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Daniel Staberg

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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I will not refute this above information, and really appreciate your taking the time to scan it. I don't speak French or Latin, but your quote snippet appears to discuss different types of armor for different functions (archer - "padded jacks" or "coat of plates", full harness with Bascinet for the titled lord?, light cavalry (Lancer, would expect half harness or "White" Harness at this date as you mentioned before)...) Milite in your list appears relatively meaningless without the subsequent descriptor...other than being some type of soldier.

If you are refering to the quote from Du Costume Militaire des Francais en 1446 it does indeed provide the equipment demanded of the various types of troops in a French company as establised in the ordonnace of 1445. It doesn't matter if the men-at-arms is a titled lord or not, he has to provide himself with the following if he wants to serve as one

Firstly said the men-at-arms are commonly, when they go to war, in entire white harness. That is to say close cuirass, vambraces, large garde-braces, leg harness, gauntlets, salet with visor and a small bevor which covers only the chin. Each is armed with a lance and a long light sword, a sharp dagger hanging on the left side of the saddle, and a mace
-Du Costume Militaire des Francais en 1446

If a man couldn’t equip himself like that he wasn’t admitted into service as a man-at-arms. Instead he had to serve as a coustillier which it is noted that poorer Burgundian esquires were forced to do in the 1470's when Charles the Bold introduced his personal version of the ordonnance army into Burgundy. Or not serve at all.

Of course the men-at-arms formed only 1/5 of the French ordonnace company but even the lesser members were well equiped by earlier standards. But indeed as I’ve written below in the 15th Century troosp became clealry divided into diffrent functions with diffrent demands for equipment. Ealier than that the tactical types in for example England and France were much less diversifiied and essentialy consisted of men-at-arms (heavy cavalry often fighting dismounted) and missle troops (archers/crossbowmen) together with much smaller amounts of other troops such as Gascon and Breton javelin men, welsh spearmen, hobilars and so on.

Regarding the question of the use of the word "milites" it is a complicated one and I'm recomending that you read Prof. Contamine's book if you want the full explaination of the work, but note what he writes:
"It is by no means certain that all those called knights or milites in the sources were true knights in the social sense of the word. (...) Frederick II, having promised the papcy that he would maintain for two years in Palestine 1,000 milites..."
-War in the Middle Ages page 68

Jared Smith wrote:
This is circling back to what I originally own confusion caused by terminology. If I understand you right, people were as poor at using highly precise terms back then as they are today? I don't actually get the same conclusion from what little I can guess from your quote.

I'm not sure how to explain this in english as it isn’t my native language, i simply can’t find the right terms to explain what I mean. Perhaps the follwign attempt at an example will make what I meant clearer. In the middle ages they did use precise if not "highly precise" terms, it's just that they had more words/terms meaning the same thing. Napoleon’s army divided it's cavalry into 'Light Cavalry', 'Dragoons' and 'Heavy or Battle Cavalry'. However the regiments&soldiers making up for exampel the Heavy cavalry was called 'Cuirassiers', 'Carabiniers', 'Elite Gendarmes' and 'Horse Grenadiers', not "heavy cavalry regiments/heavy cavalrymen". 4 diffrent terms/words all denoting "heavy cavalry".

Jared Smith wrote:

Here it appears that we have vallid information, describing different composition/rank, with different types of armor, and different terms. That is what I would like, as long as it is actually true! The only impression of "heavy cavalry" I get from this is the description of Sir James Skidmore in full harness.

Not "Sir James Skidmore", just plain James Skidmore. He was not a titled knight, if he had been one the indenture would have noted that since a knight was paid at a better rate than an ordinary men-at-arms. (I should have made this clear in my first post, apologies for missing to do that.). That the title was carefully noted can be sen from the scanned image of an actual indenture which I posted earlier, even if the orginal text is in French, the caption in English makes this clear. James Skidmore indented with a small company, himself as the man-at-arms and 6 archers in 1440 which is why you don’t see any demands for anyone else to be heavily equipped in his indenture.

