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19.06.29 Baker, Lambert, and Simpkin, Military Communities in Late Medieval England

19.06.29 Baker, Lambert, and Simpkin, Military Communities in Late Medieval England

This volume serves as tribute to Dr. Andrew Ayton, lately retired from the University of Hull, by his former students and others who have worked closely with him. One of the pioneers of medieval military service prosopography, Ayton examined what he has termed the military community, and his extensive studies of the unpublished documents of combat service have provided the foundation for extremely valuable databases. Ayton's work is founded on the belief that the medieval army was a living organism, whose social and institutional networks can be studied to reveal the individual leaders and soldiers and the relationships that drew them together. The eleven essays in this collection connect with themes Ayton himself pursued, or encouraged his students to explore.

The first two essays focus on the horses that went into battle, works that take their inspiration from Ayton's 1994 work Knights and Warhorses: Military Service and the English Aristocracy under Edward III. In "'Big and Beautiful': Destriers in Edward I's Armies," Michael Prestwich struggles with the definition of destrier, the large and lavishly fed mounts in the forefront of the battle charge. Horse valuation lists, intended for compensation of those who lost horses in war, provide some clues to defining the nature of the destrier, but particulars remain hard to come by. Prestwich makes an intriguing reference to the individual Garcia of Spain, in charge of the royal studs and initially employed by Eleanor of Castile, but Spanish influence and imports are not pursued here, to the disappointment of this reader. Robert W. Jones also wrestles with the problem of definition in "Cum Equis Discoopertis: The 'Irish' Hobelar in the English Armies of the Fourteenth Century." The historiography usually pins the hobelar's origins to Ireland, but Jones discerns an earlier history located in Shropshire and Staffordshire. He identifies the muntator, the horsemen of those regions armed with hauberk, iron helmet and lance, useful to marcher nobles in the twelfth century against the Welsh, introduced to Ireland with the Cambro-Norman settlers, then returned to England by the lords of Ireland who renamed them hobelars, a word of Gaelic origin referring to non-knightly cavalry.

Ayton's interest in chivalry and heraldry informs the volume's contributions by Peter Coss and Clifford Rogers. The former expands his own work on the origins of the English gentry with an essay on the group's evolution within the military community. Historians have noted the high participation of lesser landowners in the wars of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but military service alone did not guarantee gentle status. Coss urges readers to recognize a more organic formation nourished by the chivalric ideals and material manifestations saturating medieval society. Of course, chivalric bonds knew no greater devotion than in Edward III's foundation of the Order of the Garter, and Rogers attempts to interpret in new ways "The Symbolic Meaning of Edward III's Garter Badge." He reminds readers of the earlier founding of the Order of the Band by Alfonso XI of Castile, and how both the Castilian cloth sash and the English support garment communicated ideas of upholding and sustaining. And what was to be upheld by Edward and his principal military captains was no less than the pursuit of his claim to the French throne, the Order's motto explicated as "Shamed be he who thinks ill of the justice of his cause" (136-37). There is an Occam's-razor quality to Rogers' theory that will fuel some criticism, but the evidence he puts forth is thoughtfully chosen, not least to instruct readers about changes in the gendered nature of medieval support garments.

The majority of the essays deal with recruitment of troops and the financing of expeditions and campaigns. David Simpkin uses the "dynamics of recruitment" concepts pursued in Ayton's works to consider the role of "Knights Banneret, Military Recruitment and Social Status, c.1270-c.1420: A View from the Reign of Edward I." Knights banneret emerged c.1180 and by Edward I's day were known for their military leadership and recruitment influence. They brought to the main company commanders those lesser men otherwise beyond their reach. This influence waned by the late fourteenth century when other methods of recruitment came into effect. A closer look at a knight and his followers is provided by Andy King in "Sir Henry de Beaumont and His Retainers: The Dynamics of a Lord's Military Retinues and Affinity in Early Fourteenth-Century England." King begins with a fascinating document indicating that Sir Henry and the knights of his retinue went on pilgrimage together to Durham Cathedral's relics of St. Cuthbert, not what one might expect while on the way to military service in Scotland (perhaps the 1314 royal expedition that ended in Bannockburn). Sir Henry's exploits are also documented in the Scalacronica, composed a generation later by the son of one of his retainers, which provides far more personal details of his hot temper than the horse inventories and letters of protection that usually inform us of military details. A Frenchman close to Edward II throughout the latter's life, Sir Henry offered good lordship to his retainers while in the king's favor, but ran afoul of the Ordainers and spent periods of time in exile or Scottish captivity. King concludes with some valuable advice about how to read the evidence of continuity or discontinuity in service, and to what extent personality can be considered as a factor.

