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"The estradiots in the French wars of religion." Topic

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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2019 3:49 a.m. PST

Hello All,

In the cavalry of the French wars of religion (FWOR), there are also the estradiots of Balkan origin also call "Corvats" (Croats) or "Albanians.

The term "estradiot" comes from the Greek stratisot, "soldier" or Italian strada, that is to say "way" because one of the functions of the stranger was that of scout.

Moreover, "estradiot" was sometimes deformed into "stradiot".

The etymology proposed by the current French language combines these two origins.

Philippe de Commines describes them as follows:

"The Estradiots are like the Janissaries: dressed, on foot and on horseback, like the Turks, except the head, where they do not wear this cloth which is called a turban; they are hard people, they sleep outside all year with their horses.

They were all Greeks from Venetian places, some from Naples to Romania, from Morea, others from Albania to Durazzo; and their horses are good, they are all Turkish horses. The Venetians use it very much, and trust it.

The estradiot usually wore a quilted kaftan, and the first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John to protect him more surely in combat.

Subsequently, this equipment was completed by the addition of the glove of mesh orin steel, the cuirass and the cabasset.

His typical headgear was the high-waisted felt, called "Albanoise". "

His defensive equipment still included a light shield, called "bohemian targe", of roughly rectangular shape and which was worn on the left shoulder, by means of a strap.

He covered the left side of the body roughly from shoulder to pelvis, and left his left hand free to hold the reins.

The bohemian targe had a notch, about the size of a tennis ball, in the upper left corner.

His armament consisted mainly of a light spear, measuring up to three meters long.

It was used not stuck under the arm as was the custom in Europe since the late Middle Ages, but "Eastern", that is to say, held at arm's length like a spear.

The notch of the bohemian targe did not serve, as has been claimed, to turn the spear, but to observe the enemy while protecting his face.

The equipment of the Estradiot still consisted, generally, of a scimitar.

The armament and equipment that I have just described to you was obviously that of the time of the first wars of Italy.

In fact, the estradiots were first used by Venice against the French, in the wars of Italy.

Later, Louis XII enrolled two thousand estradiots.

True "Cossacks" of the sixteenth century, these rude riders made a strong impression by their ardor in combat, their speed, their great efficiency as light cavalry; in a word, they were in the sixteenth century what the hussars will be in the seventeenth century.

Jean Marot said of them in the Voyage of Venice: "Go so stiff that it seems that storm carries them. "

However, the estradiots were totally exterminated at the battle of Coutras (1587), during the French wars of religion.

They belonged then to the catholic army of Henry III of France, commanded by the duke of Joyeuse.

It was beaten by the cuirassiers and light horse of Henry III of Navarre, the future Henry IV of France.

Agrippa d'Aubigné again used the word to describe the crew of Henry IV himself, in the maneuver that would trigger the battle of Fontaine-Francaise, June 5, 1595:

"the king, having with himself only forty Gentlemen and as many salads of the Baron de Lus, pass the water and, having sent the Marquis de Mirebeau at once to the war, set out on his steps to make the strutter, while his troops were lodged. "

The dress, the equipment and the armament of the estradiots of the French wars of religion were very different from that of the first wars of italy, one finds one illustrated page 41 of Volume 2 of the "Costume, the armor and the weapons at the time of chivalry, he remained a light lancer, and another page 28 – drawing "a"- of George Gush's book "Renaissance Armies 1480-1650", but also the dress has nothing to do with those of the wars of Italy …

Alas, worse still, according to Phil Barker and Richard Bodley Scott, the Albanians were also called argoulets although they no longer resemble the old stradiots and are equipped with arquebuses.

The argoulets – which adopted the arquebus in the 16th century – and which survived until Charles IX and still encountered during the first wars of religion were French dressed as European arquebusiers of the time not Albanians …
My question is please who would know where to find other illustrations of Stradiots in 1587 or later to know how they were dressed and armed during the FWOR ?

Thanks you,


Phillius Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Oct 2019 1:06 p.m. PST

I think, there are some line engravings in Oman, History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century, that may give you some indication.

Despite what Barker and Bodley-Scott say, Argoulet were not Stradiot or Albanian. Argoulet were part of the French army long before the FWOR.

You could try David Potter, Renaissance France at War, which covers up to 1560. Or, James B Wood, The Kings Army 1562-1576. Although I couldn't find any direct reference in the indexes.

If I remember correctly, the line drawings in Oman show Stradiot that look pretty much like much earlier Stradiot. But I can't find my copy at the moment.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2019 1:31 a.m. PST

I have the book of Oman, History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century,I've checked, there are no illustrations of Stradiots at any point in their history in this book.

I also think that the Argoulets were not Stradiot or Albanian and yes Argoulet were part of the French army long before the FWOR, first equipped with crossbows that they will replace with arquebuses.

I do not know David Potter, Renaissance France at War, which covers up to 1560, but I will not buy a non-specialized FWOR book to collect a miserable snippet of information on this question.

I own James B Wood's book, The Kings Army 1562-1576 and there is no question of Stradiots in this book, becausebecause this book goes until 1576.

For the France, we not hear about them after 1600 and alas in the stories on the battle of Coutras, their equipment is not described.

I found this but it does not much advance the case.


PDF link



With regard to French military history, Louis XII recruited some 2000 stradioti in 1497, two years after the battle of Fornovo. Among the French they were known as estradiots and argoulets.

The term "argoulet" is believed to come either from the Greek city of Argos, where many of argoulets come from (Pappas), or from the arcus (bow) and the arquebuse[Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue françoise, vol. 1].

