Tag Archives: Hundred Years War

Press-ganged into the Lancastrian Affinity

Just a quick update on what I have been doing recently on my novel.

At the moment I am “just” doing research for my novel. This means I am reading a lot of books, making notes etc. The book I am reading at the moment is The Lancastrian Affinity 1361-1399 by Simon Walker. It describes in a lot of detail the retinue of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III and also Duke of Lancaster. After the death of the Black Prince, he was the most important noble in England, an important military commander and diplomat. Thus he also had the largest retinue in the land except for the King.

One thinks of English armies of the Hundred Years War as being professional volunteer armies hired for money, but the Duke still had the right to effectively press-gang soldiers via a commission of array, and he did this in Lancashire and Yorkshire to fill the ranks in campaigns such as the ill-fated expedition of 1373. The 300 archers raised were accompanied by men of Gaunt’s retinue on their way to the ships so that they didn’t try to escape. Some even paid money so they didn’t have to serve!

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French get it right against English Archers

I have just been scanning through a number of descriptions of Hundred Years War battles over at Wikipedia (so not necessarily 100% accurate), and as I expected it seems that in no cases were dismounted men-at-arms sent against archers. However, in later years the French did start to perfect the tactic of charging the English archers with heavy cavalry – for instance at the Battle of Patay decisively, and at the Battle of Vernuil with partial success. The key seems to have been heavy armour for the horses, sufficient numbers and disciplined charges.