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Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

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PostPosted: Tue 25 May, 2021 2:16 pm    Post subject: Did European knights collect heads?         Reply with quote

An odd question for sure

It has occured to me that throughout history combatants has done some pretty gruesome stuff on the battlefield. but some acts were done so due to either personal glory or by requirement of law.

Although I cannot cite this source at the moment, from what I heard is that the soldiers from State of Qin often collect enemy heads so they can get paid by the amount. The Samurais throughout the Civil war period collected heads of the defeated enemy so they can be later examined for the correct kill.

Did knights or European combatants throughout the early to late medieval period do anything like this? I would think such act of wearing enemy heads around ones waist would be frown upon by society or church as whole.

Thanks
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Markus Fischer




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Tue 25 May, 2021 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well in case of the Gauls we can say that Obelix collects the helmets from the beaten up legionaries...XD
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Tue 25 May, 2021 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe in the late 15th, early 16th century, Venice paid her stradiots a bonus for bringing back enemy heads.
Anthony Clipsom
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 26 May, 2021 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hoo, I certainly never heard of medieval Europeans taking heads in battle on any kind of regular basis. For knights especially, wouldn't they consider beheading to be a form of execution reserved mainly for traitors? A knight might be happy to kill a traitor in battle, but he was not an executioner, and lopping heads off helpless foes did not advance his dignity and status. Any enemy who was not a criminal would more likely be captured for ransom, in the usual chivalric way. And it might be fun to mow down common infantry, but one didn't make a distasteful show of it by piling up heads.

Quote:
I believe in the late 15th, early 16th century, Venice paid her stradiots a bonus for bringing back enemy heads.


That's a new one to me! Sounds like paid mercenaries, though? Not your average feudal vassals. And that late, we're starting to leave the "good old days" behind...

Matthew
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

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PostPosted: Thu 27 May, 2021 5:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:

Quote:
I believe in the late 15th, early 16th century, Venice paid her stradiots a bonus for bringing back enemy heads.


That's a new one to me! Sounds like paid mercenaries, though? Not your average feudal vassals. And that late, we're starting to leave the "good old days" behind...

Matthew


They do not take prisoners, but rather cut the heads of their adversaries, receiving according to their custom one ducat per head. Marino Sanuto

Marchal de Gie sent to the king word that he had passed the mountains, and that having sent out a party of horse
to reconnoitre the enemy, they had been charged by the Estradiots, one of them called Lebeuf being slain, the
Estradiots cut off his head, put it on top of a lance, carried it to their proveditor, and demanded a ducat.
Philippe de Comines

Anthony Clipsom
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Len Parker





Joined: 15 Apr 2011

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PostPosted: Sun 30 May, 2021 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've deleted my examples of such things in case any lunatics were thinking of imitating. There, I can rest easy.

Seriously, I realized he was looking for real examples, not fairy tales. Eek!

Leonard Parker
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Len Parker





Joined: 15 Apr 2011

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PostPosted: Fri 04 Jun, 2021 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've reread Froissart. Some heads being chopped off during the peasants' revolt, but I couldn't find any knights collecting heads.
Leonard Parker
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Jun, 2021 2:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Len Parker wrote:
I've reread Froissart. Some heads being chopped off during the peasants' revolt, but I couldn't find any knights collecting heads.


Heads were sometimes detached from corpses as "proof of death". Edward II was sent the head of Edward Bruce after he was killed at the battle of Faughart in Ireland in 1318, for example.

Anthony Clipsom
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Bruno Giordan





Joined: 28 Sep 2005

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jun, 2021 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:

Quote:
I believe in the late 15th, early 16th century, Venice paid her stradiots a bonus for bringing back enemy heads.


That's a new one to me! Sounds like paid mercenaries, though? Not your average feudal vassals. And that late, we're starting to leave the "good old days" behind...

Matthew


They do not take prisoners, but rather cut the heads of their adversaries, receiving according to their custom one ducat per head. Marino Sanuto

Marchal de Gie sent to the king word that he had passed the mountains, and that having sent out a party of horse
to reconnoitre the enemy, they had been charged by the Estradiots, one of them called Lebeuf being slain, the
Estradiots cut off his head, put it on top of a lance, carried it to their proveditor, and demanded a ducat.
Philippe de Comines


I gave a look at a couple italian books, Marin Sanudo referred to Greek mercenaries of the Morea region, an ancient name for the Peloponnese paeninsula.

In a battle in Lombardy they also mutilated prisoners of one hand or tongue, sending them back home to prove their cruelty.

Formally an embarassment to Venice for this behaviour, they were nonetheless appreciated by the Serenissima: however their chiefs were never ennobled for their service, receiving only a lesser title of Saint Mark Knights,.

Allies and enemies of Venýce both decried this unusual treatment of prisoners, who were generally well treated following a non written code in italian wars
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,954

PostPosted: Sun 06 Jun, 2021 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heads, as a collective, shared after Shrewsbury.

quickly from wiki

Henry Percy was initially buried by his nephew Thomas Nevill, 5th Baron Furnivall at Whitchurch, Shropshire, with honours, but rumours soon spread that he was not really dead. In response the King had him disinterred. His body was salted, set up in Shrewsbury impaled on a spear between two millstones in the marketplace pillory, with an armed guard, and was later quartered and put on display in Chester, London, Bristol and Newcastle upon Tyne. His head was sent to York and impaled on the north gate, looking toward his own lands. In November his grisly remains were returned to his widow Elizabeth.

The Earl of Worcester was beheaded and Sir Richard Venables, Sir Richard Vernon and Sir Henry Boynton were publicly hanged, drawn and quartered in Shrewsbury on 23 July and their heads publicly displayed, Thomas Percy's on London Bridge.


Plenty of displays after execution, for the "common" good.

Cheers
GC
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Cameron Slatyer




Location: Australia
Joined: 23 Aug 2020

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri 27 Aug, 2021 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi - firstly, to add to the "proof of death" (or rejoicing in an enemies downfall), Simon de Montfort's body was mutilated after the battle of Evesham in 1265 and his severed head was sent by Roger Mortimer to his wife as a present (along with his testicles). Wonderful chivalric behaviour by one of Edward 1's leading knights!

More nastily, the practice of beheading in Ireland was allegedly a feature of war from the 10th century, firstly between the Irish Kingdoms and the Vikings, but continuing into the Anglo-Norman Irish war until at least the 12th century. I take this with a pinch of salt, there is little agreement between accounts.

C. Henry

"Anything is possible in the fantastic Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the Gods as of reason." J.R.R. Tolkein
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
Joined: 17 Sep 2020

Posts: 66

PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2021 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although it's a manuscript and depicting Arthurian legend, Guiron le Courtois shows some beheading and presentation of the head. Roughly 1370-1380, that and Queste del Saint Graal (from the same workshop) are typically thought to portray material culture of the time very well. Some images below. Don't click if particularly squeamish.

https://manuscriptminiatures.com/4365/16832

https://manuscriptminiatures.com/4365/16838

https://manuscriptminiatures.com/4365/16837
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