Monday, October 20, 2014

Reorganization at Harfleur: 1415

Anne Curry has noted that several retinues who lost men from illness during the siege of Harfleur in 1415 managed to find replacements for some of their losses before they marched away to fight at Agincourt. Where did these men come from?

Curry argues that either extra men crossed with the original force or reinforcements arrived later, but I think there is a better explanation.

We know that dysentery killed  some leaders like the earl of Suffolk, and sent the duke of Clarence, the Earl Marshal and the earls of March and Arundel home as invalids.

Suffolk had a son and heir to take command, and the Earl Marshal and earl of March had trustworthy subordinates who preserved their retinues as ongoing units.

What happened to the Clarence and Arundel retinues after their leaders went home as invalids is unclear.

But it seems very plausible that some retinues lost enough of their upper command that they could no longer continue as independent contractors. The remaining fighting men would have sought and found employment in continuing units with vacancies.

The Frustrating Documentation of the Agincourt Campaign.

At first glance, it might seem that the English army in during the Agincourt Campaign is quite well documented. The Soldier in later Medieval England has 11,285 records for 1415.

But. In theory, every man at arms that fought at Agincourt should be listed three times: in a pre-departure muster, a post campaign accounting, and the Agincourt Roll copied by heralds in the late 16th and early 17th century. Since the herald weren't interested in common archers, the number per retinue is given but not their names in the Agincourt roll, so archers at the battle should be listed twice. Men invalided home should be listed both in the initial muster and a muster of invalids.

In practice, it is possible for the same man to be listed more often: some post campaign accounting also listed men who died at Harfleur or were sent home as invalids, distinguished in the list but not in the database They could have been on an invalid list as well. In addition, the Agincourt Roll double counts at least one retinue, that of Sir Henry Huse, both as part of a larger retinue and as an independent listing. It also lists the names of some men who died or were still sick at Harfleur, had been sent home, or were killed before the battle.

So there are less than half as many records as we would expect if all the documentation had survived. The Agincourt Roll is clearly incomplete: it conspicuously omits the Duke of York, who died in the battle, and his retinue, and only accounts for 2,496 archers in an army that at the lowest estimate had twice as many.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


This as a grim and mordant Iain M. Banks short story in The State of the Art which a man and his sentient spacesuit, both damaged, are forced down on a barren planet. Their best hope is a long forced march towards a base that may already have been destroyed.

It's a good example how the best SF can use speculative hardware and setting to write movingly about the human condition.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Colonial Plantation's Medieval Event: October 2014

Rain on Saturday depressed attendance for Medieval Days, but Sunday's lovely October weather brought a good turnout, although the human living history groups had to compete with the charismatic farm animals for attention. My group, La Belle Compagnie, was winnowed down by schedule conflicts, sickness, logistic issues and weather to one.

I brought the complete harness of an English man-at-arms ca. 1414, with both a grand bascinet and a kettle hat. I love it when the visitors ask "Why would you want to be able to wear more than one helmet?" Why, thank you for asking. And my sword ca 1385, and my grandfather's for comparison. And a rondel dagger, to demonstrate how acute points can curb your enthusiasm, even when you are wearing mail everywhere you don't wear plate.

I like to display my armor on a table, because you can easily pick up any particular piece and show how it works. Also, it's an authentic way to do it: you can see armor laid out in just this way in the 15th c. treatise on How a man schall be armyd. Also, if you have a tablecloth you can conceal less authentic kit below the table.

Ideally, I would have brought a longer table to display more of the armor at table height, but I was grateful for the shorter table borrowed from a friend.

For refreshment, I brought for drink a full pitcher of water and a beaker of water, and a modern bottle of wine decanted into a hand-blown bottle of wine and a pewter costrel. This was sufficient for the five hours ordained.

For meat I brought cold venison,  a portion of a loaf of bread, apples, dried unsulphured apricots and pistachios. This was also sufficient.

Next time I do a tent less presentation, I must remember to bring my broad-brimmed hat to wear between visitors.

My neighbors on one side were portraying Irish in German service about 1521, based on Durer's water color of that year:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reproduction Bascinet with a Pomme: 1410-1414

This helmet, seen earlier here, now has a pomme, a ball of gilded wood to hold feathers, just like Hector's. (Yes, that's Hector of Troy). I think it adds a note of style.

Vane for a Pavilion

This vane was made from brass sheet by Robert MacPherson. The wooden knob it rests on is topped with a brass washer so that the vane may turn more easily. The pole below the vane, like the ball, were turned from wood and gilded.

The ball was originally topped with a silk pennoncel. After a total of a little over three weeks cumulative exposure to the weather, the original finish on the top of the ball showed significant wear.  I surmise that the pennon when drooping in a low wind rubbed against the top of the ball. This will avoid that problem and also display much better in a calm.

The vane is based on a surviving weathervane at Etchingham.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Medieval Days at Colonial Plantation, 2014

October 11-12.

I will be doing a one person 1414 presentation, Sunday only.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Highland Dress in 1652

The 1652 state of John Speed's map of Scotland show a Highland man and women that appear to be wrapped in plaid blankets. Not very Mel Gibson Braveheart.

Bruges Back in Transportation News after 500 Years

Bruges was an important port in the 14th and 15th century. The wealth that trade bought allowed the city to afford some lovely art and architecture. Then the channel silted up, and the city couldn't afford to replace those old buildings with something newer. If you have the opportunity it's well worth a visit.

Bruges is back in transportation news with a planned underground beer pipeline.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The No True Muslim Fallacy

The archetype of this is the No True Scotsman fallacy. A blanket claim is made about a certain group, such as saying that no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.  The counterargument that Hamish McDonald from Aberdeen puts sugar on his porridge and likes it just fine is rejected by saying that Hamish is clearly not a true Scotsman.

So, Bill Maher made some extreme claims about Muslim countries:
...if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.
Reza Aslan pushed back, noting that some Muslim countries have a fairly benign view of what the state can impose on individuals. Of course, there was a response to that.

The response seems to be saying that whenever a Muslim majority country accepts a mostly secular structure of governance, like Turkey, Albania or Kosovo, it doesn't count, because No True Scotsman.