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Old Feb 7, 2013, 02:05 PM   #26
Scepticalscribe
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Originally Posted by pollaxe View Post
It does seem quite a benign, thoughtful face, doesn't it? .......D Quite a few of the girls I know are quite taken with the reconstruction. Great work by Prof. Caroline Wilkinson (as ever) and she helped produce the face for Towton #16 with Richard Neave.

IIRC it was the elderly Countess of Desmond who claimed that she had danced with Richard (as Duke of Gloucester) and Edward IV when she was young - come to think of it, she may have said he was the second most handsome man in the room, after Edward. I'm not sure as to the veracity of her statement (as she's supposed to have been one of the oldest ladies of those times she died late in the 16th/early 17th c if memory serves.)



Yeah, it's a bit of a thorny subject and one of those divisive issues in military history. Certainly, by the mid-fifteenth century the French had revised their tactics (partly by avoiding pitched battles) and French successes were one of the sparking factors of the Wars of the Roses, of course.

English sources were bemoaning the decline of archery (one came out shortly before Agincourt!) but it was still central to English armies and tactics for some time to come. The Earl of Oxford used his archers to great effect on Lincoln's lightly-armoured men at Stoke in 1487, for example and archery was also an important factor of the English victory over the Scots at Flodden in 1513 and it remained a key arm under Henry VIII. By the mid 1540s, the French were much more dismissive of the longbow (see Blaise de Monluc's Commentaries) although some question his apparent disdain for this weapon of 'little reach.' One academic (Michael Harbinson) believes that the bow became a much more close-quarters weapon by the end of the fifteenth century but I'm not so sure of that conclusion...

Anyway, nice to meet a fellow medieval warfare nerd/geek/enthusiast!
Agreed - it is a 'benign and thoughtful face'. (And I'm again struck by the contrast with the querulous, fretful, distrustful expression on the face of the [subtly doctored] portrait - clever, unscrupulous, Tudors, masters & mistresses of spin centuries before the concept was formally articulated!)

I'm always more than happy to meet a fellow enthusiast. History is one of my passions and I used to teach it for a living. My own specialty is 19th and 20th century history, but, earlier, as a TA and as a journeyman teacher, I did teach a lot of Renaissance/Reformation stuff - it was the standard first year course - and have also taught Medieval History as a TA.

Oddly enough, I have found that you learn far more when teaching a subject, than when you were a student. I blush to recall the courses I skated through as an undergrad, but which, when I had to teach them, I mastered quickly enough, (and retained a sufficient interest to keep reading material in the area, long after I had ceased teaching it).

Nonetheless, a very interesting and informative post.

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Originally Posted by carlgo View Post
Interesting that archers suffered spinal problems. Makes sense. Surely their bows were as strong as possible for obvious reasons and they had to practice continuously if they wanted to win and live.

From the article it seemed that the king was killed with hand weapons, not arrows. Would he have been wearing armor? Were bows and arrows used in this battle? It would seem armor would be so clumsy in fighting with axes and such and would be avoided unless armor was effective against arrows and so they had to fight hand to hand with crude weapons in order to kill anyone.

.......

He may have been a great military administration, but that would not make him necessarily the best hatchet man or knifer in what must have been horrific hand to hand battles.
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He would have definitely been armoured, almost certainly in full plate armour. Rich men could afford the finest harness, custom made to fit them and as king, you can bet he had a damned good armour on him at Bosworth. According to some sources, he wore the crown on his helmet too.

Bows and arrows would have definitely been used, alongside firearms (from handguns to larger field pieces) and they recently discovered the real location of the battle and have already recovered quite a number of shot. It seems, though, that the soil conditions on site are not conducive to the survival of ferrous metals so they've mainly found bronze, brass, lead and some precious metals in the form of coins and badges. I think efforts to find more metallic objects are ongoing, so hopefully, more artefacts will be found.

Nearly all medieval battles are poorly documented and understood but Bosworth is particularly so (they only found the correct site within the last two years or so) but what seems to have happened is that Richard III led a mounted charge in a direct attempt to kill Henry Tudor. This may have happened after the Duke of Norfolk (a sixty-year old friend of the king and his principal commander) was killed by an attack by the Earl of Oxford (Henry's principal commander & a fine soldier) which drove a 'cuneus' (a wedge-shaped formation) through Norfolk's line.

