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Hi guys could anyone here tell me, what role did these armed men play in English armies? Most of my knowledge of medieval English battle tactics comes from documentaries on Agincourt and the like, so please forgive me if this is a stupid question.

My understanding is that English forces usually deployed in a line with men-at-arms in the centre and archers on the wings. So why do the armed men fit into this? I imagine that perhaps only the front rank of the centre was actually made up of men-at-arms, with armed men making up the rear ranks. So what do you guys think?

Thanks in advance

Randall Moffett wrote:
So here is how I suspect this all breaks down

Pg. 208
Array of all men at arms and footmen,


all with 20l of land to have horse worth 100s., aketon, habergeon, bascinet with aventail, gaunts of steel, sword, lance and knife.
Pg. 209
10l. Horse of 40s and same equipment,

Armed men
every man of 100s or 5l the same arms,

with 40s haketon, palet, gaunts, sword, lance and knife,

all men with less to have a sword, bow and arrows or lance.

Somewhere between the last two is the basic levied man.

Did you omit the class of foot and mounted archers, hobilars and so on? Lafayette said there is one 1322-summon made by the same Edward II who mentions armed men only with aketon, bascinet, and gauntlets. This would be the gray zone between 40.s and the under-40s.'s classes?

By the way, why the men-at-arms weren't obliged to afford coat-of-plates/plates? A Scandinavian Ordinance, for example, were demanding that all his knights had to afford one already by late-13th century. England was by no means outdated in terms of armor compared to them, and although there was a relevant difference between a simple man-at-arms to an actual knight, there is an explanation for why they didn't enforce the use of plates?

M. Eversberg II wrote:

3) "Lance" usually means spear in this context, which I get, but where's the shield to go with it?

Perhaps not, Lafayette said they had to afford "grosses launces". In German tongues, "gross" means big, so it's probably a lance-of-arms or cavalry lance.

The armed men seem to be used a great deal at sea as well. At times they are being used to bolster the MAA. But you see them in garrisons with archers, MAA and footman pretty often.

Perhaps that might be explained by the fact that garrison or guard duty wasn't usually (if ever) performed in full heavy armor. Cavalry is also lesser important in sieges and useless in naval warfare, so using lighter, lesser paid and infantry-based units would be better for the captains.

The issue is indeed complex as the linguistic base is very similar.. In the end all of them deal with defensive arms they have. Whether one says men at arms or armed men the meaning is close if not the same. That said from what I have been finding the term well armed or armed men is largely tied to what I'd call the armati as it is often the term they use meaning men on foot but well equipped defensively. It could also be that the terms can be used more broadly as well at times as there are a few instances I see all men at arms, mounted and foot. That said when you find the arms and armour reqs there is always a horse for Men at arms which then seems to discount the general definition being this way. I have seen a few cases where it states armed men, mounted. now this is odd as it seems to be less common and to me therefore something different from the normal armati... but this gets complicated as I'd assume this to be hobelars unless armati were armoured as well as men at arms but then why not call them this.

armiger and armati also have a rather close relationship as well which is complicated.

That said in England generally it seems generally to follow my previous definition of
Men at Arms
Hobelars and Mounted archers

For mounted

Armed men/Armati

for foot

Best I am coming up with after so much looking.


So to answer the question I have to admit there is likely no 100% to it.

I suspect strongly that men at arms overlap with armed men and hobelars in their own ways.

So men at arms share the mounted nature with the hobelars their equipment is heavier. I suspect armed men or armati to the hobelars might have equal or better defensive equipment. The big difference there is that most of the time. Like 90% or more of the time I see armati they are not listed with horses. But with hobelars they seem always to be. So I think the mounted nature is key between those two. It could be that in the one I put up before all MAA are in the top class and hobelars are the next mounted group. I was mostly just putting in the armed men where I thought they should be which is why I omit all other groups there for the most part.

There is very little mention of mounted archers until mid 14th. They remain in use far more often in many accounts through the next century and some and hobelars are less common, except in some local defensive matters where hobelars seem to hang on. They seem to be somewhat interchangable mounted archers and hobelars in some documents.

As to equipment we know english knights were using pairs of plates by the 1320s. Why it is not required is that it is the basic minimum arms and armour a knight had to use. Later these would be expected but by 1322 not so. By the 1330s we see pairs of plates come more into arms requirements.

As far as garrisons I feel equipment is less likely the reason as are horses. In a castle or town garrison horses have uses but are limited. Therefore having more men in armour without horse is a good deal. And as they are paid less than Men at arms an economical one.


I suspect there are what often would be seen as heavy infantry. Even though men at arms and mounted archers become such a mainstay in english forces the bigger armies are often pretty heavy in footmen.

