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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Froissart's Battle of Aljubarrota (1385) Reply to topic
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Thu 31 Aug, 2017 6:38 pm    Post subject: Froissart's Battle of Aljubarrota (1385)         Reply with quote

This is the first time I went into contact with Froissart description of contemporary battles. I have been previously warned about his "anglophilia" by several people, which make me feel unconfortable about some statements in the description the episode. I actually got plenty of questions I would like to discuss with you. For those who don't know where to find his chronicles, try this link. But let's go the passages:

Quote:
This attack was very sharp; for those who were eager after glory, and to perform feats of arms, assaulted the place which the English had fortified. The entrance having been made narrow caused a great pressure of the assailants against each other, and much mischief was done by the English archers, who shot so vigorously and quick that the horses were larded, as it were, with arrows, and fell one on the other.

The few English men at arms and the Lisboners now came forward, shouting their cry of "Our Lady for Lisbon!" They were armed with well steeled Bordeaux lances, with which they pierced through every thing, and wounded knights and squires.
[...]
It cannot be denied but that the knights and squires from France, Brittany, Burgundy and Béarn, fought valiantly: they were overpowered at the first onset, from the advice the English had given to fortify the place


Is Froissart correct to say the english were behind the ideia of fortifying the battlefield?
From what I know, King Richard II only gave 100-200 veteran longbowmen from Gascony in aid to Master of Avis. Ian Heath says there were men-at-arms too, but mostly mercenaries, total of englishmen being for about 700-800, if I remember correctly. The Portuguese held about 800 crossbowmen + 5,700 foot soldiers, javelineers and dismounted men-at-arms. Although we actually have description of the participation of longbowmen along with the crossbowmen in the volleys, I find hard to believe they were so usefull here.

Froissart also mentions "well steeled Bordeaux lances" and that those lances were able to pierce through french heavy armor. But I'm quite sure no lance in the world could pass through late 14th century men-at-arms' armor. He didn't said that about the longbowmen's arrows, though; only that their volleys wounded the horses (there is a latter ambiguos passage that can be interpreted as if an latter volley was able to wound or kill castillian cavalry. whether they were jinetes of men-at-arms I can't say)

Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all.

Quote:
During all this time the French were fighting; and those knights and squires who had been able to dismount performed many gallant deeds, for, when their lances were broken, they used their battle-axes, and with them gave such desperate blows on the helmets of all who opposed them, that wounds, if not death, were the consequences.
[...]
The sun was now setting, when the king of Castille advanced in puissant array, with banners displayed, and on barded horses, shouting out "Castille!" and entered the fortified pass. They were received with lances and battle-axes, and the first flight of arrows grievously wounded their horses, threw them into confusion, and many were wounded or slain.
[...]
The king of Portugal dismounted, and, taking his battle-axe, placed himself at the pass, where he performed wonders, knocking down three or four of the stoutest of the enemy, insomuch that none dared to approach him.


Although Froissart doesn't tell us, other primary sources say the spaniards broke their lances' poles to use them as infantry weapons. The english didn't. Using a lance as an infantry weapon is actually reliable? What kind of "battle-axes" Froissart mentioning here?
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Iagoba Ferreira





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 1:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect that my fellow Ayala is scarce in details...as always. Even if he was captured there.

A bit off topic...so few archers? I thought that there were many more. 200 of them and 200 men at arms were utterly defeated in 1367 in a minor combat by dismounted cavalry.
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Alan E




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 2:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"From what I know, King Richard II only gave 100-200 veteran longbowmen from Gascony in aid to Master of Avis. Ian Heath says there were men-at-arms too, but mostly mercenaries"

Serving abroad for pay was a usual and respectable way of gaining experience and honour. Payment of some sort was usual too, so ?mercenaries? yes, but the distinction wasn't clear nor was there any consistent opprobrium.


" Although we actually have description of the participation of longbowmen along with the crossbowmen in the volleys, I find hard to believe they were so usefull here."

