for French practice, see Contamine (1972), 58–60); Walker (1990)[1], 55n66 (will).

35 France: Ord., iv, 68, v, 658–9; BN Lat. 9175, fols. 130–49, esp. at 141–142, 149–149vo (closing ordinance of the Estates of Languedoc, Dec. 1369); Contamine (1972), 86–7, 89–91, 110–11, 146–7. England: Prince (1933), 292–3; Ayton (1994), 55–6; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 78–9.

36 England: Parl. Rolls, v, 311–12 (34); vi, 256–7 (93). France: Ord., v, 650–1 (23–4, 26); Mézières, Songe, i, 458–60, ii, 401–2, 403–4; Contamine (1972), 92–3, 144–6.

37 Royal Wills, 67, 68 (Black Prince); Ayton (1994), 57–8, 194–8, 202–6, 219–20, 224–7, 229–31; Lopes, Crón. D. João, ii, 216 (Falconer). Cf., for France, Contamine (1972), 17–19, 655–7.

38 ‘Ann. Arch. Datini’, xii, 78 (arms dealer); B. Thordeman, Armour from the Battle of Wisby, 1361 (1939), i, 185–92; Strickland & Hardy, 277–8. Charles: Comptes Écurie, i, nos. 66, 143, 152, 170, 223–30, 252, 507, 715–20, 939, 1029–35; Comptes hôtel, 219; and see his coat of mail (1383) in the cathedral museum at Chartres. Gaunt: Crón. D. João, ii, 202. Cf. equipment supplied for service at sea in 1385: Doc. Clos des Galées, i, no. 1207.

39 Ayton (1994), 197.

40 Brun, 215–16, 218–20; Contamine (1972), 656–7; Morgan (1987), 154–5 (archer); Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, i, no. 356; H.A. Dillon and W.H. St. John Hope, ‘Inventory of the goods and chattels belonging to Thomas, Duke of Gloucester’, Archaeological Journal, liv (1897), 275, 305–7; Le Bel, Chron., i, 155–6 (1339); Lopes, Crón. D. João,ii, 223 (Castile, 1386).

41 London: Cal. Letter Books G, 44,191, H, 44, 59; Foed., iii, 1050; The London Assize of Nuisance, ed. H.M. Chew and W. Kellaway (1973), 160. English provinces: H. Swanson, Medieval Artisans (1989), 70–2. Paris: G. Fagniez, Études sur l’industrie à Paris aux xiiie et au xive siècle (1877), 8, 9, 15, 16; Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, i, nos. 590, 680, 691, 695, 893, 914, 916, 921, 926, 963, 1082, 1084–91, 1441, 1462, 1585–6, 1819–24, 2224, 2263, 2265, 2786, 3078, ii, nos. 140, 467, 545, 3010. Arsenal: Doc. Clos des Galées, i, 95–7. Bordeaux: Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, i, no. 1371, ii, no. 824. Italy: I. Origo, The Merchant of Prato (1960), 35–7. Bohemia: Cal. Plea & Mem. R., 1381–1412, 128. Specialisation: Gaier, 164–5, 166–7. Price rises: Parl. Rolls, v, 224 (13) (1369); Cal. Letter Books H, 69, 160 (1377, 1381); Foed., vii, 546 (1386). Deschamps, Oeuvres, vii, 36–8.

42 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), v, 200, viii, 163, ix, 239–40, xi, 2, 5, xv, 107, 115–16; Cent Ballades, 19.

43 Calais: PRO C76/56, m. 22, C76/58, m. 4, C76/59, m. 5, C76/64, m. 16, C76/68, m. 21. Brest: see, e.g., PRO E101/37/1. Cherbourg: see, e.g., PRO E101/603/4; C76/63, m. 10, C76/67, m. 22, C76/69, m. 11, C76/70, m. 18, C76/71, m. 18, C61/99, m. 18. Derval: PRO C76/53, mm. 26, 23, 22. St.-Sauveur: PRO E101/31/6 (Feb. 1370), C76/56, m. 14 (July 1373). Fronsac: PRO C76/99, m. 7. Field armies: Hewitt, 50–62; Sumption, i, 285, 510–11, 525, ii, 425, 426–7, 432, 442–4; Le Bel, Chron., ii, 312 (1359). Gaunt, 1373: Istore, ii, 136; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 148–9. Castile, 1386–7: PRO C76/71, m. 13, C61/100, m. 8.

