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Pedro Paulo Gaião

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PostPosted: Sun 19 May, 2019 9:28 am    Post subject: Social Classes and Weapons at War         Reply with quote

"He [Antoine] also enjoyed sporting success; the arrow he holds in the Van der Weyden portrait is presumed to relate to his year as "archer king" in 1463, after winning the annual contest of the archer's guild of St Sebastian in Bruges. Charles the Bold won the Brussels contest every year between 1466 and 1471."

So, Antoine was very proud from being what could be called the best archer of Flanders in 1463. The most surprising, however, is that Charles the Bold was invincible in this contests by five years. I heard King Henry VIII also had a passion for the longbow, and many other english nobles back to the middle ages practiced longbow archery as a sport. But it's just this

I haven't heard of a single noblemen fighting as an archer in wars, and according to what Lafayette C. Curtis told me, when a longbowman had been working hard he could be promoted to the status of men-at-arms, then dropping his role as an archer; Froissart description of how the anglo-gascon archers at Aljubarrota (1385) were commanded by three squires also reinforces that idea, also implying that some or the majority of those officers were veteran promoted archers who knew how to deal with their soldiers.

Is correct the idea that weapons or military classes were so defined that no noblemen would serve as an elite archer serving with considerable amounts of armor? At least some manuscripts show heavy armored archers, though I sometimes consider those as artistic licence.

Besides bows, bills and other possible "foot-soldiery weapons", another dicotomy I found relates to how sword-and-buckler fencing was a common sport for nobility though it never shows up in chronicles as weapons of men-at-arms, basically being seen only in manuscripts. Ian Heath, wehn commenting the Malvern Abbey Effigy (1225):
"The shield he carries is a small buckler or targe of about 18” diameter, normally used only in foot combat. In this period it was often used in conjunction with the falchion (see figure 27), though in later times it became more commonly associated with ‘light’ infantry and pikemen. It was also employed at this date in ‘sword and buckler’ fencing, a popular upper-class pursuit by the end of the 13th century."
Source: Armies of Feudal Europe 1066 - 1300

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Andrew Gill

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PostPosted: Mon 20 May, 2019 2:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


A few thoughts

First off, when you say that Charles the Bold won, is it clear in the original text that he won in his personal capacity, and not that an archer (or group of archers) in his service won?

Secondly, my understanding is that archery was practiced by many of the western European nobility as a part of hunting. There are many finely made, ornate hunting crossbows in museums. It may also have been practiced as a sport (it is fun, after all!)

Thirdly, the restriction of the use of bows as weapons of war to the peasant class is not the foregone conclusion that most would assume today. At best, it probably applied only in certain areas, at certain times.
Counter-examples abound - for instance, King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway was supposed to have been a skillful archer, and used this skill in warfare around 1000 ad.
The "Kings Mirror" recommends the use of a horn bow or small crossbow from horseback by armoured nobles around the middle of the 13th century. 200 years later, there are illustrations of fully armoured germans using a crossbow from horseback in Talhoffer's fencing manuals from the 1450s.
And that's not even considering that in much of the Middle East, the composite bow was a weapon of prestige for the nobility.

And finally, not all areas of the medieval and renaissance world would have been equally socially stratified or oppressive. Flanders was a prosperous area due to trade, with a wealthy middle-class. It is also the place where the Godentag was reputedly used by commoners to slaughter french knights at the Battle of the Golden Spurs...
Participating in a friendly archery contest with the local commoners would be a good PR exercise, if nothing else.

And there would have been some wealthier commoners who continued to use the bow. One of my ancestors was apparently an "armed archer" (i.e he could afford some sort of armour) in the service of the English king in Ireland, around the time of the 100 years war.


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Pieter B.

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PostPosted: Mon 20 May, 2019 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Blaise de Montluc mentions it was common to youths to be archers before moving on to being man-at-arms.

Admittedly it is a bit vague to determine whether or not the soldiers dubbed archers actually used bows but since the translation calls it a discipline or skill I am inclined to think he was an actual archer.

At Milan he found two of his mother's brothers, Gaxiot and Francois de Mondenard, men of considerable reputation in
the army, who gave their nephew a hearty welcome, and obtained for him an archer's place in the
company of Thomas de Foix, Sire de Lescun, the younger brother of Lautrec the commander- in-chief of the army. The position of archer as Monluc does not omit to tell us, was 'a Place of great repute in those days, there being in those
times several Lords and great persons who rode in Troops, and two or three who were Archers in this.' But he adds, with the regretful backward glance of a veteran,


of which the one serv'd under Monsieur de Lescut, Brother to Monsieur de Lautrec (the same who was afterwards
Mareschal of France, and then known by the Name of the Mareschal de Foix, by whom I was presently put into an Archers
place in his own Company, a Place of great Repute in those days, there being in those
times several Lords and great Persons who rode in Troops, and two or three who were
Archers in this ; but since that Discipline is lost and grown degenerate, and all things are turn'd upside down, without hopes that any man now alive shall ever see them restor'd to their former Estate.
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Henry O.

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PostPosted: Mon 20 May, 2019 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Blaise de Montluc mentions it was common to youths to be archers before moving on to being man-at-arms.

Admittedly it is a bit vague to determine whether or not the soldiers dubbed archers actually used bows but since the translation calls it a discipline or skill I am inclined to think he was an actual archer.

At Milan he found two of his mother's brothers, Gaxiot and Francois de Mondenard, men of considerable reputation in
the army, who gave their nephew a hearty welcome, and obtained for him an archer's place in the
company of Thomas de Foix, Sire de Lescun, the younger brother of Lautrec the commander- in-chief of the army. The position of archer as Monluc does not omit to tell us, was 'a Place of great repute in those days, there being in those
times several Lords and great persons who rode in Troops, and two or three who were Archers in this.' But he adds, with the regretful backward glance of a veteran,


of which the one serv'd under Monsieur de Lescut, Brother to Monsieur de Lautrec (the same who was afterwards
Mareschal of France, and then known by the Name of the Mareschal de Foix, by whom I was presently put into an Archers
place in his own Company, a Place of great Repute in those days, there being in those
times several Lords and great Persons who rode in Troops, and two or three who were
Archers in this ; but since that Discipline is lost and grown degenerate, and all things are turn'd upside down, without hopes that any man now alive shall ever see them restor'd to their former Estate.

Montluc was a mounted "archer" under one of the French ordonnance gendarmes. They may have originally been meant to have been armed with bows or crossbows but by montluc's day they seem to most often be described fighting as light/medium lancers. Although as far as i can tell in england as well the "mounted longbowmen" seem to have also disappeared by the early 1500s and replaced by men at arms, demilancers, and the anglo-scottish "borders" armed with spears and shields.

The Great Warbow includes some examples of elite warriors being required to bring a bow to war in addition to a spear, shield, horse, etc. back in the days of Charlemagne. And though the specific examples of them using bows in battle seem to peter out later treatises like the King's Mirror definitely continue to recommend that knights and nobles practice archery in addition to slings, throwing, and a wide variety of other weapons. I think it's definitely possible that many knights still included a warbow among their baggage and might use it situationally such as during a skirmish, a siege, or fighting ship to ship. However in pitched battles and cavalry vs cavalry engagements it perhaps just didn't seem to be nearly as impactful as a lance.

Additionally, keep in mind that the primary goal of frequent archery practice wasn't just to get good at shooting bows and arrows, it was supposed to help build strength, dexterity, good health, etc. (at least according to many english authors). i.e. learning to draw a really strong warbow could also help you hit stuff with a sword even harder.

Lastly, i think there may have been a prestige element in that the cavalry lance perhaps was seen as the more demanding weapon in terms of skill and strength. In the 16th century, it definitely took a lot of skill and practice to learn how to shoot a pistol or carbine accurately from a moving horse, but they were still much more convenient to carry on horseback than a long, heavy lance and didn't affect your center of balance while riding quickly or performing abrupt maneuvers to nearly the same degree. Additionally a pistol would hit just as hard whether you were moving at a trot, stationary, or even shooting to the side or backwards whereas a lance required you to be moving at full speed directly at your target and fast enough to quickly close the distance, break your lance, and then suddenly wheel about and run away again all while wearing your heavy armor. Consequently a lancer needed a far more expensive and difficult to find horse than anyone else, combining the strength and size of a cuirassier's horse with the speed and agility of a light cavalryman's horse.

For an earlier perspective there's a book on jousting and horsemanship written in the early 1400s by the King of Portugal:

He spends a lot of time on posture and horsemanship, claiming that even in battles most who get unhorsed would have been able to stay on had they been more skilled at maintaining their balance, and talks a lot about the complexities of even just carrying a lance on horseback in addition to actually striking a target with it.
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Dan Howard

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PostPosted: Mon 20 May, 2019 4:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Few people would be silly enough to compete against the king and not let him win. These royal "victories" in various competitions need to be taken with a generous helping of salt.
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Michael P. Smith

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Jun, 2019 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I certainly agree with that, Dan. But it does speak to their interest in the subject and practice. We know Richard I had an avid interest in the crossbow, and is alleged to have used one in combat at Joffa, which may, or may not, be true, but his interest and use of it as a sporting weapon is not in doubt, and we know he considered it an important battlefield weapon.

We do have numerous example of men-at-arms who were once archers, though they can not be properly called nobility... but probably consider lesser gentry. And we know that the nobility certainly participated in archery as a sport (mainly hunting). It’s not a stretch to think a nobleman defending a castle might pick up a crossbow, if they had some skill in it, but I doubt they would have ever done so as a primary occupation.... crossbows and handbows are weapons used en masse... a nobleman would not serve “in the ranks” whatever his interest. But we know men at arms often commanded groups of archers, so perhaps a man-arms in an interest in archery might serve well leading such a group, since he will have some important “domain knowledge” as we would call it today. But he would not be likely to take up a bow, I think.
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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jun, 2019 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the point of confusion here is between the shooting contest (as one of a string of martial sports) as a social / sporting event and the use of different weapons systems in warfare. The two are linked but are not the same thing.

I'll try to paint the picture in broad strokes.

Medieval society, very generally speaking, did military training in ways we don't really recognize as such in a modern context, or in the Classical (esp. Roman) context. This is one of many reasons why the Roman military is more understandable to us (at least on a very superficial level) than the medieval. In a nutshell training for combat consisted not so much of organized drill, but in the form of :

    Warlike sports or martial games,
    Hunting, done on the small and very large scale
    and Feuding, Raids, and other forms of more or less constant limited and low-intensity war

For the nobility, the ideal warlike sport was the tournament, and especially as a subset of that, jousting. All medieval estates participated in hunting but the nobles tried to restrict hunting territories (sometimes called a 'chase') for their own private use. Hunting was believed to inculcate military skill, and also certain prey animals were believed to be good food for nobles. A stag for example (this changed from Classical times when the more violent prey were the most prestigious). And raiding, especially during feuds, was a kind of ritualized form of war heavily engaged in by nobles, in which the aim was usually to capture a rival and do certain types of property damage, but with limitations imposed by princely and later urban authorities.

Towns had their own types of martial sports and warlike games which were so important to them, that they still do them to this day.

With the rise of the towns in the 11th-12th Century in certain places, notably Northern Italy and Flanders chief among them, the urban warlike sports started to gain in popularity and significance. These ranged from such activities as the wild horse race known as the Palio in Siena, to bizarre activities like the water joust still done in France, to organized fencing contests such as the fechtschule, and especially, shooting contests.

How significant these urban sports were depended in large part on how significant the town was. Again in theory nobles, especially princes, were far superior to burghers. But if you were a noble who lived next to say, Florence, you weren't going to ignore Florence. You couldn't ignore the urban patriciate or their parties. For the towns the shooting contest was the most important as it was most closely related to training their militia. So they made them into fantastic parties.

