Friday, October 28, 2016

Rebel Cenre Ward - Foot: John Fitzjohn spear (2)




At long last, another unit of my Baronial Rebel Army is painted. This time I've complete a 30 man spear armed unit under the command of John Fitzjohn.

John Fitzjohn
John followed his father John Fitzgeoffrey into rebellion, who was a former Justiciar of Ireland and a leading magnate. Fitzgeoffrey opposed the King in 1258 after a loss of influence in Prince Edward 'court' and position in the face of rough justice (or no justice) when attacked over his disputed Shere manor (Surrey) by the royal relative and favorite Aymer de Valence. Again, these foreign relatives of the royal family placed another family, this time the Johns in opposition to the royal regime. As a leading magnate, Fitzgeoffrey was a leading rebel so his 'sudden' and untimely death placed his son and heir Fitzjohn as a leading partner with de Montfort.

He had married Margery de Basset making him the son-in-law of Phillip de Basset, the Justiciar of England and his opponent in the war. Yet another unfortunate familial divide in a very personal conflict.
Born around 1240, Fitzjohn must have been 24 at Lewes so very much in his fighting prime with a chief command at the Battle of Lewes. Surviving the battle, he reduced Ricard's Castle (the Chief Seat of Hugh de Mortimer), and took the Castle of Ludlow (Shropshire) for de Montfort. William Blaauw (The Baron's War, London, 1844) has it that Fitzjohn was zealous and fierce in his prosecution of the rebel cause and his loyalty to it. He was installed as the baronial Sheriff of Westmorland, and 'keeper of the Castles in those parts'. He was also made governor of Windsor Castle.

Surviving the battle of Evesham, he was nevertheless taken prisoner and lost it all. Again, according to Blaauw, Fitzjohn 'wilfuly forbore to make his peace or compound for his estates' and thus the inheritance of his lands appears to have been given over to de Clare, Earl of Gloucester.  Later, through the Dictum of Kenilworth he does seem to have been afforded a further opportunity to do so. Fitzjohn's misfortunes after the demise of the baronial cause were short lived; however, as he died in 1265 of unknown causes and with no issue.
The Unit
I selected a colour range for the shields taken from the basic field colours of the leading barons I am representing in the Centre ward - red, blue and yellow. Others are natural timber and all are painted with their baronial white crosses. This will be the second last unit of foot I need for the army.
There are several Mirliton figures who carry their long spears over their shoulders in marching pose which I love but were problematic to base. So one stand of six appear to be moving across the rear to take up position and extend the right flank when their stand is positioned length-wise. Alternatively they can be positioned breadth-wise and appear to be taking up position from the rear. I actually don't mind how this has turned out. 
This is my first banner of cloth for this army and you can make out the weave in some of the shots.The next unit will be the Centre Ward archers (12) which are already primed and ready to go with a new experiment for me in painting faces about to be embarked upon.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

FLAGS: To be or not to be

I'm currently finishing the painting of my latest unit of foot and have decided from this point to start making my armies flags. Each unit will have it's own flag to follow as logic and rules convention both dictate. My research has been revisited and at this time it may prove instructive to anyone dabbling in this specific period (mid-thirteenth century) to lay the ground rules for flags.

Whilst various flags abound throughout and originating from the medieval period, there are only two types permitted in an army for Lewes (1264). Whilst Standards, Pennons (or pendants), Banners and gonfalons, pinsels and guidons are all types of flags familiar to the wargamer of the broadly defined medieval period, we are only permitted Banners and Pennons.

PENNONS are perhaps the simplest to comprehend as they are the smaller, triangular flags attached to the end of a knight's lance for which every knight on the field was entitled to and may very well have carried. It was in fact during this period during the reign of Henry III that the pennon is first seen in its swallow tail form. It appears we can opt for simple equilateral triangle, swallow tail or even a scalene triangle form (cut from the 'hoist' or lance top of the pennon to the tail or 'fly').

Knights in our period are simply knights bachelor. This is the most ancient or oldest order of knights and the only type in existence for our period - later knights 'banneret' and specific orders of knights having yet to be created. Pennons do not necessarily carry the blazon or coat of arms if you will, and may have a badge or heraldic device only. So, in short, any member of the knightly class including earls may have such a flag. Incidentally, squires may carry smaller variants.

BANNERS do display the blazon or coat of arms of the knight as displayed on the shield and are square or rectangular. For me, this will be the unit flag taken from the knight who commands them. So, in a unit of mounted knights I may have any number of pennons streaming but only one banner. According to A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (James Parker 1894) a banner was regulated in size according to rank. Regulation is understood to have been most likely in effect by our period but details I have found are only available from a later time (Henry VIII). Applying back to Lewes I will apply an earls banner at 3 feet square or 3 feet across the top of a rectangle perhaps as long at the hoist as 6 feet. A lesser knight (pretty well all other comers) is less - perhaps 2 feet square or similarly across the top in case of the rectangular.

Dimensions of the banner is another calculation I'm afraid. According to Parker, a pennon was half the length of a guidon which was one third shorter than the length of a standard (both of which post-date our period). Looking to the dimensions of standards of Scotland by fourteenth century, an earl had a standard of 13 feet and knights 10 feet. It is noted that an English knight had a standard 4 yards or 12 feet long. So, unless anyone has more specific information, I might just tack on +2 feet for an English earl.  So my earl has a pennon 5 feet long - taken from standard of 15 feet and a guidon 10 feet long. Correspondingly my knight will have 4 foot long pennons.

If anyone has other ideas - I'm all ears.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quest for Accuracy: Curse of the Pedant

I suppose the poser here is what's wrong with this image? The short answer is nothing of course. The above image is taken from L'Estoire del Saint Graal & L'Estoire de Merlin (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Français 95, c.1280-1290) but this is the rub ... for me. This is the earliest depiction to my understanding of the oft named 'sugerloaf helm' and the earliest date for this illustration as my insert states is 1280. Up to this time, all effigies, illustrations or finds for that matter (precious few) depict the great helm as an essentially flat-topped affair.
The above seal of John deMontfort dates from 1270 and clearly shows the flat-topped great helm which is incidentally paralleled by all other surviving and datable evidence up to the abovementioned sugerloaf appearance by 1280. Whilst most followers of this blog are no doubt conversant with developments of arms and armour throughout the medieval period, I have been reminded recently of the constant development in military technology and the fact that such development never rests. The thirteenth century is no exception and this presents some traps for the wargamer - or perhaps more precisely the army builder.

I am not going to attempt an amateurish rehash of the great helm and its development but suffice to say the great helm as a replacement of the face-guard or earlier form of great helm appears to have been complete by 1250. So, by 1264 at Lewes any and all barons, knights, squires or sergeants should be modelled wearing at least an arming cap, carvelliere, pot helm, 'kettle' helm, mail coif or flat-topped great helm. There are depictions of some great helms with a slight conical top. As the sugerloaf doesn't come into effect until 1280 at the earliest, they are out for the Second Baron's War. I wish I had paid more attention to this detail previously.

Figure manufacturers don't help with labeling and packaging for the historical pedant. Using the broadest possible tags, they market their goods in a way best aimed at sales - naturally. This presents a potential pit-fall to a collector who fails to pay sufficient attention to the small details - as I have done. Anyone glancing back at my older posts will see several examples of out-of-period conical or sugerloaf helms which are now due a renovation. I am hoping judicial application of a file and a touch-up with the paintbrush will rectify this glaring oversight. I surely can't ignore it now. So, my journey continues. Thankfully this will not affect my current unit of thirty spear under the command of John Fitz John which is coming along nicely thanks to a bit of leave.