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"Manuscript illustration from the 1470s..." Topic

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Warspite127 Jan 2021 6:06 p.m. PST

While researching an answer in another thread I came across this manuscript illustration which is worthy of some comment.


Dated to the 1470s (so the armour shown is of THAT date) this purports to show the much earlier Battle of Verneuil in 1424.

Note that the French foot (right) wear tunics bearing the white cross of St Denis on either red or blue while the English (on the left) wear the red cross of St George on blue or green. This emphasises that it is the cross' colour and shape which is important, not the backing colour. The backing colour is almost irrelevant.
A similar comment can also be made about the white Scottish cross (saltire) of St Andrew in this period. The white diagonal cross is described as appearing on various colours.

Returning to the illustration, the longbowmen (upper left) are shown here in front of other foot who are clearly armed with pole weapons including bills and glaives. This is further pictorial confirmation of a point which I have made on TMP before about mixed bill and bow formations being common. One Tudor writer refers to a 'longbowman with a stout bill at his back' as typical at Stoke Field.

Both 'royal' flags are shown but neither king was present so this may be an artistic device only. Expect the crosses of St Denis and St George respectively in the real battle.

As a sidebar, I want to paint up a small 15mm unit of the Calais garrison for the early Wars of the Roses.
For those not aware, the CG was the only full-time professional military unit in England as it was stationed in Calais [then an English port and town] and maintained by the king directly.
The CG was brought to England by Andrew Trollope to fight for the Yorkists at Ludlow/Ludford Bridge but deserted to the Lancastrian side when the Royal Standard of Henry VI was raised. The Calais garrison men had clearly realised they could be held guilty of treason for opposing their king. Trollope later fought at 2nd St Albans where he said he could only kill the few Yorkists who came to him as he had a caltrop or caltrap device stuck in his foot for most of the battle.

My first thought was to paint the Calais garrison as English bill and bow but with the traditional Agincourt period white tunic and red cross of St George.
However… further thinking on the subject made me realise that they would probably wear Henry VI's white and blue livery – during his reign – as he was their paymaster. This probably switched to Edward IV's blue and murrey when he became king after 1461. Either way the tunic would be topped off with the red cross of St George and possibly the king's badge on the left breast or sleeve.


Warspite127 Jan 2021 6:10 p.m. PST

The link above might not work. If so go to the page link here:
and look at the first Wiki picture (top right) to understand what I am saying.

If you go down the page to the second illustration, from 1484, you will see, again, that the national crosses appear on other tunic colours.
Note also that not all the armour is shown in this second illustration is grey steel as some of it appears brown. This is probably honeyed or russeted armour. This is a controlled rusting technique where some rust is allowed to form on the surface and then waxed. This arrests the process and prevents further corrosion.

Examples of rusting here:

Yes, the second one is myself.


Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2021 6:33 p.m. PST

I, er, happened to come across this, which may support your argument (or may not, but, hey, it's sorta funny)

Warspite127 Jan 2021 6:37 p.m. PST

Well the two French at the left are hardly rushing to help their fallen comrade who is getting a bill in the rear end from an Englishman!
Again notice the variation in tunic colours.
Do you know the date of the original illustration? Looks 1470s or 148os from the clothes and armour.


Warspite127 Jan 2021 6:42 p.m. PST

The rout of Ludford Bridge is described here:

It contains a note that the Calais Garrison unit was about 600 strong so that would equate to six or eight x 4 figure modules in my Bills Bows and Bloodshed rules.

2 to 4 modules of bill
4 to 6 modules of longbow
Exceptionally I would rate the bills as full armour and rate the whole unit as Elite with the longbow getting an automatic +1 melee bonus for sword and buckler.

A small unit but rather potent. Most units under my rules have 10 to 12 modules.

A bio of Trollope is here: link


Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2021 7:09 p.m. PST

Some good info Barry.
As for my 'manuscript', I don't know the provenance. Judging by the puffy shoulders I would guess 1480s+, but I'm no expert.

William Warner27 Jan 2021 8:58 p.m. PST

Period illustrations are a wonderful source, but you can seldom be totally sure that the colors chosen by the illustrator are accurate. They may reflect popular colors of the time, or they may simply be artistic license. Even the details of clothing and armor may not reflect what was actually worn. Battle illustrations were often done decades after the events depicted and styles may have changed. You really must know your sources before you can depend on them to provide valuable information.

Warspite128 Jan 2021 3:11 a.m. PST

@WIlliam Warner:
Agreed and agreed. And remember that artists will draw the armour and clothes they see around them, not that armour/dress of yesteryear.

In this case both illustrations – from different artists for sure and different decades maybe – appear to show similarities. I would never take one source as an absolute, merely an indication. But when two or more agree then we MAY be on firmer ground.


Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2021 7:35 a.m. PST

This is probably honeyed or russeted armour.

I've found that Delta Ceramcoat's Brown Iron Oxide craft paint works well for this colored armor.


Warspite128 Jan 2021 9:39 a.m. PST

Thank you for that!

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2021 6:24 p.m. PST

How is "mixed bill and bow" being defined? Those billmen seem ranked together, as do the bowmen.

Druzhina29 Jan 2021 1:07 a.m. PST
Swampster29 Jan 2021 6:14 a.m. PST

Those figure crossing the bridge in 22v are interesting, especially the livery cap. I haven't noticed them before.

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2021 9:28 a.m. PST

Thanks Druzhina.

(on a separate note, you don't know of any images of medieval Sudanese Ghulams do you?)

dapeters29 Jan 2021 9:31 a.m. PST

Some appear not to be wearing liveries, but instead have the deice affixed directly to their brigandine.

