Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sharing an Idea: Fall of the Foot

Admittedly, I'm not doing a lot on this project for the time being having been posted to Tonga. I am painting and building but not anything toward this project for the present. Nevertheless, it forever returns to mind.
I have been listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History and in particular his discussions concerning armies across the ages and their respective styles of warfare. If you aren't familiar with Mr Carlin's broadcasts or other works, he is no academic as such but a public broadcaster. A Bachelor graduate in history much like myself, he has a lifelong interest and studies human history including warfare, politics and religion. I have only just discovered his podcasts which I find to be entertaining and thought provoking. He is quite clearly a thinker.
Mr Carlin was specifically discussing the failure of Eastern armies over the past three hundred or so years and conversely, the general comparative failure of western armies prior to this. It is a general, multi-millennial assessment taking note of considerable divergent periods but looks toward those tidal marks where West meets East.
What has this got to do with Lewes? Well, he speaks about the psychological and cultural resistance to change and other motivations preventing what we might otherwise assume to be logical military developments. A brief side reference he made, but of critical interest to me was the disinterest of ruling elites in developing the military capacity of their subjects. In fact, it goes further than that and prompts an analysis of an elite's vested interests in preventing the development of their subjects military capability.
I have for some time struggled in coming to terms with the erosion of medieval infantry and their ability to deal with mounted opponents.  I keep going back to the failure of de Montfort's London militia to hold their ground against Prince Edward's admittedly massive cavalry assault. I have asked myself how was it that the Saxon shield wall on Senlac Hill sustained repeated Normal cavalry assaults but thousands of formed spearmen atop Lewes Downs failed to hold the higher ground? Less than 100 years later their descendants were fouling the ground and preparing improvised field defences against even heavier and presumably superior French cavalry during the Hundred Years War. On the surface, I feel I am presented with a sandwiched period where the supremacy of the knight is well recognised but little assessment of what happened to the foot is entered into.
Several factors come into play it seems. There had been no major battle on open ground in England since Hastings. That's a broad statement I realise. The subsequent generations who endured the civil wars of Geoffrey and Maud in the twelfth century and the First Baron's War of the early thirteenth fought battles in largely urban environments and revolved around sieges. The London militia by the mid-thirteenth century had never experienced battle requiring co-ordinated formations against enemy cavalry. They would not have been organizationally or particularly psychologically experienced. In fact, they would never have co-operated in the field against any large formed bodies of enemy soldiers of any type. Captains would have had little experience either - being drawn on the basis of social status rather than real battle experience - genuine veterans being hard to come by.
Back to Carlin's comments, it would not have been in the ruling elites interest to teach the common Englishmen how to resist a mounted knight. Post Hastings, warfare within the British Isles was radically altered with the appearance and immediate dominance of the mounted knight. Once Saxon society was dismantled there was no one left to organise the Fyrd. A levy of troops was a rare thing and the new masters of England preferred mercenaries and castles from which their unstoppable mounted forces would sally forth to settle whatever needed settling.
In open battle, the foot supported the mounted knights, squires and sergeants who were the shock troops and battle-winning arm of armies. This was how the ruling classes liked it.
The Saxon, north european culture which fueled warfare on foot and put spine in the shield wall was long gone. Norman England had no need for a shield wall and less desire for one. The domination of high status mounted warriors became the introduced reality reinforced by an unidentified but effective military doctrine which supported the imposed social structure.
If I look at what changed in the English military tradition by the time of the Hundred Years War, it was that warfare was something which came to be fought externally. Over such a long period of time, the development and refinement of the infantry into a professional body of mobile yeoman longbow men may have only been socially possible because they were fighting abroad. Even for that generation which followed the Second Barons' War, military effort was directed outwards in the expansionist wars of Edward I against the Welsh and the Scots.
Of course, society had also changed and the ruing elites had long since ceased to become foreign in the same sense as their eleventh century forebears. By the time of Crecy, the common man who made up the foot soldiery must have seemed more 'us' than 'them' in the minds of their masters.
So, looking back to the day at Lewes, de Montfort had spread his cavalry more or less evenly amongst this four wards. Whilst taking the high ground determining the time and place of battle, he cannot have predicted that the Royal army would have massed so much of it's cavalry arm on one wing. As thousands of horsemen charged up the slope toward his left wing it must have seemed that the rebels were doomed - even with defence in depth and on higher ground.
It's one of those 'what-if's' of history for me. At least now feel I better understand the reasons behind the abilities or otherwise of the foot and London militia in particular.
For those of you who already appreciated this ... I apologise for being so dim and taking so long to catch up.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Walter de Cantilupe: Bishop of Worcester

Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester was the leading ecclesiastical proponent of the attempts at church and governmental reform. Walter took de Montfort's part in rebellion during the second Barons War, taking the lead role as advocate from his high-minded and reforming mentor Robert Grosseteste, the former Bishop of Lincoln. The two churchmen had been at Oxford together in the 1220s, Walter was attaining his Master's Degree and Robert lectured there.
Formerly a clerk of the King's exchequer by 1215 and a one time justice, be entered holy orders and received consecration as Bishop of Worcester in 1237.  Between 1208 and 1236 Walter had held a total of thirteen benefices and ecclesiastical offices at one time or another but had not been consecrated until after his attainmet of his Bishopric. Some of these 'estates' had been royal but others were hereditary including Brailes at Kenilworth.

Moving from courtier to rebel, Walter became opposed to Papal policy and the political alliance between Rome and an unrelenting crown. He was both a champion of a nationally identifying clergy and religious reform, holding a synod in Worcester Cathedral (1240) which introduced rules governing Godparents, rest on holy days and disallowed the clergy from activities such as the playing of chess.

By 1254, through the untimely deaths of his brother William and in turn William's eldest son, Walter became head of the family whilst his nephew George was a minor.
By 1258, Walter became one of the Twenty Four committee members through the Provisions of Oxford and was a key baronial representative. He was at Lewes and blessed the army prior to the battle. Afterwards, he appears to have taken a back seat to affairs under de Montfort's government and was not a member of the Council of Nine - which included instead, Stephen Bersted, Bishop of Chichester. Walter was also at Evesham where heard Earl Simon's confession - his last. Walter avoided the consequent papal excommunication which his fellow reforming clergymen experienced, dying in February 1266.
Whilst I am unable to ascertain Walter de Cantilupe's age at Lewes he cannot have been a young man. I hazard that he was at least 15 when taking up a clerkship (could have been older) he must have been in his 60s at Lewes. He was nevertheless the head of his family and a family of the knightly class. Given his presence at the Battle I am including him as one of my two bishops, fully armoured and taking the field. He may not have been a fighting bishop in the fullest sense but I imagine him taking the field all the same; fully protected and leading his flock whom he deemed a crusading force like the good sheppard, invoking the spirit and blessing of Saint Thomas a Becket.
I have two choices with Bishops when it comes to their heraldry. I can either go with the ecclesiastical heraldry which I have done for my Bishop of London, or I can go with the office holder's own family blazon which I have done for Walter de Cantilupe. Given his status as head of the family by the time of the battle, it seemed more appropriate. In the above image there are all recorded bearings for those who held the Bishopric of Worcester including Walter's (top row, fifth from the left) and the Bishopric heraldry in the centre. Walter de Cantilupe's blazon is gules, three leopards' faces jessant-de-leys or reversed (below).


Above is a contemporary image of Thomas de Cantiplupe (sainted Bishop of Hereford) whom I took the colours from for my miniature. Whilst not Walter and of another bishopric, modern ecclesiastical apparel (including the mitre) of the Bishop of Worcester often has the same colour scheme including the mitre of yellow with red bands. Imagery throughout is not consistent with the above white mitre in the heraldic device for Worcester.
The above tomb and effigy is attributed to Walter de Cantilupe in Worcester Cathedral.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Rebel Centre Ward: Knights

LtoR: John de Grey, John de Vescy, John de Vipont, William of Birmingham, Squire to Hauteville, Thomas de Hauteville (Leader), Geoffrey de la Mar, Hughes de Bures, Thomas de Astley and Roger de Mohaut.

For the centre ward knights of my rebel army I adopted heavier lances by using a thicker gauge wire than I have used to date and gave each lance a graper which I have not done before. In comparison to previous knights in my army, these gents look far more the ticket for a mid to late thirteenth century knight. My last unit will be similarly equipped.

These figures are also from different ranges to my previous knights, coming from Crusader Miniatures 'Later Crusader' range (MCF010 and MCF012) as well as Gripping Beast 'Crusading Knights' (LCCO1 02 and 06) with some minor alterations. They are all solid sculpts and very animated and are all highly detailed which made for a demanding paint job. 
They took an unusual commitment and I have definitely developed a greater attention to detail in recent years. Caparisons are all weathered and all colours (especially in the cloth) are subdued. There's quite a bit of yellow amongst the heraldry which I suppress with light brown when I mix the Humbrol enamels. I paint the maille by undercoating with a mix of Gun Metal with Gloss Black (thinned) then dry brush with Gun Metal/Aluminium mixed and thinned. I left the maille dull this time - only applying highlight of thinned Humbrol Silver on the steel helms.I'm not at all happy with the Humbrol Brass any more and will be moving to Vallejo but I still love the Humbrol Gold and Silver.

