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"How did a "Lance" fight? " Topic

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Comments or corrections?

SaxonOfSaxony22 Dec 2018 5:29 p.m. PST

I've come across this term quite frequently across the medieval period in reference to a group of men who are under the service of a man at arms. There's the French "Lances Fournies" also which as far as I can see means the same thing.

How did this group fight on the battlefield though? Or is it merely a logistical structure? Help appreciated!

Rakkasan22 Dec 2018 7:12 p.m. PST

It is a administrative structure and consisted of a mounted knight/man at arms and his retinue. While that retinue varied it seems to have usually consisted of the knight, a lighter horseman, at least one servant. It could also include the archers and foot soldiers that a knight was expected to bring to the fight as well.
They did not fight in a battle together. It would make for a good skirmish force. Something like a couple of lances going to join the King's forces are set upon by a force of brigands along the way or asked to defend a village from raiders for example.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2018 8:12 p.m. PST

…or have gathered at the knight's manor prior to a crusade, when a metal vessel arrives riding on a tongue of fire, and two "demons" emerge…
evil grin

dragon622 Dec 2018 8:24 p.m. PST

I like Poul Anderson's The High Crusade too

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2018 3:50 a.m. PST

Yep, Anderson's book still a fave after all these years.

T Labienus Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2018 4:47 a.m. PST

First, I will ask you to excuse me, because I am not fluent in English;

In 1445, Charles VII decides a reform in his army, it will no longer be formed "at the pleasure" of his vassals, but will incorporated 15 permanent companies of "100 lances".
In each lances, there is:
1 homme d'armes ou gendarme
1 page (non combattant)
1 coutilier
3 archers
At full strength, a lance is said: "lance complète" or "lance fournie".

The lance will evolve, and in 1526, (under François Ier) there is in lance :
1 homme d'armes
1 page (non combattant)
5 archers
1 valet d'armée ou « goujat » (non combattant)

Each man-at-arms has 4 horses: a "coursier" or battle horse that stays with the armor in his garrison town in peacetime, a "courtaud" for his movements, a "roussin" or "ronsin" for his valet and a "sommier" as a pack horse for the equipment.
Each archer has 2 smaller horses: Turkish, Vlach, Polish, Cossack or Spanish.

The French gendarmerie fights in "haies" or hedges and not in "hosts" or squadrons, that use the enemy cavalry; the first rank is composed of the men-at-arms mounted on their battle horse, ranged behind their "enseigne"; they ensure the shock on the adversary and are supported by their page (which does not take part in the fight).
Would the archers be interspersed in the first row, they would be tumbled during contact, because they are mounted on horses too small to withstand the shock of two gendarmeries dashing one over the other. They can form the following ranks, always placed behind their "guidon", supporting the first rank of men-at-arms, forming then "lances garnies". The archers are then ready to attack any opposing gendarme who, once the shock passed and the melee started, will cross to the rear of the first line; they can also position themselves on the flanks of the men-at-arms, to fight "in their own way"; or can still wait to launch a pursuit on an opponent broken by the shock, they start the pursuit and prevent rallying, they take the advantage on the men-at-arms embarrassed by their weight.
Archers can also start the skirmish with the opponents before the battle, in order to hinder its deployment and disrupt it; they are stored behind their "guidons", grouped in "bataillles".

I hope this will help.

T Labienus Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2018 4:58 a.m. PST

In this picture: "L'ordonnance des deux armées à la bataille de Dreux" in 1562, the french gendarmerie still use the charge in "haies", with 4 "batailles:
A – Les compagnies du Prince de Condé: 150 lances,
B – Les compagnies de l'Amiral de Coligny: 120 lances,
C – Les compagnies de Monsieur La Roche-Foucault: 80 lances,
D – Les compagnies des seigneurs de Mony et dAvarel: 60 lances.


SaxonOfSaxony23 Dec 2018 7:34 a.m. PST

Thanks so much for the responses gents, and thank you Labeinus for such a comprehensive answer!

One question however, the coutilier that is mentioned, the light cavalrymen, would he find himself in a group of others equipped in the same manner?

GurKhan23 Dec 2018 8:43 a.m. PST

There is one example (Vaughan mentions it in "Charles the Bold") of Burgundian coustilliers deploying as a second rank to their men-at-arms, but I am not sure how typical it is.

At are a couple of references to French coustilliers, one "skirmishing between the two companies".

T Labienus Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2018 8:53 a.m. PST

The coutilier marched on foot and conducted the baggage horse; in battle he was behind his gendarme, taking prisoner or killing with his "coutille" or knife, the enemy knight on the ground.
The page brought the battle-horse to the gendarme when he was going to battle, carried his lance and shield, in battle he stayed behind his gendarme in order to assist him and guarded his prisoners.
The archers were young gentlemen entering upon the military career, and aspiring to become men-at-arms.

T Labienus Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2018 9:02 a.m. PST

In 1444, Charles VII orders the gendarmes to have only one coutilier or one écuyer, we may think that by in this time, the two have identical duties.

SaxonOfSaxony24 Dec 2018 8:39 a.m. PST

The archers aspiring to become men at arms would be in their own units of archers though? Did the Lance move around together during a campaign? Would the man at arms have his archers, light cavalrymen etc with him at camp and on the move?

Puster25 Dec 2018 1:37 a.m. PST

Please remember that "archers" in this context usually did not fight with "bows" but as lighter armed horse. Afaik from around 1500 (after Genua) there is no report of "Archers" using bows (or crossbows), though the name stuck.

There is the difference between "Ordonnance Archers" (horse) and "French Archers", which where a type of (bow or shot armed) infantry.

Eureka made some fine Gensdarmes and Archers for the Italian wars that show a good example in the difference between the Gensdarme and Archer: link

SaxonOfSaxony25 Dec 2018 4:43 p.m. PST

That actually clears up a lot for me, thank you!

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