I think trying to differenciate between Men at arms and armed men on the battlefield for tactics would be impossible more or less aside from one having horses there and the other likely not.


I have read that during the HYW some archers were promoted to Foot Lancer. If these archers were already mounted archers with 6d a day, the same as a Hobelar, what would the new pay be? I assume that a promotion would include a raise in pay.

From this I assume that the increase in pay from 4d a day for a Foot Archer to 6d a day for a Mounted Archer has to do with the horse. So 2d a day for a horse. From this I assume the rational behind this is the following.

1d because of basic rank (melee)
1d because of some armour
2d as a total

Foot Archer
1d because of basic rank (melee)
1d because of some armour
2d because of skill with the bow
4d as a total

Mounted Archer
1d because of basic rank (melee)
2d because of mount (mobility)
1d because of some armour
2d because of skill with the bow
6d as a total

1d because of basic rank (melee)
1d because of some skill as a mounted warrior
2d because of mount
2d because of good armour
6d as a total
(Later the Mounted Archer and Hobelar was combined. A Mounted Archer was expected to act as a Hobelar, but a Hobelar was not necessarily a Mounted Archer, because you only had to add a lance, but the mastery of a bow takes skill)

But the promotion from Mounted Archer to Foot Lancer/Lance pied probably has to do with armour which in turn increases your confidence and thus your ability to fight in melee, so maybe
2d because of good rank (melee)
2d because of mount (mobility)
2d because of skill with a bow (maybe this is irrelevant as a Foot Lancer, but I would rather have a Foot Lancer who knew how to handle a bow than one without this skill for flexibility and increased "firepower")
4d because of full armour
8d as a total (if skill with a bow is relevant then 10d)

Armed men/Armati
2d because of good rank (melee)
4d because of full armour
6d as a total

2d because of good rank (melee)
6d because of at least one good mount 3d) with armour (3d) and training as a mounted warrior
4d because of full armour
12d as a total

Knight bachelor
3d because of very good rank (melee)
15d because of 1 excellent mount (6d) with armour (3d) and 2 good mounts (6d) and training as a mounted warrior
6d because of excellent armour (good quality)
24d as a total

'I have read that during the HYW some archers were promoted to Foot Lancer. If these archers were already mounted archers with 6d a day, the same as a Hobelar, what would the new pay be? I assume that a promotion would include a raise in pay.

From this I assume that the increase in pay from 4d a day for a Foot Archer to 6d a day for a Mounted Archer has to do with the horse. So 2d a day for a horse. From this I assume the rational behind this is the following. '

'(Later the Mounted Archer and Hobelar was combined. A Mounted Archer was expected to act as a Hobelar, but a Hobelar was not necessarily a Mounted Archer, because you only had to add a lance, but the mastery of a bow takes skill) '

I guess this is mostly true. I suspect the difference really is mostly the cost between foot and mounted archers is simply the horse. At certain points pay varies as well. Mounted archers make up to 9d a day, some foot archers up to 6p. Usually footmen make 2-3d from what I see and some clearly have little investment of their own in the armour and arms. We really have little to no idea how the hobs or mounted archers were really used or employed.

It could be mobility. Archers that keep up with MAA.

It could be they are used as hobelars and mounted archers. Using a longbow is tricky from the saddle but I've seen it done.

Or it could be that is was administrative and since they were paid the same mounted archers won out. To be fair the term hobelar is in use the entire 1300-1500 time frame so it could be hobelars are just not as used in war as well.

Mounted or foot lancer or anything like that does not show up in English docs of this period from what I have seen.



Does the sources say anything special about the mounted archers with 9d a day? Are they part of a retinue or better armoured?

After a lot of thinking I was able to track where the promotion to foot lancer was mentioned. It's in Longbow by Hardy on page 121. The exact quote is: "In one roll of 1434, nine archers were marked 'promoted foot lances' with a consequent increase in pay"

It is also mentioned in the Osprey book: Henry V and the conquest of France 1416-53 on page 10.
"John Milcent was granted property in Caen in 1421 and rose to become a lance pied. From 1439, three other Milcents - John, Thomas and Watkin - appear in Caen garrison as archers. These were presumably sons of John senior"

This is late, not 1300s.
On the subject of 16th century terminology, "armed men" was just a general term for "men in heavy armor". You could have armed horsemen who were not true men-at-arms.

