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"English retinues in the 15th century - some facts" Topic

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Warspite117 Dec 2019 5:57 p.m. PST

There has been some lively discussions on TMP about the number of longbowmen in an English army. I have managed to dig out these figures.

The August 1400 campaign against Scotland included:
Beaufort, Earl of Somerset 39 men-at-arms (MAA), 160 archers
Thomas Beaufort ("minor knight") 5 MAA , 24 archers
Percy, Earl of Northumberland 320 MAA, 1,500 archers
Source: The House of Beaufort by Nathen Amen

Thomas Beaufort, now Earl of Dorset intercepted a French force and defeated it with 240 MAA and 1,200 archers.
Source: The House of Beaufort

Supplied to Earl of Dorset 1,000 bows, 2,000 arrow trusses, 100 crossbows + foodstuffs.
(some wargamers deny English use of crossbows in this period)
Source: The House of Beaufort

Thomas Beaufort Duke of Exeter 500 MAA and 1,500 archers
Source: The House of Beaufort

Edmund and Thomas Beaufort each appointed captains in the English army and each commanded 128 MAA and 460 archers.
Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury commanded 800 men in the same army.
Source: The House of Beaufort

Edmund Beaufort (calling himself Earl of Dorset) in France with 346 MAA and 1,350 archers.
Earldom was only actually confirmed in 1442
Source: The House of Beaufort

John Beaufort Earl of Somerset is indentured to cross the English Channel with 100 MAA and 2,000 archers.
Source: The House of Beaufort

John Beaufort, now Duke of Somerset, arrives at Portsmouth to cross the English Channel with 600 MAA and 3,949 archers.
Source: The House of Beaufort

Unspecified guns recorded by the Pastons when Lord Moleyns attacked their manor at Gresham, Norfolk, and evicted Lady Paston by force.

Walter Strickland, a Westmoreland squire, made an indenture with Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (uncle of the Kingmaker) -
bowmen horsed and harnessed 69
billmen horsed and harnessed 74
bowmen without horses 71
billmen without horses 76
Source: A history of the art of war in the Middle Ages volume two by Sir Charles Oman.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker, nephew of Salisbury) at the Great Council at Westminster 200 MAA and 400 archers in livery.
Source: Armies of the Middle Ages Vol 1 by Ian Heath.

Towton the one researched grave pit has turned up 40 to 41 bodies of which approximately 25% had the anatomical changes in their arms which have been found in X-rays of modern longbowmen. There are two possible reasons for this seemingly low figure.
1) Towton is noted as the largest battle in Britain and ranks may have been filled very quickly by billmen who require little or no training. Just give as many bills to as many men as possible and get them marching to the battlefield?
2) The Towton grave pit is more than half a mile from the main battle site and probably represents Lancastrian routers killed during the pursuit. Given that longbowmen are known to have been at the front of both armies at Towton, and given that these would have been among the first casualties during the firefight, it is logical to assume that a gravepit nearer to the battle site would probably yield a higher percentage of men with the 'longbowmen' anatomical changes. Until several pits have been researched we simply do not have enough information to draw more accurate conclusions.

A Paston letter refers to recruiting four soldiers skilled in handguns and crossbows to garrison Caister Castle in Norfolk. Longbows are not mentioned.

You will note that most figures (above) relate to the 100 Years War as we have better records. This is because state records of contracts between the Crown and various lords still survive. On the other hand few records for the so-called Wars of the Roses survive as most armies were thrown together quickly and disbanded equally quickly. Also these WOTR armies were fighting for love of their lord and not pay, so there are no wage bills or accounts. The 1452 indenture is a promise rather than an actual OOB, but it suggests that 50/50 may have been regarded as ideal OR that there were insufficient longbowmen for a civil war and billmen had to be substituted to make up the numbers (see also my comments on 1461). It is easier to become a billman than the seven to 10 years of hard practice which good longbowmen require.

There are another set of figures for Edward IV's 1475 campaign into France which ended with him being bought off by the French. That army shows a 1:10 ratio of MAA to bow but some doubt has been thrown on those figures as it is known that a couple of thousand bills were ordered and stockpiled. Discussion in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society suggested that the 1475 figures were based on wages paid and that troops were paid on just two grades, MAA or bowman. A man paid as such may not be equipped as such.
It is also noted in records and mentioned by Heath and others that the number of men responding to calls for troops from the towns fell during the WOTR suggesting either a war-weariness or losses among longbowmen. While 10:1 might be possible against France or Burgundy, this national resource would be split roughly in half during the WOTR.

