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Rodolfo Martínez




Location: Argentina
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 3:48 pm    Post subject: Knight as a combat unit...         Reply with quote

Hello Gentlemen.
I like reading about knights and their battle tactics but i´m not sure when the knight as a combat unit dissapeared. i was told that it was during the XVI century, but i still see battle armours in that century. I was told too that knight is only a title, but I don´t really know wich is the difference between a knight and a nobleman with an armour?
Websites not always help readers. Evil

Thanks.

FMS

¨Sólo me desenvainarás por honor y nunca me envainarás sin gloria¨
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Sean Belair
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The fully armored man on horse was not necessarily a knight or nobleman. Overtime the knightly class was replaced by highly trained commoners or Men-at-arms. Heavy cavalry charges remained a vital tactic up until the modern era, many units made up of the nations wealthy sons. Armor gradually disappeared; by the Napoleonic era heavy cavalry often wore just a breast plate and helm.
Hopefully someone more qualified can jump in and correct me.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whether you choose to define "knight" as a specific type of medieval warrior or a social class, there is simply no simple, clear-cut, universal boundary.

If you're talking about the disappearance of armored cavalry, it only disappeared in the early 20th century when modern firearms and artillery (and later, even more heavily-armored tanks and armored cars) rendered them obsolete. Until then--or at least until the middle of the 19th century when rifled artillery began to make an appearance on the battlefield, armored cavalry retained a real and effective role on the European battlefields. They were the first choice for frontal encounters against opposing cavalry, and their armor also made them braver when attacking foot formations.

The term "knight" as a social class have never been entirely synonymous with "heavy cavalry" anyway. In the earliest times, a "knight" was actually a professional cavalryman and his social status was rather low, at least compared to nobles--who would have shuddered at the idea of being called a mere caballarius (horseman). Later on, when knighthood gained in prestige and nobles were no longer reluctant to be knighted, the ranks of the heavy cavalry also began to include some men from even "lower" social classes, like some of the richest serjeants. These serjeants often had exactly the same feudal duties as knights with the only difference that they were not counted as part of the privileged gentry. The heavy cavalry formations also often included the knights' squires, too, and these men, while of knightly rank, were not yet technically "knights" as such.

That's already quite a brazen generalization. To make an even more daring generalization, I'd say that the proportion of actual knights in European heavy cavalry formation continued to decline with time, although this was partly counteracted by the knighting or ennoblement of some of the men who made their way into such formations. By the late 15th century, the French and Burgundian ordinances no longer listed separate pay grades for knights banneret, knights bachelors, and squires, but lumped them together with all men who were abl eto afford the heaviest class of equipment into the single category of hommes d'armes or gens d'armes (men-at-arms).

BTW, "men-at-arms" is actually the correct term to use to refer to knights and the sundry heavy cavalrymen brigaded together with them. The term did not seem to have been used to the general body of the soldiery, only these elites. Of course, you'll see many mentions of dismounted men-at-arms in military history, but they were dismounted elites (meaning that they had horses, only they were not riding them) and not ordinary foot.

The difference between a knight and a nobleman in armor? You'll have to specify when and where because there is no single all-encompassing answer for this. I was about to try to make a few examples, but there are simply too many to be dealt with in the space of a single post.
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The difference between a knight and a nobleman in armor? You'll have to specify when and where because there is no single all-encompassing answer for this. I was about to try to make a few examples, but there are simply too many to be dealt with in the space of a single post.


Part of the root of my question was that, it´s said that in XVI century, the military or elite fighting unit as the crusader knight ro maybe the chevalier or condottieri dissapeared replaced by german and swiss mercenaries, wich were designed to fight agains them.
In the other hand, you can find full armored men, riding their horses and charging as the Chevaliers in this century. But, if these elite troops have dissapeared the century before, who are them?Maybe it´s a bit silly the question, but i truly don´t understand clearly. So, you say that the ¨knight¨ as an elite soldier didn´t dissapeared, they became men at arms with other rank troops?

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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Rodolfo Martinez wrote:

I like reading about knights and their battle tactics but i´m not sure when the knight as a combat unit dissapeared.

