A man-at-arms was a soldier of the High Medieval to Renaissance periods who was typically well-versed in the use of arms and served as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman.A man-at-arms could be a knight, or other nobleman, a member of a knight's or nobleman's retinue, or a mercenary in a company serving under a captain. Such men could serve for pay or through a feudal obligation. The terms knight and man-at-arms are often used interchangeably, but while all knights equipped for war certainly were men-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights.
Though in English the term man-at-arms is a fairly straightforward rendering of the French homme d'armes, : In France, he might be known as a lance or glaive , while in Germany, Spieß, Helm or Gleve , and in various places, a bascinet . In Italy, the term barbuta was used, and in England from the late 14th century, men-at-arms were known as lances or spears.in the Middle Ages, there were numerous terms for this type of soldier, referring to the type of arms he would be expected to provide
In the Early Medieval period, any well-equipped horseman could be described as a "knight", or Latin miles.In the course of the 12th century knighthood became a social rank with a distinction being made between milites gregarii (non-noble cavalrymen) and milites nobiles (true knights). As a fully armoured cavalryman could be of a lesser social status than a knight, an alternative term describing this type of soldier came into use which was, in French, homme d'armes or gent d'armes, and in English man-at-arms. This evolution differed in detail and timeline across Europe but by 1300, there was a clear distinction between the military function of the man-at-arms and the social rank of knighthood. The term man-at-arms thus primarily denoted a military function, rather than a social rank.
The military function that a man-at-arms performed was serving as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman; though he could, and in the 14th and 15th centuries often did, also fight on foot. In the course of the 16th century, the man-at-arms was gradually replaced by other cavalry types, the demi-lancer and the cuirassier, characterised by more restricted armour coverage and the use of weapons other than the heavy lance.
Throughout the Medieval period and into the Renaissance the armour of the man-at-arms became progressively more effective and expensive. Throughout the 14th century, the armour worn by a man-at-arms was a composite of materials. Over a quilted gambeson, mail armour covered the body, limbs and head. Increasingly during the century, the mail was supplemented by plate armour on the body and limbs.In the 15th century, full plate armour was developed, which reduced the mail component to a few points of flexible reinforcement.
From the 14th to 16th century, the primary weapon of the man at arms on horseback was the lance. The lance of the 14th century was essentially a simple spear, 12 ft in length, usually of ash. In response to the development of improved armour, however, heavier lances weighing up to 18 kg were developed and a new method of using them in conjunction with a lance rest (arrête) fixed to the breastplate developed. This combination of heavy lance and arrête enabled the mounted man-at-arms to enjoy a new effectiveness on the battlefields of the later 15th and 16th centuries. Not all men-at-arms in the 15th century carried the heavy lance. A lighter weapon called a "demi-lance" evolved and this gave its name to a new class of lighter-equipped man-at-arms, the "demi-lancer", towards the end of the 15th century.
When fighting on foot, men-at-arms initially adapted their ordinary cavalry weapons. English men-at-arms in Italy in the 1360s are recorded as advancing in close order with two men holding a cavalry lance. ft. In the 15th century, the increased protection of plate armour led to the development of a specialist foot combat weapon, the poleaxe.On other occasions, such as at the Battle of Agincourt, men-at-arms cut down their lances to a more manageable size of 5
The horse was an essential part of a man-at-arm's equipment. The type of horse, however, varied according to wealth and status. Andrew Ayton in an in-depth study of English warhorses of the 13th and 14th centuries has shown that three types predominate: the destrier, the courser and an animal simply known as a "horse" (L:equus Med Fr : chival). Destriers were both rare and expensive, making up 5% of men-at-arms horses. Ayton also calculated the value of the average man-at-arm's horse in thirteen campaigns between 1282 and 1364, showing it varied between £7.6 and £16.4. In only two campaigns in the mid-14th century did the majority of horses cost more than £10. The horse was, therefore, a major item of expenditure in the equipment of a man-at-arms. It has been calculated that a French gendarme's horse in the mid-15th century cost the equivalent of six months' wages. The cost of horses meant that the professional soldier might not wish to risk his expensive asset in combat. A system evolved in the 13th century for employers to compensate for horses lost in action. In England this was called by the Latin name restauro equorum and similar systems were in use in France and Italy. In order to secure this insurance scheme, the man-at-arms had the value of his horse assessed and details of its appearance recorded. The assessment system also allowed employers to insist on a minimum value (and hence quality) of horse be presented at muster. In 14th-century England, the minimum value appears in most cases to be 100 shillings (£5).