By the reign of Henry VIII to ratio of bills to longbow was down to 60:40 in traditionally armed units while other more modern units now employed pike and arquebus. This suggests a sharp drop in the number of longbowmen.


Warspite117 Dec 2019 6:14 p.m. PST

And if anyone else has any reliable figures for English units in the 15th century would they care to add them to this thread?

Who: troop types and numbers.

Thank you! :)

mghFond17 Dec 2019 8:50 p.m. PST

Im no expert so have nothing to add but interesting numbers and also the mention of crossbows.

Green Tiger18 Dec 2019 1:05 a.m. PST

Thanks Barry – that is very interesting.

advocate18 Dec 2019 3:19 a.m. PST

You also have to bear in mind that all men had to at least practise with the bow, and would mostly be doing physical work anyway (if not full time soldiers) so the bone-warping might not be as clear a marker as we'd hope.

A good start though, and certainly highlights the problems; I'll see if I can come up with anything.

Warspite118 Dec 2019 3:30 a.m. PST

Men were SUPPOSED to practice with the bow. However the Bridport and Oxfordshire muster rolls, which survive, show bow ownership to be around 50% while various English kings enacted and repeated harsh laws to ban football, board games and other sports which suggests that there was a perceived shortage of longbowmen throughout this period. From memory, some people at Bridport had arrows but no bow. I will make an analysis of the Bridport and Oxfordshire muster rolls a subject for a separate post but be aware that these muster rolls really relate to what we call 'shire levy' troops. It appears (and I hate that word) that the troops being counted were just ones who were not indentured and would have been available to be called out under a Commission of Array by the king. It therefore is to be assumed (another word that I hate) that already indentured tenants were not being counted.

I am going to keep a master list running and add more entries but, only this morning, I found Edward IV ordering bow staves, arrows, CROSSBOWS and bolts for his abortive 1469 campaign as well as, separately, Edward ordering Coventry to provide 100 longbowmen but somewhere as large as Coventry could only find 82 men to fill the ranks.
(Source: The Battle of Edgecote 1469 by Graham Evans)


Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP18 Dec 2019 3:37 a.m. PST

Is it possible that the official state contracts for the HYW distinguish between MAA and "archers" as a matter of class (and pay), rather than strictly by function? In other words, perhaps a portion of those referred to as "archers" were actually billmen or other combatants?

Warspite118 Dec 2019 3:52 a.m. PST

That is exactly what I meant and what the Hobilar discussion which I referred-to was about.

The spare bills stockpiled at Calais for the 1475 campaign suggest that some of the 'bows' were really billmen, as bowman substitutes, while the MAA pay grade might also include master gunners, surgeons, armourers and anyone else who was valued but who would not turn up for just a bowman's wage.

However the distinction should be made that the 1475 campaign was a paid army serving abroad, in France, with the lure of a cash salary plus loot, while a Wars of the Roses army was unpaid and served for the love of the local lord plus the prospect of defending your local area from an enemy army. In the second case looting was not encouraged but the purses of dead soldiers have a cash appeal!

In the case of a foreign campaign the king can probably pick the best and leave the rest; in the case of a WOTR campaign the commander would have to take what he could get or those he could compel to turn up. It is known that Highland clan chiefs in the 17th and 18th century campaigns could compel back rankers (the 'humblies') to turn out by force including the threat of burning their cottages if they would not fight. I am quite sure that similar tactics may have been used in earlier centuries to get reluctant tenants of any land owner to meet their military obligations.


Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Dec 2019 5:43 a.m. PST

@Warspite1 The size and mix of retinues is a real problem. It is difficult to square the number of men raised as archers, with the number of spears held in the Royal Armouries. Who was using all these spears??? Your suggestion on Towton as being packed with poorly trained men to explain the grave pit disparity is an interesting one. I struggle very much with Towton being the biggest battle in England. You're working your way through the Edgcote book and it is something I had a real problem with. My feeling is more the other way, – that the armies are smaller and more of a hard core. possibly less than 10,000 a side. If nearly 30,000 died where are all the bodies?