Indentures and ordonnances should generaly be taken at face value since they were enforced in various ways and the troops were voluneteers. They wanted to serve and thus had an additional incetive to fullfil the obligations laid down for service. Of course there was a certain amount of defaulting and cheating invovled as in any human activity of this kind
The fullfillment of such obligations as laid down in the Statute of Winchester was a diffrent matter.


AND Further, It is commanded, That every Man have in his house Harness for to keep the Peace after the ancient Assise; that is to say, Every Man between fifteen years of age, and sixty years, shall be assessed and sworn to Armor according to the quantity of their Lands and Goods ; that is to wit, from Fifteen Pounds Lands, and Goods Forty Marks, an Hauberke, capel de fer, a Sword, a Knife, and an Horse from Ten Pounds of Lands, and Twenty Marks Goods, an Hauberke, a Capel, a Sword, and a Knife ; and from Five Pound Lands, a Gambison, a Capel de Fer, a Sword, and a Knife ; and from Forty Shillings Land and more, unto One hundred Shillings of Land, a Sword, a Bow and Arrows, and a Knife ; and he that hath less than Forty Shillings yearly, shall be sworn to keep Gis-armes; Knives, and other less Weapons ; and he that hath less than Twenty Marks in Goods, shall have Swords, Knives, and other less Weapons ; and all other that may, shall have Bows and Arrows out of the Forest, and in the Forest Bows and Boults.
Statute of Winchester, 1285

Here service and ownership of equipment was mandatory, not voluntary and the obligatiosn were fullfilled in a much more erratic manner. The statue of Winchester is one of the first documents I’m aware of that lays down equipment in detail and connects it to a level of income. (But I’m mostly interested in the post-1340 period so additional such documents might exist)
Men valued at £20 of lands had to equip themselves as men-at-arms while men with £25 of lands had to serve as knights. I’ve not been able to find that part of the Statute online which is why I havn’t quoted it in full. The Statue was revised in 1345&1346 with updated cales on who had to serve as what but these revisiosn were thrown out by parliamnet in 1351 as unlawful and the english concentrated very muc on voluntary service from then on. Service by olbiagtion rather than by choice was ony used as a means of recruti emtn for internal conflicts or in the case of Scottish invasions. I havn’t go any such material for the French thats translated into english at the moment.

Jared Smith wrote:
To my original everyone in "Heavy Cavalry" (heavier harness, higher value horses) really equipped and titled like Sir Skidmore. To be functional, it would seem they would need to be. To reconcile the quantities with the number of Nobility seems dubious. I am not a currency expert, so in terms of costs.. maybe they were. How much cavalry is heavy, and how much is light? The French seem to prefer heavy at 1300-1400 medival times, but change to light cavalry pretty quickly. If you or anyone else actually possesses knowledge of composition (light cavalry, heavy calvary, titled knights, etc.) I for one would appreciate it if all of this were not lumped togather in a term such as "milite" or simply "mounted knights".

Equiped? Yes, probably. Titled? No and as I fogot to mention in my first post about him Sir Skidmore was just plain untitled Skidmore. Of course the Skidmore was typical of heavy cavalry of the 1440’s, outside that time frame equipment demanded of one such as him would change (full plate harness wasn’t available in the 1350’s for example)

Reliable and detailed breakdowns of the troops which made up an army are hard to find before 1400 since the documentation either was not in place or has not survived until today. So often we are left with the more or elss reliable numbers recorded by chroniclers and even when these provide numbers that are realistic in size and composition they might still be wrong. For example the ”Gesta Henrici Quinti” is one of the major sources of the battle of Agincourt and it records that the english army consisted of 900 men-at-arms and 5000 archers, these numbers have long been accepted as the true. However recent research by Anne Curry using muster rolls and indentures show that the English could have had as many as 1600 men-at-arms and 7600 archers (less losses on the march).