As an example "armed pikes" vs "unarmed pikes" to distinguish between the armored and unarmored pikemen. Some writers also add to this "light armed pikes" to refer to pikemen who aren't wearing a complete 3/4ths suit:

There bee yet another sort of light armed Pikes, which only haue the forepart of a Corslet and a Headpece, as is the Al∣maine Riuet, or a good light Iacke, or plate Coate: these some∣times may be sent amongst the forlorne hoope of Hargabusiers, to defend them from the inuasions of Horsemen."

Although John Smythe complained that many men would consider themselves "well armed" with only a breastplate and backplate.

Hmmm. Well not seen that one, or at the least nothing is coming to mind. I have a list of the soldier types I have come across and the terms used but not remembering seeing that one still.

I'd have to have the citation to take a look at them. I do not have Longbow any longer or that ospey title and do not see it in the great warbow anywhere. Is there are more full citation for the longbow one? It sounds to me like it may be moving up to something like an armed man. I'd have to take a look though at the original to really say.

There are a few things that come up like this that are rather outside the structure I've worked on. Some are due to regional or local customs. Kerns for example are called footmen in a few local records but not in the royal ones. I think it is because they only make 2d not 3p and footmen and archers often make 3p. I suspect this might be something in the order of armed man as they make more than foot archers usually. Other ones I have seen so far are macemen, billmen and pikemen to list a few that come to mind. I suspect all of these fit in various places likely footmen or armed men depending on armour. Typically armour is how the men are broken apart in the main royal records I have seen, more along the lines of what Henry is saying. Armour and horses to me seem to be the big breakdown. if they are lances on foot I'd say they could be called spearmen or pikemen. By the 1420s pikes are for sure possible.

By the middle to late 15th the terms do change sometimes and it is possible that they vary clerk to clerk as well. I am looking mostly at royal records, and rural and civic musters and not sure I have seen that come up. Are they both in france with english troops there?

I think the 9p were indeed men in retinue as mounted archers.


I'm with John! Those slackers, a breastplate and backplate do not an armed man make!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ndJNXCkNxg - Sorry whenever I hear that term I think of this. and for some reason a group of guys trying to squeak by in a breast and backplate as armed reminds me of this...

This is a rather tricky aspect of all this. I think by the 16th century it is likely more clear but its been a few years since I was as involved as I am with 14th and 15th.


I may have found a few examples of it on my list. I need to double check. I wrote it down some years ago and I cannot recall the abbreviation I used (I should have made a key)...


I don't know if we are talking about soldiers recruited in France or England, but I suspect that it's France. Presumably re-enlisted men with experience and equipment they have looted.

There are no citations in Longbow by Hardy. He's talking about mounted archers being fined for not showing up with a horse at muster, and than he mentioned the Foot Lancers. I think his underlying argument is that some archers would receive more pay than horse archers even without a horse. But I don't agree. Just because an archer is promoted to Foot Lancer does not mean that he's without a mount for mobility. To be a mounted warrior you need the right type of horse with training, armour and you need training yourself, so I think it's just conjuncture on his part. But it's an interesting piece of information non the less.

There are no citations in the Osprey book either. But the underlying theme or thesis is that there is a distinction between lance cheval and lance pied. They are mentioned several times in the book. I can give you some quotes.

Here on page 36.
"There was a military distinction between lance cheval and lance pied. As the majority of the army was mounted, the lance pied would have a horse, but he lacked the correct type of horse, equipment and training to fight on a horse.

The quarterly muster rolls sometimes show that men were absent because they were attending jousts and tournaments. In the Caudebec garrison for September-December 1446, for example, eight lance cheval, two lance pied and six archers were absent - at jousts held at Pont de I`Arche. This would have been a competition, for which they would have trained at Caudebec. The lance chevals may have taken the other eight along as assistants, or there may have been separate competitions to test different military skills."

If I had any citations I would most likely not have asked you guys who have more knowledge about this than I. If I can have this "theory" about a distinction between mounted and dismounted men-at-arms confirmed, it's a long step for me. I'm especially interested in the breakdown of pay. You can solve a lot of problems with algebra. I can give you an example on Alexander the Great if you like.

The problem is without an idea where it came from I cannot do much with it. Lack of Citation is a major issue in trying to figure this out with context lacking. As I said there is not much I have seen to support it as a troop type. The French garrisons do have a bit of a different focus to English ones in England. They use French pay often and other troop types terms that are not common on the Isle. Anne Curry did a major work on this that developed from her PhD so might be a good place to look. I have not read it in a decade or so, could be in there.


We see lance on foot appear but for my work it does not show up as a troop type really but description of what type of gear a troop type would have. Typically they just call the pedes in the royal sources I am largely using, which means foot. Weapons are not the descriptor of them. As I said above it is armour level and mounted or dismounted.

