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"13th Century French Infantry Without Shields" Topic


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618 hits since 16 Dec 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Henry Martini16 Dec 2023 5:28 p.m. PST

Another Middle Ages question from and to the middle-aged:

I have and sometimes use for reference purposes the DBM Army Lists. On page 8 of Book 4, in the explanation section under the Feudal French list, P.B. wrote 'By the 13th century spearmen with short spear and shield were being supplanted by men with a longer spear and no shield, resembling the later Brigans.'

I can find no mention of such troops in either the WRG book 'Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300' or the Osprey MAA book 'French Medieval Armies 1000-1300', but illustrations of shieldless French spearmen (although not labelled as 'Brigans') do appear in the WRG book 'Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1', covering the post 1300 period.

Did Phil get it wrong?

timurilank17 Dec 2023 1:53 a.m. PST

Phil was not wrong, but…

13th century France was not a centralised entity as we know it today, but a collection of domains having an allegiance to the crown.
Among the various duchies and counties, the figure you describe would come from the northern counties of France, to include the County of Flanders.

The resistance by the latter, during the reign of Henry IV, would later become the start date of the Low Countries army list.

GurKhan17 Dec 2023 5:11 a.m. PST

Phil was thinking chiefly of some of the figures in the Maciejowski Bible – see link

For example, link – lower left, stabbing the guy o the ground.

Henry Martini17 Dec 2023 5:13 a.m. PST

In that list to which I referred Timurilank, the shieldless Brigans-style French infantry are rated as Irr Ax (X). Low countries (including Flemish) mercenary spearmen have a separate entry and are rated as Reg Pk (I).

In the WRG Middle Ages book the shieldless French spearmen and Flemish 'pikemen' are also illustrated and described independently of each other, so my question stands.

Henry Martini17 Dec 2023 5:23 a.m. PST

OK GurKhan, but if that image is Phil's only evidence for his pre-brigans brigans it does seem a bit of a flimsy justification for the list entry. That figure could just represent a standard foot serjeant who's lost or dropped his shield.

GurKhan17 Dec 2023 9:04 a.m. PST

It was never just that one image, there are others in the same source – link for instance.

Were they ever compulsory, or only an option in the DBM lists?

By DBMM they've gone anyway (in accordance with the regrading of brigans in the later period list) and it's "Replace Irr Sp (I) with foot armed with mixed weapons – Irr Bd (I) – half – all"; and the notes say "Foot with mixed weapons are those depicted mostly without shields, in quilted aketons/gambesons and occasional metal armour, and armed with mixed pole arms sometimes including spears" – which probably fits the Maciejowski iconography better, all those axes and so forth.

Henry Martini17 Dec 2023 6:58 p.m. PST

Images of a number of soldiers in formation as per your most recent link are much more convincing than single instances.

In the DBM list at least 10 elements of Irr Sp (I) had to be fielded, and after 1150AD 1/2-all of them had to be replaced with Irr Ax (X), so pre-brigans were compulsory.

Anyway, with the list changes in DBMM it would seem that Phil was acknowledging error on the part of the DBM list compiler, and discrete units of shieldless spearmen in fact don't appear on the scene until post-1300.

Thanks for your help.

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