Here are a few breakdowns I have in my books:
The Teutonic order at the battle of Swiecin 1462:
1000 heavy cavalry, 600 light cavalry, 1300 milita (infantry) and 400 ’other’ infantyr (ie mercenaries)
Paid cavalry at the battle of Falkirk 1298:
214 bannerets and knights
642 troopers/men-at-arms of retinues
258 unattached men-at-arms
(all ’heavy cavalry’ but shows the breakdown between those of titled rank and those of untitled (esquires and non-nobles) rank. )
At Kephisos in 1311 the Army of the Duchy of Athens and the Principlaity of Achea
700 knights and 1300 ’other’ (ie more lightly equiped) cavalry)
Sicillian-German army at Benevento 1266
3200 knights/heavy cavalry, 400 Saracen light cavalry and a large number Saracen foot archers.
French army at Benevento 1266
3000 knights/heavy cavalry, possibly 2000 sergeants (somewhat lighter cavalry) and at least 6000+ infantry.

Real Light cavalry was a rare troop type in western Europe for most of the middle ages and can mostly be found in such areas were there was a true need such as Poland-Lithuania, Spain, Hungary and the various Crusaders states. Much of whats light cavalry such as the sergeants and coustilleirs was only called that because they were somewhat lighter in equipment than the heavy cavalry (knights/men-at-arms), not because they were true light cavalry. Indeed during the later half of the 13th Century mounted sergeants seem to disapear from the sources as the men-at-arms bcame the standard (and heavy) cavalryman in the west during the entire 14th Century. Of course men-at-amrs frequently foguth as heavy infantry, not heavy cavalry in the wars in England, France and Italy during this period.

Mounted infantry such as mounted archers and crossbowmen could fight both mounted and dismounted and fullfilled a lot of the dreary work most armies resrve ofr ligth cavalry much in the fashion of the later dragoons. The mounted archer in english service remained a dismounted fighter but in Italy and Germany mounted crossbowmen became an integral aprt of the mounted troops and frequently saw action mounted even if they were kept in the rear ranks or dismounted in an actual pitched battle. (But then most fighting occurred outside the battles)

However as amour became more advance and thus expensive by the begining of the 15th Century the heavy cavalry once again starts to be split into groups with varying amounts of armour. The core of a unit would be the front rank of fully armored men often mounted on armored horses but the 2nd and posibly (in Italy forexample) 3rd rank would be formed by less well equiped men, in France and Burgundy called Coustilliers, not sure about the proper Italian name at the moment. In England dismounted combat is still favoured and instead the dvindlign number of men-at-arms are supported by billmen who provide a more numerous force of reasoanbly well armoured close combat infantry.

In Italy real light cavalry recrutied in Hungary and Albania becoem a regular feature of warfare together with native Italian mounted crossbowmen. As the Great Italian wars erupts in 1494 ’true’ light cavalry becomes a feature of all involved armies as one had have to have them to counter the enemys force of light cavalry.

The French changed to light cavalry quickly??? When?, certainly not in either the 15th och 16th Centuries when the fully armored Gendarmes on their armored horses remained the core of the french army. The more lightly equiped coustilliers disapeared as a combatant during the first quarter of the 16th Century and the "archers" stopped using the bow and became lancers during the same period. The ’Archer’ as a lancer was only slightly less well equiped than the Gendarmes wearing ¾ plate armour but ridign an unarmored horse. Indeed the French army didn't even posses light cavalry as such until the late 15th century and after a a couple of decades in which the light cavalryman or Chevaux-leger had been popular the Chevaux-legers were converted into ordinary Gendermes and ’Archers’ during the civil wars which started in the 1560’s. By 1569 the French fielded 13500 Gendarmes and Archers but only 600 light cavalry men of all sorts.
(Numbers taken from Wood’s ’The King’s Army’)

Jared Smith wrote:

I don't consider artwork authoritative, but you can find pictures of tapestries in this time frame illustrating mounted individuals, mixed in with foot combat (French/Flemmish), wearing what appears to be leather, scale, mail, and various completeness harness of plate all togather in a single battle scene. On the other hand, there is a lot of art that has the generic everyone is the same (full harness, no surcoat footsoldiers-presumably the infantry marching in the sun between battles in this kind of stuff.) I would not have wanted to do that. I doubt they did either!