Schutzenfest or Schuttersfeest in Antwerp, Master of Frankfurt, 1493

Shooting contests in particular in the more urbanized parts of Europe, very broadly speaking, rose dramatically in significance in the 14th and 15th Centuries. Nobles began to participate and soon even held their own. But they found it hard to outdo the larger towns.

The Dukes of Burgundy were the nominal rulers over the great cities of the Low Countries. In theory they were far more important than the cities but in practice the largest cities were extremely prominent and both technologically and culturally more advanced. The social significance of town culture, including military culture, rose in importance as did their martial sports. In Bruges and Ghent the shooting clubs became elite societies, with the Guilds of Sts Sebastian and St George holding elite shooting contests annually. Longbows, and crossbows and firearms became increasingly prominent as weapons.

Longbows were important to the Burgundians who had emulated their use from the British (their allies in the 100 Years War) and crossbows were particularly important to urban militia. But they also held social and diplomatic significance.

So for the Dukes of Burgundy it made perfect sense to join in with these celebrations, and ideally to do very well in them. Guys like Antoinne and Charles the Bold were well known to be skilled warriors, who could afford the best kit and the ablest tutors, as well as all the time they needed for practice. I wouldn't rule out their doing very well in the shooting contests on their actual merit. Bruges and Ghent were not exactly cowed by them either so I don't see them rolling over and automatically letting them win any contests.

Schutzenfest were also used by the towns diplomatically against the princes, including specifically the Valois house of Burgundy. Strasbourg for example held a shooting contest to which the militia of Zurich was invited, as part of an overall strategy to involve the Swiss Confederation in the wars against Charles the Bold who was trying to takeover several of the Rhineland cities, starting with the siege of Nuess. This ultimately succeeded and both Bern and Zurich were drawn into the war, ultimately leading to Charles' death at the Battle of Nancy.

In battle, the feudal army was giving way to the combined arms army. Polities which were slow to recognize this and who, like France, routinely ignored the importance of infantry in favor of their feudal cavalry, repeatedly suffered agonizing defeats. The Burgundians were generally speaking more astute in this regard, Charles defeat notwithstanding. The Valois Dukes of Burgundy certainly understood the value of longbows and crossbows and firearms.

This is a painting from the Jagd und Fischereibuch (hunting and fishing book) of Maximilian I. There are dozens of similar paintings of elaborate hunting scenes depicting high-level princes hunting with crossbows and firearms in the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Nobles would use all of the above weapons for hunting, lets not forget. Hunting was of great importance for all the estates, with the social significance of it rising as one moves up the hierarchical ladder.

On the battlefield, a noble battlefield commander should understand the use of these weapons as well as possible since they had become so significant to success in warfare. However it was always preferable to be mounted. The only aristocratic armies that got down on foot with their archers that I know of were the English but they did so repeatedly in battles during the 100 Years War. Even mounted however, nobles and burghers and mercenaries started carrying crossbows on the saddle as sidearms in the 1400's, especially in areas East of the Elbe where they were more likely to encounter the deadly horse-archers of the Steppe. Mounted crossbowmen became standard accompaniment for a knight within the lance (or gleve, helm), the small unit of cavalry that was led by a knight. A crossbow was useful both against horse-archers and against light cavalry.

I'm no expert on the British Isles but my understanding is that longbows were also used mounted quite a bit, and I suspect not just by commoners.

By the 16th Century wheel-lock pistols and short carbine-like weapons began to become popular sidearms for cavalry. There is an article here on myArmoury which explains the history of use of firearms by armored cavalry.

All that said, the most prestigious way for a prince to go into combat was certainly mounted, and ideally as a lancer first and foremost. So while a prince would very likely learn to use crossbows, the arquebus, and the bow, and were frequently seen at Schützenfest and so on, they personally would emphasize their skill as horsemen first and foremost. This did vary somewhat by the region, and in highly urbanized zones like Flanders where the Burgundian Dukes and their family spent so much of their life, the influence of the town culture raised the importance of archery.

Hope that helps.


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Michael Zimmermann

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jun, 2019 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean, I agree with most of what you write. Here are a few thoughts I might add:

I would dispute the statement that the Valois dukes (as counts) were nominal rulers of the 'great cities' of Flanders (really just Ghent and Bruges, Ypres declining significantly). The fact that the local elites, who sat on the governing bodies of these cities (and were part of the above-mentioned shooting fraternities, too) were over long periods of time during the 15th c. in general alignment with ducal policies, or at least considered means other than rebellion to address grievances attests to that. So, substantial, though never unquestioned, authority might be nearer the mark.
Even after the male Valois line had ended, the privileges forced upon Mary were mostly a roll-back of the latest developments during her father's centralizing rule. Earlier her grandfather had deliberately provoked conflict with Ghent, after he could not persuade her to accept his gabelle (salt-tax). As a price for rebellion the city lost many long- & dearly held privileges to the duke.

Also, I would say, that the significance of self-organized Flemish urban contingents (bowmen or otherwise) in ducal armies declined under the last duke especially (not to say that the cities were no longer the most important source of revenue for military activities).
Schmidt-Sinns in his work on the Burgundian forces under Charles (and by extension Antoine) claims these contingents were not favoured in his 'new‘, standing army, because they had, well, minds of their own, which might disagree with the duke’s orders.
He traces this stance back to Philip the Good having had serious difficulties with Flemish militias’ reliability at the sieges of Calais & Le Crotoy.

I would not wish to deny the relevance of these competitions in maintaining contacts with other municipalities, but the cities of the Alsace had been, let’s say, unhappy with the Burgundians since shortly after Charles acquired certain rights from Sigmund in 1468.
The Confederates, and among them Bern especially, were looking to expand themselves and took advantage of this situation.
By the time of the siege of Neuss, which is a little too far down river to be part of what followed in 1476, began, Peter von Hagenbach, the infamous Burgundian bailiff, had already been executed.

Finally, not only was the last duke astute with regard to the issue of combined arms (and thus the import of the less noble arms), he wrote a pioneering text on the subject. Unlike in the French ordonnance, he created an independent, dedicated infantry branch (pikemen, archers, crossbowmen & handgunners), whose administration, training, equipment, marching order and coordinated action in battle he set down minutely. Some archers & crossbowmen remained mounted on the march and for deployment, however. Artillery proper was separately organized.
Overall, these reforms had a leveling effect within the army, since the various officers did not derive their command authority from social standing exclusively, but from the explicit regulations laid down by the duke.
As to the status of archers as soldiers, do consider that they served as close royal and ducal bodyguards. In Burgundy they had pages of their own.

To get back to topic, I think it is important to point out the general relevance of corporations & guilds of all kinds within the urban life and governance in the Low Countries. Today we would call this phenomenon 'networking‘, I guess, and I don’t think it was ever just to a martial or religious end.
Politics was a constant factor in the mix, as was economics, and so we can easily recognize, why it was important for the dukes to keep a toe in, so to speak, by being seen to be participating:
The Low Countries had the rite of Joyous Entry, in which the duke, as count of Flanders for example, acknowledged the rights, privileges and customs of a city/territory and accepted her obedience and fealty in turn.
He might thus be considered a 'natural ruler‘, one of them, so to speak, even if he was born abroad.

With regard to the intersection of noble and urban culture I have found Arnade’s Realms of Ritual: Burgundian ceremony and civic life in late medieval Ghent quite illuminating.

Lastly, it seems important to stress, that the notion that nobles who did things or used tools we might today regard as beneath their station, did not thereby necessarily lower themselves.
For example, the duchess Margaret of Burgundy, wife to Philip the Bold, took great personal interest in animal husbandry, specifically sheep, and even had herself and her husband portrayed as shepherds in sculpture.
She plainly did not transform into some countryside rustic, but pursued her interest in a way only a rich duchess might: she converted a chateau into a farming enterprise, imported livestock & handlers from abroad, had the place painted with pastoral motifs and hung tapestries with the same themes.

- Michael
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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jun, 2019 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, these things are often a matter of perspective and emphasis. And one of the confusing things about medieval research is that quite often one estate almost completely ignored the perspective of the others. The towns and the princes and the nobles and the Church all had their own law systems and their own ideas of who was in charge. The princes in particular tended to downplay the history of the towns, (even when ironically their own histories were being compiled in an urban scriptoria inside one of them).

As a rule, especially in the English speaking world we usually get a kind of summary of some kind of Royal history which draws from princely accounts but ignores towns. As a result urban history kind of fades into the background. But that gives you a distorted perspective which is why some people can't imagine why a Late Medieval Duke would want to learn to shoot a bow or a crossbow, or a gun.

The urban landscape
The quasi-independence of the towns in the Low Countries can be traced to the Battle of Golden Spurs in 1302. It was one of those three famous battles (along with Bannock Burn and Morgarten) which proved that Latinized infantry, under the right circumstances could defeat latinized heavy cavalry. At Cortrai urban militia, led by guys like the weaver Pieter de Connick and the butcher Jan Breydel played a key role in the victory, and they certainly knew it. From that time on, the mood of the towns and their leadership, as well as the potential for revolts which could overturn the leadership, always had to be taken into consideration.

While I would agree with you that in the 15th Century Bruges, Ghent and Ypres were by far the most important towns in the Low Countries, there were certainly others: Lille, Liège, Brussels, and Antwerp for example. You also had all the towns of Holland and Zeeland, Brabant and further north: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Zwolle, Haarlem, Groningen, Deventer and so on. They were all part of an urban landscape that had it's own cultural energy, it's own point of view, and it's own armies. Most of them were independent.

Ghent and Bruges were huge by medieval standards and had an outsized cultural footprint, which is really what we were referring to here, but a large part of the region of the Low Countries was urbanized by the later 14th Century, certainly in the 15th. The smaller towns mattered too.

Who ruled the Low Countries
In theory, without a doubt the Dukes of Burgundy ruled the Low Countries. But there was always a gap between theory and practice, especially in medieval politics.

Ghent and Bruges, and even the smaller towns basically ruled themselves. They were autonomous, they had their own councils and their own burgomeisters and more important, they had thick strong city walls and well armed militia to man it. They saw the Duke of Burgundy as the overlords of the region, out in the countryside not inside the walls. Not even in the Franc, the land near the city, which the city itself administered. The Dukes often felt otherwise of course, especially when they needed tax money for some new military adventure. But much of the time all their interests were aligned. Barring exceptional circumstances, the towns saw the Valois Dukes generally as the lesser of princely evils compared to the Kings of England, Denmark and France, and the rapacious princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

However when they didn't agree the result was frequently violence. A brief look at the career of Philip the Good, the far more capable father of Charles the Bold (aka Charles the Rash) gives some insight into what happened when the Duke made demands the burghers didn't like. From 1432 to 1436 alone there were four revolts in Ghent. In 1436 while in Ghent Philip's bodyguard was disarmed and he was held captive. In 1437 Philip the Good showed up in Bruges with an army, on his way to suppress another revolt in Holland. The burghers didn't trust his intentions though and only let him in with a few dozen of his bodyguards. He in turn had insisted that the Bruges citizens keep their arms at home and greet him on the road unarmed. Before welcome celebrations could start however he got into a skirmish. Members of his bodyguard attacked (shot with arrows, specifically) some citizens and in the subsequent chaos was the Duke was nearly killed, only just barely escaping out of one of the town gates by bribing the gate keeper.

In his magisterial Biography of Philip the Good Richard Vaughan has a blow by blow first hand account of this incident which is a very good read.

Ghent rose again from 1450-1453 of course, resulting in a major defeat for the city.