Richard probably got very close to Tudor, he is said to have killed his standard bearer Sir William Brandon (whose son Charles would go on to be Henry VIII's brother in law & closest friend) and unhorsed Sir John Cheney who was reputedly a giant of a man. It seems as though the charge may have stalled, perhaps getting mired in a marsh and then Richard's band was overwhelmed and he was unhorsed and killed. Even his enemies say he died fighting bravely and refused the offer of a horse to escape (something else Shakespeare seems to have got wrong.) Manual weapons would have been used, armour bought you time but it could be removed and defeated. My own belief is that Richard's helmet was forcibly removed (it was a known technique) in the close quarter fighting and the fatal blows would have come from a halberd (a Welsh tradition records that it was) or a pollaxe or a weapon of similar design. The head trauma is not unusual for the period and is probably tacit evidence for the efficiency of armour of the time...

Edit: he may have been expected to have been supported by the Earl of Northumberland but for reasons which aren't known - either through treachery or a problem in deploying due to the terrain - he was not. He may also have been attacked by men he thought were on his side (the horrible Stanley family, Google them, they were scumbags!) but I'm not so sure about that either. Henry VII's historian says Richard died shouting "Treason! Treason!" so he quite possibly felt let down (how's that for understatement!?) but I'd be willing to bet he died hard and took quite a few men with him at the end.
Excellent and wonderfully informative post, and you've beaten me to it with much more detail that I would have written.

Richard would have worn armour, (and it would have been of the best quality available, and very valuable) and would have fought (and directed matters) on horseback. However, during the battle he was both unhorsed, (knights fighting on foot were a lot less mobile and a lot less dangerous), and as pollaxe has pointed out, had either removed his helmet or someone else had removed it by force. The documentary stressed that those wounds to his skull could not have occurred were he still wearing his helmet, and likewise, the subsequent wounds to his face were clearly inflicted after his helmet had been removed.

A lot of people made their names, and reputations on what had happened at Bosworth. (Actually, I hadn't realised that Sir William Brandon who died at Bosworth was Charles Brandon's father, but I love Hilary Mantel's quote about Charles Brandon when she described him [in 'Bring Up The Bodies] as "half a ton of armoured idiot").
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Old Feb 7, 2013, 02:29 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by pollaxe View Post
I'm not sure I'd agree archery was regarded as obsolete by 1485, particularly not in English armies of the time. I'm not one of the 'longbow types' but they were (and would remain into the sixteenth century) an inherent part of the English tactical system.
The English longbow was, until the development of rifled repeating firearms in the mid-nineteenth century, quite literally the most lethal long-range weapon any single infantryman could bring to bear. The standard Land Pattern musket, and even the famed Baker rifle, were notoriously slow to load (maybe two to three shots per minute in good weather, in rainy weather all bets - and most shots - were off) and usually quite inaccurate.

Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) famously asked for a Corps of Longbowmen to be created during the Peninsular war, fighting in Spain and Portugal against the armies of Napoleon. The Corps was never formed (the tradition of archery having been long since lost to the English yeomanry) - but there is little doubt it would have been tremendously effective against the conscript armies of Soult and Massena.
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Old Feb 7, 2013, 06:27 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by vrDrew View Post
The English longbow was, until the development of rifled repeating firearms in the mid-nineteenth century, quite literally the most lethal long-range weapon any single infantryman could bring to bear. The standard Land Pattern musket, and even the famed Baker rifle, were notoriously slow to load (maybe two to three shots per minute in good weather, in rainy weather all bets - and most shots - were off) and usually quite inaccurate.

Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) famously asked for a Corps of Longbowmen to be created during the Peninsular war, fighting in Spain and Portugal against the armies of Napoleon. The Corps was never formed (the tradition of archery having been long since lost to the English yeomanry) - but there is little doubt it would have been tremendously effective against the conscript armies of Soult and Massena.
Interesting...this entire thread is great, btw!

Some caveats to your above assertion about a bow being the most lethal long-range weapon any *single* infantryman...

Rifling was invented early on...I'm using on-line sources, but it makes sense and jives with my memory of my university history classes...and sharpshooters used rifles with deadly accuracy in the 18th century and 19th century, esp. during the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War) and American Revolution.

The issue seems to be the military tactics at the time preferred the use of the smoothbore musket for several reasons (ease of use, no real need to train, other than loading, and rapidity of firing). Plus, with a bayonet on it, it doubled as a pole-arm!

Once the Minie ball was invented, and one could easily load a rifled musket from the barrel, that removed all barriers from its general use.

However, by that time, the cartridge had been invented (or was very soon afterward), and so muskets went "out of style," as we could kill more effectively and lethally with the new technology.

See the following wikipedia pages:

Rifle

Rifled Musket

Once again, fascinating thread!
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 03:45 AM   #29
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Really interesting posts.

