Monday, January 14, 2008

The 14th c. Lance as a Unit of Account

The mid 15th c. lance as an administrative unit is well documented in the ordonnances of France and Burgundy. It included not only a fully armored man at arms and his warhorse, but additional supporting combatants and non-combatants, and additional horses.

I believe that the lance or man-at-arms was also used as a unit of account in England and France in the second half of the 14th c., but the 14th c. lance was much less inclusive.

It included the man-at-arms and his best warhorse. However, the English man-at-arms was expected to have at least three horses, including remounts and horses for baggage and servants. Shipping arrangements for English armies serving abroad support this expectation. The Florentine commissioners who signed a contract with John Hawkwood in 1389 were warned to insure that they received “three men and three horses per lance, and not women”

If they expected three men per lance, what sort of men? The lance also included noncombatant servants. During this period the English man-at-arms often fought dismounted, and someone had to take charge of his horse when he did. Someone had to take care of the horse and armor, and Filippo Villani reports that “every one of them had one or two pages, some more, depending on their ability to maintain them, ” These servants are more or less invisible in English indentures and payrolls: it seems likely that the wages for noncombatant servants was bundled in with the wages paid to each man-at-arms.

Some of the man-at-arms’ servants were able to serve as fighting men. The 1351 French ordinance of John II set the wages for armed valets with a specified level of armor and mount. This was over and above the wages of the man-at-arms or lance that employed him.

It seems likely that English men-at-arms could also claim pay for combatant servants, either as hobelars, mounted archers or archers. However, this was additional to the wages paid to the man-at-arms or “lance”.

It looks like the immediate retinue of an English man-at-arms in the second half of the 14th c. averaged three horses and two servants, with one of them a yeoman. A wealthy knight or banneret would have more, but some of them would be squires, themselves men at arms, so a similar ratio would hold. If I am correct in thinking that the yeomen were listed in the indenture or payroll as archers, mounted or otherwise, then the lance or man at arms as a unit of account would consist of a man-at-arms, a noncombatant servant and three horses.

Do any of my readers have information that confirms or denies this?

Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman by Frances Stonor Saunders is my source for the Florentine commisioners quote. I wish Saunders would provide sources for more of her statements of fact.


Anonymous said...

Will, which sources are you using for the English mercenaries in Italy? Are they in English?

Steve Muhlberger said...

There are some Italian sources in the original language in a book cited by Terry Jones in Chaucer's Knight: can't find my copy right now.

Allen Williamson said...

If you're interested, I've been translating and compiling a database of English and French military records, mainly from the 1420s and 30s.

A translation of an entry from 1429 containing payments and (in most cases) troop strengths for 27 contingents in Joan of Arc's army is currently online at: this location

Another individual will be translating it into German over the next couple weeks or so.