The Dutch cities in Holland rose in a series of uprising known today as the "Hook and Cod Wars" after the two main factions. During these wars and uprisings the Dutch towns broke free of their own regional nobles, then rising up against Philip the Good. Ultimately much later of course they ended up fighting the 80 Years War against Hapsburg Spain and winning their independence permanently.

There was a series of revolts in Liège which Charles, as an innovator, decided to handle with a much heavier hand than his father had usually done. In the end his forces massacred nearly the entire town and left it burning for four weeks. Authority demonstrated, but at what cost?

One of the reasons Philip was more successful than Charles whose reign ended in catastrophe for himself and the whole region, was that Philip knew how far to push things. Of course the Dukes wanted the towns to obey them, give them money, support their military adventures and so on. But ultimately sometimes they had to accept no for an answer. By continuing to push his luck Charles the Bold did catastrophic damage to the family domains, and then got himself killed and his family snuffed out.

The Bespoke Army and military Theories of Charles the Bold
Charles did indeed try to put together a bespoke army, perhaps seeking to imitate the success of some of the true combined arms armies of his day, such as the Fekete Sereg of Matthias Corvinus in Hungary. Charles was considered a military innovator and was certainly a very rich man. He was also considered by most to have personal courage and skill both as a warrior and as a military leader. However despite some notable successes, again and again his modern army got itself torn to shreds by the shrewd maneuverings and bold decisiveness of his enemies, who were primarily urban militia.

The siege of Neuss is a classic example. Neuss was a small town, probably no more than 3 or 4,000 people lived there. Charles army was huge and certainly outnumbered the population. He himself saw the siege as a stepping stone in a series of disputes he was having with towns down the Rhine as part of his ambition to take over Alsace.

Charles did not want burgher militias in his army because he knew that they came with all kinds of limitations, they indeed thought for themselves and were not eager to take on his princely ambitions of hausmacht as their own cause. He thought he could do better by hiring what he thought were the best soldiers from various parts of Europe: English and Burgundian longbowmen, French and Burgundian knights, Italian Condottiere, Spanish light cavalry, German handgunners and so on. But his army proved fractious.

At Neuss, the towns all the way down the Rhine saw an opportunity to slow Charles ambitions a little bit. His impatience and authoritarian concepts of 'modernity' were well known. What he did to Liège didn't go unnoticed either. Cologne, Strasbourg, some of the smaller Alsatian towns like Colmar, and a variety of German towns all sent support to Neuss, some openly some more quiet. Charles meanwhile was never able to prevent Neuss from being resupplied by the river. His troops started fighting one another, instigated by the English, while the cunning Köln militia and sailors kept smuggling supplies into town and sneaking ashore to foment mayhem among the Burgundians.

The Swiss, or more specifically Bern and Zurich, had been approached by several Rhineland towns notably Strasbourg, and were showing some interest in getting involved (there were Burgundian properties within what is now Switzerland as well) but it was Charles, or more specifically one of his vassals who instigated trouble by ambushing a ship full of Bernese diplomats and merchants on the Rhine on behalf of the Duke.

Once again, at Grandson castle Charles displayed his impatience and his contempt for the "lesser" estates when after granting safe passage to the garrison, he had all 412 of them hanged instead like common criminals. His humiliating defeat almost immediately after his men were finished carrying out that mini atrocity (it apparently took 4 hours to kill them all) should have taught him a lesson but it didn't. But we don't have to go through the whole history of the Burgundian Wars to make this point.

Charles was an impatient man. Of course he recognized the utility of infantry, of gunners and crossbowmen, and archers - and of marksmanship and archery as a martial art. Most princes of his era did, (the French were somewhat unique in ignoring it as long as they could). But while he thought he could invent a new kind of army that allowed him to have all the merits of the newer types of infantry without any of their annoying quirks, like a preference for autonomy. It didn't turn out to work. Mercenaries for one thing, are just that - mercenary. To get more reliable troops willing to act in your interests is a tricky business. Other princes, Maximilian I for example, came closer to creating a controllable (or semi-controllable) form of infantry similar to the Swiss urban model with the Landsknechts. It was a fairly tricky process which took a while to figure out.

My main point though was that Charles, like his father Philip and the others before him, spent a lot of their time in urbanized zones and under the influence (beneath the shadow you might say) of the astonishing cultural innovation of the Northern Renaissance. As a subset of that, they were all quite aware of the merits of infantry and especially archers and marksmen.

Cities like Bruges and Ghent, and further south Cologne and Strasbourg... and Milan and Florence and Venice, were outliers in the pre-industrial world. They created art and built architecture just in the 15th Century alone which still rakes in billions of dollars in tourist revenue every year to this day. Of course all this affected princes like the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. Because of Bruges and Ghent and the other towns, they could have nicer clothes, better jewelry, more magnificent paintings and books, more effective fortifications and yes indeed, much better weapons than most princes in other parts of Europe. It wasn't just the money in other words. These Dukes of course took full advantage of urban cultural innovation as major art patrons etc.. Militarily, they also benefited from innovations in urban weapon making (esp. firearms and cannon) and Philip in particular did make good use of urban troops both as mercenaries and militia. But he knew far better than Charles how to thread the needle to get the most out of it without upsetting the apple cart.

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Michael Zimmermann

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jun, 2019 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very kind of you to take the time to respond at length. Even if it takes us away from the topic somewhat, I’ll reply as best I can:

I’m not sure of the direction you’re meaning to take by saying the princes downplayed the importance of urban life in their domains or chose to ignore their perspective. They may have wanted it to appear that way, if they had someone write about their reign, but as you and others have pointed out, they spent long stretches of time in the urban sphere of the Low Countries (and built residences right in the middle of it), negotiated about levies & taxes and took part in urban life in all its complexity. So, whatever they may had others say, they did something else.

Well, as is probably apparent from my name, I was neither raised nor educated in the Anglosphere, but the history of kings is used elsewhere just as often in a reductive way of presenting the past. I would hope to have progressed beyond that.

With regard to urban 'independence‘: I think we fundamentally disagree as to the definition of that term.
As far as I am aware, the Burgundian towns swore to obey & serve the duke/count at the start of his/her reign. In turn, as mentioned above, the ruler confirmed the rights and privileges granted and swore to uphold them (in our case often going back to 14th c. or beyond). Now, one might call these oaths mere formalities, but I don’t think that would be appropriate for a Medieval mind. That's why it was a good opportunity to exact concession from the duke.
In addition, urban populations were naturally not monolithic. Hence intramural, let’s call them disagreements, which caused all sides to look for an umpire, for lack of a better term. And that was more often than not the prince through the person of a judicial officer or the institution of a council (as law court), for example. I don’t think judicial functions can be waved away as trifles. Conversely, they are essential elements for what I would consider 'independence‘.
In the parts of the Burgundian domain that belonged to France, they even went all the way to Paris to sue for justice.
Finally, the protection of the country against outside forces was a key responsibility of the prince. That even mighty cities like Ghent and Bruges could not reliably accomplish that without coordination and leadership from the court can best be seen by the war against France after the death of Charles. Their failure to do so was an important factor in keeping Maximilian, who very few liked as their prince once he had arrived, in the saddle.

Yes, I agree the Low Countries were, apart from Northern Italy, the most urbanized landscape in Europe, with many towns, large and smaller, who very often were at odds with each other, which allowed their princes (before the Valois) to play them, if they chose to. But I thought we were talking of ‚great cities‘ and what made these places draw in noble princes. I guess we could add Lille, Antwerp and Brussels to the Flemish.

As to rule:

Again, I can go with 'certain significant rights and autonomies‘, but not independence. I don’t think that’s reflected in the historical record.
Yes, they had their own institutions, but ducal representatives were part of those. Also, a large proportion of the elite was aligned much more closely with the court, than say their less well-off fellow citizens.
And the dukes were present within the walls regularly, if not in person then through a bailiff or even just by virtue of the structures they erected to serve them as residence, say the Prinsenhof, or Coudenberg.
Also, and as you allude to, they gave, perhaps not gladly, the duke a lot of tax money, which I would think they would have kept, if independent.

Sure, there was a lot of violence and uprising. The king of France, too, had to contend with quite a few rebellions by various 'French‘ duchies, including Burgundy, in the later 15th century.
No one would suggest, that fact alone made these princes independent of their king. Royal, and of course ducal, authority waxed and waned, failed and was re-established. And if you were the loser in one such bout, there was a price to pay. Ask the Brugeois after 1437.

As to the course of these revolts, the picture is very complicated I find. Often they came about because militias returning from campaign did not want to disarm without having a certain number of demands granted. In some cases the ‚common‘ people killed their own city officials, because they were thought to have mismanaged funds, all the while assuring the duke that they were his leal subjects.
Then again, as you say, they went for the duke himself, but let him go after he agreed to a list of demands. You would think Philip would have avoided these restive urban centres for while after that. Yet he celebrated Christmas peacefully in Bruges in the same year he had been prisoner of the good people of Ghent. And then in the spring of 1437, as you rightly point out, was almost killed by the Brugeois.
Philip thought he could persuade Ghent to go along with his salt-tax, but when he saw this was not the case, he deliberately provoked a revolt, because he knew, that if victorious, he could exact a price.
I am not sure if these events attest to anything other than a generally unsettled state of affairs and a mutual interdependence, which both sides grudgingly acknowledged, if not in word then deed.

Yes, I agree Vaughan’s book is very well-written, though he seems a little more down on Philip’s performance, vis-à-vis his son, than you. Calls him ‚by no means a successful dynast‘, ‚self-assured and flamboyant‘ and having left his son with ‚a clumsy administration, a legacy of hatred and disgust in [the] towns‘. A bit harsh, I think.

As to Liège, which strictly speaking wasn’t his, Charles laid waste to the city only after repeated revolts (four since 1465) and an attack on his person (and the king of France, to whom they had appealed before against their bishop and the duke).
Sure, it was cruel and he wanted to make an example of them, but he had left it at a one-sided peace before at St Trond, and disbanded his army, as Vaughan describes in his biography. He did not think he could do so again.
Also, Charles did not have to wreak havoc all by himself. Men from Limburg were only too glad to carry out the destruction of their erstwhile aggressor. People from Maastricht helped destroy the bridge across the Meuse. Not much brotherly love in opposition to the tyrannical duke to be felt here.

Nevertheless, you are rightly inquiring as to the price of such actions. With hindsight it is fair to say that throughout his rule Charles could not overcome urban forces resistant to his centralizing/territorial ambitions. However, if we consider Louis XI, the man who has often been styled as Charles’ nemesis, and his very similar policies, it does not appear that he was doomed to failure per se.

On military affairs:

Perhaps, as an idea of where I am coming from, this is the work I was referring to in my last post:

Also, there are some recent works on artillery: Depreter’s De Gavre à Nancy. L’artillerie bourguignonne sur la voie de la «Modernité and Smith/DeVries’ The artillery of the dukes of Burgundy 1363-1477.

I am not sure what you mean by 'bespoke‘. I can’t compare his notions to Corvinus’ dispositions, since this is beyond my expertise. I know of close diplomatic ties; in fact, a treaty between the two was being negotiated during the siege of Neuss.

Charles wanted a standing, professional army, available and loyal to him personally. No more waiting for assembly, begging levies to stay on or the enemy dragging out of peace negotiations in the knowledge that feudal service periods would force the duke’s hand.
Charles was a keen student of antiquity’s great generals and what he perceived they had in their armies he envisioned for himself.
The army he created was not ‚cut into pieces‘ again and again. If we use those words, it happened twice: at Morat and before Nancy. Had Grandson been what you seem to suggest it was, he could never have contested Morat so soon after.
Likewise, I don’t see how this army was even equally as prone to infighting as its feudal predecessors. For example, the flight before Calais was caused by the petty squabbling between the Ghentenaar and the Brugeois. Or compare it to the imperial army sent to deal with the duke, who fought over who would carry the great standard.