As early as the late 13th century, Edward I decreed that all his men-at-arms should be mounted on equus coopertus, that is armoured, or barded, horses.Horse armour was not at that time always made of metal, with leather and quilted fabric armour also in use. Metal horse armours were made from mail or brigandine, with plate reserved for the head in the form of a chamfron . In the 15th century, plate armour for horses was introduced and was a common feature of the equipment of the gendarme into the 16th century.
The social structure of the Anglo-Norman society of England was relatively rigid. One of the easiest ways for a man to improve his social rank was through military service; another method was through the church. In the Norman states, unlike in many other contemporary societies, the knighting of men of common birth who had demonstrated ability and courage on the field of battle was possible. Although rare, some non-knightly men-at-arms did advance socially to the status of knights. The knighting of squires and men-at-arms was sometimes done in an ignoble manner, simply to increase the number of knights within an army (such practice was common during the Hundred Years' War). In chivalric theory, any knight could bestow knighthood on another, however, in practice this was usually done by sovereigns and the higher nobility. It is recorded that the great mercenary captain Sir John Hawkwood knighted a number of his followers, as many as twenty on one occasion, though he could reasonably be expected to provide the income his created knights required to maintain their new status.Attempts to restrict the power of commanders to make knights would increase during the 16th century and by the end of Elizabeth I's reign, the practice had all but ceased.
Although a knight bachelor, a knight banneret and all grades of nobility usually served as men-at-arms when called to war, the bulk of men-at-arms from the later 13th century came from an evolving social group which became known as the gentry. The man-at-arms could be a wealthy mercenary of any social origin, but more often he had some level of social rank based on income, usually from land. Some came from the class known as serjeants but increasingly during the 14th century they were drawn from an evolving class of esquire. Esquires were frequently of families of knightly rank, wealthy enough to afford the arms of a knight but who had thus far not been advanced to knightly status or perhaps had avoided it because they did not want the costs and responsibilities of that rank. Also found serving as men-at-arms were the lowest social group of the gentry, known by the 15th century simply as gentlemen.
The proportion of knights among the men-at-arms varied through time. Between the 1280s and 1360s, figures between 20-30% were commonplace. Thereafter, there was a rapid decline, with the figure dropping to 6.5% in 1380. A slight rise is recorded to 8% at Agincourt, perhaps because this was a royal army, but thereafter the figure continued to decline and by 1443, the Duke of Somerset mustered only 1.3% knights among his men-at-arms.
Social status affected the types of military service performed by men-at-arms. Garrison duty was considered unattractive and was often carried out by soldiers of lesser status. For example, the English garrison in the Scottish town of Roxburgh in 1301 consisted of just three knights compared to twenty seven men-at-arms of lesser status.
The social stratification of men who served as men-at-arms is illustrated by their rates of pay on campaign. In the mid 1340s a knight was paid two shillings a day, an ordinary man-at-arms was paid half this amount; for comparison a foot archer received two or three pence (12 pennies to the shilling). A man-at-arms was also recompensed differentially according to the quality of his principal war-horse, if the horse was to die or was killed in battle. An ordinary esquire might own a war-horse worth only five pounds whilst a great nobleman might own a horse worth up to 100 pounds.
English men-at-arms before the second quarter of the 14th century were indistinguishable from their continental counterparts, serving as heavy cavalry on the field of battle. The Battle of Dupplin Moor in 1332, against the Scots, signalled a major change in the battlefield role of the English man-at-arms. This battle was the first major encounter where the tactical combination of dismounted men-at-arms with longbow-armed archers was deployed; the men-at-arms functioning as heavy close-combat infantry. This combination was later employed very effectively against the French in the Hundred Years' War. The English man-at-arms remained highly trained in mounted combat, though his use of the warhorse became largely confined to the pursuit of a broken enemy, skirmishing and in the chevauchée . In the late 15th century a resurgence in the effectiveness of the heavy lancer in combat took place in Europe. This was reflected to some extent in England, exemplified by Richard III's mounted charge at the Battle of Bosworth (1485) and the English cavalry charge at the Battle of the Spurs (1513).
