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"Conn Iggulden’s “Dunstable” use of cavalry" Topic

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Elenderil30 Mar 2018 2:49 a.m. PST

I'm currently reading this novel. Iggulden has Æthelstan leading a charge of 600 horse into the enemy lines at Brunanburh while Edward his brother leads a smaller hit and run cavalry attack into one flank.

The novel's historical notes state "Brunanburh is said to have involved a great cavalry charge by Æthelstan's forces". No source is given to back up this claim and I have read most of the primary sources. None of them mention this (in either the Anglo-Saxon sources Egil's saga or the Irish chronicles.). Anyone have any additional primary sources confirming a cavalry charge at Brunanburh?

Vigilant30 Mar 2018 4:34 a.m. PST

The link below has lots of sources and William of Malmesbury refers to both horse and foot in his description. I've not checked further but there may be more references in the other sources.


Elenderil30 Mar 2018 5:27 a.m. PST

I know that source but it places the Horse with Anlaf, probably Strathclyde or Scots horse, rather than with Æthelstan. We know the Anglo-Saxon Fyrd rode to battle but the usual tactic was to dismount and fight on foot. Horses were the means of closing quickly with the enemy with ‘Caesar Speed'. I'm aware of the mounted combat at Hereford and how poorly the English did on horseback there but nothing from other sources.

MajorB30 Mar 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

but the usual tactic was to dismount and fight on foot.

I suspect that is the source of Iggulden's confusion.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2018 9:10 a.m. PST

Can't say that I've heard of cavalry being used much in battle in this period.

Thinking of medieval illustrations and how everything was depicted in a contemporary setting, maybe William of Malmesbury was describing how a battle was fought in his day?

Elenderil30 Mar 2018 10:29 a.m. PST

That did cross my mind Cerdic. There some phrases in one translation about Aethelstan ‘spurring' his men on and ‘charging' the enemy. Which could it taken too literally make someone think it refers to cavalry I suppose.

GurKhan30 Mar 2018 2:29 p.m. PST

"Dunstan", not "Dunstable", I presume?

Michael Livingston's Brunanburh Casebook – link – translates every mediaeval source that mentions Brunanburh, 53 of them. I've just skimmed through it again and I can't find any hint of a cavalry charge.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine31 Mar 2018 1:43 a.m. PST

Isn't that the whole thing about the "dark ages" the sources are horribly vague. Wargamers would love a nice accurate breakdown of time, place, numbers and result with a nice Orbat to boot.

What you actually get is some sketchy description that speaks in broad heroic terms for a battle, pluck's seemingly improbable numbers out of the air and is usual written by someone with an agenda. Most of the sources are written by people who weren't there but got the story second hand and sometimes well after the event. As a result people will put all sorts of interpretations on them.

Elenderil31 Mar 2018 7:37 a.m. PST

Plus one for Gurkan it is indeed Dunstan.

Chinggis01 Apr 2018 6:35 a.m. PST

I noticed quite a few examples of Iggulden's use of peotic licence in his Mongol series. It is nothing new but unfortunately is the bane of readers who are aware that historical accuracy is being stomped all over in hobnail boots, all in the name of a 'good story'.

kabrank05 Apr 2018 2:45 a.m. PST

Is his War of the Roses series worth reading from a historical point of view?

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