Regarding Neuss, well, I have read accounts of able defenders of that number (Panigarola’s despatch), which creates a different picture, if you consider that Charles had about 13000-14000 men before the walls, not by any means the largest army he had ever fielded (that would be roughly double in size).
Furthermore, the town was exceptionally well prepared. It was provisioned & garrisoned by soldiers from Hesse, had enough cattle to last until Christmas. The burghers had been made to buy a gun each, the roofs had been stripped of lead and earthen ramparts had been thrown up to help in resisting artillery fire. Sometimes towns like it fell, at other times they didn’t. Charles was not unique in encountering these difficulties.

He did cut off the city on all sides, though there were some successful raids (one supplying gun powder) and sorties, relieving the pressure. When the Rhine islands flooded in the spring he had to abandon his positions there, but that cannot possibly be seen as a mistake of generalship or ascribed to the quality of his troops. The men from Cologne sat across from him on the other side of Rhine and could not affect his operations seriously.
Charles’ army continued the siege throughout the winter, then, reinforced to 17000, faced the imperial relief forces (including the city contingents you mentioned) in the field in May and remained victorious.
The Confederates, by the way, rebuffed the imperial entreaties to involve themselves in the emperor’s efforts regarding Neuss.
As Vaughan says, Charles may have been checked, but he was not defeated. And keeping an army in the field this long was no mean feat on its own. He then went on to conquer Lorraine; a well-prepared and swiftly executed campaign, wouldn’t you agree?

When I mentioned Bern’s intent to expand I was referring not to the involvement in Alsace, but her interest in the Vaud (for which they declared war on Charles in 1474).

While gratuitous and cruel, I don’t see how the execution of the garrison at Grandson had anything to do with what followed. You may say his impatience led Charles to leave his camp and move along the Roman road by the lake shore, where his van was then ambushed, but if you think impatience was his major fault, what then of Morat? He could have turned the tables and attacked the approaching Confederates, but chose to await them at his field fortifications.

Also, the ordonnance companies were not mercenaries in the way his Italians or English were. They were created more like soldiers: specific troop strength, uniformed, mostly from his territories, paid and partially equipped by the court, supposed to be kept in training when not in the field & commanded by officers, who were themselves bound by strict regulations. This is also evident in make-up of the ordonnance: many more foot soldiers than in the Italian companies, more gunners and pikemen than in the English.

In my opinion, Charles failed ultimately, because the defeat of Morat unmoored him from reasoned judgement. We will never know, how his army would have performed, if on the day at Morat they had been in their positions, as they had been on the day before. Contemporaries do not seem to have faulted his ideas on armed conflict or organization, but blamed several discrete command decisions for the catastrophe. So, he wasted what he had created foolishly.

Finally, I agree with you that the Valois dukes were exceptional north of the Alps in how much time they spent in a truly urban environment. Why you would characterize them as being passive recipients of the benefits of this development I must admit I don’t quite understand.

Who sent van Eyck on an embassy to Portugal? Why is Louis of Bruges, that quintessential courtier of patrician background and patron of the arts, wearing the Fleece in his portrait? And similarly, why do the Portinaris look like Burgundian courtiers in theirs? Charles the Bold, so interested in what we call the Classics, was also deeply entranced by contemporary Italian culture.

I guess my point, in contradistinction to yours, would be that in Burgundy in particular there existed a thick tangle of noble and bourgeois ways of life, aristocratic elitism and bureaucratic careerism (see the Rolins), ducal authority and urban autonomy, commercial prowess and religious piety. The Valois were essential participants in the midst of it all.

- Michael
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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jun, 2019 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael,

Right back at you, glad to have the conversation even though I don't really have the time I wish I did have.

Before I get into your points in more depth, to circle back to the question in the Original Post, can we agree on the basic idea that the Dukes of Burgundy, and their family (like Antoine etc.) were 1) fairly inculcated in the urban culture of the Flemish towns and 2) were also well aware of the importance of bows, crossbows and firearms in combat? My original point is that there would be no shame for a noble in a region like Flanders, or anywhere in Burgundy during the reign of the Valois, in learning to shoot or even in participating in urban shooting tournaments.

And since I believe the OP meant his question to be posed a bit more broadly, I think perhaps you will also agree with me that it would depend on the region, but in places beyond Flanders such as Northern Italy and much of Central and Northern Europe, it would not be so rare for other nobles and princes to have a similarly close relationship to some of the larger and more impressive towns, and thereby be under the influence of their material culture including their martial culture and technology. Hopefully we agree to this extent. If not we can perhaps debate that separately.

As far as urban autonomy goes.

Towns throughout Central and Northern Europe were chartered under Town Law. Though in the Low Countries this wasn't as clearly codified as under German Town Law, it was very similar and it was fairly systematic and far reaching. They had these rights long before the Valois ever showed up. Bruges had their town rights granted in 1128, and Ghent in 1178. Brussles got rights in 1229, Leuven in 1211, Antwerp in 1221 and so on.

Under town rights they gained the the rights to hold a market, the staple right (a kind of monopoly rule on goods being traded near the town) the right to charge tolls, the right to mint their own money, the right to levy taxes, the right to establish their own weights and measures, the right to make and enforce their own laws, and the right to self governance. But perhaps most important of all, the right to build city walls. Once a town had proper walls it gained de-facto autonomy as well as in theory in their town charter.

This is where the difference from France lies. French towns after the 14th Century - or really after the Albigensian Crusades, did not typically have town charters granting them autonomy. Most were under the thumb of a regional prince, and ultimately the King. Their ruling councils were appointed, not elected.

In Flanders and the German speaking areas, including most of the towns in Bohemia, Poland, Hungary and so on, towns did elect their own city council, they had their own militia, their own walls, and their own arsenal of weapons. They practiced for war in celebrations and sporting events centered around martial skills. In the case of Bruges and Ghent these were particularly magnificent spectacles with very well kitted out participants. But there were hundreds of towns in Central and Northern Europe that were heavily armed. The larger Hanseatic towns were able to fairly routinely take on Kings and win - Lübeck, Cologne and Hamburg more or less alone defeated Denmark twice first in the 1370s and then again in the 1420's. Lübeck and Danzig, more or less alone, defeated England in the Anglo Hanseatic War. Nuremberg burned down the castles of 31 knights in just one year due to harassment and kidnapping of their merchants as part of feuds. Danzig / Gdansk rose up with 19 other towns and went to war against the Teutonic Order, and with the help of Poland, defeated them to become independent (though a 'nominal' vassal of Poland).

Krakow burghers 'shooting the popinjay' with crossbows. From the Balthasar Behem Codex, 1505.

When you talk about how the burghers in Neuss had firearms, this was not at all unusual in German-speaking towns. Or in Flanders or Holland for that matter. Under most forms of town law by the 15th Century it was routine that all citizens were required to own armor, a sidearm (usually a sword), and some kind of primary weapon most often a crossbow or a gun.

This is Machiavelli's perception of German towns in his day (1513)

“The cities of Germany are absolutely free, have little
surrounding country, and obey the emperor when they choose,
and they do not fear him or any other potentate that they have
about them. They are fortified in such a manner that every one
thinks that to reduce them would be tedious and difficult, for
they have all the necessary moats and bastions, sufficient
artillery, and always keep food, drink, and fuel for one year in
the public storehouses. Beyond which, to keep the lower classes
satisfied, and without loss to the commonwealth, they have
always enough means to give them work for one year in these
employments which form the nerve and life of the town, and in
the industries by which the lower classes live. Military exercises
are still held in high reputation, and many regulations are in
force for maintaining them.”

In the Low Countries in fact the militia groups used to commission paintings of their members with their crossbows or guns, as I'm sure you are well aware?

These guys are from one of the Flemish Crossbow guilds

Of course, this does depend on your perspective. In theory, towns in what is now Germany were beholden to the Emperor, towns in what is now Czechia to the King of Bohemia, in Poland to the Polish-Lithuanian monarch, in Hungary to the Hungarian King and so on. Even the key city states in the Swiss Confederation - Bern, Zurich and Lucerne, were theoretically subject to the rule of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In Flanders it was something of a special case, as you noted, the towns weren't always unified, nor could they rely on support from their 'Frenemies' in the Hanseatic League, in spite of Bruges being one of the four main entrepots for the Hanse. Bruges and Ghent were two of the largest and mightiest Free Cities in Europe, certainly they were the richest towns North of the Alps, but they also lived next to one of the most powerful princes in Europe in the person of Le Duc. Sometimes their policies were aligned with the Duke, sometimes not, just as in the rest of those special zones of Europe where the towns were self-governing. In theory most of them were subject to some prince or another.

But when push came to shove, quite literally, that often did not turn out to be the case. Sometimes when princes asserted their authority over medieval towns, they won. Sometimes they lost. More often they backed down before something really bad happened, but a few hard cases like Charles the Bold pushed their luck right up to the point when they died.

The difference, incidentally between his army and the Fekete Sereg of Matthias Corvinus is that the latter came together gradually somewhat organically during the reign of the previous monarch, his father Janos Hunyadi. The disparate elements within it were controlled, to the extent that they were under control, on a voluntary basis by respected leaders that they trusted. The key component of that army were Bohemian heretics who didn't particularly like Corvinus that much. When he sent their leader away, because of a feud between them, the Bohemians in his army settled down in what is now Slovakia and began raiding Churches and monasteries (as Hussite heretics, they didn't like Catholics very much either). Corvinus tried to crush them but failed. In the long run he had the Polish bishop (and later historian) Jan Dlugosz organize a truce and brought the leader, a certain Jan Jiskra, back into his army.

It was, in short, a typically medieval, bizarre and unique type of combined arms force, made up of quasi autonomous elements who could decide for themselves what cause to fight for. Whereas Charles 'bespoke' army fell apart under pressure in spite of theoretically being a unified force designed according to sound principles of Vegetius and Julius Caesar, the Fekete Sereg turned out to be able to withstand the extremely dire threat of the Ottoman Empire. Charles the Bold couldn't handle the militia of Cologne and Neuss. Or Morat. And the militia of Bern killed him.

Murten, (Morat in French) by the way, was not just a battlefield, it is also a town. A small one like Neuss. I've been there it's a really neat place, very well preserved. The walled part of the old town is about two blocks by three blocks in size. They still have their (fairly small) walls and 15th Century towers. They apparently managed to fend off an attempt to storm the walls on 11 June, and then hold out for 13 days against Charles' forces by picking off his artillery men with accurate shooting by firearms and crossbows, thus slowing down the gradual and inevitable destruction of their walls by his impressive and very expensive artillery park, especially two large bombards he had managed to set up out of range of their small guns.

The comparatively haphazard, organic structure of the Bernese and Zurich militia in the subsequent battle, when they arrived, turned out to be characteristically decisive, aggressive and more astute in their timing than the princely army they faced.

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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jun, 2019 11:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Zimmermann wrote:

Sure, there was a lot of violence and uprising. The king of France, too, had to contend with quite a few rebellions by various 'French‘ duchies, including Burgundy, in the later 15th century.
No one would suggest, that fact alone made these princes independent of their king. Royal, and of course ducal, authority waxed and waned, failed and was re-established. And if you were the loser in one such bout, there was a price to pay. Ask the Brugeois after 1437.

In France, as I had noted previously, did not have the tradition of Free Cities. So in France, it was indeed the Dukes and Counts who repeatedly defied royal authority, forcing the King to play a perpetual game of 'whack-a-mole'. But towns on their own or in leagues? Not so much.