For some authors argoulets and estradiots are synonymous but for others there are certain differences between them. G. Daniel, citing M. de Montgommeri, says that argoulets and estradiots have the same armoury except that the former wear a helmet [Daniel R.P.G. (1724) Histoire de la milice francoise, et des changemens qui s'y sont … , Amsterdam, vol. 1,
pp. 166-171.].

According to others "estradiots" were Albanian horsemen and "argoulets" were Greeks, while Croatians were called "Cravates" [ Virol M. (2007) Les oisivetes de monsieur de Vauban, edition integrale, Champ Vallon, Seyssel, p. 988,
footnote 3.].

The argoulets were armed with a sword, a mace (metal club) and a short arquebuse.

They continued to exist under Charles IX and are noted at the battle of Dreux (1562).

They were disbanded around 1600 [La Grand Encyclopedie, Eole-Fanucci, Paris (undated), vol. 16, article "Argoulet"].

The term "carabins" was also used in France as well as in Spain denoting cavalry and infantry units similar to estradiots and argoulets (Daniel G.)(Bonaparte N.[Bonaparte N. Études sur le passé et l'avenir de l'artillerie, Paris, 1846, vol. 1, p. 161]).

Units of Carabins seem to exist at least till early 18th c.[Boyer Abel (1710) The history of the reign of Queen Anne, year the eight, London, p. 86. A list of French
captured by the British at the battle of Tasnieres (1709) includes an officer of the "Royal Carabins"] Corps of light infantry mercenaries were periodically recruited from the Balkans or Italy mainly during the 15th-17th centuries.

In 1587, the Duchy of Lorraine recruited 500 Albanian cavalrymen, while from 1588 to 1591 five Albanian light cavalry captains were also recruited.[Monter 2007, p. 76.]

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Oct 2019 2:05 a.m. PST

Afaik the Albanian Stradiots were remnants of the Albanian state that resisted the Ottoman expansion for a quarter of a century. One of their staunches ally was Ferdinand of Naples, and when the ultimate defeat became clear many Albanians emigrated to Italy rather then live under Ottoman rule.
With much martial experience (and not much land or other business skills needed in Italy) they hired out as mercenaries, creating the light "Stradiot" cavalry as a known and valued mercenary type during the second half of the 15th century.

Well, it has been some time since I read into Albanian or Itlian mercenary history, so much of this may be a myth shrouded by wishful thinking :-)

olicana19 Oct 2019 4:11 a.m. PST

My understanding is that the name "Stradiot" became the term too describe many types of cavalry that used Albanian / Croatian Stradiot cavalry tactics. Consequently, many troops described as Stradiots might not have actually been so – they might be Venetian copies (Perry Miniatures have them in their range described as western Stradiots), or even French copies.

I have also heard the argument that, the reason bands of Archer cavalry (from the Lance organisation of men-at-arms), hived off into separate units, are rarely mentioned in accounts because they might actually be re-named as "Stradiots" – the term describing their battlefield function rather than their ethnicity. Certainly, the French (during the Italian Wars) were always short of true Stradiot light cavalry, so it would make sense to substitute them with fake copies to fulfill that battlefield role.

Therefore, in short, it would be my contention that not all Stradiots appearing in OOBs are actually ethnic Albanian Stradiots. The term "Stradiots" is merely the contemporary military shorthand for a type of light cavalry fighting in the fashion of Albanian Stradiots.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2019 5:46 a.m. PST

In 1587, the Duchy of Lorraine recruited 500 Albanian cavalrymen, while from 1588 to 1591 five Albanian light cavalry captains were also recruited.[Monter 2007, p. 76.].

These real Albanians were commanded by a certain Mercurio Bua, so I'm looking for biographies about this man.

Because if we found illustrations of the sixteenth century of this man in Coutras, then we would see how were his Light Albanian horsemen…

But beware of the sixteenth century there are two Mercurio Bua and the good is the one in Coutras …

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2019 7:28 a.m. PST

And after some other reading, it seems nevertheless that the last estradiots wore the cuirass and the cabasset to compensate for the inefficiency of the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint-Jean carried by the estradiots of the first wars of Italy …

If they wore a cuirass, it was under their long dresses or on it?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2019 3:38 a.m. PST

in the " Armies of the sixteenth Century "by Ian Heath There are two post-1550 estradiots, but they are described without helmets or cuirasses?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2019 12:44 a.m. PST

Last finds for the appearance of the last estradiots …

After Ian Heath in his titled book "Armies of the Sixteenth Century who is a Foundry books Publications.

Page 143,""Anecdotes in the sources indicate that they were unarmoured.

They are invariably referred to as lancers, their principal weapon being a light 12 ft lanza"(the lenght of which, as much as their lack of armour ,probably explains why Albanian horse seem to have been routinely bowled over by Anglo – Dutch lancers.

Their own particular version of the lance ,the assagai( sometimes referred to as 'lancegay', from the French l'archegaye) which had a blade at either end, may have retained in use until c.1590;however ,accounts of the Dutch Revolt never mention it,and it has to be supposed that, along with the notched shield they had once carried, it had by now virtally disappeared.

Secondary armament comprised a sabre and /or heavy mace.

By the 1590s some may also have begum to carry firearms; certainly in 1591 an Albanian officer is recorded as armed with a lance, sword and pistol,while at the battle of Turnhoult in 1597 another is found in command of a cornet of herreruelos which may therefore itelsf have been composed of Albanian.

The last estradiots would they become vulgar pistoliers?

MiniPigs23 Dec 2019 9:58 a.m. PST

That Ian Heath book "Armies of the Sixteenth Century" has gotten a little scarce and pricey. I wonder why Foundry dont reprint it?

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