The last major battle in which English men-at-arms were prominent was fought against a Scottish army in 1547 at Pinkie Cleugh. The outnumbered Scots cavalry were easily driven off by the English horse (the Scots cavalry having lost heavily in an engagement the day before), the Scots then made a sudden advance with their massed pikemen. To slow their onset and give time for the English infantry to receive them the English heavy horse (men-at-arms and demi-lancers) were thrown against the pikes. The English cavalry crashed into the pikemen with great elan but sustained considerable losses. However, they halted the Scots attack, buying time for the English infantry and artillery to deploy effectively; the battle resulted in a heavy defeat for the Scots.
French men-at-arms were, as elsewhere, drawn from the broad class of gentil hommes. Up to the middle of the 14th century, they attended the royal army either in company of their feudal lords or as individuals. In 1351, the first in a series of ordonnances was proclaimed, attempting to regularise the organisation of men-at-arms into units of 25 to 80 combatants. New ordonnances were issued occasionally to either reinforce or reform previous ones. The ordonnance of 1363 attempted to create a standing army of 6,000 men-at-arms, although it might not have achieved more than 3,000 in reality. In 1445, a more radical overhaul was attempted. 15 companies of the ordonnance were created, each of 100 lances. Each lance contained a man-at-arms, a coustillier, three mounted archers and a page. In 1446, the scheme was extended to add another five companies, giving a total of 2,000 men-at-arms. Eventually, the number of these gens d'ordonnance du roi raised by Louis XI would reach 15,816 men, including 2,636 men-at-arms.
The number of men-at-arms would continue to fluctuate, dependent on military circumstances, into the 16th century. In the first quarter of the century, they varied between a peacetime minimum of 1500 lances in 1505 and a wartime maximum of 3847 in 1523. The changes were made both by raising and disbanding whole companies and by varying the number of men in ordonnance companies. In 1559, for example, Francis II reduced the number of lances in each company by 20.
By the 1580s the traditional French gendarme, as a lance-armed heavily armoured cavalryman, was in sharp decline. The Battle of Coutras (October 20, 1587), between Henry of Navarre, and the Duc de Joyeuse, during the French Wars of Religion, illustrates the demise of the heavy lancer. Navarre's cavalry were 1,300 armoured pistoleers whilst the Royalists under Joyeuse were 2,000 heavy lancers (gendarmes). Within a few minutes of combat the lancers had been routed, many being captured and held for ransom.All later French cavalry named 'gendarmes' were more lightly armoured, eventually becoming unarmoured, and employed firearms and a sword, rather than the heavy lance.
Louis XIV on his accession to the throne found only eight companies of gendarmes surviving out of an original total of more than one hundred, but after the victory of Fleurus (1690), which had been decided by their courage, he increased their number to sixteen. The four first companies were designated by the names of Gendarmes ecossais, Gendarmes anglais, Gendarmes bourguignons and Gendarmes flamands, from the nationality of the soldiers who had originally composed them, but at that time they consisted entirely of French soldiers and officers. These four companies had a captain-general, who was the king. The fifth company was that of the queen and the others bore the name of the princes who respectively commanded them. This organisation was dissolved in 1788.
A military corps having such duties was first created in 1337 and was placed under the orders of the Constable of France (connétable), and therefore named connétablie. In 1626 after the abolition of the title of connétable, it was put under the command of the Maréchal of France, and renamed Maréchaussée. Its main mission was protecting the roads from highwaymen. In 1720 the maréchaussée was subordinated to the gendarmerie; after the French Revolution the maréchaussée was abolished and the gendarmerie took over its duties in 1791.
Spain had multiple factors contributing to the strong chivalric ethos exemplified by Spanish knights and men-at-arms. One factor leading to the prominence of chivalric orders in Spain, is the Reconquista in which Christian kingdoms attempted to regain land from, and eventually expel from the peninsula, the Muslim states. The greatest foes of the Spanish Christian knight were, above all, Muslims; who were a local and deeply entrenched enemy, not as distant as the 'infidel' was for the knights of other European regions. However, warfare between the Christian states of the Iberian Peninsula was also not uncommon.It can be argued that in Spain the existence of a common enemy had some role in uniting Christian kingdoms in the cause of the Crusades and Reconquista.
In the 12th–13th century most of the prominent Spanish Knightly orders were formed. The early history of chivalric orders in the peninsula was unstable. In Calatrava, during the middle of the 12th century Castilian Knights established a fortress, which would later be abandoned due to the threat of Muslim attack, then again within fifty years the castle of the Order of Calatrava was then rebuilt and became a fortified monastic community.