Using artwork for research is a true art ;-) One has to be aware of a lot of traps and pitfalls when doing so, artworks in themself has a limted value as evidence unless what they show can ve verified with written soruces or with preserved items. With some experience one can soon begin to detect which paintings are based on real arms, armour& practices and which are not. I’m not sure which of the many fantastic and well preserved tapestries you are refering to above but the ones I’ve seen which were capured by the Swiss during the Burgundian war in the 1470’s have a fascinating mix of accurate details and ’fantasy’ elements.
One of the major problems with any mediveal art is that it just about invariably shows the military equipment in use at the time the artwork was made. Thus the famous ”Rous Roll” which shows events in the days of Henry V gives a very detail depiction of military equipment from the 1480’s and 1490s, not the 1410s and so on.
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Daniel Staberg

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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:

I have briefly attempted to gather historical inventories of armouries. I pretty much came up with nothing for France, which is disappointing as I believe it to be much more heavily invested in heavy armour than England. England, however, seems to have little hesitation in prioritizing arrows and relatively minimal amounts of plate armour.

Very interesting link, unfortunately inventories of pre-Renaissance castle armouries doesn't tell us much about the equipment of the warriors since the majority of arms and armour was privately owned by the warrior and thus would not appear in an inventory of the equipment kept in for example the Tower.
Equipment issue from state or Crown armouries only became a factor during the 16th Century as the emerging early-modern states assumed more and more responsibility for arming the men in their service.
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Jared Smith

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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 5:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wish to give thanks to Daniel Staberg and Gordon Frye for taking the time to put togather accurate and researched responses regarding costs, composition of forces, and level of armament. This is not easily found from casual "internet surfing" which is the primary method available to me at present.

My original hypothesis (that a significant proportion of battlefield participants might have been equipped much more poorly than nobles) probably falls apart during the 100 years war (1320's through 1400's.) This is due to the indenture system which Daniel was kind enough to post a good example of (James Skidmore.) Prior to this period (1000 AD to 1300 AD) I think there is room for constructive argument.

Some areas could still use clarification, and I suspect that Daniel and others can do the job better than I.

1) Some encylopedia articles define "White Harness" or "Plate" as simple a buffed finish, plain steel form of armour. If I understood Daniel, and some previous articles that I read correctly, there area specific regiments that had 1/2 or 3/4 harness of standardized plate designs called "White Plate"? I am guessing that their horses may not have been armoured to the fullest extent, and were at least sometimes deployed in tactics (feints, flanking manuevers) that I consider to be close the role of "light cavalry".

2) Heavy Cavalry seems to be most commonly defined in terms of weight/ armour level. In pre and early medieval era, this pertains primarily to the weight of the rider's armour (there are occasional exceptions as early as 50 AD where some type of mail may have been used on horses depending on how descriptions are interpreted.) By the 1200 AD time frame, "heavy cavalry" in Europe also implies heavier horse and likely armour on the horse. However, the tactics assigned to the cavalry add another dimension to the issue. Tactics that seem to have the greatest impact on determining the outcome of major battles in the 100 years war are not the knee to knee heavy charge. It is the combined use of several types of forces, superior field position, and the cavalry feint and retreat, (sometimes performed effectively by English calvary over the same ground that later "heavy charge" lines of French became "bogged down" in while on their destriers) tactic that often won the field.

3) From 1400 AD onward, what is called "heavy cavalry" changes a bit. Even Napoleon resurected a "heavy cavalry unit", although their level of armour is only partial, and his "light cavalry" wore no armour at all. Compared to an image of a "Tournament Jousting" plate harness, the more effective and economical cavalry units are in much lighter harness. As far as I have been able to decipher, the "heavy charge" as a primary tactic was a serious tactical mistake more often than it was a success once the monarchs realized how cheaply they could hire archers and pikemen. When I said that the French adopted "light cavalry", I was implying that and overall weight of armament decreased, and tactical application changed. The romanticized term "heavy cavalry" actually took a long time to fade.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Jared Smith

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PostPosted: Tue 18 Oct, 2005 9:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This particular web site offers pretty straight forward commentary on the 100 years war period, and many aspects of warfare, economics, and actual behavior.