Warspite118 Dec 2019 6:13 a.m. PST

The missing bodies at Towton are a puzzle. My ex-girlfriend was a forensic anthropologist and we once came up with an alarming quantity for the amount of sheer bone mass you would have to dispose of with the higher (supposed) casualty figures.
Latest theories are that there are grave pits near the front rank of the protracted melee which are now buried deeper than the one shallow pit found, and excavated, half a mile away. Another theory is that many bodies were scattered for miles north and west in the rout phase but also down into the Cock Beck river where they would have been swept away. But I agree, the quoted numbers all seem too high.

Another factor worth considering is that the battle was fought in snow and in a blizzard – which may have increased the casualty rates due to the near impossibility of surviving wounded while lying in snow and ice.
Swiss re-enactor experience is that even marching in the snow in plate armour is difficult as the cold steel draws the body heat out. Wounded, bleeding and lying down in snow is a recipe for hypothermia. And a very high butchers' bill.
It should be noted that Cardinal Mancini said that the English considered their linen-stuffed jacks 'more serviceable in winter' than iron. At least the thing is keeping you warm!


Warspite118 Dec 2019 6:25 a.m. PST

I can't slot these new entries into the original list but these are all new and have come up just today:

Also 1400:
King Henry IV purchased 24 'quarrel gunnes'. These are bolt-firing firearms.
Source: Armies of the Middle Ages Vol 1 by Ian Heath.

England had been using firearms since the early 14th century. Castles such as Cooling, Bodiam and the West Gate at Canterbury were incorporating 'upside down keyhole' gun loops into their designs since the early 1380s. Also in the 1380s Norwich replaced its spring-loaded weapons with guns on the city wall and then built the Cow Tower, solely for artillery defence, in the late 1390s. This Cow Tower is probably the world's first pillbox and still exists.

My photos of Cow Tower: link

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick 500 Burgundian hand gunners at Second Battle of St.Albans. 18 of them were reportedly killed by their own exploding weapons.
Source: Armies of the Middle Ages Vol 1 by Ian Heath.
[note: two burst brass hand guns have now been found by metal detectors at Towton. These fragments may belong to the same unit of hand gunners and thus prove the exploding guns story is true].
Source: archaeological report of metal detecting.

Edward IV 20 June,1469 he ordered 1000 sets of livery, appointed someone to work on the Royal Artillery train and ordered CROSSBOWS, bow-staves and strings, BOLTS, arrows, hammers and other necessaries, plus horses. At the same time he ordered Coventry to provide 100 archers but the Coventry Leet Book says they were only able to find 82.
Source: the Battle of Edgcote 1469 by Graham Evans.

Edward IV landed at Ravenspur with 300 Flemish hand gunners supplied by Charles the Bold of Burgundy. This low figure may be an error as a few weeks later he marched into London led by 500 'smokie gunners' a reference to their lengths of smouldering slow match. This would have been a novelty to English eyes.
Source: Armies of the Middle Ages Vol 1 by Ian Heath.

I will keep a master list and update that weekly and perhaps post a fresh copy to TMP in about a month.

Further entries are welcome from TMP members, I view this as a collaborative exercise.


Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Dec 2019 7:00 a.m. PST

Thanks Barry, this is a really interesting and useful thread.

Warspite118 Dec 2019 7:10 a.m. PST

You are more than welcome.
As they say, watch this space!


Charlie18 Dec 2019 10:11 a.m. PST

Very interesting, good work.

In regards to stockpiling bills for Edward IV's French campaign…. Perhaps these were supplied for the use of 'archers', even if that term does refer to bow-armed men. As in, the bills would be in the baggage train. The archers would have brought their own bows, and would be expecting to use them…. But at some point on the campaign they very well may be handed a bill and ordered to use it, thus becoming 'billmen' for a time. I can imagine if on garrison duty, having some polearms to hand could be useful if the enemy are attempting to scale the walls!

Also, just to nitpick, I noticed you referred to the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick as uncle and nephew. But they were father and son, right?

Charlie18 Dec 2019 10:14 a.m. PST

Oh yeah, and is the House of Beaufort book a good read then? I was thinking about getting it.