In the Italian Wars the Spanish man-at-arms was prominent in the campaigns. One example is at the Battle of Cerignola, which began with two charges by the French heavy cavalry against the center of the Spanish army, but these were scattered by Spanish heavy artillery and arquebus fire. The next assault tried to force the right flank, but many of the French cavalrymen fell into the Spanish trench and the attack was then broken by a storm of fire from the Spanish arquebusiers.
The Spanish leader Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba then called for a counterattack against the now disorganized enemy by both the Spanish infantry and the heavy Spanish cavalry waiting in reserve. Mounted arquebusiers surrounded and routed the remaining French gendarmes, but the Swiss pikeman managed to retreat in a relatively organized fashion.
Men-at-arms formed the core troops of the Italian condottiere companies from the 14th to the 16th century. Although the man-at-arms always remained essentially a mounted soldier, in the 14th century, they often fought on foot, following the example of English mercenaries who, from the second half of the century, commonly fought there.The system of condotte or contracts which gave the condottieri their name led to the construction of armies from a number of contract holders, usually grouped under a main contractor. Perhaps the best known of these is the White Company led by Sir John Hawkwood in the 14th century. Organisation of these companies was in lanze of three men, initially two fighting men and a page but later a man-at-arms, an armed servant (piatto) and a page (ragazzo). 5 lanze were grouped to form a posta and five of these made a bandiera.
In the 15th century, the structure of the companies changed. A company would be organised into a number of squadrons. One of these would be the household squadron of the captain, known as the casa, which contained both fighting troops and headquarters staff, such as a marshal, chaplain, chancellors, cooks and servants. The size of squadrons varied but would contain about 25 lanze.
In the second half of the century, these structures began to be supplemented by the practice of states hiring alongside companies individual men-at-arms, who were then grouped under a commander appointed by the state. These were originally recruited from men-at-arms whose company commander had died or retired and so were known as lanze spezzate or broken lances.At the same time, changes were seen in the components of the lanze, with the introduction of the corazzo, a larger unit but still containing just one man-at-arms, and the recognition of two types of men-at-arms in condotte; true men-at-arms known as armigeri veri and lighter-equipped elmetti. Towards the end of the 15th century, squadrons of men-at-arms begin to be organised into larger formations known as columns led by a senior condottiero called a colonello. A column typically contained eight to ten squadrons.
Historically, cavalry are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as light cavalry in the roles of reconnaissance, screening, and skirmishing in many armies, or as heavy cavalry for decisive shock attacks in other armies. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations depending on era and tactics, such as cavalryman, horseman, trooper, cataphract, knight, hussar, uhlan, mamluk, cuirassier, lancer, dragoon, or horse archer. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals for mounts, such as camels or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the early 17th to the early 18th century as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which in most armies later evolved into standard cavalry while retaining their historic designation.
Medieval warfare is the European warfare of the Middle Ages. Technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a severe transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing military tactics and the role of cavalry and artillery. In terms of fortification, the Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle in Europe, which then spread to the Holy Land.
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 in northern France between a French army commanded by King Philip VI and an English army led by King Edward III. The French attacked the English while they were traversing northern France during the Hundred Years' War, resulting in an English victory and heavy loss of life among the French.
Combined Arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different combat arms of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects. According to strategist William S. Lind, combined arms can be distinguished from the concept of "supporting arms" as follows:
Combined arms hits the enemy with two or more arms simultaneously in such a manner that the actions he must take to defend himself from one make him more vulnerable to another. In contrast, supporting arms is hitting the enemy with two or more arms in sequence, or if simultaneously, then in such combination that the actions the enemy must take to defend himself from one also defends himself from the other(s).
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horseriders wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, breaking the lance on the opponent's shield or jousting armour if possible, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armour.
Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with a cuirass, sword, and pistols. Cuirassiers first appeared in mid-to-late 16th century Europe as a result of armoured cavalry, such as men-at-arms and demi-lancers, discarding their lances and adopting the use of pistols as their primary weapon. In the later part of the 17th century the cuirassier lost his limb armour and subsequently wore only the cuirass, and sometimes a helmet. By this time, the sword or sabre had become his primary weapon, with pistols relegated to a secondary function.
