Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Archer's Mauls

Tapestry of Jourdain de Blaye in Padua, ca. 1400, detail.

"In addition, many of them had adopted a type of weapon until then unknown - great lead-covered mallets [clavam plumbeam] from which one single blow on the head could kill a man or knock him senseless to the ground."

Religeux of St, Denis, c. 1415-22

“the English archers...then took their swords, hatchets, mallets, falcon-beaks and other weapons..”

Jean Waurin: 1444-1460s, describing Agincourt

4.202: Gere taken owt of the Chyrch..ix sheffe arwys, ix bawys, ij hand-gonnes, iiij chambers for gonnys, ij mallys of lede, ij jakks.

Paston Letters, 1465

In the Burgundian Abbeville ordinance of 1471, the mounted archers were to be equiped with two handed swords and daggers. The 1472 ordinance of Bohain en Vermendois added archers on foot at a ratio of one foot archer for every three mounted archers, and the foot archers were to have, besides their bows, a lead mallet and a dagger.

214: There fore hyt ys moche lefte, and men take hem to mallys of ledde, bowys, swyrdys, gleyvys, and axys.

c1475 Gregory's Chron. (Eg 1995) :: The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London ... , ed. J. Gairdner, Camd. n.s. 17 (1876). 57-239.

"And herein our archers of England far pass the Parthians, which for such a purpose, when they shall come to hand-strokes, hath ever ready, either at his back hanging, or else in his next fellow's hand, a leaden maul, or such-like weapon, to beat down his enemies withal."

Toxophilus, the schole of shootinge conteyned in two bookes, by Roger Ascham, 1545

“Mr. Brander's curious manuscript so often referred to, among the different store-houses at Calais, there named, describes one by the title of the malle chambre, in which were then eight hundred and eighty leaden malles. There is also an entry of two hundred malles in a store-house at Berwick.”

Military antiquities: respecting a history of the English army from the conquest to the present time, by Francis Gose. Mr Brander’s manuscript was a royal inventory from 1547.

“….a maule of leade with a pyke of five inches longe, well stieled, sett in a staff of fyve foote of lengthe with a hooke at his gyrdell to take of and mayntayne the fighte as oure elders have donn, with handye stroaks”

Henry Barrett, 1562

Some made a mell of massy lead,
Which iron all about did bind;

And later:

The moorish pikes, and mells of lead,
Did deal there many a dreadful thwack.

From The Battle of Floddon Field, a ballad thought to date from the 16th c.

Lead mallets were also used by other infantry. The Paris rioters that broke into the Hôtel de Ville in 1382 seized so many lead mallets that they became known as Maillotins, and as a result we have a useful illustration of the weapon in an illumination of the revolt, above.

The first insurrection was that of the Paris mob, and was sparked off by a costermonger who, when an official tried to levy a tax on the fruit and vegetables he was selling, began to roar "Down with the gabelle!" At this cry, the whole populace rose, ran to the tax-collectors' houses and robbed and murdered them. Then, since the mob was unarmed, one of their number led them to the Chatelet where Bertrand de Guesclin, a former High Constable, had stored 3,000 lead-tipped cudgels in preparation for a battle which was to have been fought against the English. The rabble used axes to break their way into the tower where these cudgels or mallets (in French, maillets) were kept and, arming themselves, set forth in all directions to rob the houses of the King's representatives and in many cases to murder them. The popolo grasso, or men of substance who in French are called "bourgeois," fearing lest the mob (who were later called Maillotins and were of much the same kidney as the Ciompi in Florence) might rob them too, took arms and managed to subdue them. They then proceeded to take government into their own hands and, together with the Maillotins, continued the war against their royal lords.

Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence: The Diaries of Buonaccorso Pitt and Gregorio Dati, edited by Gene Brucker (first published in 1967 by Harper & Row; reissued in 1991 by Waveland Press)

The tapestry of Jordain de Blaye in Padua, shown at the beginning, also shows mallets carried as weapons, although in this case it is impossible to know if the heads illustrated are lead, iron or steel. However, it is much easier to make a forged head square or rectangular in cross section and iron and steel medieval hammers overwhelmingly have that shape, which suggest that the artist was showing mallets with lead heads.

In a good reproduction of the tapestry it is possible to see that the mallet heads shown are not simple cylinders for one of the heads, but the head diameter increases slightly towards the two faces of the head.

The lead maul was a reasonable weapons choice for archers in conjunction with the defensive stakes introduced into English tactics by Henry V: if you’re carrying a lead maul to drive stakes carrying a sword as well may not be worth the added cost and encumbrance. They seem to have been common but not universal weapons choice for archers when stakes were employed on the battlefield. I know of no evidence of English archers using mauls as weapons before Agincourt, and the Religeux reported them as a novel development.

Here is a modern supplier, giving an idea of the size of a lead head at various weights.

Finally, we have an image from 1410-1412, from BNF Français 2810. Livre des Merveilles, f. 249.


Jeff J said...

Interesting. Especially wrt the storehouses of mauls, apparently for issue to archer levies.

Also the first confirmation I've seen of a the maul being wood and covered with lead. Makes sense, structurally, as a solid lead maul would be small for the weight, have a small face area for the weight, and not very durable.

I wonder if the (non-wood pounding) mauls for "knightly" use might not have had the wood cores, as smaller heads have an advantage when only intended to beat armor rather for a few strokes, vice lots of stakes. Different strokes, ya know. ;)

Will McLean said...

Jeff J:

Don't read too much into the the Religeux translation. The original Latin of clavam plumbeam says the weapon was a club/cudgel/staff/mace/baton that was leaden/made of lead.

I would read that as fitting better to a lead head on a wooden shaft.

Retired Tourneyer said...

Barrett's description doesn't seem to add up: A five-foot shaft is way too long to hook onto one's belt, and would be awkward for an archer to carry about. The depiction in the 1380s MS makes the shafts look to be about 3-4 feet.

Jeff J said...

Ah - gotcha about taking translation for granted.

Likewise for some of the dimensions. Recall the citation of the 25-pound maul in Battle of the Thirty in Bellefort. Seems exagerated.

I've swung a 16-pound hammer on a 3-foot shaft, and there's no way I'd consider employing a 25-pounder.

Agree 5-feet is long. For a useful stake-pounder, you need something you can take a decent wind-up with, and anything over 4 feet is unwieldy.


The DM said...

The weapon Barrett described stands consistent with various sixteenth-century English military writers such as Sir John Smythe and George Silver who favored five to six foot polearms. I agree hanging it from a belt would be awkward, but again you find parallels with other English texts. Writing in the early seventeenth century, Joseph Swetnam mentioned folks who went around with a Welsh hook on their backs in additions to the sword and dagger at their sides. Apparently people somehow actually attached long weapons to their bodies.

Jeff J said...

Swetnam may have meant shoulder, vice back. Technically, a shouldered weapon is over your back.

A&PTeacher said...

Are there any surviving mallets in museums? I would like to try to recreate one for a display.