Bede1900218 Dec 2019 10:39 a.m. PST

The were the cross bows intended for siege use? The Paston letter says that and it makes sense

Warspite118 Dec 2019 12:55 p.m. PST

As you can see I have strip-mined the book for the essential information. As a good cheap (3) background read on the late 100 Years War and the early and middle phases of the WOTR it is excellent. You won't find much about Bosworth in it as the Dukes of Somerset were all dead by then. However Henry Tudor was their descendent as his mother was a Beaufort.
I can also recommend:
The Medieval Soldier In The Wars Of The Roses by Andrew Boardman and Richard Duke of York 'King By Right' by Matthew Lewis. Boardman's book on Towton is also very good.

And yes… your nit-pick is quite correct, father and son! If you think that was dumb of me just try picking your way through all the Beauforts! smiles

@Neli Creoruska:
Probably a siege weapon.
Having said that in any war, old or unlikely weapons get pressed into use. You fight with what you have. I have seen film footage of German civilians (Volkssturm) marching into action in Berlin in March/April 1945 armed with captured WW1 British Lewis guns. They were fighting with what they had.
By reputation Lord Dacre was killed at the Battle of Towton by a crossbow bolt.
The crossbow was a good siege weapon but many nations still used it in the field including the Swiss, the Burgundians and the Italians. And England and Burgundy did look to each other for ideas. So I do not rule out a few English crossbowmen on the battlefield and probably more Burgundian crossbowmen mixed into handgun units.

A big heavy steel-bowed arbalest was a slow-firing beast with a hell of a range. In the 19th century the Marquis of Anglesey owned a 15th century arbalest with a measured pull of a quarter of a ton. It was test-fired next to the Menai Straits bridge at Anglesey. The bolt was found embedded in rock on the other side of the Straits at a range of about 500/520 yards. The bolt was quite dry and it had not touched the water. It would not out-shoot a longbow but it could sure out-range it!

French Wargame Holidays18 Dec 2019 2:41 p.m. PST

Great post Barry, keep up the good work

Warspite118 Dec 2019 6:43 p.m. PST

Thank you!

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Dec 2019 1:57 a.m. PST

@Charlie: The Beaufort book is good for what it does.Worth £3.00 GBPFor Bosworth, Mike Ingram's new book is the state of the art position, with excellent info on the armies, both specific and general.

@Warspite1: If we are nitpicking, then what you have quoted are references, not sources (even in the case of my own book). My big problem with a lot of books and facts wargamers quote is that they are un-footnoted and can't be checked (I blame Oman, myself). I found, as you will know from the Edgcote book, that when you check references back to original sources they don't always say what you think they should. I love Ian Heath's books and also Ospreys, but you are always flirting with the possibility of error as you can't check what has been written.

Warspite119 Dec 2019 3:19 a.m. PST

Agreed. But I have my limits (time, location and disability) and I mostly lack access to the original sources. My best option is to quote the references and let readers either judge for themselves or follow-up to the source themselves.


With regard to Mike Ingrams' book (by which you I think you mean Bosworth 1485 published by History Press in 2012) I found that a far less satisfactory volume.
Mike has come up with a peculiar alignment of the battle with Henry deployed south of Ferry Lane but facing north west-ish (if I read it right) with William Stanley up on Crown Hill.
Given that this was published in 2012 while the detailed and authoritative Glenn Foard and Anne Curry archaeological report placing most of the debris NORTH of Ferry Lane was only published in 2013 I think Ingrams has been somewhat overtaken by events.

Metal detecting suggests that Henry's army had marched along Ferry Lane and then deployed on the north side of the lane facing roughly north-east and towards Ambion Hill, now regarded as Richard's camp site but not the site of the actual battle. It appears (from the scatter of recovered objects) that the losers' rout then went north-east (back to camp) to east with Norfolk being killed near the windmill which once stood along the eastern part of the route. This would be logical.

