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This blog presents my different wargames armies, after action reports, campaigns which I have run, some scenarios and a presentation of some of the different rules I play. The pages at the top of the blog contain historical information on the periods that interest me. They are an aid to my poor memory, and not in any way exhaustive nor necessarily correct. As I am an Englishman living in France, some pages are in English and others in French...sorry, I am too lazy to translate...

I hope this blog offers you much enjoyment and some inspiration !

mardi 21 août 2012

Burgundian 100YW (1400-1450)

This is the cream of the feudal knighthood of Burgundy. I have chosen to portray those knights who best represent different aspects of Burgundian history and culture.
The Duke's vassals, and their own vassals, all owed military service to their overlord. Feudal law had fixed this service at 30 or 40 days duration. It was paid only if the war took the noble out of his county. Senior figures were individually convoked by letter sealed by the Duke; lesser members of the host were convoked by town crier.

Whilst remaining the basis for recruitment even in the 15th century, this feudal law was adapted to the needs of the period. Instead of serving, nobles could pay a fine, and many were actively encouraged to do so. The money raised was then used to pay more military-minded nobles to serve longer and further afield, and to bring with them more substantial contingents from their own household.

Among these same knights are members of the Ducal household. The Duke of Burgundy, like his neighbour the king of France, conducted much of his government through his own personal household, the "Hotel", which could assemble as many as 1000 adult men.  Many members of the political elite were appointed to the household, with honorific domestic titles such as "Chamberlain", or "Keeper of the Wine".

Sharing the Duke's table and his leisure time, special or delicate missions could also be conferred on them by the Duke.
My chevaliers represent all these knights. They belong to the political elite, because they belong to the Burgundian military elite.
There are also Italian mercenary knights from Savoy, and Imperial knights hailing from the germanised parts of the County of Burgundy, used to fighting in regular order in Imperial retinues.

Foot knights
The Burgundians do not however have the same punch as the French. The idea of knighthood was already dying out in 1300, let alone in 1400. The jovenes (younger brothers of large noble families excluded from their father's inheritance), who in early Medieval society had formed an important pool of skilled knights, prefer at this date to seek fortune in a civil career.

On the other hand, the feudal pyramid is wider and deeper, and there is no longer intimate contact between the King and minor nobles. And far fewer noble families now have the wealth needed to maintain expensive warhorses and remounts, and men to care for them in peacetime and on the battlefield. Nor does the head of the family have the luxury to spend his time training for war.

Such knights are best deployed on foot. Indeed, on several occasions Picard archers refused to fight unless the Burgundian knights dismounted, to avoid them fleeing once the fighting started !

Mounted crossbowmen or Ecorcheurs
Military forces were not permanent in the Middle Ages, and the army was disbanded at the end of each war. Those for whom war had become a profession were left unemployed. If they banded together under a respected "captain", they could cause serious public disorder. The "Grand Companies" of the 1360s formed entire armies, and were able to ransom a Pope...
Such unemployed soldiers were still a major problem in the 15th century. They could even be used as a deliberate weapon of terror - they were released from service when the army was still camped on enemy lands, and left to ravage them.
These bands were known in France as "Ecorcheurs" (that is, 'skinners'), for it was said that they took everything from their victims. 
My mounted crossbowmen represent companies of such "ecorcheurs", reintegrated into the Burgundian army by contract with their captains. Most will have seen service with the English or the French king beforehand !

Picardy archers
In the average Burgundian army, 30 to 40% of the troops were raised in Picardy, for the men of this region were accustomed to bearing arms. These archers, who are the backbone of my Burgundian army, may be members of the retinues of nobles present amongst the knights.
The Duke of Burgundy also paid lump sums to private captains (often but not always nobles), who in turn raised and paid a fixed number of men (and made a profit from this activity). Or perhaps these Picards are simply volunteers, encouraged to join the army by the Duke's heralds, and their summoning of "all men accustomed to bear arms".

Medieval warfare promised a decent wage and plentiful plunder, and a farmer could make his fortune by capturing and ransoming a French or English noble.
The Picards are classed as medium infantry, but use a longbow which gives them a serious advantage on the battlefield, especially if they can adopt a defensive posture. They can also plant stakes (pieux) in front of their positions to protect themselves from frontal cavalry charges.

Flemish and Burgundian pike, crossbowmen and artillery
The first "communes" appeared during the 12th century, after having been granted special privileges by kings, which were confirmed by charter. In return, their king expected, amongst other things, military service. 
Two main forms of military service are described in town charters. The first is the mass levy, but, in the 15th century, this has become rare. Foot troops may have grown in importance in Late Medieval armies, so had the need for warriors of quality. The pikemen of my army nonetheless represent municipal levies, and carry the colours of Lille, Troyes and Besancon.
The other means for a town to acquit its military obligations was to furnish small contingents of well armed and trained soldiers. These were drawn from civic militia companies, or the town sergents responsable all year round for police - ie. military - duties. They were often trained to use a crossbow.
In my army, the wealthy towns of Flanders and Artois have provided numerous companies of this type to the Duke of Burgundy, as well as rare and precious artillery.

Levies (MI)
Poorly armed members of noble retinues, rebels and bandits belonging to less organised "ecorcheur" companies, or hangers-on prevalent in any army, these men will take flight if the enemy goes near them. Only the promise of loot retains them...

The Crusades were still very much alive at the Burgundian court, even in the late 15th century, and I have added purely decorative baggage to represent this.
John the Fearless took part in the disastrous battle of Nicopolis in 1396 (where he is supposed to have earned his nickname); Philip the Good sent a small fleet and a handful of men-at-arms to Cyprus in 1425 to fight the Mamluks, and another expedition to Rhodes in 1441 to combat the Turks. In 1454, Philip the Good, and many of the Burgundian noble elite with him, pronounced a famous vow, the "vow of the Pheasant", during a sumptuous dinner.
They promised to take part in a crusade to free the Holy Lands. Philip the Good seems to have been sincere - plans were drawn up for an expedition involving 12,000 men and 36 ships - but was ultimately discouraged from leaving by Louis XI of France.
The various marvels and curiousities of the Orient are presented here, both plunder and presents from Eastern kings. They are offered up to the admiration of the people and the townsfolk, whose taxes will finance any future military expedition...
The Count of Charolais - title borne by the Duke's son - leads a religious procession to watch a duel between Burgundian knights and a mean looking Turk. The strange beings taking part in the procession (thanks, Citadel's fantasy range !) are played not by actors or menials, but by high-ranking nobles, no doubt chanting religious verse as they advance.

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