Why not? From a defensive position where they are able to select what part of the target to shoot at, this is (in general) how English armies of the period used archers. Shooting the horses of an attacking cavalry is highly likely to disturb the attack Big Grin It also leaves piles of dead/injured horses - potentially flailing (nasty image, but war is nasty) which will make further attack (cavalry or infantry) more difficult.


"Froissart also mentions "well steeled Bordeaux lances" and that those lances were able to pierce through french heavy armor. But I'm quite sure no lance in the world could pass through late 14th century men-at-arms' armor. "

This thing about piercing armour: Armour referred to the whole harness - "pierced through every thing" is unlikely to mean punched holes through every (or any) plate. That simply isn't what you'd be trying to do. Breastplates were designed to deflect and protect against lance attack when two horsed and armoured men hit each other with lance points. But with the cavalry in disarray, unhorsed and possibly struggling to rise, many weak points of C14 armour would be exposed to lance points. People would be pierced 'everywhere' and for a while it would be like a pig-sticking. Pretty terrifying place to be.


"Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all. "

They probably did, but they would not rely on just one weapon type. Also when attacking downed cavalry, if you can do so from three yards or so away with lances, why send men in closer with shorter weapons? Also the poleaxe wielders are likely to be your better armoured, who can rest / stand ready for further attacks, whilst lightly armoured spear/lance (at this time and place the names tend to be used interchangably) wielders finish off the discomfited cavalry. I'd suggest they didn't appear because it was the lance-sticking which was the gory (and therefore recounted) part of the tale.

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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 5:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iagoba Ferreira wrote:
I suspect that my fellow Ayala is scarce in details...as always. Even if he was captured there.

A bit off topic...so few archers? I thought that there were many more. 200 of them and 200 men at arms were utterly defeated in 1367 in a minor combat by dismounted cavalry.


I didn't find much information about the fighting of Inglesmendi besides from what I find in spanish wikipedia. The interesting thing about Inglesmendi and other battles like Aljubarrota and Nájera is how jinete light cavalry couldn't make much of effect when they were confronted by the longbowmen.They were active in Aljubarrota too, as Froissart mentions:

Jean Froissart wrote:
I must not omit to notice the manner in which the Spaniards generally act in war. It is true they make a handsome figure on horseback, spur off to advantage, and fight well at the first onset; but as soon as they have thrown two or three darts, and given a stroke with their spears, without disconcerting the enemy, they take alarm, turn their horses' heads, and save themselves by flight as well as they can: this game they played at Aljubarota


This description can only fit the jinetes, not the usual men-at-arms. This also might explain why longbowmen and crossbowmen's volleys were effective against castillian cavalry, since the light armor of the jinete might not have been able to protect against the missiles:
Jean Froissart wrote:
The sun was now setting, when the king of Castille advanced in puissant array, with banners displayed, and on barded horses, shouting out "Castille!" and entered the fortified pass. They were received with lances and battle-axes, and the first flight of arrows grievously wounded their horses, threw them into confusion, and many were wounded or slain.


I hardly believe men-at-arms on barded horses would be this exposed to arrows as Froissart is describing. The probably is referring to the unarmoured horses of some men-at-arms and the jinetes who were with them.

The spaniards won at Inglesmendi because they soon realise they had to dismount if they wanted to meet the english in good terms. If we take Juan's arms ordinance of 1385 as the base of jinete equipment, they should have equipment to fight on foot (shield, an arming sword and an "estoc" longsword), besides the armor (gamberson+mail hauberk). This isn't what happened at Aljubarrota. According to a portuguese historian, when the King of Castille asked for his knights to dismount so they could march their way to the portuguese positions, they refused or hesitated due to their pride. Only latter they were actually forced to dismount, so they break their lances to make them able to fight in close combat. If they had did this earlier, they would reduce their disadvantages


Alan E wrote:
"Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all. "

They probably did, but they would not rely on just one weapon type. Also when attacking downed cavalry, if you can do so from three yards or so away with lances, why send men in closer with shorter weapons? Also the poleaxe wielders are likely to be your better armoured, who can rest / stand ready for further attacks, whilst lightly armoured spear/lance (at this time and place the names tend to be used interchangably) wielders finish off the discomfited cavalry. I'd suggest they didn't appear because it was the lance-sticking which was the gory (and therefore recounted) part of the tale.