Druzhina29 Jan 2021 4:13 p.m. PST

on a separate note, you don't know of any images of medieval Sudanese Ghulams do you?

The closest I have are warrior saints from Nubia.
See Nubian Warrior Saints, Sth Egypt and Sudan

Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers from Coptic Egyptian and Nubian Sources

Druzhina29 Jan 2021 5:31 p.m. PST
Warspite131 Jan 2021 1:23 p.m. PST

@Games Poet:
You said:
"How is "mixed bill and bow" being defined? Those billmen seem ranked together, as do the bowmen."

Any unit where the two appear mixed together. If longbow are to shoot, they are in front, if the billmen are to fight the longbow either action back or the billmen move to the front. Only the Burgundians appear to have had a drill for their longbow to fire over the heads of one rank of kneeling pike.

For more on this subject see:
TMP link
and refer to:


Druzhina31 Jan 2021 8:16 p.m. PST

I would distinguish between English men-at-arms on foot with polearms and English 'Billmen'. IIRC the English first used 'Billmen', on the continent, in battle at Formigny (1450). English archers are usually described as forming on the flanks of men-at-arms at earlier battles.

As for the 1st image, the armour may be of the date of the illustration, the composition may not.

Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2021 10:22 a.m. PST

@Games Poet:
You said:
"How is "mixed bill and bow" being defined? Those billmen seem ranked together, as do the bowmen."

Any unit where the two appear mixed together. If longbow are to shoot, they are in front, if the billmen are to fight the longbow either action back or the billmen move to the front. Only the Burgundians appear to have had a drill for their longbow to fire over the heads of one rank of kneeling pike.

I'm still not seeing them "mixed together" in that picture. There seem to be very distinct lines of "billmen", and another of bowmen. Perhaps we will never really know for sure.

Warspite102 Feb 2021 12:38 p.m. PST

@Games Poet:
Please check the dated links in my previous post of January 31. They all refer to mixed units.


GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2021 11:08 a.m. PST

This thread seemed to be about the picture you've linked above, and that is what I was commenting upon. However, since your newest reply points again to another thread, just looking at the first example of 1452 …

Walter Strickland, a Westmoreland squire, made an indenture with Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (father 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.
Also found in: The Battle of Northampton, by Mike Ingram.

… how do we know this was a mixed unit? Lets be real, I'm not saying units couldn't be mixed, and I'm not even convinced we know what a unit was considered to be, or if it did exist how it operated. Although more information seems wise to provide, if a claim is being made. If not, and we're just chatting on speculation, ok … so we are.

Warspite103 Feb 2021 12:57 p.m. PST

We don't know anything… for certain. Nothing at all. Nearly everything about the Medieval period is a matter of at least some speculation given the paucity of available evidence.
On arrival at the battlefield the Strickland retinue might have been split up.

But note also the 1487 listing which I quote in full:

"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 a 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 to his readers as if it was standard knowledge."

The point of my earlier list (which I continue to compile)
TMP link
was to gather as much evidence as I could over the whole 15th century and look for trends. The trends tend to point towards mixed units in much the same way as we know they were in Henry VIII's army in the next century, mixed units of bill and bow or mixed units of pike and arquebus. And the number of bow were declining, down to only 40% of unit strength.

For me the Leland 1487 quote is clear… a bow with a billman behind him was considered the norm – "his folks in array of battle… a bow with a bill at his bak" which is what we see in the original illustration.


GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2021 1:56 a.m. PST

Seems like the 1487 listing is in line with the picture from circa 1470s, yet perhaps depends on one's interpretation. Although with another example from the beginning of the same century, Agincourt in 1415 it seems to be that bowmen were separated from men-at arms, if I recall. History is funny, many things are uncertain, yet sometimes speculation can seem to be mentioned as certain, such is life. Appreciate your efforts, and it does at least bring up possibilities and more questions.

Warspite104 Feb 2021 3:50 a.m. PST

@Games Poet:
Thank you for your kind comment and appreciation.

If we can use an English Civil War analogy for a moment, musketeers and pikemen were recruited into the same regiment yet served in different companies within that regiment. One provided distant attack, the other provided close defence.
The musketeers might stand in front of, or to the flank, of the pike to shoot and then hide under the pikes or behind them when horsemen approached.

I see the same situation with English bill and bow and with Burgundian pike and bow. Indeed having two weapons – one optimised for distance and one for close-in – was almost a standard until the invention of the bayonet. It makes a unit, retinue, regiment more flexible and able to deal with offence and defence.

Now, given that the Burgundians recruited English longbowmen and used other English ideas such as stakes and dismounted foot knights is it not likely that the Burgundian use of pike and bow together also mirrors English practice?
There are hints of this in England but it was almost never recorded as it was (perhaps) regarded as standard practice and not worthy of comment except in the 1487 reference.


Druzhina10 Feb 2021 3:48 a.m. PST

In 'Chroniques' by Jean Froissart, copy from Flanders, 1475 – 1485AD. Frontis: A combat between English and Scottish cavalry and infantry, both sides are equipped the same (probably representing Burgundians) with mounted men-at-arms and with bowmen behind men with short pikes.

Burgundian Soldiers and Costume

Green Tiger10 Feb 2021 6:59 a.m. PST

I don't feel massively qualified to comment but with regard to the first picture could it be that the archer at the top is indeed in livery and the men at arms at the bottom just have red crosses on their armour as we are told the Burgundians did it?

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