The trumpeter carries the Banner of Thomas de Hauteville (full heraldry) whom I elevated to the unit leader. The banner is made of cloth (fine cotton) cut, glued to the steel wire shaft, wrapped and dipped in a white glue solution and glued to the miniature after drying ready for the whole miniature undercoat. Of all the knight to chose as leader, I seem to have set myself the most difficult heraldry to paint. I sketched the design only after undercoating the figure. I must have been off my chops!
I gave only the leader a pennon - made of heavy foil. I've used paper pennon before and reckon cotton to be too fiddly for such a small device. I use foil for later period lance pennons and they work a treat, furl easily and effectively as well as hold their form. I recommend it. I fix them before undercoating.
This is the second unit of the army to be based on the thicker 5mm MDF bases and I've moved away from single bases of any kind. I prefer using numbered tiles to represent casualties until an equivalent element is removed. Consequently I have based this unit on two three figure bases and a command base of four figures. I'm also moving to a standard depth of 70mm to allow for charged lances and staggered, more natural alignments of the figures. The 5mm bases will also allow for labeling of the units and identifications of some of the knights and earls.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rebel Centre Ward: Commander - Gilbert de Clare

Gilbert de Clare the "Red" Earl of Hertford and Gloucestershire had by the time of Lewes attained the age of 21 and his earldom after the death if his father, Richard in 1262. He had been married aged ten to the King's niece, Alice de Lusignan (also known as Alice de Valence). By Lewes, he had fathered two daughters - Isabella and Joan.
We are told that Gilbert was called the "Red" due to his hair or his temper. Gilbert's powerful marcher earldom was said to be exceeded in wealth and estates only by the King. His grandfather Richard was a leader in the first Baron's War against King John and Gilbert continued a tradition of prosecuting the interests of his family similarly.

Gilbert either initiated, lead or at the very least allowed the massacre of the Canterbury Jews consistent with the Montfortian pogrom, the actions for which confirm his capability for brutality. Prior to the battle of Lewes, Gilbert and his brother Thomas were knighted by Earl Simon. He survived Lewes, successfully leading the Centre Ward from the Downs and accepted the surrender of Richard of Cornwall from his refuge in the windmill at battle's end. Sharing in Simon de Montfort's victory and subsequent excommunication, Gilbert abandoned the Montfortian cause at least in part for Simon's alliance with de Clare traditional enemies and rivals in Wales. Perhaps more significantly, the two great earls were rivals and in the dispensing of estates, offices and gifts following Lewes Gilbert was left unsatisfied sufficiently to turn. Gilbert took up arms vigorously for the Crown and contributed in no small way to de Montfort's downfall and the loss of the baronial cause.

APPEARANCE AT LEWES
So, we have a young, presumably fit, aggressive and skilled knight of the highest birth at the start of his prime. The first image is Gilbert de Clare's seal (reverse) with the seal depicted immediately above. As you may have read in my earlier postings on the subject, I regard these artifacts as best evidence for how these famous people sought to portray themselves and therefore most likely represent how they took the field.

A study of the seal images indicated either a plate armour face guard for the horse or at least a break in colour from the rest of the caparison. The forepart of the caparison indicated the gules chevrons of the earls blazon for which there should be three as the shield bearing displays. In contrast and interestingly the rear section does not repeat this but is suggestive to me of bands of alternating colour - presumably or and gules consistent with the earls arms.

Note once again the flat topped classic great helm. 

The image left is also of Gilbert but from much later than Lewes. The Red Earl lived to 1295 and armour evolved considerably over the 31 years subsequent to Lewes. The stained glass effigy is in Tewkesbury Abbey where Gilbert is buried, it was installed circa 1340 and clearly post dates our period. The seal; however, has the surcoat obscured by the earl's shield leaving the design open to conjecture. If I hazard that in 1340 a similar style of surcoat was maintained from previous generations, then I may be at liberty to apply something very similar to my depiction of the Red earl. The figure I have chosen for my earl has no shield but a long cloak which I may make red to enhance the Red earls identification. As a command figure for the centre ward, he will be based with an escort (perhaps a squire) with his banner and carrying his shield.