I’ve some experience of shooting longbows so I’ll just add some of my own thoughts. Following the raising of the Mary Rose there’s been a lot of interest developing in the shooting of historically accurate longbows or ‘warbows’ as they’re now currently called. The bows from the Mary Rose were a complete treasure trove of information and they’ve enabled interested modern bowyers to start reproducing pretty faithful reproductions. The bows were generally self yew bows with draw weights from 80 to 180 lbs. Draw lengths were around 32”. The arrows seem massive when compared to modern target arrows. They were generally tapered from 1/2” to 3/8”, self knocked and fletched with goose feathers. They could weigh 1/4 Lb each. Modern day warbow archers are shooting out to 240 –315 yards depending on the arrow weight. (With a flight arrow, similar to modern target arrows - 400 yards is possible)

You can with practice shoot a surprisingly heavy bow. It’s all about technique and developing tendon strength. The manuscripts all show archers in strange ‘arse’ sticking out poses, it was generally thought to be a artistic style thing until people started shooting these heavy bows. You soon learn that there’s a lot of rolling of the shoulders, squatting down and hoping around after the release. All very Monty Python. (But you do actually end up looking like one of the manuscript pics). Seeing arrows come out of a heavy bow is quite something though – if shot level they fly very fast and flat and boy, when they hit something... Smack!

As others have said the longbow was key to a military strategy that involved the ‘democratisation’ of the battlefield. One of the reasons that the English armies were loathed on the continent (apart from the brutality they inflicted on civilians) was their very modern total war attitude. The Kingdom of France at the time was a superpower and could field armies English kings could only dream of in terms of wealth, equipment and numbers. Very importantly - it was also the cradle of romantic chivalry. War to them was something of a game, a sporting contest where the footsoldiers were just meat to be chopped up, it was rare for the aristocracy to get killed, at worst they tended to wind up in a dungeon for a few years while the poor back home were taxed for their ransom.

From Edward I onwards it was the it was the relative weakness of England that led to a tactical system that depended on finding alternatives to the armoured knight and men at arms. The longbow which had been used so effectively against the English in Wales became the answer. However, for it to be used in open battle a way had to be found to protect the archers and turn the battle from a chivalric melee into an ambush of the type the English encountered in the Welsh hills. This was done on the open battlefield on a grand scale by creating killing grounds in front of defensive features. If they couldn’t find a ditch or hedge, a defensive position would be created with stakes and pits. The battle then had to be fought with absolute discipline and have impressive logistics behind it. (From years of training through to the production of thousands and thousands of arrows - think how many people are surnamed Fletcher!)

In some ways it was a very modern weapon. Longbow men were quite often reasonably well off but it did represent ideas about skill and discipline triumphing over parentage and privilege – which even now sits very well with our modern mindsets. I think this political aspect (with a small p) of the bow will ensure it will always be romanced by the English and Welsh. (Although there’s now not only both a Welsh and English warbow society but also a Dutch, Canadian and American one).

Incidentally, the last use of a longbow in war by a British soldier was in May 1940, by 'Mad' Jack Churchill who shot dead a German soldier with one. (I think the loony also carried a sword into battle.)
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 04:55 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by jeremy h View Post
Really interesting posts.

I’ve some experience of shooting longbows so I’ll just add some of my own thoughts. Following the raising of the Mary Rose there’s been a lot of interest developing in the shooting of historically accurate longbows or ‘warbows’ as they’re now currently called. The bows from the Mary Rose were a complete treasure trove of information and they’ve enabled interested modern bowyers to start reproducing pretty faithful reproductions. The bows were generally self yew bows with draw weights from 80 to 180 lbs. Draw lengths were around 32”. The arrows seem massive when compared to modern target arrows. They were generally tapered from 1/2” to 3/8”, self knocked and fletched with goose feathers. They could weigh 1/4 Lb each. Modern day warbow archers are shooting out to 240 –315 yards depending on the arrow weight. (With a flight arrow, similar to modern target arrows - 400 yards is possible)

You can with practice shoot a surprisingly heavy bow. It’s all about technique and developing tendon strength. The manuscripts all show archers in strange ‘arse’ sticking out poses, it was generally thought to be a artistic style thing until people started shooting these heavy bows. You soon learn that there’s a lot of rolling of the shoulders, squatting down and hoping around after the release. All very Monty Python. (But you do actually end up looking like one of the manuscript pics). Seeing arrows come out of a heavy bow is quite something though – if shot level they fly very fast and flat and boy, when they hit something... Smack!

As others have said the longbow was key to a military strategy that involved the ‘democratisation’ of the battlefield. One of the reasons that the English armies were loathed on the continent (apart from the brutality they inflicted on civilians) was their very modern total war attitude. The Kingdom of France at the time was a superpower and could field armies English kings could only dream of in terms of wealth, equipment and numbers. Very importantly - it was also the cradle of romantic chivalry. War to them was something of a game, a sporting contest where the footsoldiers were just meat to be chopped up, it was rare for the aristocracy to get killed, at worst they tended to wind up in a dungeon for a few years while the poor back home were taxed for their ransom.