Rodolfo,
Some of this has already been discussed on a previous thread. You might find the excerpts from a few works about knights that I posted to be of interest. The thread covered the rise of the knight, as well as the knight's decline as a military unit.

Here's the link to the thread:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ght=knight

I hope this helps!

Have a safe and joyous holiday season!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
Part of the root of my question was that, it´s said that in XVI century, the military or elite fighting unit as the crusader knight ro maybe the chevalier or condottieri dissapeared replaced by german and swiss mercenaries, wich were designed to fight agains them.
In the other hand, you can find full armored men, riding their horses and charging as the Chevaliers in this century. But, if these elite troops have dissapeared the century before, who are them?Maybe it´s a bit silly the question, but i truly don´t understand clearly. So, you say that the ¨knight¨ as an elite soldier didn´t dissapeared, they became men at arms with other rank troops?


So your question was essentially "Who were the heavy cavalrymen of the 16th century?"

I'd suggest you to visit this thread on Gendarmes:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8498

Where it is explained that in the mid- and late 15th century the major powers in continental Western Europe initiated some military reforms to formalize the professional status of their armies and particularly their heavy cavalry formations. Part of the reforms included erasing the pay distinction between bannerets, bacheliers, and ecuyers (the three knightly ranks at the time) and grouping them all into one category of gens d'armes along with some of the richer and better-equipped non-noble cavalrymen. These men were the same men as before; in civilian and court life they retained teh status distinction between knights banneret (the highest), knights bachelor, and esquires (the lowest); but in the drills and on the battlefield they were considered more-or-less equal as members of the heavy cavalry formations.

So, socially--in civilian and court life--there remained a distinction between knights and non-knights and also within the knightly social class itself, but in military situations these distinctions were hammered down. At least in theory.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette,

I am curious if you known what became of the tradition of distinguishing the formally knighted class by performing such rites as the girding with belt and sword, presenting guilded spurs (presummably distinctions were made between nobility at one time based on gold versus silver spurs), etc. Did these traditions still hold during the 16th century?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 5:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure, but I think at least some of those ceremonies must have survived because knighthood itself still survives as a social distinction down to this day in several places. Perhaps, if you're curious about that subject, you could try looking for some memoirs from the Elizabethan era or the article on Sir George Clifford in the Features section of this site.
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 7:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It´s true that these XVI century heavy cavalry ¨knights¨ or gendarmes used to perform their cavalry charge and their other tactics, and then this full armored duys dismount to became heavy infantry with longswords,two handers or other weapons in especial formations to give more protection to the rest of the infantry?
¨Sólo me desenvainarás por honor y nunca me envainarás sin gloria¨
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
It´s true that these XVI century heavy cavalry ¨knights¨ or gendarmes used to perform their cavalry charge and their other tactics, and then this full armored duys dismount to became heavy infantry with longswords,two handers or other weapons in especial formations to give more protection to the rest of the infantry?


Dismounting to join the foot-troops is more a style of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century, and pretty well limited to the English (and in response, French) Knights. And the weapons generally used by such dismounted Men-at-Arms were pole-axes and the like, a sword being a rather ineffective weapon against an armoured opponent. Although it was done occasionally in the 16th Century (Blaise de Montluc discusses doing so in his memoirs) it wasn't the general rule, as Cavalry had quite a resurgence in battlefield effectiveness by that time.

I cannot think of an instance where the Men-at-Arms performed a charge, and then returned to dismount and stiffen the Infantry. It may well have happened, but I don't believe it to have been an accepted practice. (If you don't break the other guy with your first few cavalry charges, then you might as well stay mounted to enable you to leave in haste. Cool) A far more common practice would be to begin the battle dismounted, and then as the enemy was breaking, mount your charger (held in reserve by your servant) to effect the route. Or it it's your side that's breaking, leave in haste (as above Cool)

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I visited a site that said that during XVI century heavy cavalry´s armour started to became lightier becouse of halberds and firearms, but, you can still see very beautiful ands strong battle full suits of arour, during 1500.

What happened with heavy cavalry´s ¨proof armours¨, where truly effective against firearms?



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IArmadura Vienna.jpg
Italian design too.

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Another Italian...