Do you think when Froissart mentions "battle-axe" he was reffering to poleaxes? I find another mention of it in another chapter of his chronicles: https://faculty.nipissingu.ca/muhlberger/FROISSART/AMBRETI.HTM

Seens like a fairly common equipment at the time
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The future Duke of York, Edmund was in the area a great deal of time what I remember. I do not think he personally was at the battle but maybe some of his men were. I think he was there before the battle. John of Lancaster the Duke of Lancaster was there after the battle to push his claims through his wife to castile. Portugal loved that as it gave them help against their rival.

Of course it failed but very interesting period. England and Spain had a long history with the Spanish kingdoms as they were looking for people to balance France and build trade.

RPM
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When a translator says 'battle axe' (or any other sort of equipment, for that matter), I always wonder what sort of weapon was really meant. Translators don't know a lot about this stuff. Wink [/b]
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Sep, 2017 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alan E wrote:
"From what I know, King Richard II only gave 100-200 veteran longbowmen from Gascony in aid to Master of Avis. Ian Heath says there were men-at-arms too, but mostly mercenaries"

Serving abroad for pay was a usual and respectable way of gaining experience and honour. Payment of some sort was usual too, so ?mercenaries? yes, but the distinction wasn't clear nor was there any consistent opprobrium.


" Although we actually have description of the participation of longbowmen along with the crossbowmen in the volleys, I find hard to believe they were so usefull here."

Why not? From a defensive position where they are able to select what part of the target to shoot at, this is (in general) how English armies of the period used archers. Shooting the horses of an attacking cavalry is highly likely to disturb the attack Big Grin It also leaves piles of dead/injured horses - potentially flailing (nasty image, but war is nasty) which will make further attack (cavalry or infantry) more difficult.


"Froissart also mentions "well steeled Bordeaux lances" and that those lances were able to pierce through french heavy armor. But I'm quite sure no lance in the world could pass through late 14th century men-at-arms' armor. "

This thing about piercing armour: Armour referred to the whole harness - "pierced through every thing" is unlikely to mean punched holes through every (or any) plate. That simply isn't what you'd be trying to do. Breastplates were designed to deflect and protect against lance attack when two horsed and armoured men hit each other with lance points. But with the cavalry in disarray, unhorsed and possibly struggling to rise, many weak points of C14 armour would be exposed to lance points. People would be pierced 'everywhere' and for a while it would be like a pig-sticking. Pretty terrifying place to be.


"Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all. "

They probably did, but they would not rely on just one weapon type. Also when attacking downed cavalry, if you can do so from three yards or so away with lances, why send men in closer with shorter weapons? Also the poleaxe wielders are likely to be your better armoured, who can rest / stand ready for further attacks, whilst lightly armoured spear/lance (at this time and place the names tend to be used interchangably) wielders finish off the discomfited cavalry. I'd suggest they didn't appear because it was the lance-sticking which was the gory (and therefore recounted) part of the tale.

Also, armor had a high variance of steel quality and thicknesses so wouldn't be surprised by individual, or placement in a harness, that lance puncturing armor could both be true and false.
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Alan E




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Sep, 2017 4:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Jean Froissart wrote:
The sun was now setting, when the king of Castille advanced in puissant array, with banners displayed, and on barded horses, shouting out "Castille!" and entered the fortified pass. They were received with lances and battle-axes, and the first flight of arrows grievously wounded their horses, threw them into confusion, and many were wounded or slain.