Having trodden the ground twice this year myself, Richard camping on Ambion Hill is entirely logical as, even now, it offers excellent views in all directions. A paranoid and suspicious monarch could see anyone approaching his camp from virtually any direction.
Henry deploying to the south of Ferry Lane looks anything from 'unlikely' to 'implausible' while a deployment north of the Ferry Lane allows Henry to face Richard as well as gaining slight advantages of ground on this side. Very slight. It also leaves Ferry Lane behind Henry and thus gives him a straight route to flee down if the battle went wrong. My view is that Henry was cautious and would have had one eye on an escape route. The Ingrams' deployment makes that escape route difficult,


For Bosworth sources I must defer to Foard and Curry (Bosworth 1485 a battlefield rediscovered). Expensive in hardback but worth it!


Warspite119 Dec 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

As a footnote on the Ingrams' alignment theory, it should be noted that most WOTR battles appear to have been fought at roughly 90 degrees to the main road or approach road.

This holds good at Barnet, Empingham (the Great North Road/A1), Mortimers Cross (depending on which road you think the Lancastrians came up) and Towton. This means that the armies can deploy either side of the road and each can have a clear escape route to the rear, if things go wrong.

It does not hold good at either St. Albans, Wakefield or Northampton, which were attacks upon defended positions, but it could be argued that the Yorkist deployment at Tewkesbury followed this 'rule' as they deployed at 90 deg to their approach road but the Lancastrians were backed up against the town and abbey. You could even argue that the Yorkists at Northampton deployed at 90 deg to their approach road as well.

Based on this view I think that Henry's deployment was at 80 to 90 deg (approx) to Ferry Lane and not along it. 80 deg leaves him facing Ambion Hill and he has his escape route straight back behind him.


Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Dec 2019 4:02 a.m. PST

@Warspite1: No. I mean his book published this year by Helion "Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth". I find his interpretation of the Foard/Curry evidence more convincing than their own. Especially the positioning of the artillery.

It isn't the alignment of the road that is important; it is the direction of the ridge and furrow. Armies fight down the ridge and furrow, not across it, which happens if you go at 90 degrees to the road.

Warspite119 Dec 2019 4:34 a.m. PST

I shall have to try and catch up with that one!

dapeters19 Dec 2019 10:04 a.m. PST

Good work Barry!

Warspite119 Dec 2019 11:12 a.m. PST

Thank you!

Repeating my appeal, does anyone else have a valid English unit which could be added to this list?

Who: troop types and numbers.


Yesthatphil19 Dec 2019 1:15 p.m. PST

Great thread, Warspite1 …

A correction, however, to your point

the detailed and authoritative Glenn Foard and Anne Curry archaeological report placing most of the debris NORTH of Ferry Lane was only published in 2013

… the shot finds (i.e. the absolutely military finds which identify the battlefield) are spread almost evenly either side of Fenn Lanes and are distributed about as far either side (see, as well as Foard and Curry as cited, Glenn's report in the CBA publication 'The archaeology of English Battlefields' 2012) – the evidence does not support the battle being North of the road.

Mike had ben given sight of all of the archaeological evidence (which is how he was able to identify the location correctly). Foard and Ingram differ only in orientation not location.

Metal detecting suggests that Henry's army had marched along Ferry Lane and then deployed on the north side of the lane facing roughly north-east and towards Ambion Hill, now regarded as Richard's camp site but not the site of the actual battle

There is no metal detecting suggestion that Henry's army had marched along Fenn Lanes and then deployed on the North side of the road (indeed it would be hard to imagine how metal detecting could tell us such things): it cannot be stressed to strongly that with the exception of something like the boar badge found near where we think Richard met his end, recovered battlefield materials from this period emphatically *do not* tell us which side dropped/used/shot them or which direction men were facing/moving when losing/dropping/shooting them.

There is no evidence anyone camped on Ambion Hill.

It is near certain that Henry deployed South of the road – I'm with Mike Ingram in believing he faced more or less North ('with the sun on his back') rather than straddled across the road, and attacked along the nap of the ploughed fields as Trebian points out.


dapeters20 Dec 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

Has/had an article on the ethic composition of some retinues and the English armies in the hundred years war. IIRC their was a discussion of what constituted an Archer. In that Archers were not limited to bowmen.

Warspite121 Dec 2019 3:21 p.m. PST

My apologies, I said the shot finds when I should have said ALL the finds. Having said that, the pattern of the recorded finds are rather like an ink-blot test, with the eye of faith you can see whatever you want. You see A, I see B you could be right! :)

As an unbiased observer, and taking the few documentary and ballad sources into account as well (such as the death of Norfolk near the windmill) I see a battle which fits Foard's version much better than Ingrams'.