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Armadura española 4 MUSEO MILITAR DE MADRID.jpg
Spanish armour from the Military Museum in Madrid. Idon´t remember the century but the kind of sword is from XVI century.

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Italian design armour, i think it´an XVI century design. [ Download ]

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Last edited by Rodolfo Martínez on Sun 24 Dec, 2006 12:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Spanish Tercio's were always Infantry, and were constituted by the King of Spain with specific requirements for arms and armour to fulfill the various roles. Since the earliest of the Tercio's were formed in 1534, they didn't go through a period of being shiftless mercenaries (even though the individuals who were enlisted may have done so), but were always a "regular army" as it were. Check out this website for much more information: http://www.geocities.com/es1617/TercioEs.html

The Condottieri had their beginings in the feudal cavalry of Italy, becoming professional Heavy Cavaly open to being hired by the city-states at some point in the 14th Century. There were also plenty of foreign mercenaries in their midsts such as Sir John Hawkwood though. But it's a pretty major study in and of itself, and like the subject of Tercio's, far to difficult to explain in a few paragraphs.

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Dec, 2006 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
It´s true that these XVI century heavy cavalry ¨knights¨ or gendarmes used to perform their cavalry charge and their other tactics, and then this full armored duys dismount to became heavy infantry with longswords,two handers or other weapons in especial formations to give more protection to the rest of the infantry?


Actually, from the chronicles and excerpts I've read, in the 16th century they seemed to have started out mounted and fought mounted throughout the battle or started out dismounted and stayed dismounted until the end. The unhorsed gendarmes, though, certainly had to be able to fight on foot or they might not have made it back to their lines alive.

(If they met another heavy horseman from the opposing side they might ask for quarters, but try doing that to a Swiss!)

Quote:
I visited a site that said that during XVI century heavy cavalry´s armour started to became lightier becouse of halberds and firearms, but, you can still see very beautiful ands strong battle full suits of arour, during 1500.

What happened with heavy cavalry´s ¨proof armours¨, where truly effective against firearms?


I'd call that an overly broad generalization. The advent of firearms and heavy percussive weapons produced two opposite but parallel trends of development in armor from the late 15th to the 19th centuries. The first made the armor thicker so that it would better be able to resist heavier blows, but reduced its coverage so that the overall weight would not become unmanageable. The second reduced both weight and coverage, making armors that would have been easily penetrated by a musket or arquebus ball but still effective against most hand-to-hand weapons.

"Proof" armor is also a very general term that needs to be qualified first. There were "musket proof" armors that soon proved to be impractical, and there were the "pistol proof" armors that could resist a pistol shot from distances of, say, more than five meters but would have been less useful against longer and more powerful firearms. This second type was the one that became most prevalent and lasted until the early years of the 20th century--although by then the increased firepower of the revolver and automatic pistol made it no longer truly "pistol proof." The "pistol proof" cuirass was particularly useful because it also gave substantial protection against swords, pikes, and bayonets.

(BTW, the Spanish cuirass seems to be a late 15th-century model, while the first "Italian" armor actually looks more like a Low Countries style--although it's perfectly possible that an armor of that style could have been made in Italy. Many were made in Italy, as a matter of fact.)
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Dec, 2006 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In terms of describing the armour of various medieval ages and styles as "heavy" or "light", my opinion is that it would be largely a function of coverage, allowing for some exceptions that don't seem to be the norm. I will explain why below.

I studied the armour collection at Higgins noting weights that were given for the majority of suits on display. With the exception of a couple of suits specifically intended for jousts (weighing close to 87 lbs in the case of one of them), 45 lbs tended to be pretty average with partial (approximately 1/2 to 3/4) coverage armour. The suits that really were full coverage, but not known as specifically for joust were closer to 55-65 lbs. This seemed to be a general tendency (not an absolute, but true of most suits) regardless of ages which were estimated from the early 1400's on.

Proof testing and differential thickness/ hardening techniques were applied to optimize crush strength and penetration resistance of later breast plates, and were done on helms and other pieces. However, the practical aspect of how much weight an opponent could bear to utilize and still be competitive seems like something that would end up similar to swords, much of them falling within a relatively consistent range unless function was specialized or dealing with an individual of unusual strength or size.