I hardly believe men-at-arms on barded horses would be this exposed to arrows as Froissart is describing. The probably is referring to the unarmoured horses of some men-at-arms and the jinetes who were with them.
That depends on the extent of the barding. There was a HYW battle where the French posted their best-armoured men on barded horses to face the archers. The archers were moved around in the marshes to outflank these and shot at their un-armoured rears. If the barded horses entered a "fortified pass" they may well have been responsible for outflanking themselves. If many of them had only peytral and lacked cruppers (or these were of leather), then exposing them to such flanking shot would have mean unwise.
Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

Alan E wrote:
"Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all. "

They probably did, but they would not rely on just one weapon type. Also when attacking downed cavalry, if you can do so from three yards or so away with lances, why send men in closer with shorter weapons? Also the poleaxe wielders are likely to be your better armoured, who can rest / stand ready for further attacks, whilst lightly armoured spear/lance (at this time and place the names tend to be used interchangably) wielders finish off the discomfited cavalry. I'd suggest they didn't appear because it was the lance-sticking which was the gory (and therefore recounted) part of the tale.


Do you think when Froissart mentions "battle-axe" he was reffering to poleaxes? I find another mention of it in another chapter of his chronicles: https://faculty.nipissingu.ca/muhlberger/FROISSART/AMBRETI.HTM

Seens like a fairly common equipment at the time

Fiore for example calls the poll-axe simply "Azza"., so this is entirely possible. They were writing for the audience of their own time, who knew what the weapons they referred to looked like. They were not writing to differentiate the development of weapons since ancient times, for the benefit of future historians.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2017 12:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Froissart's Battle of Aljubarrota (1385)         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Is Froissart correct to say the english were behind the ideia of fortifying the battlefield?


Why not? Fighting from behind field fortifications had been the English modus operandi for many years by then.


Quote:
Froissart also mentions "well steeled Bordeaux lances" and that those lances were able to pierce through french heavy armor. But I'm quite sure no lance in the world could pass through late 14th century men-at-arms' armor.


Lances were quite capable of punching through gaps and weak spots in contemporary armour. It wasn't easy, of course, but still much easier than punching right through plate. And this isn't so bizarre considering the fact that most of the French and Castilian men-at-arms who reached the Anglo-Portuguese lines would have been on foot and thus would have fought their English and Portuguese counterparts on more equal terms.


Quote:
Didn't they had poleaxes by that time? I find strange they didn't appeared in this battle at all.


Uhh. They did. Look at the quotes you posted right afterwards. The "battle-axes" are pole-axes.

Quote:
Quote:
During all this time the French were fighting; and those knights and squires who had been able to dismount performed many gallant deeds, for, when their lances were broken, they used their battle-axes, and with them gave such desperate blows on the helmets of all who opposed them, that wounds, if not death, were the consequences.
[...]
The sun was now setting, when the king of Castille advanced in puissant array, with banners displayed, and on barded horses, shouting out "Castille!" and entered the fortified pass. They were received with lances and battle-axes, and the first flight of arrows grievously wounded their horses, threw them into confusion, and many were wounded or slain.
[...]
The king of Portugal dismounted, and, taking his battle-axe, placed himself at the pass, where he performed wonders, knocking down three or four of the stoutest of the enemy, insomuch that none dared to approach him.


Although Froissart doesn't tell us, other primary sources say the spaniards broke their lances' poles to use them as infantry weapons. The english didn't.


He might not have mentioned it but it doesn't mean the English couldn't have broken their lances in half too. The practice was attested in other English battles of the period.


Quote:
Using a lance as an infantry weapon is actually reliable?


Why not? It would have performed just fine as a two-handed spear. 15th-century armoured fencing manuals showed many, many plays for the spear/lance on foot.

Quote:
What kind of "battle-axes" Froissart mentioning here?


These were the pole-axes you've been wondering about all along. "Battleaxe" was the most common contemporary English term for what we now call the "poleaxe," as repeatedly attested in many English logistical/inventory records. Similarly, "hache" or "hache de combat" was the most common French term for the poleaxe.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Dec, 2019 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I revived this discussion because I notice a detail regarding this discussions of battleaxe meaning poleaxe:

During all this time the French were fighting; and those knights and squires who had been able to dismount performed many gallant deeds, for, when their lances were broken, they used their battle-axes, and with them gave such desperate blows on the helmets of all who opposed them, that wounds, if not death, were the consequences. Whoever is engaged in such-like combats as this at Aljubarota must abide the event, if safety be not sought in flight: but in flight there is more danger than in the heat of the battle, for, when any one flies a pursuit is made, and, if overtaken, he is slain: when in a battle, if the chance turn unfortunate, he surrenders, and is well taken care of as a captive.

