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"All this seems a bit long ..." Topic

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747 hits since 22 Jan 2022
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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2022 1:54 a.m. PST

Hello everyone,

I just read something written by Ian Heath:

In England in the mid-15th century, ordinances specified that the royal standard should be 8 to 9 yds (7m31 to 8m22) long.

But 11 yds (10m05) for the 'Great standard', that of a duke was 7yds (6m39) that of a count 6 yds (5m48) that of a baron, 5 yds (4m57), that of a banneret , 4.5 yds (4m11) and that of a knight, 4 yds (3m65).

Banners had to be square, that of the king, 5ft (1m52), that of a prince or duke, 4ft (1m21), those of a marquis, earl, viscount or baron, 3ft (0m914) and that of a banneret 2ft (0m 609).

All this seems a bit long and impossible to deploy on a battlefield.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2022 8:51 a.m. PST

From a movie point of view, where horses always move at the canter, maybe those standards could be kept aloft, but they do seem terribly long for practical purposes. Was their use perhaps limited to castles or maybe ships?

Even the banners seem like they would have been rather heavy for one man to carry.


HMS Exeter22 Jan 2022 8:59 a.m. PST

I'm no vexillologist, but I have to figure most of those 27 to 33 foot flags would be for flying from the tops of buildings.

Swampster22 Jan 2022 2:05 p.m. PST

After a bit of a trawl, I've found nothing which gives a 15th century source.
There are _Tudor_ descriptions of the lengths of various banners and a distinction is made between those to be set before tents and those to be borne. The carried ones are shorter but still long – the 11 yd King's standard is mentioned as being set before the pavilion but the borne one is still eight or nine yards. link cites the relevant manuscripts.

The given lengths match those quoted from Heath above but I haven't seen a matching 15th century source. Since one of the MSS says that the lengths were set down by the constable and marshall, they seem to have been considered practical for at least some purpose. It may, though, have been wishful thinking.

A few medieval standards of other origins have survived and they include some of 4m length. This doesn't prove that they were for carrying although one is a Ghent militia standard.

The banners are definitely reasonable. Even the king's is 2/3 the area of, say, a Napoleonic British regimental colour and only about a third of the area of 16th century flags – included those carried by riders.

The main problem that figure modellers may have with the _banner_ sizes is that most of them are not impressive enough. On 15mm figures, the most common flags would only be about 8 mm square.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jan 2022 3:17 p.m. PST

Not all medieval standards were flown from a staff by their short side. Many were hoisted on a fixed staff like a vexillium from a guyed pole outside the owner's pavillion.

Earlier standards were hoisted on a pole attached to a wagon and some of these were reputed to be quite large.

While this would still be impractical for an 11yd standard it would just about be feasible if the pavillion was that built for Henry VIII at his meeting with Francis.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2022 2:26 a.m. PST

In his book entitled "Armies of the Sixteenth Century" published by Foundry book publications – Ian Heath writes on page 61 "Technically such flags were expected to conform to specific dimensions defined in the mid-15 th century and still being enforced in Queen Elisabeth's reign ".

I gave above their sizes given by Ian Heath, always page 61 from his book entitled "Armies of the Sixteenth Century" published by Foundry book publications.

Swampster23 Jan 2022 6:36 a.m. PST

The rules/guidance from the Lyon King of Arms (chief herald of Scotland) still gives similar sizes for the standards -

The Sovereign : 8 yards
Dukes : 7 yards
Marquises : 6 1/2 yards
Earls : 6 yards
Viscounts : 5 1/2 yards
Lords : 5 yards
Baronets : 4 1/2 yards
Knights and Barons : 4 yards

However, the surviving standard of William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal is only about 1.5 yards long. It is believed to be one which was saved from Flodden. The size fits what the LKA guidance calls a 'pinsel'.

The Douglas of Cavers standard is much longer about 4.5 yards. Tradition has it that the standard was carried at Otterburn in 1396, but the National Museums of Scotland website says it is probably late 16th century.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2022 2:11 a.m. PST

The rules of the Lyon King of Arms, the chief herald of Scotland, give different sizes from those of the English, because each country obviously had its own standards.

Now remains to know if it was possible to deploy, to carry on foot or on horseback the longest standards?

So in Scotland they make the difference between Lord and Baronets and Barons and it's the barons who have the shortest standards?

Sandinista28 Jan 2022 7:26 p.m. PST

This is an interesting video showing a rider and an 18 foot banner YouTube link

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2022 11:07 a.m. PST

Thank you, that makes the topic move in the right direction and that at least proves to us that a standard of 5m48 (6yds) can be deployed on horseback.

In my opinion the fabrics had to be both as thin as possible, to be very light but very solid.

But on foot without wind, this can pose a problem if it is not rolled up…

Warspite129 Jan 2022 3:02 p.m. PST

I have always suspected that the standard lengths were overlong and impractical.
We do know that they were supported by battens angled at about 90 degrees to the pole to get them to stick out but I also strongly suspect that the maximum lengths quoted were reduced in practice.

They might be OK for a castle flag pole or the rigging of a ship but probably not practical for being carried by hand on a battlefield, either on foot or horseback.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2022 3:54 a.m. PST

The proof that not thanks to the video above, their fabrics had to be very light and very solid and the people of the time trained differently than the re-enactors of now.

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