From Edward I onwards it was the it was the relative weakness of England that led to a tactical system that depended on finding alternatives to the armoured knight and men at arms. The longbow which had been used so effectively against the English in Wales became the answer. However, for it to be used in open battle a way had to be found to protect the archers and turn the battle from a chivalric melee into an ambush of the type the English encountered in the Welsh hills. This was done on the open battlefield on a grand scale by creating killing grounds in front of defensive features. If they couldn’t find a ditch or hedge, a defensive position would be created with stakes and pits. The battle then had to be fought with absolute discipline and have impressive logistics behind it. (From years of training through to the production of thousands and thousands of arrows - think how many people are surnamed Fletcher!)

In some ways it was a very modern weapon. Longbow men were quite often reasonably well off but it did represent ideas about skill and discipline triumphing over parentage and privilege – which even now sits very well with our modern mindsets. I think this political aspect (with a small p) of the bow will ensure it will always be romanced by the English and Welsh. (Although there’s now not only both a Welsh and English warbow society but also a Dutch, Canadian and American one).

Incidentally, the last use of a longbow in war by a British soldier was in May 1940, by 'Mad' Jack Churchill who shot dead a German soldier with one. (I think the loony also carried a sword into battle.)
I do think that you are wrong, again seeing history from only an Anglo Saxon view. The English were no way the first infantry to defeat knights. The Battle of Crecy was 1346.

Well over 44 years earlier at the Battle of the Golden Spurs Infantry defeated a army of knights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Golden_Spurs
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 05:30 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Happybunny View Post
I do think that you are wrong, again seeing history from only an Anglo Saxon view. The Battle of Crecy was 1346.

Well over 44 years earlier at the Battle of the Golden Spurs Infantry defeated a army of knights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Golden_Spurs
Err.. wrong about what..?

The battle of the Spurs simply reinforces this perspective on chivalric tactical incompetence by the French. The Flemish and English were eventually allied in the Hundred years war against the regional superpower - The Kingdom of France.

Infantry have defeated armies of 'knights' (should really be Men-at-Arms I guess) many times. (The English/Normans used to get fairly well smashed up in Wales on occasion.) It was the lessons learnt from these campaigns which gave Edward I (1239-1307) pause to think about how to fight with limited resources. The point about the longbow was it was at the centre of a repeatable tactical system that won battle after battle until the English and Welsh, under a weak king became complacent and lost a critical campaign. (The upheavals of which leads us nicely to the Wars of the Roses.)
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 05:35 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Happybunny View Post
I do think that you are wrong, again seeing history from only an Anglo Saxon view. The English were no way the first infantry to defeat knights. The Battle of Crecy was 1346.

Well over 44 years earlier at the Battle of the Golden Spurs Infantry defeated a army of knights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Golden_Spurs
It was this that I was pointing out was wrong.

From the article on wikipedia.
Historical significance




The battle was the first major example (though with more minor precedents such as the Battle of Ane in 1227) of a string of late medieval battles in which heavily-armoured aristocratic men-at-arms, previously dominant in western European warfare, were defeated by armies consisting largely of infantry drawn from the lower orders (other important instances include Bannockburn, Crecy, Sempach, Agincourt, Grandson and the battles of the Hussite Wars).

It is also a landmark in the development of Flemish political independence and the day is remembered every year in Flanders as the Flemish Community's official holiday.
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 05:39 AM   #33
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It was this that I was pointing out was wrong.
I didn't say that. That's your statement.

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Old Feb 8, 2013, 08:03 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by jeremy h View Post
Really interesting posts.

I’ve some experience of shooting longbows so I’ll just add some of my own thoughts. Following the raising of the Mary Rose there’s been a lot of interest developing in the shooting of historically accurate longbows or ‘warbows’ as they’re now currently called.
......

As others have said the longbow was key to a military strategy that involved the ‘democratisation’ of the battlefield. One of the reasons that the English armies were loathed on the continent (apart from the brutality they inflicted on civilians) was their very modern total war attitude. The Kingdom of France at the time was a superpower and could field armies English kings could only dream of in terms of wealth, equipment and numbers. Very importantly - it was also the cradle of romantic chivalry. War to them was something of a game, a sporting contest where the footsoldiers were just meat to be chopped up, it was rare for the aristocracy to get killed, at worst they tended to wind up in a dungeon for a few years while the poor back home were taxed for their ransom.

