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Christopher VaughnStrever

Location: San Antonio, TX
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PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2009 1:21 pm    Post subject: What is false and what is true?         Reply with quote

I have been pondering over a few topics that I have read on the forums and do not have a sound historically accurate answer for these 3 questions. I have decided to put them into a few catagories in one thread.

The first inquiry was on a topic regarding; During warfare (not duels or competitions) If two fully armored knights were to engage each other, what are the most probable weapons they would use? I have read that a sword would actually be the least likely weapon of choice. And the choice may be a war hammer or another heavy weapon would be used. The sword would actually be utilized against lesser armored opponents such as archers or the like.
Does this sound true or false? Please elaborate.

The second inquiry is about chivalry. As far as I have read, chivalry was given to knights by knights. During battle the whole life and ransom was much more cost effective. And so the captured knight was given living quarters as he would be accustomed to (until his ransom was paid) However for the lesser men such as archers and other basic men at arms who had no money for ransom, they were simply killed and not shown the kindness of chivalry. I have seen chivalry as a more so dirty sort than the bright color it has been given.
Does this sound true or false? Please elaborate.

And the last inquiry is concerning why knights went to war. Of course there are allegiances and duties that were involved. Though that aside. Would a knight be more inclined to go to war in order to pay for his expenses? (Of course living as a knight cost a whole lot of money) The way they could profit from ransom and by being paid to fight Seems like warfare and knighthood paid for each other.
Does this sound true or false? Please elaborate.

Experience and learning from such defines maturity, not a number of age
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Lin Robinson

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PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2009 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lots of folks know more about this than I do, but here goes:

1, Battle axes, war hammers and maces are more practical against plate armor. The sword is a cutting instrument, but designed to cut flesh, not iron.

2. Chivalry was an ideal and most ideals are tempered by reality. A rich knight, held in your keep, was valuable. A dead one, lying on the field of battle, was worthless. Treating a captive knight well might also serve the captor, should the roles be reversed some time in the future. That, of course, does not cover the entire picture of chivalry but I think it answers your question and supports what you thought to be the case.

3. Knights and in general the lesser nobility, swore fealty to their liege lords. A major part of that involved military service. Knghts had a lot of reasons for going to war, many of which were centered on economics. A knight was expensive to equip and support. That meant fighting for pay when necessary, and it was frequently necessary.

Those are very simple answers to your questions and as I said above, a lot of the fine people who frequent this forum know a lot more about this than I do. Maybe this is just a start.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Lafayette C Curtis

Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In response to the first question, I'd put my money on the lance for horseback service. For fighting on foot, the primary weapon of choice seems to have varied according to time and place; up to the mid-14th century or so, the lance seemed to have been rather frequently used on foot as a long spear, while afterwards we see a mixture of poleaxes and lances, the latter often cut down for more convenient handling on foot (though not always, and anecdotes about the battles of Sempach and Arbedo have it that it was the dismounted men-at-arms's long lances that allowed them to outrange and overwhelm the Swiss halberdiers on the opposing side). An Italian chronicler (Villani?) also mentioned English mercenaries in Italy using long lances in the manner of boar-hunters, which has been interpreted as one man handling the lance in two hands to keep he enemy occupied while the other engaged and neutralized the pinned-down enemy with sword or poleaxe. And of course the sword, while it was a secondary weapon, was certainly an important secondary weapon, since we do find many mentions of it being used after lances were broken. I also vaguely remember an opinion stating that German men-at-arms from a certain period had a reputation for being not so skilled with the lance but very effective at fighting on foot with their swords. Last but not least, there were the "Swabian swordsmen" at the battle of Civitate; we're not sure about whether they were mounted or on foot (since there doesn't seem to be enough information to let us decide either way), but one thing for certain was that they did fight with swords and in doing so held off repeated Norman attacks long after their allies in Papal service had been routed off the field.
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William Knight

Location: Mid atlantic, US
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

1) By the 15th century dismounted knights would have used polearms as their primary weapons when dismounted, at least in England but I believe in the rest of Europe as well. In England, France and I believe the Low Countries I think this would generally be a poleaxe, while in the Germanies or Switzerland it might be a halberd. When mounted the lance was the primary weapon, with maces or war-hammers being the immediate back-up--though of course they're not the sledgehammers of fantasy art, they're still too unwieldy to use on foot.

2) Depends on the war and on the objectives. IIRC, in the wars of the Roses the common soldiers and the lesser gentry were often spared by the victors (after the initial 'excesses' of the route, of course) because they could have new contracts drawn up and start working for the victors, while the upper nobility of the losing side was frequently executed as traitors. In other wars and other circumstances, things were different.

3) Again, I mostly know England in the 15th century. At this time under what is now called 'bastard feudalism' English fighting men, both men at arms (knights and those that fought like them) and archers had contracts with their immediate social superiors, an indenture. These stated that they would fight for their superiors and in return would get payment in money and in kind as long as they were retained--not necessarily when they fought. So that, contractual obligation, is one reason knights in one place and in one time fought. Under more classic feudalism, knights were obliged to fight

I'm not sure how much you can generalize about Europe for a whole 500 year period, other than to list the various reasons. In general, though, I get the impression that going to war was such a gamble--your horse, who cost so much, could be killed, you could be captured, lose your harness and have to pay ransom, etc. that I don't think simple mercenary motives are a sufficient explanation. More likely knights also saw war as a means to glory and social advancement as well as a gamble to get richer. Glory should not be sniffed at as a motive for people who lived a society much more martial than our own, and the social status that gaining the eye of one's superiors could bring (and with it, land that was captured or forfeited) was much more important than monetary wealth for a class that still viewed simple money, as opposed to land and status (with some money, of course), as an ignoble sort of riches. Still, when you were in debt, money must have sounded pretty good.

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