Having said that, Bosworth has always been a disputed battle due to the contradictions or absence of evidence. The archaeological effort has managed to bring at least some of the battle into focus.


Warspite103 Jan 2020 4:55 p.m. PST

More for the growing master list, this time from Andrew Boardman:

the Ewelme (Oxfordshire) muster role for Commissions of Array (levy troops)
Among the 17 villages, Ewelme itself could produce only six men:
Richard Slythurst harness (armour) and able to do service with a bow
Thomas Staunton (the Constable) and John Holme whole harness and both able to do service with a bill
John Tanner harness and able to do service with a bill
John Pallying a harness and not able to wear it (either it was broken or he was)
Roger Smith no harness, an able man and good archer
So that is two longbow and four billmen.
Boardman notes that for the 17 villages noted, 85 soldiers were available of whom only 17 were archers. While Ewelme in sleepy Oxfordshire (far from French coastal raids or the Scottish border) may have been deficient in arms this… "undermines the popular perception of a nation of archers…" says Boardman.
Boardman also notes that the 1457 Bridport muster roll of a coastal town, in Dorset, produced 73% longbowmen but only half the expected muster actually turned up.
Source: The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses by Andrew Boardman.

The Tewkesbury campaign. Andrew Boardman quotes King Edward IV paying 3,436 archers out of a total force of 6,000 men which Boardman says: "suggests a more equal balance between archers and billmen in this particular period…"
He also quotes the Walter Strickland indenture (see main list).
Source: The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses by Andrew Boardman.

King Edward IV's expedition to France
Lord Hastings 40 lances, 300 archers
Sir Ralph Hastings (a brother) 8 lances, 100 archers
Lord Grey of Codnor 10 lances, 155 archers
Sir Robert Tailboys 12 lances, 80 archers
Sir William Trussell 6 lances, 60 archers
Sir Nicholas Langford 8 lances, 60 archers
Sir Simon Mountfort 5 spears, 60 archers
Boardman says that lance may mean a man-at-arms and a squire in this context, 'spear' may indicate a single MAA.
Source: The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses by Andrew Boardman.

At the death of John De Vere, Earl of Oxford, the inventory of his armoury was as follows:
175 sallets (helmets)
101 brigandines (flexible border armour similar to a modern flak jacket)
77 pairs of splints (leg harness)
16 corsets
84 pairs of mail gussets
18 gorgets (throat plates)
24 aprons of mail
120 halberds
140 bills
120 bows
Boardman says this list… "gives us some indication of the equipment that was available in a leading noble's stockpile" and also indicates how many people he might be able to arm quickly.
Note that pole arms well outnumber bows and that Swiss-style halberds have now started to appear, probably since the 1470s.
However it should also be pointed out that other soldiers may come in with their own bows, other weapons and their own armour. The inventory may merely represent unissued spares or 'loaner' equipment such as we see being distributed to the Riders of Rohan prior to the Helm's Deep battle.
Source: The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses by Andrew Boardman.

Warspite104 Jan 2020 4:20 a.m. PST

Henry VII's army at Nottingham prior to the battle of Stoke Field. The historian Leland (in his Collectanea) says the King set: "his folks in array of batell, that is to say a bow and a bill at his bak".
This is the much-quoted statement which is taken to mean that archers opened the battle with the billmen BEHIND them and in roughly equal numbers. Unfortunately Leland was a historian and not a soldier and tosses this nugget of information to his readers as if it was standard knowledge.

Found in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society, issue 7.


ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa04 Jan 2020 8:45 a.m. PST

A little early may be for this discussion, but the best I can throw into the mix is:
The Last Medieval Summons of the English Feudal Levy, 13 June 1385
Author(s): N. B. Lewis Source: The English Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 286 (Jan., 1958), pp. 1-26
Stable URL:
It has well over a hundred entries for leaders and their contingents – broken down as bannerets, knights, squires and archers. So little long to transcribe here! I think you can join JSTOR as a member of the public and get free access to some content… Can't promise this is amongst it as I downloaded this in 2011! If there's enough interest I'll see if I can capture images of the relevant pages and put them on Flikr.