From Edward I onwards it was the it was the relative weakness of England that led to a tactical system that depended on finding alternatives to the armoured knight and men at arms. The longbow which had been used so effectively against the English in Wales became the answer. However, for it to be used in open battle a way had to be found to protect the archers and turn the battle from a chivalric melee into an ambush of the type the English encountered in the Welsh hills. This was done on the open battlefield on a grand scale by creating killing grounds in front of defensive features. If they couldn’t find a ditch or hedge, a defensive position would be created with stakes and pits. The battle then had to be fought with absolute discipline and have impressive logistics behind it. (From years of training through to the production of thousands and thousands of arrows - think how many people are surnamed Fletcher!)

In some ways it was a very modern weapon. Longbow men were quite often reasonably well off but it did represent ideas about skill and discipline triumphing over parentage and privilege – which even now sits very well with our modern mindsets. I think this political aspect (with a small p) of the bow will ensure it will always be romanced by the English and Welsh........
Excellent post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Happybunny View Post
I do think that you are wrong, again seeing history from only an Anglo Saxon view. The English were no way the first infantry to defeat knights. The Battle of Crecy was 1346.

Well over 44 years earlier at the Battle of the Golden Spurs Infantry defeated a army of knights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Golden_Spurs
Re The Battle of the Golden Spurs itself, a very nicely written description can be found in the book 'Prince of Clouds' by the Italian writer Gianni Riotta. Set in 1946, in Sicily, the protagonist is a retired colonel with an intellectual and theoretical cast of mind who is helping to prepare a young student to sit the entrance exams to the military academy, and much of the book consists of his tutorials which describe various battles in military as well as philosophical terms. A lovely read.

Re the democratisation of armies conferred by the longbow, nothing jeremy h has written excludes taking a look at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. In fact, if anything, it serves to reinforce the wider arguments.

Here, the key is that ownership of a longbow didn't cost the earth, and proficiency at the longbow (back to Richard and his scoliosis) often caused musculature and spinal changes (studies on skeletons of some longbow men show evidence of a vastly overdeveloped set of muscles on one side of the torso - which could well have seemed lop-sided in appearance), and required much practice.

What sort of society not just tolerated, but actively encouraged, considerable numbers of its population to become armed and proficient in wielding such arms, and didn't see this as a fundamental threat to the state (and crown)? Societies which were increasingly literate, and increasingly urban, for one thing. Also, societies where the old feudal notions of service, and serfdom, and the ideas that individuals were owned by those for whom they worked, (or, at the very least, owed them service over and beyond waged labour), were breaking down. (Granted, many of these changes were accelerated further by the Black Death which transformed Europe, politically, socially and economically, not to mention militarily).

One could not envisage the idea of armies of 'free' longbow men being allowed to exist in countries where strong attachments remained to feudal ideals, or in societies which were still run on feudal notions of service, and hierarchy (leaving aside the whole idea of romantic chivalry and courtly love, as jeremy h pas pointed out). They would have been seen as a threat undermining the established order. The idea of 'ordinary' (if practiced and skilled) people having permission to slaughter the cream of society (in battle) was extremely subversive.

In general, this is because longbow men were 'free' men, and were not serfs, or villeins, or any of the other plethora of tied relationships to lord and land that had proliferated in the wake of the Norman Conquest in England and still largely prevailed on the Continent. (Serfdom only ended in France with the French Revolution, and in Russia was only abolished in the 1860s, under the reforms of Tsar Alexander II). In societies (and countries) where clusters of cities, (and towns - urban centres) which acted as mediums of exchange of goods and ideas, which also facilitated trade, where laws of contract reinforcing the independence of trading, exchanges of goods, services, ideas and monies - (contracts which even royalty were supposed to observe) were increasingly the norm, where literacy was increasing - all of these societies allowed the conditions whereby the 'democratisation' of war could begin to take place.

Therefore, it is no coincidence that both Flanders and England (both increasingly urban, literate, societies, where wealth was generated increasingly by trade, not inherited wealth or conquest), both - independently gave rise to circumstances where trained 'free' men - using longbows - were able to annihilate armies led predominantly by mounted knights. The only other place in Europe at the time where one found clusters of urban centres, where literacy was high, and which valued trading links, were, of course, the cities (city states) of northern Italy.

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Old Feb 8, 2013, 08:25 AM   #35
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Excellent post.



Re The Battle of the Golden Spurs itself, a very nicely written description can be found in the book 'Prince of Clouds' by the Italian writer Gianni Riotta. Set in 1946, in Sicily, the protagonist is a retired colonel with an intellectual and theoretical cast of mind who is helping to prepare a young student to sit the entrance exams to the military academy, and much of the book consists of his tutorials which describe various battles in military as well as philosophical terms. A lovely read.