44 Ord., v, 659 (7), 660 (10); Mézières, Songe, i, 512–13; Contamine (1972), 124–5. Low Countries: Deschamps, Oeuvres, v, 29; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 264, 532; Juvénal, Hist., 67; AD Côte d’Or B1469, 1475.

45 Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, ii, nos. 1545–56; Mézières, Songe, ii, 402; Lopes, Crón. D. João, ii, 234. Hardship: see, e.g., Charny, Book, 122–8; Livre Chev. de La Tour, 225; Deschamps, Oeuvres, i, 75–6.

46 Songs: Taylor, 264–6. Dogs: Knighton, Chron., 44; Le Bel, Chron., ii, 313; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), xii, 311–12; Menagier, 69.

47 Lopes, Crón. D. João, ii, 236 (D. Constanza); Lescot, Chronique, ed. J. Lemoine (1896), 77–8 and Grandes chroniques de France, ed. J. Viard, ix (1937), 298–9 (Totesham); Foed., iii, 480 (Constance Knolles); Doc. Millau [2], no. 337, 341 (Mascy); Rec. doc. Poitou, iv, 364–7, 402–4 (Say). Dame de Pons: Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 18–19;John of G. Reg. (1372–6), no. 1090. Mistresses: Rec. doc. Poitou, iv, 114–15 (Devereux); Jean d’Arras, Mélusine, 811 (Cresswell); Cal. S.P. Venice, i, nos. 67, 69–71, 74 (Gold).

48 London, Duchy of Cornwall Office, Journal of John Henxteworth, fol. 1; Letters B. du Guesclin, nos. 496, 515, 522, 720, 763; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 489; Pitti, Cron., 72–3; Charny, Book, 112. Sentries: e.g., Walsingham, Chron. Maj., 172; Chron. Bourbon, 91, 125.

49 Cent Ballades, 14.

50 Chronicon Galfridi le Baker, ed. E.M. Thompson (1889), 148, 152; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 284–8.

51 Roosebeke: Chronographia, iii, 307; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 220. Hastings: S. Hooper et al., ‘The grave of Sir Hugh de Hastyngs, Elsing’, Norfolk Archaeology, xxxix (1984), 88–99. Scrope: Controversy Scrope Grosvenor, i, 51, 127, 145; Cal. Inq. P.M., viii, no. 546. Clisson: Froissart, Chron. (SHF), vi, 165. Provence: Hébert, 21, 22, 23. Bretons: St.-André, Libvre, 396.

52 Henri de Mondeville, Die Chirurgie, ed. J.L. Pagel (1892), 140, 206, 332; M.C. Pouchelle, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages, tr. R. Morris (1990), 58–9; Rawlcliffe, 75–6.

53 Lancaster, Livre, 202, 207–8; Chauliac, Gr. Chirurgie, 15–16; *E. Forestié, ‘Hughes de Cardaillac et la poudre à canon’, Bull. Soc. Archéol. Tarn-et-Garonne, xxix (1901), 193, 217–18 (Montauban). Ointments, disinfectants: e.g., Doc. Clos des Galées, ii, no. XXVII (542); Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, ii, no. 1343; Lang, 121–30; Secousse,Preuves, 503 (arsenic). Diet: Mézières, Songe, i, 513. Rest: Foed., iii, 473.

54 Budes: Mon. proc. canonisation Ch. de Blois, 281–2. Personal surgeons: PRO C81/333/19764 (Edward III); Foed., iii, 403 (Black Prince); Inv. mobiliers Bourgogne, i, nos. 1411n3; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 494, 495, 558; John of G. Reg. (1379–83), nos. 48, 691. Humbler men: BN PO 2490 Riquelme/2 (sieges in Garonne campaign, 1346); Doc. Clos des Galées, i, no. 591 (wounds received in ‘various assaults’, 1363). Surgeons who served in routier garrisons often claimed to have been constrained: AN JJ90/385 (Creil, ca. 1358); *S. Luce, ‘Négociations des anglais avec le roi de Navarre’, Mems. Soc. Hist. Paris, i (1875), 113, 122–5 (St.-Cloud, 1358). Agincourt: Rawcliffe, 141.

55 Chauliac, Gr. Chirurgie, 201, 206–8, 255; Works, iv, 493 (ll. 1114–15). David: PRO E101/25/10; Bower, Scotichron., vii, 260. Henry: Lang, 121–30.