However we do have one example of a Duke, from the Kings own family no less, who did indeed defy royal authority, right? The very Valois house of Burgundy we have been talking about. They certainly weren't obeying their French sovereign were they?

When the Flemish towns rose up in reaction to an attempt to assert French control in the late 1200's, the French reacted with typical incredulity and indignant fury at the very idea that the commoners would defy the King and their Lords. The role played by the urban militias in their subsequent slaughter at Golden Spurs in 1302 ensured the autonomy and rapid future development of the Flemish towns. The godendag, the crossbow, and later the gun was the key to the independence they did win for a while, albeit repeatedly challenged by the Princes surrounding them. And that in turn is why we had the Flemish Masters (or 'primitives' as some lowly art historian had the nerve to call them).

As to Liège, which strictly speaking wasn’t his, Charles laid waste to the city only after repeated revolts (four since 1465) and an attack on his person (and the king of France, to whom they had appealed before against their bishop and the duke).
Sure, it was cruel and he wanted to make an example of them, but he had left it at a one-sided peace before at St Trond, and disbanded his army, as Vaughan describes in his biography. He did not think he could do so again.

Centuries later, when Charles the Bold murdered the population of Liège after another spate of uprisings, he was in synch with the French tradition. He was only one step, albeit a big one, from what his father had done. From his own point of view, Charles was well within his rights. But he was out of step with the delicate balance between princes and towns which had gradually become the norm East of the Rhine.

From a nobles perspective of course, you could rationalize killing all those people, just as Charles did. After all they were incredibly insolent. They, as commoners, would not submit to their overlord. But other people of the same (burgher) estate did not see it with such cool detachment. It made them very angry.

This, in turn, along with smaller but also gratuitous acts like his massacre of the garrison at Grandson castle, set the stage for his enemies to play hardball themselves. Normally a prince in Latin Europe could expect battlefield courtesy and had a good chance of surviving even a catastrophic defeat. He could pay for his mistakes or bad luck with a ransom rather than with his life. But the burghers of Bern and Zurich did not recognize that tradition, as they were not being extended that same courtesy. So they ignored it, certainly in Charles case.

The payment for Liège and Grandson was cashed in full at Nancy.

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Michael Zimmermann

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jun, 2019 5:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Jean,

yes, we agree that they were steeped in urban culture and did not see it as beneath them to associate their own persons with non-knightly arms. The above mentioned Louis of Bruges took a bombard as his device and similarly the original subject of this thread, the Great Bastard, chose an emblem involving firearms.

Depreter mentions that after 1450 until 1477 there were seven people who had the office of maître d’artillerie, who were all nobles, IIRC.
Also, since it was mentioned, the Burgundian knights fought on foot regularly. One example is Neuss, where the horses were stabled in the surrounding villages and they had to join the ‚ranks‘ (and the women) in digging trenches and diverting the river Erft (still extant), which fed the moat of Neuss.

On Town Law:

That’s a good summary of how these rights came about. But you see, where you elide the essential point, yes? You cannot reasonably compare, say, Free Imperial Cities on the Rhine with the cities in the Burgundian domain in the extent to which the authority of their overlord was asserted, right? I think that’s what you’re describing in the paragraphs below the crossbowmen.

Again, Neuss affords us a snapshot of this situation: During the siege Charles could pressure Flanders and Hainault to send additional teams of horses and foot soldiers, as part of their feudal obligations, even though he had previously released them from such, when they had agreed to pay a new tax. They grumbled, they protested, but they complied.
Frederick III, in contrast, could not make the good people of Würzburg go away and had to be bailed out by an embassy from Cologne, because of his debts. The dukes of Jülich and Cleves, just as the Elector Palatine and the Confederates flatly refused to follow imperial summons. In this case, it really was the towns which dragged their prince along this time.

More generally speaking, I would say the exercise of urban autonomy in the Low Countries declined, was curtailed over the course of the 15th century, coming down from a high in the previous. There are several factors: when they were still ruled by 'little‘ counts and dukes it was easier to defy the lord. After the Valois had come in, acting like corporate raiders of their time, things changed quite noticeably.
Also, in Flanders was in relative economic decline, whilst in Holland and Brabant there were definite signs of expansion concurrently.
By the way, both Ghent and Bruges were technically French towns and therefore, when in revolt and seeking support against their duke/count, addressed the king as their sovereign lord.

I agree, there are numerous historical examples of urban leagues defying princely authority (prime example is Northern Italy), but these do not fall into the same category as the riots/revolts/uprisings in the Low Countries under the Valois, since the power differential between the urban and princely elements was quite different. And therefore were the outcomes, sometimes horrifically so.

I also agree that it’s perfectly normal for urban populations to be armed. I just mentioned the fact, because the Neuss citizenry appears to have been exceptionally keen to acquire a large number of handguns and Charles always had difficulties meeting the quota of hand gunners he had set for his ordonnance. There is a source, which describes the gunfire as ‚thick like the hail of arrows in an English battle‘.
After Grandson, where Charles lost his precious and modern artillery to the Confederates, he had to send for pieces from the urban and noble depots to create a new train.

On military affairs:

Thanks for letting me know about the Fekete sereg.

I really must disagree again with your characterization of Charles’ army as falling apart before Neuss. The historical record simply does not reflect that. The army was capable of manning the siege lines whilst confronting the emperor and his larger force and then beat them in a battle on 24th of May 1475.
Charles laid out a plan to use the oblique order to overwhelm the left wing of the imperial army, and despite some significant back and forth, his troops executed the plan. The only thing, which prevented a rout, was nightfall.
After this engagement, during the ensuing negotiations, he told Panigarola, the Milanese ambassador, that he planned to spend six more months in the field! And he did.
All this happened before the following background: By the beginning of May the truce with Louis XI had lapsed and the ordonnance companies defending the North and South of his territories agains the French were hard pressed. There were plans to join up with Edward IV and his English, who had landed on the continent, but then opened talks. A truce was struck, so Charles followed suit and settled with Louis.
Soleuvre allowed Charles to recover Upper Alsace and contained a way to legitimately act against Lorraine, and he decided to take it.
Duke René had declared war on him at the time it looked like the Imperial army would smash Charles before Neuss. By the 25th of November and the surrender of Nancy to the besieging Burgundian army, all of Lorraine had submitted to the Burgundian pincers from North and South.

Yes, Morat was nominally a siege, but the disposition of forces we can glean from the sources and the way Charles conducted the siege suggest, what he was really after was a battle to erase the shame of Grandson. And he got it, just not in the way he imagined.
The artillery, as above, before Morat was only second grade. As I mentioned above, he had lost most of his new pieces to the Confederates (and much else besides), and had to take what he could get in time from various towns and nobles.

I’ll give you my opinion, for what it’s worth, of the quality of Charles’ army: for the size of his territories and treasury it was impressive (but perhaps not sustainable). It worked as well or better than most of the feudal armies the dukes had employed before. It was more readily available and the logistics were definitely superior.
By 1476, morale was surely inferior to the Confederate militias they faced. After all, they had been in the field, more or less constantly, since 1474 and had endured many hardships.

In 1476 Charles went all in on a couple of battles. He knew he did not have a male heir to prevent the king of France from taking his French possessions.
At Grandson, he was on unfavourable terrain and he got unlucky twice. He made a tactical decision, to draw back his van to allow for artillery fire and cavalry regrouping, that was correct. He could not prevent the troops coming up from interpreting this as a retreat. And that’s why the rout did not originate with the contingents already engaged. Doesn’t change the outcome, but gives much needed perspective, I think.

At Morat, his lieutenants tried to correct Charles’ assessment that the Confederates would not attack. He ignored them and broke up the order of battle to pay the men. That’s the reason I say, we will never know, what would have happened, if the Burgundians had met their foes in anything resembling an orderly fashion. Panigarola shares a similar assessment with his lord in Milan.

You write the Bernese militia killed him; no, it did not. The Confederates, despite personal entreaties by the duke of Lorraine, refused to support him in the relief. All they would permit was his hiring some 'volunteers‘, which he did with money likely originating in the French treasury. Among the roughly 20000 men René managed to assemble, these mercenaries numbered about 6000 from all the members of the Confederates. The cities of the Alsace were very prominent here, as were the bishops of Basel and Strasbourg. Even the banner of Sigmund of Austria was present.

There were some prominent captains involved, I grant you, like Brandolf von Stein from Bern and the effect the horns of the Confederates had on the 5000 remaining Burgundians, freezing in the January air, when they emerged from the woods, was likely terrifying. But the Burgundians knew what was coming, since Charles had once more flagrantly ignored the advice of his lieutenants, to withdraw in time.

French royal authority:

Yes, you might say the example of the Valois dukes strengthens your case for calling that state of defiance 'independence‘. I would beg to disagree.

Each Valois duke was acutely aware he had to swear fealty to the French throne for his French territories. As testament to this state of affairs, the final court of appeal was the Parliament of Paris. Analogous though different relations apply to the Imperial territories.
Therefore it is no accident that, when Philip the Good could and would not maintain the previous level of engagement at the royal court, he had to look for a way to secure himself from its grasp and recoup the losses he incurred in revenue, when the sums from the royal purse stopped flowing.

The only way to cast off these shackles was to apply to the authority empowered to make kings, the emperor. Both Philip and his son tried, but found either the price too high or the crown offered too small.

Then, under Charles, something interesting happens:

Philip had been given a personal dispensation for not addressing Charles VII as ‚sovereign‘ and calling himself ‚subject‘, due to the king’s involvement in the murder of John the Fearless.
When he was dead and Charles belatedly wrote Louis to inform him of the fact, he did not address him as his ‚sovereign‘ lord. He also called the people of his French possessions his ‚subjects‘. While his father had been alive, he had not hesitated to express himself appropriately.
The king ordered the letter carefully preserved in the diplomatic treasury, due to these 'mistakes‘, which was very unusual.

Charles went back and forth for a while, addressing the king properly, then refusing to. Once he had instituted the Parliament at Malines as the supreme and sovereign court of appeal for all his territories, Charles himself is addressed more and more often as souverain seigneur, as a way of stressing his alleged autonomy from the king. After 1475 he never addressed the king as his 'sovereign' again.

When Charles had been killed and Louis claimed his fiefs for the crown, he also began a prosecution of the late duke for the crime of lèse majesté in seeking to sever ties with the French crown.

So, long story short, it becomes clear that everyone involved, cities and nobles, was acutely aware, what true sovereignty or independence was about. And how difficult it was to achieve it. Not even the Great Duke of the West managed it completely.

All this and more detailed in Paravicini: 'Mon souverain seigneur'.

On atrocities:

Yes, Charles seems to have been an adherent of a harsh form of rigor iustitiae. His cruel reprisals were excessive and were described, not just by those on the receiving end, as oppressive (for example, during the Lorraine campaign).
In Liège, though, a significant part of the population had already fled. His reputation could have mattered at Nancy in 1477, where it has been proposed the town would have surrendered, had the defenders not feared his wrath.

Then again, when the Confederate mercenaries marched towards Nancy they savaged Alsatian Jewish communities everywhere along the way and sent back the plunder to Bern for distribution.

Plenty of indecency to go around and not everyone gets his/her 'just' deserts.

- Michael
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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jun, 2019 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would say the only real difference between Frederick III and Philip of Burgundy, is that Philip was much, much more wealthy. And a bit better liked. Frederick certainly had the more impressive title, and in theory was the sovereign over the entire Holy Roman Empire, from Prague to Strasbourg, from Hamburg to Zurich... in theory. But we know his de-facto power was far more limited. Fredrick was notorious for being broke, for being a bad friend, and for not paying his debts. All very bad in medieval society. He was isolated down in Austria where he was constantly feuding, under threat from the Corvinus / Hunyadi family in Hungary, from the Herzog of Bavaria and from the Ottomans. Charles was like his father, one of the richest princes in Europe, and had a big well equipped army. He was also liked, at least initially, as many young princes are (people tend to be optimistic early in the reign).