Re the democratisation of armies conferred by the longbow, nothing jeremy h has written excludes taking a look at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. In fact, if anything, it serves to reinforce the wider arguments.

Here, the key is that ownership of a longbow didn't cost the earth, and proficiency at the longbow (back to Richard and his scoliosis) often caused musculature and spinal changes (studies on skeletons of some longbow men show evidence of a vastly overdeveloped set of muscles on one side of the torso - which could well have seemed lop-sided in appearance), and required much practice.

What sort of society not just tolerated, but actively encouraged, considerable numbers of its population to become armed and proficient in wielding such arms, and didn't see this as a fundamental threat to the state (and crown)? Societies which were increasingly literate, and increasingly urban, for one thing. Also, societies where the old feudal notions of service, and serfdom, and the ideas that individuals were owned by those for whom they worked, (or, at the very least, owed them service over and beyond waged labour), were breaking down. (Granted, many of these changes were accelerated further by the Black Death which transformed Europe, politically, socially and economically, not to mention militarily).

One could not envisage the idea of armies of 'free' longbow men being allowed to exist in countries where strong attachments remained to feudal ideals, or in societies which were still run on feudal notions of service, and hierarchy (leaving aside the whole idea of romantic chivalry and courtly love, as jeremy h pas pointed out). They would have been seen as a threat undermining the established order. The idea of 'ordinary' (if practiced and skilled) people having permission to slaughter the cream of society (in battle) was extremely subversive.

In general, this is because longbow men were 'free' men, and were not serfs, or villeins, or any of the other plethora of tied relationships to lord and land that had proliferated in the wake of the Norman Conquest in England and still largely prevailed on the Continent. (Serfdom only ended in France with the French Revolution, and in Russia was only abolished in the 1860s, under the reforms of Tsar Alexander II). In societies (and countries) where cities, (and towns - urban centres) which acted as mediums of exchange of goods and ideas, which also facilitated trade, where laws of contract reinforcing the independence of trading, exchanges of goods, services, ideas and monies - (contracts which even royalty were supposed to observe) were increasingly the norm, where literacy was increasing - all of these societies allowed the conditions whereby the 'democratisation' of war could begin to take place.

Therefore, it is no coincidence that both Flanders and England (both increasingly urban, literate, societies, where wealth was generated increasingly by trade, not inherited wealth or conquest), both - independently gave rise to circumstances where trained 'free' men - using longbows - were able to annihilate armies led predominantly by mounted knights. The only other place in Europe at the time where one found urban centres, where literacy was high, and which valued trading links, were, of course, the cities (city states) of northern Italy.
Going on the to read list. Note to self got to read more.

The main difference if I have read my history books, was the the fact that it took so long to train a longbow man, plus he had to train quite regularly. The city states of northern Italy and the Major Cities of Flanders wanted large forces that could be trained quickly and cheaply. The steel crossbow combined with pike and spearmen and later cannon, became the backbone of Continental armies. In just a few weeks you could take untrained men, and turn them into soldiers capable of standing up to major battle field action.

It's the like the same story of the second war, the German Tiger was a fantastic tank, but if the lost in combat was not easily replaced, the allies had no such problems inferior equipment but numbers do matter. The longbow man was a real specialist a master craftsman, not easily replaced. Pike men on the other hand were just bodies.

This is why I think the pike/spearman is the forerunner of what I think you call the Poor Bloody Infantry man, and not in my opinion the highly specialist long bow man.
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Old Feb 8, 2013, 01:31 PM   #36
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And now Western armies are increasingly going to small, specialized infantry units that are highly trained and well-armed.

Each soldier costs a fortune to field and armies are generally smaller, so each soldier is used much more carefully now, compared to the past.
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Old Feb 10, 2013, 05:57 AM   #37
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Great thread.

I've had very little free time recently, but I have been wanting to post here. I'm typing on my iPad Mini and I don't have any sources to hand so this will be discursive and off the cuff but bear with me..

Some thoughts re archers/battlefield archery. The English claimed that no-one could learn to shoot properly unless they'd been brought up to do it. However, informal modern experiments seem to refute this, with untrained people learning to shoot 130 lbs bows. (I don't have the source for this and it's largely anecdotal but it was from one of the archery societies' publications) whether they could shoot as accurately and consistently, though, I don't know... I used to do field archery when I was a nipper and I remember trying (unsucessfully) to draw a 60lbs modern recurve so it's left a bit of an impression on my mind as to just how powerful medieval and Tudor war bows would have been.