The section on solider's pay states a pretty convincing case that a knights pay was outweighted by his "initial" expenses by a factor of roughly 20:1.

"The full panoply of a knight, including armor, weapons, and a couple of horses, plus equipment for a squire, a page, and perhaps one or two additional retainers, could cost more than 180,000 ducats at a time when 2,500 ducats a year was a fairly good income. The annual cost to maintain this crew was 15,000-20,000 ducats. Since a knight's daily honorarium was usually about 50 ducats, active service could not bring in enough money to cover expenses. If he served a full year he might earn 10,000 ducats, less room and board (and another 10,000 ducats for his retainers). Moreover it was rare for a knight to serve for an entire year. Normally they rendered only their obligatory 40-days or so, plus a few months here or there as the martial spirit moved him. Even a cut-rate outfit could come to perhaps 60,000 ducats, though the kit and nag one might get for that sort of investment might appreciably affect one's life expectancy in battle."

The Recruiting, Organization and Tactics section is a pretty concise summary (not saying you will all agree with it) of troop composition and what really made the difference in battle.

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Daniel Staberg

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PostPosted: Tue 18 Oct, 2005 10:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately that webiste is (still) a game ( ) ands it's background manual, not a historical website and it's based on much outdated resreach and filled with errors. The ducats used for costs are pure fantasy as are the incomes and costs quoted, the salaries for soldiers are incorrect and so on.

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Bob Burns

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PostPosted: Tue 25 Oct, 2005 12:22 am    Post subject: Knight and Heavy Cavalry         Reply with quote

DAYUM! Man have I got a LOT to learn!!!!

Right now don't even know the XV, XVIa, XVIIb, etc charts. But I do know one thing. I LOVE THIS STUFF! I am absolutely SWORD CRAZY and I am thrilled to belong to a website with all you good folks! We have something very special in being Collectors of fine swords and armor. Now 48 and just discovered this about myself, caught me quite by surprise. As my wife said to me: "Bob, it is a GIFT to find a hobby and interest that you love as deeply as you love your swords and weapons". I have been infatuated about several interests in my life, but nothing as intense as I am about our common interest of being Collectors of fine swords, weapons and armor.

This is just AWESOME to me! Absolutely awesome!

Happy Collecting to All of You!

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Oct, 2005 9:45 am    Post subject: Re: Knight and Heavy Cavalry         Reply with quote

Bob Burns wrote:
Right now I don't even know the XV, XVIa, XVIIb, etc charts.

If you want to understand the typology of Ewart Oakeshott (what those roman numerals refer to), you can buy Records of the Medieval Sword or The Sword in the Age of Chivalry. One book you already have, the Archeology of Weapons has information on the typology as well, though it's early information that changed in subsequent publications. We also have spotlight articles on almost all of his blade types, and will be filling out the remaining ones in the coming months.

You have access to all the information you need, so get reading! Happy


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Gordon Frye

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PostPosted: Thu 27 Oct, 2005 3:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


There are also lots of mitigating circumstances for the equipment of each individual serving at any given time. And while one had to muster with the approved provisions of armour (like the Spaniards, who had to not only show the Muster Master what they had, but had to declare it to a Notary, who then sent the notarized statements on the the Crown...) there were always cases of "Stuff Happens". But by and large, as Daniel points out, there were definite deliniations of what was suitable for Heavy Cavalry, and what was not.

As both of you have made note of, there were wide variances in what constituted a particular "weight" of cavalry at a particular time compared to other ages. For example, the "Heavy Cavalry" of William the Bastard in 1066 (armed in maille hauburks, with shields, swords and relatively light lances, on medium-sized unarmoured horses) would have been considered mere Light Cavalry by Francios I in 1525. And what his successor, Henri IV would have considered Light Cavalry in 1586 (Harquebusiers, in breast and back, with a helmet, carbine and broadsword) would have been considered Heavy Cavalry by Napoleon in 1805. So the definitions are relative to the day and age in which they are made.



"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
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Jared Smith

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PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2006 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have just finished reading a couple of books that cover a lot of material relevant to the subject of knights' income, and expenses.