Both princes in theory had power over dozens of towns and nobles. But that sovereignty is like Schrödinger's cat. You don't know if it's actually there until you open the box. Power had to be tested whenever the prince asked for something the towns or nobles didn't like. Fredrick, we know, had very limited sway and was routinely defied - even by his capital city Vienna. He had to get the Heretic King of Bohemia, George of Poděbrady* to bail him out. Charles had a bit more authority, at least locally, but when he tried to expand it both in terms of degree and scope, he diminished the respect and goodwill that he didn't realize was part of his power, and kept escalating his bad decisions until he went off the rails.

I never heard of the King of France being held captive by the citizens of a town, but this did happen to Philip the Good, and to Frederick III, and Maximilian for that matter. I never heard of the King of France warily negotiating a disarmed welcome party during a visit to Paris or only being allowed in with a small entourage. It would be unheard of, because in France by the time of Philip the Good or Louis XI, the French towns were tamed, they were subordinate to the King and the lesser princes. That meant they paid their taxes when asked. But it also meant that they didn't have as many taxes to pay. These towns were not as wealthy as the ones in Flanders or Swabia, ... or Tuscany or lower Saxony or Bohemia.

Bruges and Ghent, (and Lübeck and Hamburg, Nuremberg and Venice and Florence and Augsburg and Danzig & Prague... ) were centers of military innovation. Warships, war-wagons, cannon, firearms, crossows, armor. Those things were perfected in those urban centers. They were also wellsprings of money. They were epicenters of culture. They had effective militia of their own which could come in handy in a fight.... if you could convince them to fight for you. The King of France couldn't rely on that kind of help from say Lyon or Toulouse, in fact he had to hire very, very expensive Swiss mercenaries to be his infantry because he couldn't manage to create his own. And the Swiss fought well but, pas d'argent, pas de Suisse.

Thus the tradeoff. A tame town (Landstadt or mediatstadt to the Germans) caused no trouble but did not do that much for you. A Free City, let alone one in a big League like the Hanse, or the Swiss Confederacy called their own shots. The Valois Dukes before Charles tried to walk a fine line, let the towns self-manage so they will thrive, don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg (or start a general revolt that could ultimately topple your reign). But make them pay. Make them help in your schemes of Hausmachtpolitik. Play them against each other to keep them in control. Philip was heavy handed and leaned on them way too much, and he almost got himself killed more than once, but he knew when to back off. Charles didn't.

When Bruges and Ghent were finally broken, after the death of Charles, and after they had captured Maximilian, let's not forget it took an alliance of England, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Hanseatic League to force their capitulation. Who knows what would have happened had the League sided with Bruges.

As for Charles' army, some people claim he just had bad luck. I don't buy that. You could see the cracks many times, his army were feuding among themselves already in Neuss. Bad luck once is credible, certainly - many battles hinged on strange accidents. But bad luck three times in a row seems more like bad leadership. On paper his army looked unbeatable, but what makes an Army stand up to the pressure of combat are often intangibles and small details,and especially in this era, above all a bond of trust. Charles was trying to be an Absolute Monarch, but the groundwork for the type of army needed by an Absolute Monarch had not been laid down yet. It would take another 120 years of religious sectarian violence and the destruction of half of Europe before that was in place.

* George is a good counter example to both Matthias Corvinus and Charles the Bold. He ruled by building consensus, he paid his debts, he was loyal to his troops and allies, respected the estates, and was well liked by other nobles, including foreign ones. He ended up marrying his children into the German nobility in fact even though he was an excommunicated heretic whom the Pope was trying to get all of Europe to kill.

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PostPosted: Sun 16 Jun, 2019 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Titles, which legitimately give the potential to assert rights, do make a difference. To assert them Frederick lacked power/money, true.
That’s why, despite all of Burgundy’s money, they still came to him for imperial recognition of their takeover of the Low Countries, which, let’s say, was a bit iffy. It mattered to the Sforza, too, I believe.

Yes, authority was a tricky thing. Throughout the Middle Ages. If power is having someone else do your will, you only ever find out, whether you actually have it, by testing it. When has that been otherwise?

Well, let’s not write off French cities (again, two of which were Ghent and Bruges, when they wanted to be) entirely. Otherwise there would have been no reason for the so-called Loire kings to diminish Paris and withdrew the court and some of the institutions elsewhere? Also, IIRC there were more than a couple of uprisings in the 14th century (Nîmes 1378, Rouen, Paris & others 1382), though I would admit that these occurred in a slightly different context.
Also, and sorry, cheap shot, it seems French kings preferred being captured on the battlefield…

Sure, towns were important for all those reasons. I just think you’re undervaluing princely policy and patronage as one important, perhaps essential factor amongst many. As an example that gets us back to topic, the development of gunpowder artillery and especially its use in the field was influenced not inconsiderably by ducal interest and policies.

As to Philip and John, the two first Valois dukes, I seem to recall some trifling bit of unpleasantness involving a bloke called Artevelde in 1380s, the Oriflamme, some golden spurs and such. John, of course, was one of those dukes siding with the bishop of Liège against the urban populace, which, once again, did not go too well for the urban militia in 1408.
Beyond that, it’s of course much easier to be lenient with your towns, if you have a piggy bank in the royal treasury, as these two did (at least for longish stretches).

So, I would suggest there’s much more continuity than you allow for.

On Charles’ military career:

Again, I’m not saying it was merely bad luck. Grandson is, though, impossible to imagine without it. These things happen, and the outcome is no less devastating for it.

As an analogy, Gavere was likely lost for the Ghentenaar, when one of their battery commanders blew up a sack of powder, and everyone took fright. No one would conclude from this that urban militias were useless in a fight, lacking in esprit de corps or couldn’t handle gunpowder weapons.
The vagaries of war, you might call it. As such, Gavere doesn’t make Philip the Good a military genius, because he was able to take advantage and the city submitted.

Yes, bad command decisions are as good a reason as any for defeat. The duke’s officers certainly thought so, as did Panigarola, who was not exactly partisan. They account for Morat and Nancy, I would say.

Charles is a curious case, when it comes to military ability and judgement. He could be very impulsive, as at Monthléry, and consequently seemed to recognize, that he had risked too much on a single charge.
He was a fanatic for careful planning and personal attention to matters of organization before and during a campaign. This included everything from grand diplomacy to isolate his target, sending a small detachment of artillery to a specific place, haranguing quarreling soldiers to enjoining his commanders to make sure the soldiers drink enough, so they didn’t tire prematurely.
This talent served him well until the last, since he contrived to stay supplied before Nancy until December 1476.
When faced by adverse events, however, his negative character traits lead him to compound mistakes. His excessive self-regard, I think, led him to risk too much for too little potential gain against the Confederates.
In this instance you can really see his disdain for the lower orders blinding him to such an extent that he abandoned his previously held strategic objectives. After all, while he was brawling with 'these bestial people’, as he called them, Louis was working on Savoy, Lorraine was slipping from his grasp and Sforza had begun to vacillate.
We get interesting glimpses from Panigarola as to Charles’ mental state after Grandson. I think, the very fact that he had done everything right and had lost nevertheless, was incomprehensible to him. It unmoored him. He is reported to have said he would either die with his men or conquer, or he would make a settlement (having 'conquered' Bern & Fribourg), with justice and sword in hand.
Here was a man so sure of his place in the world, that when reality told him differently, he began to reject it.

On the army:

Once more, whatever Charles’ merits as commander, the notion that the ducal army was not all it was cracked up to be is mistaken, in my opinion.

I have acknowledged that there was infighting, often involving the English and Italians. And have shown, that I believe this was just as common among feudal armies largely made up of urban militias (i.e. the imperial army facing Charles). The Bernese, too, were denied their follow-up after Grandson by their allies.

Compared to these more traditional armies, it was much more quickly mobilized & could stay in the field longer, which makes a huge difference (could have used that to his advantage). The equipment, especially the horses, seems to have been reliably of a certain quality, which likely affected the speed at which large parts of the army could travel. Units were much more uniformly equipped than before, making them more versatile. There are other aspects, most of which are digestibly listed in Schmidt-Sinns.

It is wrong to insist the whole thing was a paper tiger/ model army. Literally, the very reason, why there were several iterations of the companies’ ordonnance, is that some things worked, others didn’t and so Charles changed them. Very practical approach to my mind.

As to questions of trust and loyalty: Obviously, there were limits, which were definitely exceeded in 1476 and so you get, for example, the defection of Campobasso.
However, since he served since 1472 and the army apparently was in a terrible state by the time of the siege of Neuss, he took his own sweet time about it.

On the King of Bohemia:

As with Hungarian military history, not an area of expertise for me, so I am grateful for the pointer.

- Michael

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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Mon 17 Jun, 2019 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lets try to refocus the discussion a little bit again as it keeps drifting far afield. I hope you will forgive me for a brief summary:

On the topic of the original post, the question was why would a high ranking noble like the Bastard of Burgundy or Charles the Bold spend time learning to use weapons like longbows, [to which I would add also crossbows and firearms]. The answer is that by their time (second and third quarters of the 15th Century) in spite of the general animus by the higher nobility against commoners in general and burghers in particular, urban culture in certain areas such as Flanders was highly respectable, and their martial culture - including those shooting contests and the various parties thrown by the elite urban shooters guilds, was also considered generally worthy of notice and participation. I think we agree on this much.

Then when I described the Dukes of Burgundy as the nominal rulers of the cities of the Low Countries, you objected to the word nominal.

Subsequently we have discussed the power relations and military struggles between Bruges and Ghent in particular with the later Valois Dukes of Burgundy, and the Burgundian Wars of Charles the Bold and his subsequent defeats. We all know that Philip and Charles Valois were grinding down the Flemish towns and we also know how Charles met his match at the hands of the Swiss and Rhenish towns. The question is how to interpret this. The debate now seems to have shifted to an assessment of the quality of Charles army, and the relative merits of Princely and urban armies vis a vis organization and innovation. So lets start there and work our way back to the original points.

Ducal armies and urban militias
Charles army was flawed. He tried to create a new type of military structure which looks very modern to some contemporary historians, but in action despite it's extraordinarily expensive 'bespoke' nature and excellent equipment (including, I agree, horses) it was punching far below it's weight,. It continuously suffered from infighting and morale problems, proved slow to react in critical moments, and caused new problems for itself by committing atrocities and gratuitous incidents. As the leaders decisions - which tended to be unilateral and "rash" - got worse and worse, the respect his own troops had for their leader declined steadily, and along with it their morale.

The mostly urban militia armies he faced were a mix - Bruges and Ghent also fought below their weight and also suffered from morale problems and divisions, some which had been fomented by the Dukes themselves. But the militias of Cologne / Köln, Strasbourg, Basel, Bern, Zurich and Lucerne held up much better to the strain and stresses of combat.

Both sides faced bad luck, accidents, setbacks, and the extreme risks associated with warfare that in spite of the guns and cannon available, still in large part came down to people standing face to face and hacking and stabbing one another with blades and points. The Swiss had to overcome divisions as well as the Burgundian army - they had just gone through the Old Zurich War which ended in 1446. Though a generation had passed, feelings were still raw and trust was not guaranteed (certainly as much as between English and Italian or Burgundian troops). But they knew how to set their differences aside while fighting together. To the contrary, they worked together like a well oiled machine, not just between the urban and rural militias from the Confederation, but also with the other Rhineland and Swabian towns. The Confederate (again mostly urban militia) forces did not crack when they faced a setback, they did not fail to scout ahead nor did they hesitate when they saw the enemy. Nor did they falter when faced with greater numbers or superior firepower. To the contrary they were consistently decisive and thorough, and made few mistakes where it mattered.