Archery practice was famously mandated on a weekly basis for all able-bodied men between 16 to 60 years of age in England but there is some suggestion that this was tied up in the belief that it helped moral behaviour as well as the obvious practical benefits. The inventory of 1547, shortly before his death, reveals Henry VIII kept shooting gear next to his bedroom. Whether he was still capable of drawing the bow (kept in a white and green velvet bag and embroidered with the royal arms IIRC) is another matter but archery was practised across all levels of society. John Howard (the Duke of Norfolk who died fighting for Richard at Bosworth) is recorded to have lost a wager at shooting with another nobleman and also retained an archer called Daniel at 10 per annum, which was a lot of money indeed.

It is an interesting disparity between France and England that the former did not encourage the development of archery en masse amongst its people. One theory was that there was a fear of insurrection should the population have done so but I'm not wholly convinced of that argument, considering the proliferation of arms carried by medieval people. Certainly, there were French archers but it never seems to have been adopted on the scale to be found across the channel. (The French Monarch of course had a bodyguard of Scots Archers). Perhaps the size and comparatively fragmented nature of the kingdom of France was against it? The Black Death in fourteenth-century England helped give rise to a nascent middle class (the yeoman) from which many archers would emerge, as well as men at arms, some of whom would move on to knighthood and nobility whilst others would remain esquires.

The Hundred Years War seems to have helped to create professional and semi-professional soldiers. This is a broad generalisation but looking at the English victories in France, it tended to be a smaller, professional English host up against a much larger, sometimes feudally-based French host. The former would usually hold a piece of ground and wait (or force) the larger French host to attack. Archery was key to this, especially against horses. Arrows stuck in a horse waggled and drove it mad with pain, rendering it uncontrollable. The arrows thus helped to disarray any enemy advance but I would contend that archery helped to win battles but did not win it alone. Every major engagement of the period ended in hand strokes.

The English often fought dismounted. It was indeed, the most common deployment for the man at arms during the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV once told a visiting foreigner that he had won all his battles on foot. That's not to say they were incapable of fighting that way, rather, a model of deployment with the nobles on foot, leading their men into combat seems to have been the way the English did things at this point. There is tantalising evidence that mounted troops did exist and had a tactical role to play (perhaps most famously the 'plump' of two hundred 'spears' that took Somerset's flank and rear at Tewkesbury in 1471, where Richard fought.) Talking of the origins of the poor bloody infantry, Gregory's Chronicle of the mid 15th c has an excellent bit of writing which (paraphrasing wildly here) that the horsemen look good, get all the choice billets and victuals but that 'in the footmen is all the trust' and it's classic soldierly grumbling which has probably echoed through the ranks since the dawn of armies.

I've heard archery being likened to the musket but I think that's a clumsy comparison. As noted above, the bow was an aimed weapon, why fit it with a variety of arrowheads, designed to attack a range of targets if it were not. Muskets were highly inaccurate and commanders compensated for this by massing them together so that the weight of shot counted. I think the costs of archery began to tell against it. Raw materials for the bow were one thing (yew staves were imported on a massive scale) and strings but the ammunition was also relatively complex. Consider the shaft of the arrow had to be cut and shaped (there were various designs rather than the parallel design we are more familiar with for target shooting). The feathers had to be collected, cut, glued and tied. Horn set in the nocks and then a head had to be forged too. Clearly, supply chains were in place to provide these but they also had to be stored (fletchings will deteriorate when arrows are compressed together so leather spacers, discs, were also used to keep the shafts apart) and cared for as the glue could deteriorate, as could the feathers (which are a favourite of the clothes moth larvae!) when you take things like this into account, the mould for lead shot sounds a lot easier to produce, doesn't it? Even if lead is expensive.. So, yes, cost and complexity seem to have played a part in the decline of the archer, technical arcs in gunpowder technology also played a part in it too,I believe.

I seem to recall that a commander during the English Civil War of the 1640s was surprised to find an arrow that landed squarely between his feet at the start of one of the battles. So, clearly they were still around even then but that was an exception rather than a rule. I think Wellesley would have been well served by a corps of bowmen but whether he was being wholly serious is another matter. Ah, Mad Jack 'an officer is not properly dressed unless he is armed with a sword' (or words to that effect) though I was under the impression he used a crossbow not a longbow? (I could well be wrong on that, though.)

Guys, my apologies for what I know is a rather haphazard reply. I've got family buzzing around and most of my other posts are done when I've a quiet 5 mins at work and I feel this excellent thread deserves a more coherent tone than I can muster here but I can only work with what I've got!

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Old Feb 10, 2013, 10:25 AM   #38
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Channel 4 tonight - 9pm...

The car park fee joke is doing the rounds at the moment - everyone is working it out at the NCP day rate.

