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"Bishops at Agincourt / in the HYW?" Topic

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603 hits since 26 Dec 2018
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GrenadierAZ26 Dec 2018 9:28 a.m. PST

I'm looking at building a French army for the Hundred Years War, and keep running across flags and livery for bishops. It seems strange to me that a bishop would fight or have soldiers to send to war. Can anyone educate me?

Roderick Robertson Fezian26 Dec 2018 11:36 a.m. PST

Bishops are often Feudal landholders as well as Ecclesiastical bigwigs. They owe still owe Knight's service for all those manors people donated to the church.

Trierarch26 Dec 2018 11:49 a.m. PST

Keep in mind that a medieval bishop is a major landholder and any land (including church land) owes knight service to it's feudal overlord, so bishoprics, abbeys and monasteries would send knights. Most church lands included land held by secular knights who would provide that service, otherwise they could hire mercenary knights.

In addition a bishop is most likely a relative of the major nobility, so fighting bishops are not all that strange given their upbringing.


GurKhan26 Dec 2018 3:44 p.m. PST

The military role of the bishops starts in the Carolingian period, if not even earlier, when the bishops are responsible for providing troops on much the same terms as secular magnates, as wielders of delegated governmental authority in their dioceses. There was always a school of thought in the church that disapproved of bishops being present on the battlefield, but I'm not sure if anyone ever seriously doubted that they should be responsible for raising and financing troops.

In Germany and elsewhere, of course, some bishops were virtually independent rulers by the 13th century – less so in France, but they were still powerful magnates.

GrenadierAZ26 Dec 2018 4:02 p.m. PST

I guess that makes sense. It still seems strange, given the power struggles between monarchs and the church, and the ostensibly pacific nature of the clergy. For example, I know the inquisition in Spain executed no one itself--execution was left to the civil authorities after ecclesiastical investigation and trial. But my knowledge is obviously off. Thanks!

advocate27 Dec 2018 8:41 a.m. PST

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was William's brother and is prominent in the Tapestry he probably commissioned: he personifies the noble connection of many of the senior clergy.
Whilst there was an element of conflict – especially if the King needed cash in a hurry, and saw the Church as a target – the connections between the Church and State were extremely close throughout the period. An organisation that controlled up to a third of the land in a country is going to have responsibilities with regard to it's defence.
The Battle of the Standard – in which an English army raised largely by the clergy defeated the Scots. Some brief googling suggests that of the various archbishops of Sens, one was killed at Crecy, another was was captured at Poitiers; while a third was was killed at Agincourt.

Simon Chick Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Dec 2018 11:24 a.m. PST

For the French army at Agincourt – the soldier database has the most comprehensive list of those known to bone there – as casualties, prisoners or on muster rolls.

Quick look and I cannot see any clergy.

GrenadierAZ27 Dec 2018 1:18 p.m. PST

@Simon Chick: Thank you for linking me to that soldier list. I guess I've been relying on various free banner sites to "educate" me on who was/was not there.

advocate28 Dec 2018 7:54 a.m. PST

Simon, under 'Dead' the Archbishop of Sens is indeed listed. I couldn't find any other bishops, abbots or priests though.

Simon Chick Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Dec 2018 9:28 a.m. PST

Ah, well spotted – there's the answer then!

Winston Smith28 Dec 2018 12:23 p.m. PST

"The Fighting Bishops". That sounds like the name of the football team if a Catholic High School in the States. In my neck of the woods, they're all named after some Irishman or other.

But seriously, the Bishops and Abbots were powerful magnates in their own right. Very often in the Middle Ages there were disputes between the Emperor or King and the Papacy over who got to appoint them. Obviously with all the revenues and power tied to those lands, military power was needed also.
"Pacifist"? Right. grin

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2019 5:40 a.m. PST

On the English side, some lesser clergy are mentioned
See the entry under Edmund LAcy. HE was Dean of the royal chapel. With him were another 30 clerics. While they cold have been there to minister to the spiritual needs of the army, they were accompanied by 33 archers so may have been there to fight.

There were more bishops present at Crecy and this may reflect a gradual change in the role of fighting clergy. We have portrayals of, for instance, the Archbishop of Cologne not long before Crecy link
The scene is obviously idealised, but it shows that the idea of a bishop fighting hand to hand was an accepted one. The period leading up to this has many accounts of bishops not only commanding but fighting.
A hundred years after Agincourt, bishops could still be on the battlefield, but are more likely to be portrayed in their ecclesiatical garb see for instance Cardinal Cisneros at Oran in 1509.

One reason why the more powerful bishops needed fighting man at their command was to protect their interests against their own burghers. I can think of the bishops of Arezzo and Cologne who both had armed disputes against their own cities.

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