You'll notice in the details of some of the battles however they didn't always work together as well with feudal armies such as the forces of the Duke of Lorraine. There are reasons for that.

In these histories, German forces tend to be lumped together as if they were all one "Imperial" Army but that is an anachronism. The urban militias of the Rhenish and Swabian towns and the feudal army of Frederick III sometimes fought together on the same side, but they were very different types of forces. Gluing these disparate estates together was a tricky business in those days and that was one of the things that Charles failed to do, for all his meticulous planning and reading of the Classics.

I would also contest the following:

Gunpowder artillery was not introduced to the open field by the Duke of Burgundy or the King of France. Contrary to a lot of modern historical shorthand, cannons on the battlefield including and on wheeled carriages and so on actually first happened much earlier in the 1420's - 1430's and was accomplished by the Czech Hussite heretics and the burghers of Prague and later Tabor. That is one of the reasons I brought up the Czechs, the other reason is that due to their successes the Czechs and their war-wagons became wildly popular mercenaries in Central Europe, arguably at least as widely sought after and widely used north of the Alps as the Swiss were in Italy. This continued unabated until the famous Battle of Wenzenbach in 1504 during the Landshut War of Succession.

French revolts in the 14th Century are not the equivalent of the 15th Century power struggles in Flanders. Until the last quarter of the 14th century, as I think I acknowledged upthread, urban autonomy still existed (in a muted form) West of the Rhine. It's not the same as in the Holy Roman Empire, Italy or Bohemia but even in England and Spain towns still had some small level of independence until the 1390's. But by the time of Philip the Good that was long over in France. Again, I really can't imagine the King of France in the 1440's having to negotiate with Paris or Lyon to allow safe passage into the city, nor asking the citizens to disarm before his arrival let alone the citizens in turn requiring him to leave his army outside the walls.

The levels of Seignorial authority were not the same in Western Europe vs. Central / Northern Europe. Flanders was a place of traditional rights for the towns which had already been in place for centuries before the Valois arrived. They were worn down by factionalism and constant pressure from one of the most powerful princes in Europe, but the fact that they consistently contested the authority of the Valois Dukes shows that they were not cowed and in fact still did believe themselves to be sovereign over their own communities.

I was not, and am not arguing that urban armies were automatically superior to princely or feudal ones, that would be absurd. I was arguing that medieval urban armies were clearly not automatically inferior to princely or feudal armies, which is something that tends to be unknown to the general public and glossed over to the point of invisibility in the princely and royal propaganda that tend to take prominence in the historiography of the era.

Towns, like princes and princely families, had different levels of power and military aptitude. I typically grade them into four ranks. When towns were extremely successful in battle, they sometimes look different centuries later. Venice for example starts to look like an empire, even though they were essentially just a very successful city-state with some land holdings and a few bases. Lubeck and Danzig tend to get categorized as the Hanseatic League, despite their own individual victories standing out. The Swiss towns get lumped together into the Confederacy even though by the 15th Century Bern and Zurich were by far the dominant military presence within it. Prague's militia is lumped together with the radical Hussites even though they, as the leaders of the moderate faction, ultimately prevailed against the radicals. And so on.

Ghent and Bruges were immensely powerful culturally and financially. But militarily, while they were pretty tough, I would put them in the second tier of the larger towns. They were as strong as a prince especially unified, but not as strong as the richest prince in Europe, especially since they usually weren't unified.

They did certainly innovate a lot and it was from Ghent and Bruges that the key aspects of the artillery technology later used with such success by France and Burgundy originated. Individual cannon experts were few enough in number that they could be hired into a princely court, one did not have to learn to deal with (and respect) an entire estate such as was required to have a substantial high quality force of infantry or marksmen in that era.

It was the innovations such as the new metallurgy (bigger blast furnaces fired by coal in Flanders for example and the production of larger scale artifacts of cast iron and bronze) but also the battlefield effectiveness of rural yeomen archers from England and mostly urban mitiias from Bohemia and Switzerland which caught the attention of the princes and drew in their interest to the details of how they fought. Which is why we see them bending the bow and firing the arquebus in urban tournaments. And probably winning some of the smaller ones (Brussles was pretty small in the 15th Century).

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PostPosted: Thu 20 Jun, 2019 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Jean,

that is roughly the route we took to where we are.

On the army:

I have tried to back up my assessment by taking a closer look at some of the episodes that are usually in the background, when the Burgundian army after the 1471 reforms is weighed on the scales of the military historian and found wanting, and have suggested, that this verdict often muddles flawed command decisions and army performance in a way, that then leaves the authors asking themselves, why this way of organizing an army was subsequently so influential.

In your latest post you once more mention the infighting; I can only say, if you read Charles’ letter and Panigarola’s despatch of the 23rd of May 1475, you will see that after the long months in the siege lines, Middleton’s men-at-arms fought well in the same formations as Galeotto’s Italians and the English longbowmen sat ensconced within the Burgundian pikes to hold on to the centre. In front, the field artillery was screened by Italian foot.
Not at Grandson nor Morat do I perceive it as a cause for defeat. At the second siege of Nancy, Campobasso certainly did not help things, but likely would not have made a difference. Other Italians stayed loyal.

As to the army committing atrocities: the duke was one for strict discipline, as we can read in his orders for the conduct of troops during his French campaign as count: no plunder, pillage, rape; no initiative as to use of weapons. He apparently was known for going about swatting at those, who dared move out of formation, nobleman and commoner alike.
Doesn’t mean the soldiers did not ignore those orders, especially entering a city after a siege.
The infamous reprisals, I believe, Charles ordered himself, and as I have tried to show, were felt to be excessive by some of his own men (account of a German knight in his service after Charmes had surrendered in 1475).

As to punching below its weight, it was the smaller force in many encounters (Neuss, the final three), so I am not sure how we arrive at that assessment.
Was it costing Charles more than it was worth? That charge I would seriously entertain, especially in Charles’ strategic situation. Also, in his intent on punishing opponents he saw as beneath himself, he denied himself some of his army’s obvious advantages.

I am not sure I can add much more to what I have previously written regarding my opinion of Charles’ army. It appears we disagree.

Other points:

I don’t believe I doubted the effectiveness of the Confederate forces and their allies in any previous post, so yes to all that. The lack of follow-through after Grandson is just as characteristic as their excellent use of terrain or mettle, when face to face with the foe.

As to Germans, imperial army &c., I think I mentioned that on this occasion it appears to be clear that the impetus came from various cities of the empire and Frederick III was not the prime mover. And yes, such disparate elements are difficult to wrangle, hence his extraordinarily slow progress. No objection there.
Furthermore, there is the interesting episode after the battle in May, in which a largish group from the army decided, against explicit orders, to stage a night attack on the Burgundian camp, and were savaged, having run into Charles’ sentries and alerted the duke. The stragglers found their own camp closed to them, because of their headstrong attitude.

Not sure, how the above is applicable to Charles, who knew all these issues from personal experience and wanted to make the whole military machinery more nimble and responsive to his command and therefore tried to do away with the mediating layers like feudal hierarchy, or urban loyalty within his ordonnances (in this case not those for the companies).

Sure, gunpowder use in the field goes back quite a while, in Burgundy and elsewhere. In the 1382 campaign Philip the Bold already faced these weapons on the battlefield. His own artillery train mostly seems to have been used for sieges, AFAIK. His son had sufficiently mobile pieces available for use at Othée in 1408. By 1414 there is a first master of artillery for the duke’s arsenal.

Monique Sommé has calculated traveling distances for an artillery train to Calais in 1436, which come in between 12 & 20 km/day, so given that the roads were of a certain quality the guns could keep up with the army. The dukes had, of course, reinforced bridges &c. to cope with the heavy loads and to avoid damage/loss, or, for reasons of economy, sent the artillery to their destination on water (1/7th the cost of road transport, apparently). Do you have an idea how this compares to activities farther east?

Don’t think I disagreed that urban autonomy in France declined significantly, or that there were differences, generally, between regions. There was a decline in Flanders, too, but from a much greater height. Still, 15th century France was not yet an absolutist monarchy, right? That was my point, I think.
And the fact of the reduction of Paris, I believe, can’t be ignored, either. Charles VII waited a goodly while, after Paris had been retaken in 1436, to make his entry. Surely, he was concerned about the sentiments of the populace (who previously had deigned to suffer an 'occupation‘, which at times was no more than 300 English soldiers strong).
In a sense, we might say, the French king chose not to expose his person to that urban sphere, while the duke of Burgundy would.

Again, words like 'sovereign‘ or 'independent‘ carry certain meanings/have definitions for me, so I just can’t follow there, especially, when these cities had a habit of allying themselves with the king, their sovereign lord, against the duke, when rising up.

Since you rightly urge a return to topic: I think your reference to hunting &c. with regard to use of bows/crossbows & the connection to warfare is spot on.

Gunpowder is slightly different in that regard, I think. Exclusive to warfare at the time, yes? Potential was seen early, perhaps that is the reason it was appropriate by Charles’ time (at the latest) for knights (at least) to take positions like maître, as a recognition of its importance to the duke.
Depreter cautions, though, that much like in the more and more powerful bureaucracy, the high nobility remained aloof or even grew hostile. That’s why Waleran de Soissons is an exceptional figure among Charles’ masters. D. thinks his might have been a placeholder appointment, until something more appropriate came along (seems not to have had any special expertise in the field, was then moved to a regional office, where he had previous experience and local knowledge).

- Michael
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Pedro Paulo Gaião

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PostPosted: Sun 23 Jun, 2019 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
Thirdly, the restriction of the use of bows as weapons of war to the peasant class is not the foregone conclusion that most would assume today. At best, it probably applied only in certain areas, at certain times.
Counter-examples abound - for instance, King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway was supposed to have been a skillful archer, and used this skill in warfare around 1000 ad.
The "Kings Mirror" recommends the use of a horn bow or small crossbow from horseback by armoured nobles around the middle of the 13th century. 200 years later, there are illustrations of fully armoured germans using a crossbow from horseback in Talhoffer's fencing manuals from the 1450s.

I forgot in Charlemagne's army and during the Viking Age it was normal for a soldier or high ranking housecarl to have both bows and martial weapons. In any case, are you sure those german mounted crossbowmen are armed as men-at-arms? Because in late middle ages the Germans had men-at-arms, light cavalrymen and mounted crossbowmen.

Flanders was a prosperous area due to trade, with a wealthy middle-class. It is also the place where the Godentag was reputedly used by commoners to slaughter french knights at the Battle of the Golden Spurs...

Just an extra information: the "Goedendag" weapon (which was known assomething like "Plaston de Fer") was an guardsmen and milita weapon anyone could use in garrison service, but it was latter banished by the city councils for some reason (I guess it wasn't a proper weapon for war). "The Goedendag" thing was an episode after Courtrai in which the Dutch patriots went to people's houses in early morning, all saying "good day" to local families; those who answered in French accent were simply slaughtered. The association with the weapon was probably made to the fact it was a common weapon that could be transported throught houses and streets.

And there would have been some wealthier commoners who continued to use the bow. One of my ancestors was apparently an "armed archer" (i.e he could afford some sort of armour) in the service of the English king in Ireland, around the time of the 100 years war.