I'd just direct NCP to look for a thorn bush - they should find the fee hanging there.
I wonder who owes more in un paid parking fines/fees, Dickie 3 or the Yanks in Grosvenor Square.
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Old Feb 10, 2013, 10:43 AM   #39
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Archery practice was famously mandated on a weekly basis for all able-bodied men between 16 to 60 years of age in England but there is some suggestion that this was tied up in the belief that it helped moral behaviour as well as the obvious practical benefits.
As an aside, my old school still had a pair of archery butts on the playing fields, dating back to medieval times.

The field on which the butts are located, a practising ground for archery in the middle ages, is known as Butts Close by royal decree of King Edward III in 1337.

The two mounds are 100 yards apart and the men of Bridlington would fire arrows into targets placed on top of the butts. King Henry V in 1413 and King Edward IV in 1461 also ordered that archery should be practised on the field after church on Sundays, though all other forms of sport were forbidden.

The butts were in the enclosure of the Priory monastery and the canons and monks also had to practise there.


The school is gone now and a new college and housing stands in its place, but fortunately the butts were preserved for future generations to not use for target practice.
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Old Feb 10, 2013, 02:04 PM   #40
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I have seen medieval butts and believe that they should be used for target practice.

It is the newer, smaller ones that should be left alone just to observe and admire.
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Old Feb 12, 2013, 10:45 AM   #41
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A lot of people made their names, and reputations on what had happened at Bosworth. (Actually, I hadn't realised that Sir William Brandon who died at Bosworth was Charles Brandon's father, but I love Hilary Mantel's quote about Charles Brandon when she described him [in 'Bring Up The Bodies] as "half a ton of armoured idiot").
Ha ha! Brilliant! I haven't read that one yet, just Wolf Hall but I'll put it on the list!
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Old Feb 13, 2013, 04:00 AM   #42
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The Richard III society have revealed their proposal for his tomb...



Looks like Leicester Cathedral are starting a pitch process ... some more details here.
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Old Feb 13, 2013, 04:31 AM   #43
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I think it's superb, they've done a really good job there.

Part of me would like to see him buried in York (it was where he wished to be laid to rest, apparently) but so long as it's done with dignity, I don't really mind Leicester, either.

(I'm a lapsed Richard III Society member, btw.)
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 10:04 AM   #44
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I dont understand why they dug him up just to bury him somewhere posher...... its perverting history.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 10:07 AM   #45
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I dont understand why they dug him up just to bury him somewhere posher...... its perverting history.
Because the location of his grave was unknown previously and I guess they feel a past King of England should not be left lying under a council car park, but should be buried somewhere as befits his status.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 10:26 AM   #46
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Because the location of his grave was unknown previously and I guess they feel a past King of England should not be left lying under a council car park, but should be buried somewhere as befits his status.

I don't agree
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 11:24 AM   #47
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The Richard III society have revealed their proposal for his tomb...

Image

Looks like Leicester Cathedral are starting a pitch process ... some more details here.
Looks fantastic, Fit for a King.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 07:33 AM   #48
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I dont understand why they dug him up just to bury him somewhere posher...... its perverting history.
You're certainly entitled to your opinion but I'm interested in how you think that this is perverting history?

His burial site was lost, it was only through some very clever detective work he was found and, as a king of England (the only one since the Norman Conquest without a tomb, with the problematic exception of the nephew he deposed) putting him back under a council car park would seem a little incongruous, wouldn't it?
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 07:57 AM   #49
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I guess they could stick him back in the car park and put a speed hump there to mark the spot?
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 08:26 AM   #50
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You're certainly entitled to your opinion but I'm interested in how you think that this is perverting history?

His burial site was lost, it was only through some very clever detective work he was found and, as a king of England (the only one since the Norman Conquest without a tomb, with the problematic exception of the nephew he deposed) putting him back under a council car park would seem a little incongruous, wouldn't it?
Because future generations will forget he was dug up and moved and assumed he was always given a kings burial in whatever cathedral he ends up in, when actually he was killed in quite a nasty way, and given a small funeral (not quite a paupers funeral, but certainly low key) in a small church. That is the story of the last english king to die in battle, and that history will now be forgotten.

At the end of the day the sole reason he was exhumed and moved was for the university to get itself in the media, it really has served no other purpose.

In addition I also think its disrespectful to disturb any burial ground except extreme cases for instance when exhumation takes place for murder investigations etc.

British history forgets its folklore tradition, science has to prove its worth by finding dead kings, and making a media frenzy about it, but in doing so trashes the history that education has been built upon...... Its commonplace now...... I bet if you ask most History GCSE students what the earliest religions where in England they'll say Christianity, which most people with an interest in history should know it wasnt.
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