Archive for August, 2018
18th- 19th August 2018 – Event Review
By Guest Reporter Mike P.
The battle of Bosworth took place on 22nd August 1485 near the village of Dadlington in Leicestershire. Here King Richard III’s army was overcome by the forces of Henry Tudor, assisted by the treachery of the Stanleys. Richard was killed and Tudor claimed the crown by right of law and conquest as Henry VII. The respective entitlement of either man to call themselves king has kept academics and their publishers in beer money for a long, long time and won’t be raked over here. Suffice it to say that the Plantagenet dynasty which had ruled England from the time of Henry II came to an end. Richard became a car park and the rule of the Tudors began, and we know how that turned out.
New archaeological discoveries have caused the site of the battlefield to hitch up its skirts and move west a bit, much to the chagrin of the visitor centre on nearby Ambion Hill where Sir William Harrington’s Companye joined other re-enactment groups at the invitation of the Wars of the Roses Federation to stage their annual re-creation of the fracas that now took place further down the road. We stayed put in our traditional location on the basis that there was a field set aside for the purpose and that we wouldn’t be interrupted by farmers waving pitchforks and shouting “get thee orf moi laaand!”
The Bosworth medieval festival is a celebration of the events of 1485, where visitors can watch a recreation of the battle and buy a t-shirt with Richard III’s mug on it, or an actual mug. For us living historians it provides one of the few opportunities in a season to take part in a big battle with all the excitement, confusion, chaos and “that wasn’t in the script” moments that entails. There are, in fact, two battles each day. The one in the morning gives the Yorkists a chance to win something before getting their butts kicked in the afternoon (Editor – Oi!!). This year the early format was “the alternative battle of Bosworth” where Richard III carries the day and not a word about the princes. After lunch it’s business as usual where the white roses are only ever goin’ DOWN.
FOOLS ON THE HILL
Twice shy about the possibility of the Harrington camp getting swamped by other households as space got tight, harbinger Corin elected to set up at the top end of the camp site (which fortunately had been mowed in full this time) in the full expectation that the space between us and the rest would rapidly fill up. It stayed stubbornly empty all weekend, leaving us in splendid isolation and lords of all we surveyed. This was in part because a long season had taken its toll. Many had been forced to return home to tend the harvest and it was down to a reduced Harrington Companye to take on the might of the pretender Tudor and his paid continental cronies.
LET SLIP THE CROCODILE OF WAR!
Numbers we had few, but we had a secret weapon, namely Warren aka “Crocodile Dundee”. Currently on loan to us from the British Army, a man so fierce and deadly that we had to feed him gin to keep him calm and tie him in a canvas bag overnight to stop him conquering Nuneaton. Imagine a young, fit, combat-trained Father Jack and you’re getting close to the kind of fear Warren inspires in the hearts of the enemy. Light the blue touch paper, retire to a safe distance and watch him shred their lines. There are Lancastrians still wandering around in a daze wondering what hit them.
But despite his martial prowess Warren has a soft side as demonstrated by long phone conversations with his girlfriend prefixed with a “konichi-wa” worthy of a 1970s movie for grown-ups!!!
GETTING DOWN TO IT
For the battles Sir William Harrington’s Companye were given the honour of holding the right wing as part of the Duke of Norfolk’s contingent. Finding aristocrats on the right wing should be no surprise to anyone, it certainly wasn’t for the enemy who treated us to first contact every time. Was it something we said? But we stood our ground and gave a good account of ourselves despite being significantly outnumbered. The Harringtons always punch above their weight.
An exact account of all four battles is elusive. Out of the mayhem emerge disjointed images of pushes and retreats, blows given and received, whirling Warren and Tank Arthur punching through the enemy ranks, Dan “Bites Yer Groin” bringing an unorthodox fighting style to bear on surprised opponents.
By the second day we finally mastered the art of turning up on time, thereby avoiding a demerit for a no-show. That couldn’t be said for everybody despite all attendance at battles being mandatory. On Sunday morning the three-line whip was no match for some hangovers.
And as each battle passed, the field became ever more ‘rural’. With the royal retinue mounted and caparisoned you had to watch where you died to avoid being trampled or end up face down in the brown stuff. Some of us had the privilege of dying twice as we had to move to get out of the way of the horses.
And whether the day was won or lost our reward was the same: to drag our weary carcasses back up the hill to our camp which was as far away as possible from the battlefield without actually being in Nottinghamshire.