The lance fournie was a medieval equivalent to the modern army squad that would have accompanied and supported a man-at-arms in battle. These units formed companies under a captain either as mercenary bands or in the retinue of wealthy nobles and royalty. Each lance was supposed to include a mixture of troop types that would have guaranteed a desirable balance between the various components of the company at large; however, it is often difficult to determine the exact composition of the lance in any given company as the available sources are few and often centuries apart.
The Battle of Cerignola was fought on 28 April 1503, between Spanish and French armies, in Cerignola, Apulia. Spanish forces, under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, formed by 6,300 men, including 2,000 landsknechte, with more than 1,000 arquebusiers, and 20 cannons, defeated the French who had 9,000 men; mainly heavy gendarme cavalry and Swiss mercenary pikemen, with about 40 cannons, and led by Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, who was killed. It was one of the first European battles won by gunpowder weapons, as the assault by Swiss pikemen and French cavalry was shattered by the fire of Spanish arquebusiers behind a ditch.
The demi-lancer or demilancer was a type of heavy cavalryman found in Western Europe in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry intended to deliver a battlefield charge and also to act as a tactical reserve; they are also often termed shock cavalry. Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, heavy cavalry were generally mounted on large powerful warhorses, wore body armor, and armed with either lances, swords, battle axes, or war hammers; their mounts may also have been protected by barding. They were distinct from light cavalry, who were intended for scouting, screening, and skirmishing.
The compagnie d'ordonnance was the first standing army of late medieval and early modern France. The system was the forefather of the modern company. Each compagnie consisted of 100 lances fournies, which was built around a heavily armed and armored gendarme, with assisting pages or squires, archers and men-at-arms, for a total of 600 men. By 1445, France had 15 compagnies, for an army of 9,000 men, of which 6,000 were combatants and 3,000 non-combatants. Over the course of the 15th century, the compagnies d'ordonnance expanded to a peak strength of 58 compagnies of 4,000 lances and 24,000 men in 1483. It was later supplemented by the bandes d'artillerie, the franc-archers militia after 1448 and standing infantry regiments from 1480 onward.
For much of history, humans have used some form of cavalry for war and, as a result, cavalry tactics have evolved over time. Tactically, the main advantages of cavalry over infantry troops were greater mobility, a larger impact, and a higher position.
The Chevau-légers was a generic French name for several units of light and medium cavalry.
A gendarme was a heavy cavalryman of noble birth, primarily serving in the French army from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Modern period. Heirs to the knights of French medieval feudal armies, French Gendarmes also enjoyed a stellar reputation and were regarded as the finest European heavy cavalry force until the decline of chivalric ideals largely due to the ever-evolving developments in gunpowder technology. They provided the Kings of France with a potent regular force of armored lancers which, when properly employed, dominated late medieval and early modern battlefields. Their symbolic demise is generally considered to be the Battle of Pavia, which inversely is seen as confirming the rise of the Spanish Tercios as the new dominant military force in Europe.
The White Company was a 14th-century English mercenary Company of Adventure, led from its arrival in Italy in 1361 to 1363 by the German Albert Sterz and later by the Englishman John Hawkwood. Although the White Company is the name by which it is popularly known, it was initially called the Great Company of English and Germans and would later often be referred to as the English Company.
The first evidence of horses in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons. By 1600 BC, improved harness and chariot designs made chariot warfare common throughout the Ancient Near East, and the earliest written training manual for war horses was a guide for training chariot horses written about 1350 BC. As formal cavalry tactics replaced the chariot, so did new training methods, and by 360 BC, the Greek cavalry officer Xenophon had written an extensive treatise on horsemanship. The effectiveness of horses in battle was also revolutionized by improvements in technology, such as the invention of the saddle, the stirrup, and the horse collar.
Bases are the cloth military skirts, generally richly embroidered, worn over the armour of later men-at-arms such as French gendarmes in the late 15th to early 16th century, as well as the plate armour skirt later developed in imitation of cloth bases for supplemental upper-leg protection, worn by men-at-arms for foot combat.
Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller. They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport.
Despite the rise of knightly cavalry in the 11th century, infantry played an important role throughout the Middle Ages on both the battlefield and in sieges. From the 14th century onwards, there was a rise in the prominence of infantry forces, sometimes referred to as an "infantry revolution".
The close helmet or close helm is a type of military helmet that was worn by knights and other men-at-arms in the Late Medieval and Renaissance eras. It was also used by some heavily armoured, pistol-armed, cuirassiers into the mid 17th century. It is a fully enclosing helmet with a pivoting visor and integral bevor.