If they are spearmen they'd be paid the wage of a foot archer or at times even less. Unless they are armed men. If that is the case then they are armoured footmen. I do not think Hardy is correct here either if it is the first one but it might be right but without citation I cannot chase down the original and unless it is something that is well know (which to me does not ring any bells) it could be along the lines of the needle in a haystack.

I've largely given up on Osprey for research itself due to that issue but the back might have a bibliography or the likes that might help. I'd check there as well.

I'd not call them man-at-arms in English accounts for footmen. Almost all the documents indicate a man at arms is one who is expected to be well armoured and mounted, even if not fighting mounted he is to be expected to be able to be. That is why I've settled on the Armed Man and Men At Arms terms for period use.

The best pay scale I already put up here that I know of.

Not sure what question in the system I put up remains really. The only oddities are the regional troops like kerns. Other than that footmen with less armour get paid less mounted men with armour the most, add nobility and knightly statutes for a bit extra.


Jason O C wrote:
Hi guys could anyone here tell me, what role did these armed men play in English armies?

They show up mostly in pretty early sources, and predominantly in ones relating to local defence in England and campaigns against Scotland. They didn't seem to have been present in such large numbers in the field armies that went to France, though. It's not easy to draw conclusions from these -- maybe they were mostly left at home, or maybe they were gradually replaced by the recruitment of larger numbers of archers, or maybe they were the forerunners to later billmen (who had very similar kit except for the absence of shields -- but note that in many cases shields were not required gear for the armed men anyway!).
Re: "Armati" and other problems with english milit
I have been revisiting this thread for a few days in order to solve any remanant questions. I became intrigued with the fact of the "armati" meaning low-tier men-at-arms or armoured infantry, the latter not having horses. Does the horse-class requires more amount of armor? Which pieces?

I know now the Summon of 1322 means aketon, bascinet and iron gauntlets (no idea of what "bascinet bournies" should meant), but it sounds quite a basic equipment, compared to the archers.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Not really. Jack/aketon and helmet were minimum standards of equipment -- basically what one would get fined for (or rejected during recruitment) if one couldn't meet these standards. But there were plenty of troops who wore better gear than these standards, too, and they didn't always have to be elite noble or royal guards. Indeed, even archers wore breastplates if they could afford them (or loot a suitably sized one off an enemy corpse or armoury).

So the most basic - and required - set for an english archer or foot soldier was the set of jack and helmet? I became confused when in the same Outterburn book, the author says a comital household mounted archer with jack, iron gauntlets and a bascinet with camail was "well armed"; was he incorrect, or mounted archers would be better armoured, specially household archers? I'm quite influenced by modern illustrators, and there is a source of which Heath and Graham Turner based themselves to draw a mounted archer with aketon, hauberk, gauntlets and leg harness, was that normal for Mounted Archers? Do we have descriptions of what armor a class (or classes) of archers were obliged to have?

For example, I know a guy who said he descends from an archer in Ireland whose rank was of "Armed Archer", in means he had to afford armor. So at least in Ireland, or more generally in English Authority, there was a class of Armed Archers, though I don't know what minimum of armor those were expected to have

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mounted archer.png

(no idea of what "bascinet bournies" should meant)

As a byrnie is a mail shirt, a "bascinet bournie" would probably indicate a bascinet with a camail.
Hello Pedro Paulo Gaio

I believe there are a distinct difference between men-at-arms and armoured men. Here is a quote from the first link.

" The knightly class itself evolved into the gentry, with three distinguishable tiers: the knights (about 950 in 1436, with incomes between 40 and 200; about 500 in 1500), the esquires (about 1200 in 1436, 800 in 1500, with incomes between 20 and 40) together a fairly homogeneous group called the county gentry; and lastly the gentlemen, 5000 or so, with incomes between 5 and 20. An income of 5 was considered "fair living for a yeoman" by Sir John Fortescue. Only the county gentry played a real political role and held offices in local administrations (the limit was put at 20 income in 1439 for a number of offices). There is yet another, wider concept, that of parish gentry, which seems to incorporate gentlemen, lawyers and merchants who had invested in land, and richer yeomen: those numbered in all about 6000 or 8000 in the 15th c. Whether this had much meaning is open to question: this stratum was by essence an intermediate category.

The term gentleman itself comes into widespread use in the 15th century only. A law of 1413 required that the social status or occupation be indicated in all legal proceedings, and soon after one sees the adoption of the term gentleman to designate small landholders whose lifestyle placed them above franklins or yeomen."