THAT AGINCOURT SPIRIT
If proof were needed that the Harringtons don’t go the extra mile for authenticity, Mark S. contracted dysentery just for the occasion, but since Bosworth involves cavalry he thought it better to stay off the battlefield and not add his contribution to that of the horses. Fortunately, having been rehydrated in the beer tent Saturday night he felt well enough to join us for the final push on Sunday afternoon. Any pushing before that would have been a no-no.
In pursuit of ever more gleeful ways of hitting one another, Lord Harrington obtained a pair of poleaxe wasters ostensibly for the purpose of testing them on behalf of the stallholder. The clankies then proceeded to beat the living tar out of one another to see how they performed. The result: a bruised Lord Harrington and the poleaxes thoroughly “tested”. QED. In the end we opted to buy a pair of war hammers to alternate with the axe and shield round in our tourneys.
Presumably it isn’t possible to hit someone one-handed as hard as you can with a poleaxe although you know they will try (put them down as consumables).
Two days of battles is the price you pay for Saturday night in the Stagger Inn. This year’s fancy dress theme was 80s cult TV and movies. We were treated to several Doctor Who’s, a Jessica Rabbit, Flash Gordon’s hawk men and a Bagpuss. The best costume by far was, however, the robot from Short Circuit complete with LED eyes and tracks. Genius.
The Harringtons stuck resolutely to mufti (I put my Miami Vice jacket in the charity ages ago). So instead of swanning in costume we resorted to the time-honoured ways of the Bosworth beer tent, viz: singing tunelessly along to covers of songs by popular beat combos, revisiting the theme from that 70s children’s classic the “Flashing Blade” and building a tower of beer glasses on Kof’s chest. Just another normal Saturday night.
And then finally, when time was called, we returned to a camp fire on the hill courtesy of the Oxfordshire contingent. It’s a good job some of us have been campaigning long enough to know what’s really important. We passed the drink around. Warren passed out. All was right with the world.
Is there any lesson to be drawn from the Bosworth experience?
I suppose it must be what happens at Bosworth stays at Bosworth to minimise the risk of:
c) not getting invited back next time.
Today we are going to take a look at one of the roles mentioned in the Burgundian Ordinances, namely – The Arbelest, otherwise known as the crossbowman.
We covered the Ordinances in a different article, but to recollect the equipment specification for an Arbalest was as follows:
Sallet, bevor or maille standard, brigandine over padded jack, leg harness. Crossbow and quiver, bastard sword, dagger.
It is obvious when looking at contemporary manuscripts that a martial context needs to be split out from a civilian context. Although there are a number of fantastic images of crossbows from the time, many are in use during hunting for example.
Below are a selection of images where we believe show the arbalest in a martial context:
Looking at the images it is immediately apparent that they do not 100% match the equipment level in the Ordinances in each case. Some are more heavily armoured, some less so. Leg armour particularly is variable. Hence some variety might perhaps be permitted. All are wearing some form of body protection above a padded garment – though not so padded as to alter the shape of the higher layers.
Pavaises are also used to protect the arbalest whist he is loading.
Below are images of our reference interpretation for a arbalest in the Companye.
Photos by Matthew D Crosby Photographics
His shoes are leather, and he wears hose tight to the leg. His primary protection is a 5 ft pavaise which covers him whilst he loads his powerful crossbow, it is so strong it requires a goats foot mechanical aid to do so. His quiver of bolts hangs from his belt ready for use.
Over his shirt he wears a padded doublet, above which he wears a maille shirt and brigandine. He has forgone his maille standard in this instance – only time will tell if that was the right choice for this battle. His helmet will protect him when shooting above the top of the pavaise.
His pouch hangs from his belt and perhaps contains his firelighting kit, the money he has in the world, and some dry rations. He has a general purpose bullock dagger, and his sword is his secondary weapon after the crossbow.
Notes on References & Sources:
The Helmet choice is from the mounted crossbowman in the Wolfegg Hausbuch.
The arrow in the mouth during loading is a nod to an earlier manuscript illustration.
Though pouches are rare in a military context, there is some supporting evidence.
Shoes, Belt, Pouch – Phil Fraser
Hose, Shirt – Historic Enterprises
Brigandine – Armour Services Historical
Helmet – Arma Bohemia
Pavaise – Sir William Harrington’s Companye
Crossbow & bolts – Chris Swidwa
Maille – Cap a Pied
Dagger – Tod’s Stuff