I think, at least in this specific description, these battle-axes would be sidearms, carried at the waist like one-handed weapons. Considering they advanced on a cavalry charge, they wouldn't carry pollaxes, but lances; and if you carry a lance or spear, you can't carry a weapon like a poleaxe as well. However, Froissart seems to emphasize the power of these weapons and I don't think a one-handed axe would be as much popular as a sidearm as a sword (which was basically mandatory), nor powerfull as described.

Any solution to this?
-------

Other thing:

"At this beginning they made a thousand knights and squires prisoners, which gave them much joy. They did not expect any further battle that day, and entertained their prisoners handsomely, saying to them, �" Do not be cast down: you have valiantly fought and have been conquered fairly: we will behave to you as generously as we should wish to be dealt with ourselves, were we in your situation. You must come and recruit yourselves in the good city of Lisbon, where you shall have every comfort."

The Portuguese were suggesting for their captives to change sides and fought for king Joao? I don't know if "recruiting" had other meaning than that, but I never heard cases where freedom was offered to a noble if he changed sides; besides the case of Lord Douglas when at the hands of the Percy Family, but this is very specific case which doesn't match our context

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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Tue 24 Dec, 2019 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Pedro,

On Tuesday 24 December 2019, you wrote:
Other thing:

"At this beginning they made a thousand knights and squires prisoners, which gave them much joy. They did not expect any further battle that day, and entertained their prisoners handsomely, saying to them, �" Do not be cast down: you have valiantly fought and have been conquered fairly: we will behave to you as generously as we should wish to be dealt with ourselves, were we in your situation. You must come and recruit yourselves in the good city of Lisbon, where you shall have every comfort."

The Portuguese were suggesting for their captives to change sides and fought for king Joao? I don't know if "recruiting" had other meaning than that, but I never heard cases where freedom was offered to a noble if he changed sides; besides the case of Lord Douglas when at the hands of the Percy Family, but this is very specific case which doesn't match our context

In this case "recruit" does not mean "enlist for military service" but has the slightly obsolete meaning of "renew or restore, especially health, strength, or vitality". So as you suspect, the Portuguese were not inviting their captives to change allegiance, but telling them that despite being captives, they would be able to regain their strength and heal their wounds.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Dec, 2019 8:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
I revived this discussion because I notice a detail regarding this discussions of battleaxe meaning poleaxe:

During all this time the French were fighting; and those knights and squires who had been able to dismount performed many gallant deeds, for, when their lances were broken, they used their battle-axes, and with them gave such desperate blows on the helmets of all who opposed them, that wounds, if not death, were the consequences. Whoever is engaged in such-like combats as this at Aljubarota must abide the event, if safety be not sought in flight: but in flight there is more danger than in the heat of the battle, for, when any one flies a pursuit is made, and, if overtaken, he is slain: when in a battle, if the chance turn unfortunate, he surrenders, and is well taken care of as a captive.

I think, at least in this specific description, these battle-axes would be sidearms, carried at the waist like one-handed weapons. Considering they advanced on a cavalry charge, they wouldn't carry pollaxes, but lances; and if you carry a lance or spear, you can't carry a weapon like a poleaxe as well. However, Froissart seems to emphasize the power of these weapons and I don't think a one-handed axe would be as much popular as a sidearm as a sword (which was basically mandatory), nor powerfull as described.

Any solution to this?


In describing the Battle of Auray, Froissart mentions the French wearing axes at their sides or around their necks. Shields still played a large part in combat during this part of the HYW, so these were probably the best choice of sidearm. The Holkham Picture Bible shows several types of axe, a couple of which have long enough hafts to be used either one or two handed. A late 14th century manuscript shows a similar type of axe that could be used in either manned, as does this other manuscript.
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