I don't like to quote from pages with few good references, but I'll make an exception here. So what the quote says is
Knights 40 to 200
Esquires 20 to 40

Gentlemen 5 to 20

Parish Gentry.
Gentlemen, lawyers and merchants who had invested in land, and richer yeomen. Approximately 5

The limit was put at 20 income in 1439 for a number of offices.

I assume that armoured men were part of this last social group. If they were merchants and rich craftsmen, recruiting these men for war in France would cripple the economy. It was better to have them at home, in garrison or on board ships. Men-at-arms can fight mounted and dismounted. Men with only good armour can fight dismounted, so it's better to have them in garrison. It's also stated in sources on the occupation of northern France, that recruitment of men from towns were restricted precisely because of this. I believe it was done this way to get the most out of the resources they had. Some of these armoured men were promoted archers, if we are to trust the sources. Archers were allowed to loot the corpses both after Agincourt in 1415 and Verneuil in 1424, so it's safe to assume that some of them had good armour after this date.

Fast forward to The wars of the Roses, and all this changed. Armies were close to home and could be disbanded after a battle and they needed every man regardless of the economic loses. In addition to this, most of the Gentry died on the battlefield and army commanders needed replacements.

For information on the distinction between men-at-arms and armoured men, see the last link. Here they are named foot lancers, but they were only recruited after 1434 in Normandy. If you read the article, you understand why they did it.

We have some sources on what archers equipped themselves with. I'll get back to you on that. I have to find the quote in one of my books. It depends on how you interpret the quote, but it said that something along the lines of "archers (or soldiers in general) didn't wear plate armour apart from the better sort."

It is perhaps misleading to suggest foot lances were only recruited in Normandy after 1434. We know from the various records that garrisons could contain men-at-arms without horses from the 1370s on. We might also note "homines armati" were regularly employed in naval operations at this time too. There seems to have been a blurring of distinction in the case of men-at-arms without horses, but without social rank, and armoured infantry in these cases. However, foot lances could be drawn from the minor gentry, with records of esquires serving in both capacities at various times.

There is quite a bit on this in Bell, Curry,King and Simpkin The Soldier in Later Medieval England.
Elrik, the definition of <armatus> or <armed man> seems to be "an infantryman with iron body armour and an iron headpiece and something protecting their arms." To a late medieval/early modern soldier, that armour was what allowed a soldier to stay in intense combat without fear, like classical Greeks divided troops according to the type of shield they carried.

Anonymous, Chronicon Colmariense, March 1298 MGH SS 17 p. 264 http://www.mgh.de/dmgh/resolving/MGH_SS_17_S._264 wrote:
ex quibus armati reputabantur, qui cassias ferreas in capitibus habebant, et qui wambasia, id est, tunicam spissam ex lino et stuppa, vel veteribus pannis consutam, et desuper camisiam ferream, id est vestem ex circulis ferreis contextam, per quae nulla sagitta arcus poterat hominem vulnerare. Ex hiis armatis centum inermes mille ledi timuerunt. "Among which (multitude of soldiers lead by Adolph, King of the Romans) those who had iron helmets on their heads and a gambeson (ie. a tunic thickened with linen and tow, or sewn together from old cloths) and above that an iron shirt (ie. a garment woven together from iron rings), through both of which no arrow from a bow can harm a man, were considered armed men. And a hundred of these armed men hardly feared a thousand unarmed."

Sir John Smythe, Certain Discourses ... 1590 wrote:
And as their ill arming is an encouraging to the Enemie, so it is vnto them a discouragement, and a great disaduantage. For in case anie horseman or footman piquer so ill armed, should bee wounded on the thigh, or chieflie on the arme or hand, either with Launce, Pique, Sword, or any other weapon, his figh∣ting for that day were marred; besides that, by such wounds receiued, he is put in hazard either to bee slaine or taken. And to the same effect it hath been a maxime in all ages amongst all great Capraines, and skilfull soldiers, that the well arming of horsmen and footmen is a great encouragement vnto them to fight valiantlie; whereas contrariwise being euill armed, it is a great discouragement vnto them encountring with well armed men, and most commonlie through wounds receiued, the verie occasion that doth make them to turne their backes.

Smythe wants pikemen to wear at least a corselet and burgonet and disagrees with those who say that they don't need the gauntlets, vambraces, pauldrons, or long tassets in today's wars. And like the anonymous chronicler, he says that armour reduces their fear and chance of being disabled by small wounds.

Whereas a man-at-arms also has to have a good horse and know how to fight from it, and ideally the armour should be stronger and more complete even if 14th century sources complain that guys with just a bascinet, gauntlets, a coat of mail and quilted overcoat are calling themselves "men-at-arms." I have not seen the sources for recruiting men-at-arms without horses which Anthony says he has seen.
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