"Armed Archer" was a general rank in English's military or has exclusive to Irish context? (I know the irish were known for their constant lack of armor during 14th and 15 centuries)[/quote]

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Dan Howard

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PostPosted: Sun 23 Jun, 2019 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
I forgot in Charlemagne's army and during the Viking Age it was normal for a soldier or high ranking housecarl to have both bows and martial weapons.

Was it? We only have two Carolingian sources. Abbott Furad's letter mentions bows but the Capitulare missorum doesn't. It requires these men to possess horse, armour, shield, lance, sword, and shortsword. Nothing else. They were required to bring archers with them but not to have bows themselves.

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Jean Henri Chandler

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PostPosted: Wed 26 Jun, 2019 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well Michael I guess we can dispense with the parts of this where we do agree and focus on the remaining debate.

Aside from wanting to get along with the richest and most culturally significant parts of their domain, the Dukes of Burgundy, like most princes in Europe, became interested in the military culture of towns and even certain peasants because of the demonstrated utility of new forms of infantry warfare which came to the fore in the High to Late medieval period. We already mentioned Golden Spurs, and Morgarten, where we saw new types of heavy infantry prove themselves.

The various English victories at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt amply demonstrated the utility of the longbow, a weapon which had been around since Neolithic times but when concentrated and integrated into an early kind of combined-arms force, proved to be remarkably deadly.

But in Central and Northern Europe it was first the crossbow, and then the firearm which most captured the imagination of military leaders, initially due to their utility in sieges and later in the open field. Cannon of course followed a similar trajectory.

Crossbows go way back but their prominence bumped up substantially during the Crusades in the Levant, this is where "Genoese crossbowmen" - actually small numbers of Genoese urban militia who accompanied the ships that had been hired by the Crusaders, proved exceptionally useful in sieges in Syria and so on. The crossbow also proved to be of critical importance in the Northern Crusades and was one of the major advantages the Crusaders had over the pagan Baltic peoples, the other two being stone castles and cavalry.

So military leaders could ignore these new systems at their peril. The French tried to at first but suffered many brutal defeats. Then they tried to invent their own version with experiments like the Francs Archers, but the French princes were not willing to go along with the underlying social implications of armed and competent commoners in their own domain, at least not beyond a certain point. Those who grasped their significance and took full advantage reaped rewards, as we all know very clearly from the English example, but also in many lesser known conflicts throughout Central Europe.

The issue was that for a prince to take advantage of these new types of infantry, they had to kind of strike a deal with one of these independent or semi-autonomous estates. The English had their yeomen farmers and their gentry, who rose in status alongside their increasing importance in warfare. In Italy and Central Europe it was largely the urban militias and their elite shooting guilds which got the best mercenary contracts and were given the most respect by the princes who wanted to include them in their armies. It was always tricky though because the princes agenda and the towns agenda were rarely fully aligned.

In other words, from the princes point of view the new troop types could be extremely useful, and even make the difference between success and failure, but they had to be handled carefully and wouldn't always do what you wanted. This was the Late Medieval dilemma. Cavalry was effective but to win consistently you needed a combined-arms force.

The early gunpowder revolution
The Battle of Beverhoutsveld which I think you were alluding to was something I bring up sometimes as an early example of the dangerous innovation of the urban centers. The gist of that battle as I'm sure you know well was that the forces of the Count of Flanders were successfully ambushed by the Ghent militia using a large number, some say 300 some other sources say 200, but quite a few volley guns or "ribauldequin" as they are sometimes referred to. These are multi-barreled, small caliber weaons somewhat analogous to a medieval gatling gun. Volley guns were effective but they always had a kind of limited niche, and as effective as that one ambush was it did not win the war for Ghent and the loss is often blamed on the Bruges militia on the Counts side being drunk....

40 barrel volley gun on a wheeled mount, from a late 15th Century kriegsbuch (Bartholomaeus Freysleben) with ammunition box and horse tackle

This is a good demo of an accurately reconstructed volley gun

Cannon and firearms more generally had been used in sieges, and occasionally in ambushes like Beverhoutsveld at an increasing rate since the mid 14th century at least, probably earlier. One of the first documented uses of actual firearms (as opposed to some other types of gunpowder weapons) was by the Moors at a siege in Niebla in 1262. Before that the Mongols used some kind of gunpowder weapons at a key moment during the Battle of Mohi in 1241, but these may have been grenades or some kind of catapult projectiles.

The main limiting factor was the tricky nature of the use of black powder weapons. Most firearms and cannon did not have touch-holes until the later 14th Century, and the slow match wasn't widespread until the 15th. The powder was different and tended to separate out into it's component elements when shaken like in a saddle bag on horseback. Rapid improvements in firearm, cannon and black powder, for the latter especially crumbled and corned powder made with different grain sizes, for the former the touch-hole, serpentine lock, slow match and so on - set the groundwork to bring the weapon into mobile warfare.

The big first step for bringing cannon into the open field though was during the Hussite Wars. Again this wasn't a matter of new inventions but of kind of collecting old ones and using them to their fullest extent. The Czechs initially used wagons as cover for their crossbow, firearm and cannon armed infantry (mostly highly skilled urban militia from towns like Prague) who and these wagons were in turn protected by peasants with pikes, modified agricultural flails, two-handed morning stars, polearms and awl-pikes, all designed to defeat armor. as rapidly as possible.

Czech style military flails

The success of the Czech tactics were a big shock to Central Europe and a bit beyond. Almost every Kingdom and major polity in Europe, including the Burgundians either sent people or had volunteers join the Hussite Crusades and they experienced the repeated catastrophic defeats of the Crusaders at the hands of Czech heretics between 1420 and 1430. The last Crusade collapsed before even making contact, (according to legend and some credible accounts they were routed by hearing the Hussite War song Ktož jsú boží bojovníci (Ye Who Are Warriors of God), there was a growing supernatural awe of the Hussites due to their wild success rate. The Czechs offered peace conditions to their neighbors after the last debacle, but when these were refused they went on punative offensive operations called "beautiful rides" in which their columns of war-wagons were used in complex mobile warfare tactics, and were victorious across a wide area, marching all the way to the Baltic at one point. These highly successful and damaging raids ultimately led to pressure on the Vatican from the princes and the (begrudging) signing of the Basel Compacts in 1436, ending the wars.

Mid-15th Century Czech "pistala", hand-culverin. This originally had a 'serpentine' to hold the slow-match.

Early Czech military kit was very primitive but rapidly improved (largely with the help of urban artisans and University trained "natural philosophers" from the Charles university in Prague) over the first ten years of the war and continued to get better throughout the 15th Century (Hussite wars were resumed for a while in the 1460's-1470s when Mathias Corvinus opportunistically took up the challenge). They started fielding small wheeled cannon called houfnice, many of which were breach-loaders so they could shoot rapidly. They also put wheeled carriages on larger higher velocity weapons the Germans called 'feldschlange' or field serpent, as well as smaller bombards, and mounted some cannons directly on their war-wagons. You have probably seen a lot of these in images like from the Swiss Chronicles or the von Wolfegg housebook. They did also frequently put cannons on rafts and boats but I'll circle back to that.

German 'feldschlange'

The proliferation of Czech mercenaries across Europe from the early 1440's is rather astonishing. The radicals were defeated in battle by the (moderate Hussite) Prague militia, so many of them left Bohemia. Their early military successes against the Mongols and Ottomans led them to be highly in demand as mercenaries in the East (and their tactics closely studied and increasingly emulated by the early Zaparohzian Cossacks). They were hired by Janus Hunyadi who used them with success using columns of wagons offensively against the Ottomans (for example at Ialoimta river / Hermannstadt and Nish where he had 600 war-wagons), and then they became a key element in the "Black army" of his son Mathias Corvinus. But they were also all over the place in Central and Northern Europe from the 1440's through the early 16th Century. Nor were Church prelates loathe to hire them in spite of their ongoing heretical beliefs.

For example Archbishop Dietrich of Köln hired Hussite mercenaries in 1447 after the town of Soest declared a feud against him. They were hired by both sides in the "Saxon Fratricidal War of 1446-1451. They were used in the Landshut war of succession. The Archbishop of Trier hired them in his feud against Franz von Sickingen in 1523 and Casimir of Brandenburg hired them in the German peasants war in 1525. And so on. As with the Swiss a generation or two later, the Czechs could also be hired to teach their tricks, and everyone copied Czech military kit, the Swiss, the Poles, the Hungarians, and German princes and towns, even the Italians - and some improved on it. The major innovation of the Burgundians was basically incremental but still important, as in they just mounted larger cannons, medium sized and some large bombards, on wheeled carriages.

I would say though that the bulk of the 'gunpowder revolution' which took place in the 15th Century, at least as far as the use of gunpowder weapons in the open fields as distinct from sieges, was attributable to the Czechs, with most of the technical innovations originating specifically from Prague, and some of their larger urban neighbors like Krakow, Augsburg and especially Nuremberg. Nuremberg of course is also where the wheellock seems to have originated in the very early 16th Century,

Larger guns that could destroy castles in sieges were still in demand and were definitely floated on rivers. I read an article not too long ago discussing how this became a major advantage for the (still mostly pagan) Lithuanians in the late 14th Century in their wars against the Teutonic Knights. Most of the Teutonic Orders castles were downriver from the main Lithuanian citadels like Vilnius and Trakai Castle, and this allowed the Lithuanians to float their big guns downriver and begin to pound away at the German forts long before the Teutonic Knights could get their own guns into position. Similarly, Janos Hunyadi apparently had a fleet of river boats and rafts armed with cannon (probably mostly small swivel-mount and breach loaders, but also some bigger ones) which he used with great success against the Ottomans leading up to the siege of Belgrade. The cities of Danzig / Gdansk and Krakow fitted out armed boats with cannon during the 13 Years War and skirmished against the Teutonic Knights for hundreds of miles down the Vistula river bringing the wheat harvest to the Baltic.

You can get some insight into the use of guns and cannon on watercraft in some of the illustrated Swiss Chronicles. In particular the Old Zurich War (Alte Zürichkrieg) involved a lot of naval combat on Lake Zurich and some of the other lakes. It gives you some idea of the level of sophistication already at that point. But this goes back much earlier. The Hanseatic League also used floating batteries offensively, after being repulsed by Danish ones, in their second bombardment of Copenhagen in 1427-28

The Burgundians and French adopted the bigger guns on wheeled carriages, and took good advantage of new casting techniques to make the barrels, but many of their most early successes were against princely castles and / or towns that had already been conquered and cowed by somebody else. The series of innovations in fortification defenses, one version of which we now call 'trace Italienne" was quickly developed by the 'live' towns with some agility and that rapidly spread throughout Europe (again, not always in the same format). Many town fortifications remained impregnable through the 16th Century and even through the 30 Years War - in fact the towns which turtled up and refused to allow "allied" troops to garrison there actually made out best in the long run.

In my opinion, from the high medieval period through the first part of the Early Modern, many if not most of the most influential centers of military innovation were urban, and others from relatively autonomous peasant estates. Cannon masters were few enough in number that they could be hired away by princes and added to their army. But handgunners, crossbowmen, longbowmen and also pikemen and other heavy infantry, had to be given certain rights and dealt with according to their own perceptions of their own honor from the point of view of their estate. The new kind of infantry seen later in the 30 Years War and so on evolved along a circuitous path that arguably started with the Landsknechts, but in Charles the Bold's day this process was very much in it's early stages.

He tried to hold his army together in the style of an Absolute Monarch, i.e. from the top and through a rather brutal application of carrot and stick, but it didn't hold together under pressure. The Czechs and Swiss by contrast were held together through much more complex but also ultimately, much stronger horizontal connections between their own entities, from the bottom as it were, and in that time period this is what made a combined arms army functional.

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