All of this is presented only as opinion, as I do not have any good books on armour and have only casually observed this by looking at one collection. I would appreciate others assessments on the differences in weight and coverage of "heavy versus light."

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Dec, 2006 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared;

I think you have a pretty good handle on it, from my understanding at least.

Both Francois de la Noue and Sir Roger Williams expound on the unsuitability of wearing armour that is proof, but so heavy as to make it impractical to wear for any time. La Noue makes mention of the fact that earlier in the 16th Century, even older veterans could wear their full suits of plate for 24 hours straight, while "in these times" (meaning the 1580's) such a suit made of proof armour would cripple a man in his 30's to wear all day, and most men wouldn't do it. Sir Roger suggests (in 1590) that a "Launtier" (in French parlance a chevaux lèger, most Englishmen would call it Demi-Lancer) wear a breastplate, fauld, first plates of the pauldron, and helmet of pistol proof, the rest of the armour "as light as can be made". He said that such an armour would be, along with pistol, sword and lance, more than enough weight for the horse and rider to bear for 10 hours. Both men complained of the "wearing of stythes (i.e. anvils) in the attempt to make one's armour proof, and dismissed such attempts as foolish.

What is interesting is that much of the move towards much lighter versions of Heavy Cavalry is that it really didn't start to come about until the 17th Century, and really until the 30-Years War was well under way. During the French Wars of Religion, the Royalists in fact tended to increase the weight of their "light cavalry" companies (chevaux lègers, which was fairly Heavy Horse already) and upgrade them to compagnies d'ordonnance. They didn't lighten them, other than the bardings of the horses, until the 17th Century, Sir Roger and M. de la Noue to the contrary.

As I believe Daniel Staberg has mentioned, it was mostly due to the poverty of the Swedes that they were forced to equip the vast majority of their Horse as Harquebusiers in a pistol proof breastplate, light helmet and buff-coat, likewise the English on both sides of their Civil War. The Imperialists continued to utilize Cuirassiers (i.e. Pistoliers in 3/4 plate) until after the Peace of Westphalia, and such Kurassieren were usually armed at least in pistol-proof breast plates and helmets, with lighter but still fairly complete arm and leg armour.

At any rate, until the middle of the 17th Century, most Heavy Cavalry kept up the same basic weight of armour worn by the horseman, though there was a definite shift in where that weight was concentrated. And though the English and Swedish experience (which tends to colour most English reader's visions of such things) was to lighten up Horse at a much earlier stage, most Continental Heavy Horse kept most of their armour until the middle of the 17th Century at the least.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Dec, 2006 4:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
(If they met another heavy horseman from the opposing side they might ask for quarters, but try doing that to a Swiss!)


I think a dismounted full armored man at arms has nothing to fear to a single german or swiss mercenary (With melee weapons), i mean, maybe he will find a not full armored fella with a two hander or a halberd, nothing new for him (Not an a Exclamation s imposible to kick!), I think that between mercenaries, it was the phalanx like formation, not totally the soldier itself the true menace for another professional soldier like the men at arms. I think it might not be a nice situation to find yourself in the way of a ranging halberd ¨hedehog¨ formation protecting crossbows and firearms, as well as in the way of a cavalry charge.

I saw armours with smaller versions of german zweihanders (Like in the second attachment) but with fullered blades. I was wandering Why XVI Century smiths didn´t fullered the larger and heavier mercenary zweihander?

Thanks for the info fellas, and merry Christmas to all!



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Montante de 1.80metros año 1480.jpg
1480 Two hander of 6 feet long aprox.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Dec, 2006 11:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
I think a dismounted full armored man at arms has nothing to fear to a single german or swiss mercenary (With melee weapons), i mean, maybe he will find a not full armored fella with a two hander or a halberd, nothing new for him (Not an a Exclamation s imposible to kick!), I think that between mercenaries, it was the phalanx like formation, not totally the soldier itself the true menace for another professional soldier like the men at arms. I think it might not be a nice situation to find yourself in the way of a ranging halberd ¨hedehog¨ formation protecting crossbows and firearms, as well as in the way of a cavalry charge.