Hot tempers, inexperienced troops, and a novel financial scheme combine in Gary P. Baker's study of "Sir Robert Knolles' Expedition to France in 1370: New Perspectives." Baker provides a detailed walk-through of a chevauchée that fractured, imploded, and shattered English hopes of recovery. The campaign was supposed to undo the losses suffered since 1360, and depended upon joining forces with the notoriously unreliable Charles of Navarre in the Cotentin peninsula. Sir Robert Knolles was appointed to lead a force of 4000, and probably because of his lack of noble status agreed to share the command and the profits with three other men. The king being short of money, an unusual form of financing was initiated, in which a flat fee substituted for a daily wage for the leaders, while the men were paid wages for the first thirteen weeks of the campaign and thereafter were expected to live off the land. The men attracted to such a campaign were a mixed lot – young, inexperienced, socially obscure – and the Crown felt enough concern to demand extensive sureties to guarantee service and recruitment. Inactive periods during the campaign combined with hard feelings about division of profits to result in the group splitting apart, just as newly-appointed Constable Bertrand du Guesclin arrived on the scene to wipe up the fragments. While Knolles eventually received a pardon andchevauchées continued in the following years, the financial experiment designed to wage war cost-effectively was never repeated.

Such unique arrangements help us to understand the more normal means of pay and reward, such as that studied by Matthew Raven in "Financing the Dynamics of Recruitment: King, Earls, and Government in Edwardian England, 1330-60." Ready cash was always needed for the wages, rewards, and expenses incurred by the king's military leaders, but being hard to come by and to transport the Crown often turned to assignments from tax collections and the wool trade. Raven finds that on the financial basis at least, kings worked hard to satisfy their earls' needs with assignments easy to collect locally, and with timely reminders by notes of warranty when payment was slow. The study serves as a clear example of how institutional history can illuminate the history of royal and comital power relations. A more complex system of repayment is traced by Adrian R. Bell and Tony K. Moore in "The Organisation and Financing of English Expeditions to the Baltic during the Later Middle Ages." Their focus is on non-royal campaigns especially to Prussia to join the Teutonic Knights, who offered military activity at times when hostilities with France were dormant. At the heart of the problem is the "Fundamental Problem of Exchange:" how did the English get financing, before or after arriving in Prussia, and how did they pay back what they borrowed? Taking the case of Humphrey de Bohun and his 1362-63 travels, the authors discover a network of payments starting with the Teutonic Order's loan to Bohun, the guarantee of the debt by Prussian merchants, the payment of those merchants by the export of wool by London merchants (reimbursed by Bohun when back in England), the Prussians' purchase of Flemish cloth with the money, and the sale of that cloth in the Baltic to repay the military order. The result was a balance of payments to offset part of the Prussian deficit with Western Europe, as well as the maintenance of honor and reputation amongst the participants.

Ayton's current research on naval and shipping operations finds reflection in Craig L. Lambert's "Naval Service and the Cinque Ports, 1322-1453." Received opinion asserts that naval operations declined after 1369, and while the Cinque Ports and other towns did indeed provide fewer ships overall, that was not the full extent of their influence. Well into the sixteenth century, the Cinque Ports undertook defensive and offensive operations including coastal raiding, and provided bases for launching military expeditions. The men of the Ports held civic offices, represented their towns in parliaments, and provided the strategic advice valued by monarchs pursuing foreign and domestic wars.

If fewer ships and mass armies traversed the Channel in the later stages of the Hundred Years' War, the garrison occupation of northern France had something to do with it. The final paper in the collection is Anne Curry's examination of "The Garrison Establishment in Lancastrian Normandy in 1436 according to Surviving Lists in Bibliothèque Nationale de France manuscript français 25773." Curry's contributions to "The Soldier in Later Medieval England" database project are well-known and gratefully utilized by medievalists for their insights into army composition and the social dynamics that underpinned them. Turning from the muster rolls that served as the backbone of the database, Curry focuses on two lists of garrisons produced by the administration of Lancastrian Normandy in 1436 and now preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The year was a critical one, following English losses in the pays de Caux and Seine valley, the death of Bedford, the defection of Burgundy to the French camp, and pleas from Normandy to Henry VI asking for a governor and more men. The quarterly lists that resulted had never been compiled before, and show how seriously the council took the matter. The March to July period saw over 7000 men dedicated to the garrisons (about one-third men-at-arms and two-thirds archers, the preferred ratio), an increase of over 60% from eighteen months earlier. The increase proved effective in securing Normandy, as the second list of June to October shows a reduction of troops by 15% and indicates that the situation was secure enough to deal with local matters and renew offensive warfare at least on a modest scale. The lists will profit from further research in The Soldier Database to determine financing details and the identity of these troops and their relations to their captains. For the moment, they serve as evidence of English commitment to hold Normandy and dedicate troops to its maintenance at the same time as pursuing an offensive campaign in Calais against the duke of Burgundy.

The volume concludes with a bibliography of Ayton's publications, serving to remind readers again of the scope of this historian's work. As underscored in Nigel Saul's Foreword, and in the appreciation written by the three editors, Ayton has been instrumental in reconceptualizing our knowledge of captains and combatants, mariners and men-at-arms, warhorses and the wages that kept the war machinery operative. He has developed the research strategies able to tame into usefulness the massive amounts of archival material needed to reconstruct this world of war and the social networks that provided the connective tissue. This collection of studies is well-integrated and indicative of the new directions military history is taking in the work of the students and colleagues he has inspired.