Of possible interest are some numbers plucked from a PhD thesis on the Tower of London armoury inventory for circa 1405
842 white bows;
150 crossbows;
138 long war lances;
4,420 short lances, darts
266 poleaxes
82 swords
PDF link

Warspite104 Jan 2020 4:26 p.m. PST

@ Rou etc
Thank you!

Warspite114 Jan 2020 3:50 p.m. PST

A new one has come to light.

1461 William Grey, the Bishop of Ely, recruited 35 Burgundian crossbowmen and gunners to help defend the Isle of Ely and Wisbech Castle against the Lancastrians. He also called in men from his estates in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to assist.


Warspite115 Jan 2020 7:10 a.m. PST

And more new stuff…

March 1405:
Henry IV musters 144 MAA, 720 archers in his own company to campaign in South Wales for one year.
Henry Prince of Wales was ordered to serve with 500 MAA and 2,500 archers for two months but afterwards to continue with 500 MAA and 600 archers as the King's Lieutenant in North Wales.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

October 1405:
Sir Richard Grey of Codnor, Justice of South Wales and King's Chamberlain ordered to muster 200 MAA and 600 archers.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

August 1406:
Sir Stephen Lord Scrope of Masham to take 50 MAA and 300 archers to Ireland.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

November 1406:
Sir Thomas Pykworth of Lincoln to take 400 MAA and 600 archers to Calais for 40 days to serve as Lieutenant of Calais.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

In a private dispute Sir Walter Tailboys is reported to have led 160 armed horsemen to the City of Lincoln to attack Sir Thomas Chaworth.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

January the count of Armagnac led 2,000 MAA and 1,000 archers to serve the King of France. At the same time the city of Rouen, then French-held sent 600 MAA equipped by the city together with the local company of 50 arbalesters (crossbowmen) and 8 wagons of provisions to serve the King of France.
Source: Thomas Coveney writing in Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society.

January 1454:
Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, has 2,000 'Stafford Knot' badges manufactured. If issued at the rate of one badge per man this suggests he planned to raise 2,000 men.
Source: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram.

The Earl of Salisbury brought 500 mounted retainers to London.
Source: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram.

May 7, 1459:
Queen Margaret orders 3,000 bow staves and sheaves of arrows to equip that many archers.
Source: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram

Yorkist raid on Sandwich led by Sir John Wenlock and John Dynham. Port captured and several men taken prisoner. Few recorded casualties "although at some point during the fighting Dynham received a gunshot wound to the leg…" says Mike Ingram. If this is true then it is further indication of handgun use in England. It also means Dynham may be the FIRST recorded gunshot victim in Britain.
Source: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram.

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, raised more than 700 armed retainers from 44 different manors.
Source: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram.

Warspite126 Jan 2020 12:33 p.m. PST

I am still looking for more entries for this subject.

I have amassed a 'master list' and will post that in about a month. If you have any to add here the book is still open. In time I would like this to become the TMP 'go to' unit resource for the 15th century. I have also picked out mentions of guns and crossbows in England to get a fuller picture of English weapons use.

I have also added one French unit to the master list and would welcome more 15th century French entries. French retinues or town militias.

The Burgundians and Swiss appear to be well covered already in other sources so I am leaving them out.


uglyfatbloke27 Jan 2020 1:09 a.m. PST

The shortage of cadavers from medieval battles in general is a remarkable thing – I'm inclined to think that where possible the dead were just hoicked into the nearest river and left to drift away. Not so much 'the river ran red with blood', more just 'the river ran full of dead'. I'm a Scottish medievalist, not an English one, so a lot of this is terra incognita to me. It's been a very interesting discussions here- I'm obliged to you all.

French Wargame Holidays27 Jan 2020 1:37 a.m. PST

Thank you Barry for all of your work, I will go through my French documents to see what I come up with for Brittany, Normandy and Anjou-Maine retinue lists.


Warspite127 Jan 2020 11:01 a.m. PST

Thank you for that.


ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa29 Jan 2020 12:15 p.m. PST

A little tangential but maybe useful context I've just happened across. The Black Book of Edward IV (1478 if I've got it right) gives a guide to the maximum number of retainers a particular rank of noble is supposed to have – a sort of private army sumptuary law!
King 600
Duke 240
Marquis 200
Earl 140
Viscount 80
Baron 40
Knight 16

Warspite129 Jan 2020 12:43 p.m. PST

@ROU etc:
These were strictly theoretical and (I think) strictly peacetime.

For example the Earl of Warwick was one of the richest men in England and could field many times his theoretical 140. He managed 600 for a trip to Parliament in 1458 (see first entry).

Sir William Stanley (a knight or baron) is believed to have led 2000 to 4000 at Bosworth while I have seen a figure for Sir Thomas Stanley at around 6,000. Sir Thomas only made Earl after Bosworth but he was also the 'last king of Man' as well.

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa29 Jan 2020 2:13 p.m. PST

The secondary source I culled them from described them as 'guidelines' and therefore not 'statute'. Given sumptuary laws were often not adhered to I can't see these guidelines being kept except as a result of financial pressures – especially during a period of politically instability. But I assume that the numbers represent some form of balance between what was acceptable, in the eyes of the king, in terms of personal military force, the requirement for the nobility to support armed men who could respond to a military crisis, and possibly the social expectations of what a person of ranks household size should look like.

I would also judge strictly peace time though and there's also the issue of higher nobility having vassals who had rights to their own retinues…

dapeters30 Jan 2020 9:26 a.m. PST

yes if one is the king with two dukes under him that would make him weaker then those same dukes by a half. maybe they were just counting nights and maybe men at arms

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa30 Jan 2020 10:26 a.m. PST

Don't think this is a repeat….
Selection of contingents from the retinue of Henry V in 1415 (British Library MS Sloane 6400) – found in Osprey English Medieval Knight 1400-1500
John Irby, Esq – single MAA and 2 foot archers
Sir John Greseley – 2 MAA and 6 foot archers
Sir Thomas Tunstall – 6 MAA and 18 mounted archers
Thomas, Earl of Salisbury – 40 MAA (3 knights and 36 esquires) and 80 mounted archers
Thomas, Earl of Dorset – 100 MAA (1 banneret, 6 knights, 92 esquires) and 300 mounted archers
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucestor – 200 MAA (6 knights, 193 esquires) and 600 mounted archers.

Warspite130 Jan 2020 3:25 p.m. PST

@ROU etc:
I have that Osprey and I did not check it!
Page 21. I will add it to the master list.

And page 25 throws up yet another one:

John Norbury Esq contracted with Anthony Lord Scales to provide
one man at arms (Norbury himself?)
118 archers for 91 days.

Thank you, a source I had in my collection but I had overlooked.


ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa31 Jan 2020 10:04 a.m. PST

I assume you're aware of this website?

Its mainly set up from the point of view of genealogy, but there is a list of retinues (with primary sources)


dapeters31 Jan 2020 10:29 a.m. PST

So did Norbury act as a captain for the archers or did he serve as a M@A?

Warspite131 Jan 2020 4:12 p.m. PST

Given that units were often organised in 20s, 50s and 100s I am guessing (and that is a pure guess) that he was the unit commander.
i.e. he fulfils his obligation as a MAA by commanding the 118 men. It is also logical to assume that his unit would have been placed with others to form the larger Scales retinue.
Given that we do not really know how retinues were formed and officered we can only speculate or look at how other periods (Agincourt etc) dealt with it.


Warspite131 Jan 2020 4:28 p.m. PST

@ROU etc:
An excellent link. As mentioned earlier the HYW records are much better than the WOTR. I was particularly interested in:

Juan d"Amezqueta, sire de Seintpee, a lord from Gascony
Indented to serve Henry V with 19 other MAA, 20 mounted crossbowmen and 80 crossbowmen on foot. A lack of any other evidence suggests that they were present with the main English army at Agincourt. If so, these are some of those the French called 'False French' because they allied with England. Gascony remained English until 1453 and the defeat of the Anglo-Gascons as Castillon.

I also note that the master gunners all have Germano-Dutch names.


ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa01 Feb 2020 1:55 a.m. PST

I need to get a bit practice in with the statistical programming environment 'R' for work – so I'll see if I can snag a copy of the retinues database and do some data analysis. Not promising anything though!

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