I wasn't talking about dismounted men. I was talking about unhorsed men, who would have been extremely unlikely to have the luck of being confronted in a "fair fight" by a single enemy. If he couldn't get up and run away before the enemy came down upon him, he'd find himself threatened by opposing men-at-arms--in which case he would have been able to ask for quarters--or by a whole horde of Swiss or Landsknechts or some other kind of non-elite formations, i nwhic hcase he would probably have to fight for his life until he got an opportunity to run away.

After all, it would have been extremely unlikely to find a lone, isolated Swiss or Landsknecht roaming the battlefield except if we're talking about routers or deserters--or "foragers" looting the dead after the battle had ended.

Jared and Gordon have pretty much answered your question about armor evolution. As for the two-handed swords, I really wish Peter (Johnsson) would drop in on his thread. He might have a clue or two about it.
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Dec, 2006 8:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I wasn't talking about dismounted men. I was talking about unhorsed men, who would have been extremely unlikely to have the luck of being confronted in a "fair fight" by a single enemy. If he couldn't get up and run away before the enemy came down upon him, he'd find himself threatened by opposing men-at-arms--in which case he would have been able to ask for quarters--or by a whole horde of Swiss or Landsknechts or some other kind of non-elite formations, i nwhic hcase he would probably have to fight for his life until he got an opportunity to run away.

After all, it would have been extremely unlikely to find a lone, isolated Swiss or Landsknecht roaming the battlefield except if we're talking about routers or deserters--or "foragers" looting the dead after the battle had ended.



Yes Mr. Lafayette, you are right, i missunderstanded the term ¨unhorsed¨. But i still think that a swiss or german mercenary, with melee weapons don´t have nothing new for a dismounted man at arms, i mean, in xvi century manuals there are techniques with daggers, longswords, messers, poleaxes, and maybe two handers too, so, if this ¨chevalier¨ has done his homework and devouted a considerable part of his life in combat training like knights of the centuries before, he has nothing to fear. A firearm and a heavy crossbow are different things, as well as the phalanx like halberd formation (But i still think that are a lot of good tactics against it.). A man at arms, from my point of view is a more versatile unit becouse can change into heavy infantry and heavy cavalry, and is a very powerful unit in, and out formations. Asking for quarters is in the medieval chivalric code too?

I can´t remember clearly but i think that heavy cavalry finally defeated german Landsknechte. (Please if someone knows correct me if i´m wrong:D ) And was heavy cavalry who defended this halberd formations´ flanks too. (I don´´t remember clearly too)


Thanks for the info about armours guys!

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe we are missing each other's points--or in other words, we're both making a disagreement where there is none. My original quote:

Quote:
The unhorsed gendarmes, though, certainly had to be able to fight on foot or they might not have made it back to their lines alive.

(If they met another heavy horseman from the opposing side they might ask for quarters, but try doing that to a Swiss!)


ought to be taken in context, since it essentially means that even a man-at-arms fighting on horseback would need to understand the art of fighting on foot just in case he was unhorsed because, even though he might be able to ask for quarters if he met an opposing man-at-arms, he would still have needed to defend himself if he met Swiss or Landsknechts who would not have been so inclined to give him a break. So I was not disagreeing with your opinions. You're preaching to the choir.

Asking for quarters is not limited to the medieval code of chivalry. Modern codes of behavior for officers still describe rules for asking and giving (or receiving) quarters, many points of which bear a striking similarity to the medieval codes.

And then, Landsknecht formations were quite effective against cavalry--though usually not by killing them outright, but by deterring them from coming within the reach of the Landsknechts' pikes. That being said, I believe there are accounts of an incident in the battle of Ravenna where a column of French cavalry (i'm not sure if it was just the gendarmerie or a combined formation of several types) broke into the corner of a Landsknecht formation and cut their way through to the other side. A similar incident may also have occured in the battle of Cerisoles. Gordon would be able to inform you better on them.
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, Cavalry formations don´t define battles, but against swiss formations these knights are more effective when dismounted, i´ll bring some examples in next post. But, as infantry defines battle, which is the purpouse of, or the advantage of being fully armoured while you can became a pretty temptating prey for gun fire?
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