56 Cambridge, Corpus Christi Coll. MS 297, cited in Menagier, 306n141; BN Esp. 214, fols. 1–73; Poulle-Drieux, 35; Davis, 104–5. On Jean de Béarn: PRO C61/97, m. 5.

57 S. Luce, Histoire de Bertrand du Guesclin. La Jeunesse de Bertrand (1876), 312–14, 149–52; Letters B. du Guesclin, nos. 97–8; Sumption, ii, 555–6. Maignelay: Robert of Avesbury, de gestis mirabilibus regis Edwardi, ed. E.M. Thompson (1889), 416; CPR 1354–8, 235; AN JJ91/499; Foed., iii, 359. Captal: Sumption, ii, 511, 522, 574, and above. Montet: PRO C61/96, m. 15.

58 Bonet, Tree, 152; Keen (1965), 156–7; Black Book, i, 457 (xxii); Froissart, Chron. (SHF), ix, 122; xv, 146, 154.

59 Sumption, i, 553–4, 574; Contamine (1972), 198; Timbal, Régistres, 306. Captal: Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 239–40; Istore, ii, 124.

60 Bonet, Tree, 152; ‘Complainte sur la bataille de Poitiers’, ed. C. de Beaurepaire, BEC, xii (1851), 257, 261.

61 Carlisle: Reg. crim. Châtelet, i, 383; PRO C61/70, m. 32. Poitiers: Bel, Chron., ii, 237–8.

62 Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 239–40 (Greilly); Foed., iii, 923 (Beaufort); Bonet, Tree, 153.

63 Jones (1996), 198 (Arundel, etc.); CPR 1385–9, 204 (Perrers); Inv. Arch. Bruges, ii, 243–4 (para. VII) (Pembroke); Given-Wilson (1981) (Guesclin). Secondary market: Timbal, Régistres, 332; Given-Wilson (2001), 814–24, 830–3; Perroy (1951)[2], 575–6. Ransom brokerage: Timbal, Régistres, 346–51 (Maignelay); Tucoo-Chala (1959), 284–9; *Hunger, 152–70 (Brucourt); Jones (1996), 194–9, *206–7 (Bourchier).

64 Keen (1965), 178–81; Bonet, Tree, 153, 159–60; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 47–8, 5, xv, 152–3; Chron. premiers Valois, 235. L de Châlons: AN 105/273. Denia: Gutiérrez de Velasco, 288–9; *Tucoo-Chala (1959), 398 (no. 279). Cf. Timbal, Régistres, 362.

65 BN Doat 195, fols. 34–34vo (Albrets); Froissart, Chron. (SHF), ix, 135–6 (St.-Pol); *Froissart, Chron. (KL), xviii, 508–9 (Percy); ‘Anglo-French negotiations’, 13 (Captal); *Jones (1996), 205, 207 (Bourchier); Gray, Scalacron., 5.

66 Châtillon: Anselme, viii, 46; Parl. Rolls, v, 364 (165); CPR 1377–81, 276; Froissart, Chron. (SHF), viii, 182; Anonimalle Chron., 62; Noyal, ‘Frag. Chron.’, 272. Percy: *Froissart, Chron. (KL), xviii, 506–9. Cf. the oath of the Scottish knights Sir Walter Halliburton and Sir David Anand in 1350: CCR 1349–54, 223.

67 Audrehem: Chron. premiers Valois, 180–1. Felton: Foed., iv, 107. For the sale of Bordes: CCR 1377–81, 311, 409, 495, 549. Châtillon: Anselme, viii, 46; his letters of appointment are dated 9 March 1372: Mandements, no. 870.

68 Du Guesclin: Letters B. du Guesclin, nos. 38–9, 43; Chron. Bourbon, 89. Garencières: Foed., iii, 228. Pipe: Gray, Scalachron., 178–80. Maignelay: CPR 1354–8, 235; Timbal, Régistres, 349. Smoking out: Rec. doc. Poitou, iii, 295–8. Constable’s court: Keen (1965), 25–30; CPR 1345–8, 468; Foed., iii, 251, 343; Issues Exch., 159; *Gr. chron., iii, 130–1. Duels: e.g., Foed., iii, 228 (Richard Totesham and Yon de Garencières, 1351); Chron. Bourbon, 98–100 (lord of Montravel and Perrot de Lignaige, 1375); BN Doat 203, fols. 267–272vo (Jacques Breton and Louis de Cera, 1386). Reversed arms: Keen (1965), 55–6; Songe du vergier, i, 293.

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