"The Last Knight", by Norman Cantor (Professor of History and period literature at New York University), 2004. This book really focuses on John of Gaunt (probably should have been Ghent.) This was Edward the Black Prince's younger brother who accompanied him on all campaigns since the age of 10, and continued campaigning after Edward was gone. He was a consummate administrator and left lots of financial records.

"The Knight in History", by Francis Gies (not sure of her background other than a long list of period books and a list of referrences at the back that equals about 20% of the total page count!), 1987.

Initially a Knight's fief was incredibly small (might be less than 10 acres with one building in the 10th century, but grew as expectations on the knights increased.) Both of these authors quote several figures on average (as well as upper end) english knights wealth between 1200 to 1300 A.D. as being about 8 lbs Sterling per year based on a minimum Knight tenant rank having around 500 to 600 acres of land and roughly 25 serfs or employees. On the higher end, some life long indentures to Dukes paid as much as 20 pounds Sterling per year, and involved considerably more land and all equipment (not an average case.) I also found a similar statement in another text regarding a typical Knight tennant, Henry De Braye. I opted not to buy that one as only half of one chapter was relevant. This annual income from his fief (again, 8 lbs Sterling) was roughly equivalent to the cost of one good war horse (much higher than I would have guessed), and only slightly greater than annual taxes requested by the King at some points in the 100 years war. Using Norman Cantor's figures (he agrees that there is no good conversion, but proposes a rough number never the less..23 lbs Sterling equals $300,000 U.S. present day equivalent.) Knights described as having only the income from a typical fief ($104,000 U.S. gross income before paying all of the fees and maintaining traditions expected of them) just barely held on and typically could not afford to pass anything on to an eldest son unless they could win greater profit at war. Knights in this category of income (such as Henry De Braye) generally were single generation knights. The class as a whole decreased in numbers beginning around 1100 A.D. By 1150 AD, essentially all arable land was delegated out, and competition resulted in a concentration of that land as property of fewer and fewer numbers of free land holding knights. In contrast, knights of aristocratic or royal families had incomes counted in the thousands of pounds Sterling. John of Gaunt was sited as having assets roughly equivalent to $100 billion U.S. current equivalent, and knights of royal families would have annual income considered in the range of 100's of millions current U.S. $.

Both texts describe the financial prospects based on a Knight's fief as quite dismal. In contrast, a mercenary who opted to serve a limited contract under indenture had all of the same opportunities to collect spoils during times of war, without having to finance the campaign. An esquire could expect pay half as good as a Knight, and have much of his equipment covered under terms of replacement if damaged in battle. According to these authors, Knights typically took the position that their feudal obligation was limited to combat "in defense" of their own country, and sought contracts or indentures for campaigns that involved leaving their continent. Francis Gies goes so far as to state that between 1100 to 1400 AD, there were no more than 200 to 300 free english Knights who "chose to join" a continental army on their own expense. Virtually all of the army went under terms of indenture. John of Gaunt oversaw the roles of indentures personally, and some lengthy rolls (indentures pasted one after the other on a roll call list) with his seal still survive. Portions of these roles are said to remain according to Norman Cantor, although he did not include photographs within his book or go into great detail about specific pages or years.

In contrast, spoils of war could be rewarding. Francis Gies dedicated a full chapter each to two knights from the 100 years war; Bertrand Du Guesclin, and William Marshal. Du Guesclin was a younger son, while William Marshal was a son of a court official. Neither began their military careers as anything more than an "esquire", and both had to resort to multiple judicial combats to defend their right to their positions. (Du Guesclin knighted at age 34, Marshall knighted at age 20 following his first great battle.) In Due Guesclin's case, deeds of heroism and generosity, as well as consistent victories in battles resulted in many titled knights opting to follow him as their captain despite the difference in rank. Each purchased properties equivalent to serveral good fiefs ("princely estates") and businesses using their war spoils. The chapters on these two knights make "A Knight in History" a pretty good book for those wanting a good accounting of two of the most famous medieval Knight's great deeds.

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